“I can’t believe you guys got married. Like it was a dare, and you guys did it.” Riley, their classmate said convulsing with laughter. The rest of their three friends were equally amused if their accompanying guffaws were anything to go by.
Daisy was not. She plopped onto the hotel bed for fear of her legs giving out.
“You guys need to go,” Wallace said, herding their overly excited friends out of the hotel room they’d apparently shared last night.
Daisy looked at the picture of her and her… husband and found it difficult to believe that was her. It sure looked like her but it couldn’t be her. They were beaming at the camera, embracing with their ring-fingered hands directed at the camera.
Oh God, what had she done? Oh God, what if the government thought she was trying to pull one of those scams to stay in the country? What if she was deported and lost her scholarship? She felt nauseous. What would she tell her parents? Oh, God she’d have to go back home. She’d be unemployed and poor again. God, she couldn’t be poor again. She couldn’t go back to being financially dependent on her sister. Oh God. She slid to the floor, unshed tears burning her eyes, heart palpitations wrecking her chest.
“It’s not that bad,” Wallace said, squatting in front of her, concern etched on his pale features, voice soft, comforting. He tucked the lock of brown hair that had fallen over his eye behind his ear, then awkwardly rubbed her shoulder to calm her down.
Why was she losing it over something that wasn’t that big a deal? Undoing it was as easy as getting married, and they’d done it drunk as skunks. He had no way of knowing her anxiety was acting up. Being a black immigrant on scholarship at a time of rising anti-immigrant sentiment was an extreme sport wreaking havoc on her mental state.
“People do this all the time in Vegas. We just need to talk to a lawyer and get a divorce or annulment. It’s easy. Really easy, I swear.”
She didn’t say anything, and he was beginning to panic. Human contact grounded him when he was spiralling. He’d try that. He stroked her braided head, which finally got her attention. She looked up at him, surprise etched on her features.
They didn’t touch. Ever. He wanted to all the time. He just never, ever did.
He pulled back his hand and swallowed hard. “My brother is a lawyer; we’ll just get it annulled or something. I’ll call him and we’ll get it done quickly. You can’t believe how easy it is.”
“Can you call him now? And… Can, can you find out if I can lose my scholarship or visa because of it?” she hiccupped, holding back tears.
He nodded, getting back on his hunches and reaching for his phone. “I will. I’m sure it’s going to be okay, though.”
1 hour later
Wallace was pacing the hotel gardens as he spoke to his brother. His voice was tight with the effort to suppress the exasperation his brother was stoking in him. “I’m telling you she’s not like that, okay? She doesn’t even know about our family and whatever. Can you just organize the annulment papers? I don’t want this to get to mom and dad.”
His phone started vibrating, and he cussed when he saw it was his father.
“Dammit, Will, did you already tell Mom and Dad? God, you’re such an asshole, you know that? Dammit, Will. Fuck. Fuckin’ hell.”
“You may not see it that way, but it’s a big deal and we need to be careful, think of every angle,” Will replied in his stupid lawyer voice.
“I told you she has no angle. She’s more freaked out about this than even you are.”
“No, she isn’t. She’s probably acting so you let your guard down. You’ve always been too trusting.”
“No, she’s not.” He growled out before hanging up on his brother. He should have known his jaded brother would never believe this was the innocent mistake it was.
His father was still calling. He took a deep breath and answered it.
“What’s this I hear from Will? You got married?”
“Dad-” he interrupted.
“What is wrong with you? You think I’m paying all that grad school tuition and your living expenses so you can fuck around and risk everything I’ve worked for?”
“It was just a mistake, and she said she’s going to sign the annulment papers. She desperately wants to sign them.”
“That’s not helpful. What if she later comes after you for money?”
“She won’t. She’s here on scholarship and would never risk that?”
“You’re stupid if you can’t see that she stands to gain so much more than that stupid scholarship. Will is sending a postnup and the annulment papers. Make sure she signs both immediately.”
Then his father promptly hang up, leaving him standing in the garden fighting back angry tears. Everything about the way his father and brother treated him enraged him. This was just another on a long list of actions that told him they meant it when they called him a soft sissy. The knowledge that one day he would be out from under their thumbs was all that kept him going when things got arduous in grad school.
3 hours later
Daisy had locked herself in her room so she could spiral in private. Her overly-creative mind was minute by minute fabricating worst-case scenarios, each better, worse than the last. She felt drained, all cried out as she lay sprawled on the bed, exhausted in her heart, body and spirit.
She turned to look at her ringing phone. She’d been ignoring calls from their friends all day. This time though, it wasn’t any of her friends. It was her aunt. If she didn’t answer, her aunt would worry. It was her first trip out of state and her aunt had been anxious about her travelling alone.
She cleared her throat and said nonsense words out loud so she wouldn’t sound like she had been crying or sleeping. Then she slid to answer.
“Hello, Auntie,” she said, using what she imagined was her normal, chipper voice.
“What have you done?” Her aunt’s broken voice asked and Daisy sprung to an upright position with energy she didn’t have.
“You tell me. A white man just knocked on my door and threatened to have me deported because you’re trying to trap their child in a relationship.”
“Oh, my God.” Her hand flew to her mouth.
“What did you do?” Her aunt all but yelled.
“Um… we got drunk last night and got married, but his brother is working on annulment papers that we’re supposed to sign today.”
“I have lived in this country for almost as long as you’ve been alive. You’ve been here for two years and now you want to ruin my life?”
“I should have never invited you here. I should have known you would ruin it for me.” Her aunt lamented; voice heavy with tears.
“Auntie-” Daisy said, her voice breaking.
Her aunt hang up before she could get another word in.
The tears she’d been fighting for hours finally fell as she collapsed back on the bed. She heard the door slide open and turned her head to find Wallace tiptoeing in.
She sprang out of bed, fueled by her rage. “You sent people to threaten my aunt? To threaten to have her deported?”
He stepped back away from her anger, hands flying up in the surrender sign in an attempt to calm her down.
“I didn’t do that.”
“So, what, my aunt is just making up nonsense?”
“I think my family did, but I didn’t. I swear to God.”
“Can you just give me the fucking papers? I want to be done with this. I don’t know who you are and what the problem is, but I will sign anything you want if you’ll just leave me and my family alone.”
“I’m working on it. I promise.” He said, voice low as if trying to get her to lower hers as well and calm down.
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