“Till death do us part” they chorused together before locking their lips for their first kiss as husband and wife. It was the long awaited wedding of High School sweethearts, Charlotte and Lewis Hamilton. The whole town was talking about it, which makes sense since it was a rather small town, and Charlie was the mayor’s daughter. They have known each other since Elementary, and have been together since their freshman year in high school. It’s a classic high school love story, a football jock and a cheerleader. Their love for each other was undeniable. As they walked back down the aisle together, Charlie was absolutely glowing. She glances at her mother, who is teary eyed but smiling. She returns her smile but averts her eyes. If she sees her crying she may also cry, and even though they would be happy tears, she can’t ruin her makeup. The rest of the evening is marvelous. Lewis is attentative to his new brides every move, watching her intently, and the love in his glances speak a million words that would be impossible for him to voice. Their friends and family dance and sing, laughter fills the room and the atmosphere is light and happy, just how you’d expect every wedding to be. It is picture perfect, and could easily been mistaken for a scene from a romantic movie, one of those ones that ALWAYS has a happy ending.
Mayor Lisa Jones, Charlotte’s mother, is a kind woman, but also strict. She absolutely hates when anyone calls her daughter Charlie, and will absolutely correct them on it. Every. Single. Time. She runs the town of Telluride, Colorado like it’s her child. The people love her and she loves her people. Over the years Charlie has grown used to people treating her differently because of who her mother was, especially after her dad died a few years ago. Her parents were divorced and she didn’t know him well, so his death wasn’t too life shattering, but the people of the town didn’t know that. They didn’t know that the ex husband of the town’s mayor died of a drug overdose either. Lisa did a great job of burying that fact, they’d been divorced for over a decade and drugs had been his problem then, too, so she knew they would be the cause of his untimely demise. She was well prepared for it. Charlotte asks about him occasionally, why they divorced, things like that, but of course she’ll never tell her the whole truth. She doesn’t want her to hate her father, even if he wasn’t really there for her and she doesn’t particularly like to talk about him, however she absoluely loves to talk about future grandchildren.
Lewis didn’t think he was ready for children, but with his mother-in-laws constant pressure, if Charlotte got pregnant, he wouldn’t exactly be mad… It would shut Lisa up, at least for awhile and that alone would make it worth it. One night, while they are laying in bed, Charlie rolls over towards him and immediately Lewis knows she has something on her mind, she has a serious look on her face. He grins and pokes her nose, and she giggles. She has the type of laugh that fills the room with good energy.
“What’s on your mind babe?” He asks.
“Nothing…. well not nothing…. I was just thinking, we’v been married almost 2 years now, and well…” She trails off.
“Well?” His eye brows raise, but he is pretty sure he knows where this is going.
“and I am really ready to be a mother!”
Lewis chuckles. “Are you sure your mother is ready to be a grandmother?” Charlotte rolls her eyes. He sighs. “You know we both work a lot, if you get pregnant it would probably be for the best if you quit your job for awhile” he said it with an uncertain tone, he didn’t want to offend his wife, but he wouldn’t want her working while pregnant, and someone would need to be home with the baby. She rolls on her back and squeals while pounding the air with her fists and kicking with excitement. He pulls her close, and breathes in her sweet scent. They fall asleep cuddled to one another.
Months go by, everything is going great. Lewis comes home late from work one night, but Charlie waited up, and greets him overly excited when he walks through the door.
“Guess what!?” She squeals.
“What?” He says, slightly short with her. It had been a long day, and he was tired.
“We are pregnant! I took a pregnancy test a few days ago! We are going to be parents!” She clutches the positive test in her hand and flings herself toward Lewis to embrace him.
“That’s great my love.” He pulls her in for a hug.
“Are you excited?” She gazes up into his eyes with the twinkle of excitement in hers.
“I am, I am just tired.” They go to bed that night. Charlotte rests her head on his chest and breathes a deep breath. She loves his smell- only this time-it didn’t smell like him. Flowers. What man smells of flowers? Her mind goes a million different directions, but all those racing thoughts disappear as he kisses her head. She cuddles closer.
Of course news of the pregnancy spread like wildfire around the town, there was no keeping it a secret, especially when Lisa tells EVERYONE she meets. Even the cashier at the one grocery store in town heard all about her future grand baby. Lisa demanded to do all of the prep and planning for the baby shower. Charlie had just found out her babies gender, and despite her mother’s proding, refused to tell her. It was going to be a surprise for the baby shower as long as Charlotte had the say.
The day of the baby shower arrived and all the women from the town are there, or at least it certainly seemed that way. There are familiar faces, and a few unfamiliar ones. That is the drawback of Lisa planning parties… she invites everyone…. absolutely everyone. Charlotte is showered in gifts, from handmade blankets and baby clothes, to a new crib from her mother and the amount of diapers she receives is over whelming. Charlie mingles with the guests, talking to people she knows and some she doesn’t. All have advice to give her, and all are excited to learn the gender. Carol, a sweet older lady who owns the flower shop in town, approaches her with a much more tense and serious energy about her than the other guests. Carol pulls her aside to a quiet area with no other guests.
“Charlotte, I have something to tell you and I hope you’ll listen!”
Charlie looks at her skeptically. She feels the tension that radiates from Carol, a woman she has known most of her life. What could this usually carefree woman possibly be so serious about?
“I think Lewis is cheating on you”
Charlie takes a step back from her and is silent for a second before choking out her words “Why would you accuse my husband of cheating? Are you mad?”
“No dear. However he came in last week and ordered 2 dozen red roses I surely thought they were for you, but…” She pauses. “But he addressed them to a woman I’ve never heard of, that lives in the town over. His note to her said ‘To Sarah, my future wife, whom I cannot wait to marry. From your love, Lewis'”
“Carol, I think you should go.” She points towards the door.
“Very well deary, but I thought you should know, maybe I am wrong, but that seems too obvious to me” she knowingly shakes her head before walking to the door. She turns and looks at Charlotte “congratulations on your baby, Charlotte.” Then she turns and leaves
Just then Lisa rushes in.
“Come on Charlie, the party is in here, and we are ALL waiting to find out the gender!” She says as she grabs Charlotte’s hand and pulls her into the living room where everyone is waiting. Lisa releases her hand and picks up a glass. She taps the side of it with a spoon to get everyone’s attention.
“Let’s find out the gender!” Lisa exclaims as she waves towards Charlie, handing her the stage. Charlie, still not recovered from her conversation with Carol stands quietly for a second.
“It’s…. uh…” She chokes on her words, and her mother raises her eyebrows.
“The baby is a girl.” Charlie finishes. Her mom rushes over and hugs her. All the woman in the room clap with excitement, some jump up and down, others exclaim “I knew it!”. The rest of the night is a blur to Charlotte. She couldn’t get what Carol said out of her mind. She remembers the other night, when he came home smelling like flowers, but quickly pushes the thought out of her head.
Exhausted she leaves her mother’s house, and the remaining stragglers still hanging around from the party, and drives home. Tears stream down her face as she stops at one of the only stop lights in town but by the time she pulls into her driveway, she has wiped them away. Lewis’s car wasn’t there, he must’ve gotten caught up at work. She goes to her bathroom to wash her face, and looks in the mirror. She puts her hand on her growing belly and rubs it. She sings softly to her unborn child.
Despite trying as hard as she can, she can’t shake what Carol had said, it was nearly 2 months ago, and her and Lewis have been great, even though he’d been working late a lot more than usual. She was sure he would never cheat, but she wanted to prove it to herself. One night, while Lewis was in bed, Charlie gets out and finds his brief case, the one he took everywhere with him. Surely if he was cheating there would be some evidence. She picks it up and realizes it had a combination lock on it. She attempts a few different things, their wedding date, her birthday, his birthday. None work. She put the case down on the kitchen counter, frustrated. She crosses her arms, then grabs the case again. She tries 0916. It clicks open. His mother’s birthday. She giggles, she should have known, he is a huge mommas boy. Nothing in the case looks too unusual, a bunch of contracts, legal papers. She pulls out a stack of papers and rustles through them, finding nothing, she flops them on the counter and continues looking through the case. She’d almost given up when she sees a paper crumpled into a ball stuck in the corner of one of the cases pockets. She grabs it and unravels it. It’s just a receipt thats dated just over a year ago from Monatellos, an Italian restaurant a few towns over that Lewis does work lunches at pretty often. She throws it on the counter but misses, and it floats to the ground and lands face down on the tile. She bends over to pick it up, and sees a phone number with a heart written in very neat handwriting. Her face gets hard. Surely not she thinks. She packs everything back into the case the way she found it with the exception of the receipt that she put in her pant pocket. She carefully places the case back where it was and goes to bed.
The next morning, she makes a cup of coffee and sends Lewis off to work with a goodbye kiss before shuffling into the kitchen. She pulls the phone number out of her pocket and starts to dial the number. Her hands are shaking as the presses the call button. It rings.
“Hello?” An unfamiliar female voice answers.
“Hi.” Her mind races as she tries to think of something to say. “I am Mary. I think my older brother is seeing someone, and not telling me. I found your number the other day and I was hoping maybe you could tell me if he has FINALLY found someone!?” She clenches her phone, impressed with her act but dreading the answer.
The woman on the other line chuckles “Lewis and I are engaged. He never told me he had a sister. He is pretty sensitive when I talk about his family, and his apartment is pretty void of pictures. I just assumed he wasn’t close to them. Are you guys…”
Charlotte hangs up before the woman can finish. She drops the phone and grips the side of the counter. It’s the only thing she can do to keep herself from falling over. She turns and sinks to the ground, where she cries.
She stifles her tears but her hands shake as she calls Lewis. No answer, but she leaves him a voicemail:
“Hey babe, it’s Charlie. Is there anyway you can get home as soon as possible after work tonight? Please don’t stay late. The baby is due soon and I really want to have a date night before we have a plus one. Let me know, I’ll make your favorite.” She hangs up.
A few minutes later, it dings. She grabs it and looks, a new text message from Lewis
‘Sounds good babe. Sorry I couldn’t talk, I was in a meeting. See you tonight XOXO’.
Lewis gets home that night, earlier than usual. She has his favorite meal, chicken curry, ready for him when he gets there. They enjoy their meal together, talking and laughing. From the outside looking in, it would seem nothing was wrong. They finish the meal and wash dishes together, then go into the living room to watch a movie. They are cuddling on the couch, and it’s only a few minutes into the movie. Charlotte gets a little restless. She stands up abruptly.
“I need to go pee, baby bladder”
“Ok hun, should I pause it?” He looks up at her
“No I know this scene, and I’ll be quick”
She rushes to their room to grab the only thing that her daddy left her. It’s a .45 that she kept under the bed, just in case. She looks down at it, and breathes a deep breath. She loads 2 bullets then quietly walks back to the living room. There Lewis sits, completely unaware of his fate, patiently waiting for his wife and watching the movie. She stands behind the couch and puts the gun to the back of his head, and before he has time to react, pulls the trigger. Unconcerned by the blood that was splattered onto her, she walks around the couch and faces him. She glides her fingers across his face and leans over to press her lips to his. Then she sits next to him and cuddles, just like they had been sitting before. She puts her free hand on her belly. Her baby kicks. She smiles. She presses the barrel to her temple and just as she pulls the trigger breathes her final words….”till death do us part.”
By Johna Pink