‘No! No! That’s not how it’s meant to be!’ she said.
You see, the problem with Lucy was she believed in fairy tales, she believed that every occasion should start once upon a time and end happily ever after (but she conveniently chose to ignore the middle ground where giants slept and wolves prowled). She believed in the eternal permanence of them so much that on our wedding day, as she walked up the aisle, that happy ending came to an abrupt end before it had even started.
Instead of looking forward to our future, which lay gazing back expectantly at us from the altar, her eyes transfixed themselves on the innocent lapels of Mr. Smith. Just as the organ player mis-played a note she said: ‘No! No! I said no red flowers! This is absolutely ruined!’ Mr. Smith left, pricking his finger on the rose’s thorn, feeling like a monster in a fairy tale for ruining this princess’s wedding. And that’s where everything started going wrong.
Lucy recovered as she always did and the wedding went on. Despite the band playing a song that wasn’t part of the original list, everything ended happily ever until the honeymoon. A late plane to Paris, coupled with the hotel double booking our suite, to the queues at the Louvre crowding the Mona Lisa all conspired to cast our fairytale castle with cursed clouds of misfortune. Day passed into night in a cycle of quarrels and reconciliations.
And that’s pretty much how our life together went until a few years later we sat down to sign the divorce papers. There we were, looking across at each other, across the expanse of years and indecisions that had opened up and defined us. We sat there with a pen in our hands already mourning the loss of joy just as much as we anticipated the departure of disagreement. Mine was a blue Bic biro, top chewed through incessant nervousness as I’d had a predilection of doing since we got married. Hers a vintage Montblanc 149 Meisterstück. For Lucy only the best would do, whatever the occasion, even a shopping list had to be written in a perfect hand with a perfect pen.
A decadent drop of ink luxuriated at the end of her pen in wild expectation. This was the moment it had waited for its entire life. This was its destiny, to be part of something momentous, not the ‘toilet’ in the ‘toilet paper’ of a shopping list, but a real historic event, something permanent and indelible. It looked up at Lucy and then down at the dotted line, watching its destiny staring blankly back.
Then Lucy said: ‘Oh, no! No! This isn’t how it’s meant to be! I’m sorry it’s been a huge mistake.’
She didn’t tell me what she saw that made her change her mind. But the drop of ink was very disappointed when we got home and Lucy wrote out a shopping list. We were full of forgiveness and hopes for the future again. This foolish, cathartic experience had slapped us in the face with a cold hand, it reminded us that we were better together, arguing, consoling, clawing, embracing, loving, and loathing each other than we were apart and alone. That night I marked this special occasion with her favourite meal.
‘No! No! That’s not how it’s meant to be!’ she said as her horn-handled Laguiole steak knife entered with expectation only to exit dry and despondent. The blood drained from her face. ‘I want a divorce!’ she said.
You see, in fairy tales, Chateaubriand should be eaten medium-rare. But in an act of culinary and conjugal suicide I had overcooked the steak and now our marriage was well and truly done. And so after a few months of marriage counselling, after a trial separation or two, we decided to consciously uncouple.
Another globule of ink, this one weary that any greatness would befall it after what happened to his friend, rested nonchalantly on the 18 carat cusp of her Meisterstück only to be surprised when his calling finally came. And then disappointed when his moment of greatness ended up in the legs of a squashed, inky spider. You see Lucy really did have the messiest, most imperfect signature I’d ever seen.
And that was the end of us really. But before you go, spare a moment’s thought for me, think of the long-suffering husband, tormented by the mercurial whims of a high-maintenance wife. I didn’t deserve it, I never asked for it.
At least that’s what I try to tell myself. You see the thing I’m still ashamed to tell you is that throughout this whole fairy tale, I was the monster. I was the cross-dressing, lupine saboteur; the overbearing, selfish giant; the hideous, possessive troll hiding under the bridge. I secretly wanted to huff and puff and blow our Victorian townhouse down.
But I wanted more. I wanted to be better than I was. I just didn’t know how. I wanted to be the Beast to her Beauty, the Phantom in our soap opera, but I couldn’t hold back the wolf inside. You see, it was me who gave Mr. Smith the red rose knowing full well Lucy hated them; I had double-booked our honeymoon suite; I had deliberately overcooked the Chateaubriand; however, the frustrating queues at the Louvre were just a happy coincidence.
Again and again over the years I had sabotaged our happiness. If I couldn’t have it, I thought, nobody could. But after a while I grew tired of wallowing in misery, I desired the agony of happiness again only for it to fill me with despair. Because in real fairy tales, monsters don’t change. Anyway Lucy soon remarried and lived happily ever after somewhere near Basingstoke. As for me, I got a job as a middle manager in the city where I’m miserably happy almost every day.