There had been the gorgeous gown, splendid church service and a sumptuous banquet with dancing till dawn. No wonder Maggie saw stars.
“Thank you, Mummy. Thank you, Daddy”, she said. “Colin and I have had a wonderful day”.
“Shush!”, said Dad, putting his finger to her lips. “We wanted to show how much we love you”.
“Yes”, said Mum. “We’ve only ever wished the best for you. Enjoy your new life. Now promise not to think about us – not even once – until you and Colin return”.
On their first night – and three nights after – Colin put his finger on Maggie’s lips – just like Dad.
But not quite. More like his entire hand. No wonder Maggie saw different stars: garish, purple-yellow bruising lights whose spikes dug deep inside her, ripping her apart in dreadful, secret places until a soothing blanket of thick black nothingness took the pain away.
Later, as Detective Inspector Edwin Daniel arrived at the St Mark’s Beachfront Plaza Hotel to investigate how and why a bride had plunged eight storeys and ninety feet to her death, Maggie’s parents opened an email.
“Dear Mummy and Daddy” they read, “I’m coming home. But not the way you’d want. I’ve got to escape Colin. He’s changed. He keeps hurting me. He wasn’t like this when we were courting.
“It’s like he wore a mask that he ripped off the moment we closed the door of our hotel bedroom.
“Mummy – Daddy - I can’t live like this, but please know that you’ve been the best parents a daughter could have.
“I’ll love you always.
After the shaming inquest, trial and demeaning publicity, Maggie’s Mum said, “It’s funny how life turns on a hair”.
“What?”, said Dad.
“The night before we got married my own mother shared a confidence. She said my Grandma Olive had told her it had been almost a miracle that she was born”.
“Olive had no trouble conceiving. It was because she had to – umm - take the initiative. My grandfather was diffident about intimate relations and Mum was the result of their one full act of love”.
“But I recall your grandparents as utterly devoted. People to be emulated”, said Dad.
“Yes”, you’re right”, said Mum, struggling to remember Olive’s words, third-hand:
“Grandpa Roland was somehow ‘asexual’. He loved and admired my grandmother more than he could say. So he put her on a pedestal and shrank from defloration. For him, the act was like a desecration. He wasn’t bothered about starting a family. Although he was a loving, first-class father, he wanted to keep Olive for himself”.
“So”, said Maggie’s Dad, now anxious to end the conversation. “Roland maintained Olive in mint condition. Just how he liked her. I don’t know about you, but as it’s almost midnight, I think it’s time for bed”.
(© Natalie Irene Wood –15 March 2014)