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It was an outdoor wedding. All the white chairs and the archway were stuck into the grass, green and luscious as the trees meters away. Henry stood proud and happy at the front of the service. Mathew in his white tux turned, grinning at him. “You next, OK?” he said. The keyboard (set on ‘organ’) started to play and a gentle creature in white started slowly up the aisle. Her fat father was on her arm, looking jolly with a face like a rose. An excited atmosphere had risen from the audience. Everyone was smiling, a few pairs of eyes welling tears, the sun glistening in them. Henry saw his friends suddenly. The guys were seated on the groom’s side, the ladies on Ansa’s. Mark shot Henry a smile.
It had been too long, he thought, since he’d associated with these people. Their plans had succeeded him as he became the restless fool that this year had developed. He’d withdrawn, made his life secret, only to embrace within his private circle a stranger, and he’d come to love her. Mari.
He looked at the girls for Marina’s face, but it was absent. He peered over at Mathew’s side and still couldn’t see her. He thought perhaps she’d been seated wrong, sure she must be about somewhere. He looked over at Ansa, finally taking her last steps toward her betrothed. He took one final glance back and saw Mathew’s parents, sitting rigidly. He smiled.
The ceremony played out. The Priest read through his part.
Henry’s mind drifted idly for a while after the ceremony had begun. He smiled to himself about things said and done between himself and Mari the evening before. He recalled days before, their ceremony, her smile, and he thought perhaps it would have been nice to have had a large wedding of their own.
Those fateful moments arrived. Mathew looked quite humourous to his friends and family as he was. His light hair dragged down in a long ponytail behind him, and atop his head sat a white top hat. Henry’s smile ached as he heard those ridiculously meaningful words spoken. Ansa followed with her delicate voice, and they slipped their rings onto one another. Henry wondered for a moment where that penetrating tradition came from.
Suddenly everyone clapped and cheered. The lovers had kissed. Henry almost hopped he was so glad. He looked for Marina again.
“Alright, calm down,” said Mathew.
“No, I’m not calming down, Mathew, I am not calming down!”
He was on his mobile phone trying to find someone who knew where Marina was. He was running short of ideas. Zoraida made her way over to them. She was coming to tell them what a wonderful reception it was, and how much she enjoyed the wine when she realised something was amiss.
“I can’t find her, Nan,” he said.
“She’ll be fine, Harry, just give it a moment, she’ll turn up. She’s a big girl, she can handle herself.”
“Zoraida,” he said to his grandmother, “She would not miss this. Something has happened.”
Zoraida tried to think of someone else to call, but he’d phoned every address it made sense to. Most of their friends were present at the reception. They asked about, yet no one could recall any helpful information.
“She’s alright Henri,” said Weston. “You don’t need to freak out, man. Since when the fuck do you freak out? Trust me, she’s OK. Just chill.”
West was an old friend. They’d never quite got along as well as they’d have liked to, yet had remained loyal to one another even besides this lost year.
Henry punched Weston in the stomach. Mark and Mathew held West from fighting.
“Just calm down,” said Mark into his ear. “Just go easy, go and sit down, and we’ll sort this out when it’s not fucking Mathew’s wedding, alright?”
Afterwards Henry and Zoraida rode in the same car home. Samantha and Damien, his cousin and husband, were sat in the front, him driving. Henry began to get tearful in his calming state.
“Oh come here, darling,” said his grandmother. “It’s all going to be fine. We’ll find her.”
“Nan,” he said. “Mary’s going…she’s pregnant. She’s got my baby in her. She’s…” He chocked.
Zoraida held him as tightly. He’d never been held by her before. He let a few tears drop, and suddenly felt ridiculous, as it was still possible she was perfectly fine.
When they got home it was decided that they’d try ringing the hospital.
“Hi, um, has someone by the name of Marina Tiva been checked in today at any point?”
“Hold on one moment, sir. There doesn’t appear to be any patients here by that name. Marna Teafa, did you say, sir?”
“No, Marina Tiva.” He spelt it aloud.
“By the way, sir, I just love your accent.”
“Thank you,” he said, irritated.
He heard keys typing and then a few moments of silence.
“We have a…some… Sir, are you a relative of Ms. Tiva?”
“Her husband, actually.”
“Would you come down to the hospital right away, sir?”
Henry immediately got in a car. Samantha and Zoraida followed him quickly, jumping in the back seats. Damien stayed behind, assuming they were going to search for her again, and so remained in case she were to return to the house. It wasn’t until they were moving that he informed them of what he’d been asked to do. He refrained from elaboration.
When they arrived, they were asked to wait a few moments. Some minutes later a female nurse came and asked them to follow her. Only two at once. Samantha stayed behind. All the way down the busy corridor Henry’s heart pounded irrationally. He could barely keep his movements stable. His blood pumped so fast he felt he would explode soon. They traveled up a lift until they reached a cold, silent floor and entered the morgue. There was a table covered by a sheet. The unmistakable figure of a woman lay beneath it.
“Are you ready, sir?” the woman asked flatly.
He nodded. Zoraida held her hands to her mouth. The sheet was pulled back. The features set into Henry’s mind. It was her. It was the body of Mari.
He started to breath heavily. He started to rock and walk about. He kept looking back at the body and then turning away.
“Can you identify this body for me please, sir?”
“Could you tell me who it is, please, sir?”
“It…it’s Marina Tiva. Oh God, it…oh God. No, no, no, no.”
He ran out, but immediately afterwards he returned. He came near the body again and saw her face. It was so white. He thought she’d been a pale person, but now her skin had nothing to it. He looked over her and saw the right side of her face, bloody, broken, smashed.
His fingers worked their way under her shoulders. So cold, so dull, like meat. As he brought his face to hers, tears ran.
“What happened? What happened?” he asked.
“She was hit by a vehicle, sir. Her spine was ruptured. There was nothing we were able to do.”
“OK, OK,” he said. He left.
Zoraida followed him out. After a moment they were asked to sign a form. They did so carelessly, then went out to the waiting room to Samantha.
“Is it…?” she asked.
Henry nodded and continued to march forward. He slammed the hospital entrance open with his hand. Samantha started sobbing. Zoraida drove them home.
When Henry finally set himself down in his room he decided there was nothing left for him. She was gone, his baby would never come, and his entire future was dead. He realised this and he hyperventilated. The gasps soon turned into cries, and then into screams. He tore up his room violently until his knuckles bled. He threw the TV monitor into the wall. It didn’t smash, so he picked it up again, and started beating it into the French doors that led out to the balcony. When they were all destroyed he moved into his other room and upturned everything. Anything of worth became pieces. He screamed as loud as his voice allowed, letting an untamed wail. Samantha came to his door, wanting to sooth him, but he paid her no mind. She stood back slightly afraid. He cried so loud his face was red and tears flowed fluently down his cheeks. He moved into a corner, shaking and sobbing. But the shaking was too powerful to allow him respite. He continued to move and walk about, sobbing, until he vomited. But still he continued. He didn’t sleep all night long. He finally fell unconscious when the sun rose.