Insert Bride Here: Chapter 1

Insert Bride Here

[1]

One Lonely Little Liar in…


“Cee, trouble.”

I looked up to see Tyler bursting through my door, phone in hand, before closing it and pressing his body against the wood panels. Immediately, my mind went to the Chief throwing out the new layout I submitted, the deal with Mr Emerson falling through or me having to find another magazine to work for.

“What is it? Did Mr Emerson complain because I kept rejecting his advances? The layout? What? Do I need to update my resume?”

Tyler’s eyes flew around my office, searching for something that isn’t there, yet he continued looking. When it seemed as if my words must’ve sunk into his head, he looked at me one more.

“Who? Emer– who cares about that old goat! Yesterday I caught him flirting with the receptionist. Again. Although I can’t imagine him having any luck with a well pregnant married woman.”

“Oi, that man will truly chase anything that wears a skirt. I thought at 57, he’d at least develop some sort of discretion.”

“Anyway, back to me and my problems. My friends–”

“Tyler, if it’s anything personal, you know my policy. After work or before, not during.”

“But I’m taking about an existential crisis here! My life could end as we know it. Besides,” he turned on his phone before looking back up, “It’s 6:54. I think this qualifies as before work.”

Glancing at the time on the computer only confirmed that we had an hour to go before work officially started. Although, it had been a while since I’ve come the office after 7 AM. As an Associate Editor to a medium sized magazine, if I wanted to leave work at decent hours, I had to come in early. And Tyler, being my loyal assistant and friend, never failed in having my coffee ready before my bum hit the chair each morning.

“Alright shoot. What did you do?”

When he started chewing on his fingernails, I realised he was seriously freaking out. Getting up to walk around my desk, I stepped in front of him. When he wouldn’t meet my eyes, I reached up to brush his oddly straight for a black man across his forehead.

“What’s going on, Ty?”

“I can’t believe I did something so stupid!”

I grabbed his fist when he started thumping his forehead. “Okay… what is it? I can’t help you fix it if I don’t know what to fix.”

“My friends are coming.”

“Awesome, I didn’t get to meet them the last time I had the flu. When are they coming? How long are they staying? We should show them around so they’ll have fun.”

“You’re talking as if this is a good thing. It’s not. This is bad, this is bad, Cee.”

After a couple minutes passed with no appendage to those statements, I said, “Because?”

“You know what, don’t worry about it. I’ll find a way out.”

“Tyler Allen, I’m not in the mood for this. Spill.”

Gulping in air, he started. “My mom sort of arranged a marriage for me but I told her I’m already engaged so of course she’s excited that her backup plan is no longer needed but then the guys called me saying they’ll be in Kingston tomorrow and these are people who live close to my parent, Cee, their families and mine are friends and I already lied telling them how I’m living the life here but it’s not really so much a lie since most of it is rue but I don’t have a fiancée, Cee!”

Dropping the one of the chairs before my desk, he threw his head back and continued. “I thought– danggit I’m an idiot– I thought I’d tell her a few weeks before the ‘wedding’”, he inserted air quotes, “that my fiancée broke up with me or I broke up with her, whatever, then I’ll need time to recover from my heartbreak, you know long enough that she forgets about whoever she picked as my bride since I was trying but where am I going to get a girlfriend, Cee? I need a girlfriend before I get engaged and call me a fortune teller but I don’t see either of those in my immediate future.”

Rounding my desk to return to my seat, elbows on the desk, I clasped my hands under my chin as I pondered the most delicate way to say what I wanted. I gave up after about five minutes.

“You’re an idiot. Of the highest degree.”

Clasping his face between both hands, he moaned out, “I know, I know. Believe me I’m aware.”

“Good, now that we have that settled, how do you plan to fix this mess?”

Peeking through fingers, he said, “That, I don’t know.”

“Well, what now? They’ll come here and you’ll pretend your fiancée died and her body disappeared?”

Tilting his head to one side, he seemed to study my desk for a minute. “So… is that’s not a workable plan? Because I’ll find a way to make that work.”

“Again: you’re an idiot.”

 

When midday approached, and I went on my lunch break, Tyler still hovered with the same frown on his face. And the same face when he answered all my calls and logged new appointments in the day planner. It bothered me because if it was any other day, he’d get excited over something as little as finding a dollar someone dropped on the floor.

We both stood in line inside the deli. I straightened my pencil skirt before clearing my throat. “Have you come up with a plan that doesn’t tell the world how big an idiot you are?”

Tyler kept his gaze to the front of the line. “No, I’m contemplating whether I should run away but that’d probably send Ma to the hospital if her only child turns up missing.”

I was expecting something like that from the man who hates confrontations. “So if not volunteering your face for a milk box, what are your other plans?”

“I have one in mind but I doubt you’ll like it.”

I picked lint off my sleeve. “Shoot and I’ll tell you if it’s stupid.”

There was a long pause before he spoke again. For a while, I considered that he’d keep his plans bottled inside his mind. “The thing is… Well, my friends live in the Dominican Republic. I’ve known most of them since primary school. This other kid, I met in a bubble tea store. But anyway…”

I nodded, moving up in line and allowing my silence to encourage him to continue, but at the same time wondering about the history lesson.

“I moved here in Kingston to take the job for Tallawah Magazine, right?”

Yes, Captain Obvious. “Right.”

“So…”

“So?”

Tyler tapped his leg, not making eye contact with me. “Would you mind being my fiancée? Just until they leave.”

There was a brief pause before I sputtered into laughter. He flinched and I momentarily felt bad before I remembered the ridiculousness that escaped his lips. “That’s a joke, right? Why in the world would I do that?”

Tyler whipped around to grab my shoulders, gaining zest as I could see him thinking this plan stood on solid legs. “Be my fiancée, Cee.”

I scoffed, throwing off his arms and taking a step away from him.

“Cee, c’mon.” Desperation seeped through his pores as Tyler clung to my shoulder. He sobbed– no tears– raising his voice until it was embarrassing to be near him. Tyler looked like a giant baby.

Several people turned to stare and at that moment, I wished I could’ve merged with the wall. “C’mon. Do this for me. Please! We’re friends, aren’t we? I picked the lettuce off your teeth yesterday. You owe me.”

“Quiet!” I cringed at the memory as I tried to shush him. “And that was just lettuce!”

“But still!” He shook me. ”It’s just pretend. And you can be the one to dump me. I’ll go with any story you want.”

“This, this is why you don’t lie to people, Ty,” I hissed. “One lie creates many. Get off me.”

“But, Cidoney–”

The hardest thing I had to do was to keep a straight face while he broke apart in front of me. The guy behind us looked like he wasn’t sure if he should leave or call for an ambulance. Or the mental hospital. Tyler eventually crumpled to the floor on one knee.

“Marry me.” Tyler seized my hand with his.

The scene he created caused every pair of eyes in the shop to gawk. Even the cashier at the front counter froze in the middle of giving out change. A man took out his phone to record the ‘proposal.’

“I don’t have a ring with me here, but I want to do this now. Cidoney Bell, will you marry me?”

I opened my mouth to exclaim that I didn’t even know him. That I wasn’t aware that this stranger I met in line and talked to had a mental problem. As I looked in Tyler’s eyes, there was nothing but sheer desperation. At that moment, it looked like he would’ve hurled himself into the road if I said no. I’ve known the guy as my assistant for as long as I’ve worked for the magazine. To have to stick with someone throughout the day brought people closer to each other. He became my best friend that followed me around at work and did what I asked. Tyler knew all the little facts about me. In that minute, I reasoned to myself that I might as well help him out before he somehow creates an even bigger mess.

I groaned and ceded. “Yes.”

And the crowd cheered.

 

“You idiot!” I punched his arm.

“Hey! Don’t you think you’ve hit me enough from lunch now?”

“No. Why did you have to cause a scene?” I slung my bag on my shoulder as Tyler and I walked up to his apartment. The sound of people applauding inside Subway was still playing in my head.

After work, Tyler dragged me to his car and insisted that we head to his house to plan for his friends’ visit the next day. He already listed off details after our lunch break and until we left for home.

“Because I knew you wouldn’t say no with so many people watching me propose,” he said with a cunning smile.

“So you deliberately trapped me?”

“Yes. Sorry.”

“No, you’re not.”

“No. But I know you wanted an apology.”

“You owe me big time!” I called from behind him as we stepped off the landing to head to his door.

“Yeah, whatever.” Tyler sorted through his keys before picking one and unlocking the door. It was the first time I saw where he lived. As I stepped into his living room, the place presented better than I expected for a bachelor. Except for a few stray messes here and there. He tossed his keys into a bowl by the sofa and kicked off his shoes. “Welcome to my humble abode.”

“Thanks.” After stepping out of my shoes, I followed him, having to step over a disregarded black sock on the floor.

“So I have certain conditions—”

My jaw dropped. “You have conditions? I was the one who had to agree to this!”

Tyler loosened his tie. “Well, I already told them that my fiancée would be a stay at home mother. She stays home to clean and stuff while I work.”

“Ah, the classic American dream. Except this is Jamaica,” I mumbled and shook my head.

“What?”

“Nothing.” Entering his room, I stood behind him while he dug through a drawer. I eyed his unmade bed and a pizza box half tucked underneath for who knows how long. “We need a story. How did we meet?”

“Huh?”

“In case they ask. And they probably will.”

He looked at me with a raised brow. “That’s your department. You read more romance novels than anyone else I know, so…”

I shrugged, pulling an idea from the top of my head. “Just tell them we met in… Trinidad? No, Barbados a year ago or something. We were both there on vacation.” I paced in his room, kicking aside a once white shirt. Or light pink I’m not sure.

“The second time we met- coincidence again- at the hotel, we exchanged numbers and started going out.”

“I was expecting that we met at a supermarket or something.” Tyler snickered. “But that was more detailed than I thought. That’s good, though. It’s more believable.” He pulled out a small black box from the drawer. “And we need a ring. You can wear this.”

Popping the lid, I gaped at the two-banded white gold ring. A diamond sat at its head with smaller ones surrounding it. The ring was old-fashioned but so beautiful. I shied away from it. “I can’t… We can’t use that. What if I lose it? It looks valuable.”

“Don’t worry. It’s just for now.” He thrust it closer. “It’s an heirloom. My pops proposed to ma with this and she handed it down so I could propose to whoever I want to end up with.”

“An heirloom?” I balled both my hands into fists. “I’m not wearing that! Tyler, you’re supposed to give it to someone you love, not for me so we can play pretend. I can’t.”

Tyler pressed his lips in a firm line, perhaps feeling like he was battling with a toddler. “Cidoney, don’t make me put it on your finger myself.”

I frowned at him, but figured I couldn’t change his mind once he decided on something. I agreed and took the ring. An unwilling assistant in Tyler’s game of deception.

“Fine! I’ll try to be careful.” As I slipped it on my left hand, I couldn’t help but admire it more by stretching my hand out in front of me. I’d never seen what an engagement ring looked like on my finger. It felt different. “Wait, I’m dating Jason right now. What if he sees this?”

Tyler rolled his eyes. “You’re not dating Jason. You two just go out a lot, but he hasn’t called you in two weeks or asked you to be his girlfriend, remember?”

“Whatever. He’s going to.” My shoulders sunk. “How about that girl you said you had feelings for? What’s her name? Christina?”

“That was all the way back when I still lived in Barbados.” Tyler shut his drawer and headed out the bedroom door. “Besides, I haven’t seen her in years.”

I stared at the back of his head as I followed him out. “Wait, if you two had feelings for each other, why weren’t you official?”

He waved his hand at the topic. “Because I had to move to here for work, but neither of us tried to stay in contact. I guess we both thought it wasn’t worth it.” Tyler led me to his kitchen and opened his fridge to dig in it. I almost apologised for bringing up the topic, but he didn’t seem too hurt recalling the memories. Tyler looked back at me. “Do you want to eat something?”

“Nah,” I shook my head and sat at one of his chairs. “But do you know Maxine? Her desk is next to the vending machines.”

He pulled out a water bottle and sat across from me, his expression wrinkled as he spoke. “Of course, I know her.”

“I think she likes you.” I poked his arm. “Remember? She was all over you at the New Year’s Eve party.”

“First, she was drunk. So she would’ve clung on to a mop she’d be fine.” He unscrewed the top of the bottle before tossing me a worried expression. “Don’t set us up. She kinda scares me.”

Maxine was stared at whoever she thought was attractive. She didn’t bother turning away even if the guy looked back and caught her. The Editor-in-chief brought her younger brother once. Maxine offered him shoulder massages so often he agreed just to keep her quiet. All because he complained about his shoulder being stiff once in passing. So I understood what Tyler meant when he said that Maxine scared him.

“Why? Do you want to be a lonely little liar your entire life?”

Tyler didn’t bother retorting but looked at the ring on my finger again. “Just be here tomorrow.”

 

***

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