Chapter 1: Like a puppet

“Better make sure you look your very best, Katie. We wouldn’t want your future husband to run away would we?”

The lady behind me was all jittery. Why did she sound so excited?

She was here to prepare me for the wedding and for some reason, even though she knew I did not do this by choice, she was all cheerful about it.

My gaze dropped to the floor, my lips quivered. I could hear the sound of my heart drumming in my ears and for a moment I thought I would pass out.

It would have been a relief.

But it never happened. Instead I found myself brought out of the room I was in and into the room where the ceremony would take place. Somewhere inside of me I felt the spark of curiosity growing.

What would he look like? What kind of man would he be? But it quickly faded as I once more was reminded of what love was supposed to be like. Falling in love was supposed to be like jumping off a really tall cliff where your brain tells you that it’s not a good idea but your heart tells you that you, you can fly.

This felt more like I was jumping off that cliff but with broken wings.

I suddenly found myself numbly approaching my husband to be. I knew my father was in the room somewhere but I was still too angry to even look at him. I had for the same reason refused to let him walk me down the aisle. What an insult it would have been.

So instead of looking at my father I let my gaze fall upon him instead.

He was tall and with hair that was blonde with plenty of length to it and all in a disheveled way. His eyes, which were currently fixated on me, were a dark green that almost looked black from where I was standing. He had a strong set jaw line and his suit had no doubt been tailor to fit him.

He must have noticed me checking him out because when I lifted my head to take another look at his face, our eyes met and he gave me what I thought to be a cheeky smile. My cheeks burned and I quickly averted my gaze elsewhere. They could make me go through this wedding but I did not have to make it an all too willing, all too pleasant ordeal.

After all, how could I? I had been blackmailed into an arranged marriage. Of course my father had scoffed at my description of the ‘arrangement’ but it didn’t change the reality of it.

I could hear the notary talking somewhere in the distance and knew that I should probably focus but I couldn’t. Instead my mind was flooded with the memories of the dreaded day when I had walked into my father’s office to take him out to lunch.

That day one of father’s business friends had been there, Mr. Hastings, and he positively beamed when he saw me. I didn’t know why, but I had never been too fond of him. He was a prominent government lawyer who worked in the internal revenue department.  He had told me to take a seat and that he wanted to tell me a story. I had taken a look at my father who had then looked away. Yes, something was definitely not right.

And that’s when he told me a story.

A story about a poor fisherman from the countryside who kept borrowing and borrowing money from the government. Who was now in debt, deep in debt even though he finally had a good job within the technology department. A man who had been borrowing even more when he got a lovely wife and a child to feed. I noticed the smug tone in his voice, the knowing tone that was already triumphant. But why?

I felt my heart sink. Mr. Hastings put forth my options, plain and simple; either I could marry for the sake of humanity and my family’s debt would be removed, or I could happily carry on while he sent my father off to prison due to failure of repaying the government.

I wasn’t sure what it had to do with humanity, but I knew I could never let see my father sent off to prison. What other choice did I have? The look of defeat must have been apparent on my face because Mr. Hastings seemed to be beaming even more so. “Great, wonderful. I will see to the proper arrangements then”, he said before leaving me alone with my father.

I felt a nudge in my side and looked around.

The wedding.

The notary cleared his voice before once more speaking.

“Katherine Hawks, do you take this man to be your husband, to live together in matrimony, to love him, honor him, comfort him, and to keep him in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, for as long as you shall both live?”

How could I possible say yes to that? How could I promise to love a man that I didn’t love at all? I wanted to say no, my heart screamed at me to say no but somehow my lips parted with a tiny “I do”

Afterwards I was shuffled to a room to the side where a man was waiting for me. In his hand was a bracelet. I frowned while looking from the bracelet to the man.

“Oh just a little formality, my dear. To make sure that you don’t do something silly”, he offered.

The bracelet made a little beep when it locked around my wrist.

“But why?”

“Oh no one told you, my dear?” he said with a pleasant smile on his face. Like there was anything pleasant about this. “You are one of the participants in our new colony project. You and your husband will form a new settlement in lands that have never before been inhabited by people”, he explained and although he continued to talk, I didn’t hear any more of it.

Everything suddenly became black.

The next thing I knew I was waking up with the sunlight pouring in through the window nearby. Thank god it had all been a dream, I thought to myself before swinging my legs out of the bed. Except my feet didn’t touch the soft rug in my bedroom. Instead I felt cold wood under my toes. So this was really happening…

I wasn’t sure how long I had been sitting there before I heard a soft knock on the door.

“Katherine?” the voice inquired.

“Uh, yes?”

“Can I come in?”

“I guess, I mean, sure”

The door swung open and I noticed how dilapidated it was with the way it noisily objected to be put in use.

“I hope you slept well”, he said with a small smile. “I’m not the greatest cook but I managed a couple of omelets. Though I won’t be offended if you don’t like them”

“I… I’ll be right there”

“Alright then. See you in a bit”

I slumped down on the bed again. How could I possible play house like this with a man that I didn’t know? With a man that I didn’t wish to know?

All of the sudden I felt myself ache even more for my mother.

She would have never let it happen. She would have stopped it. She would have allowed my heart to feel free. Instead it was now caged. This was not how love was supposed to be. This was not how I was supposed to be.

Someone was waiting for me. Someone right.

But I had been made part of some awful science experiment, like a puppet, and I was not sure how I would ever be able to smile again.

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Prologue;

I stared at my father, I had no words. For a moment I didn’t think I had thoughts either, or a pulse for that matter. Then finally, somehow, I found my voice.

“Dad, I don’t even know him”

My father let out a deep sigh as if he had expected such a reaction from me. And why shouldn’t he?

“He’s a respectable young man, Katie”

I sucked in a deep breath of air. I didn’t really care about what he was.

My father had a strained look on his face, another sigh escaping him.

“You don’t really have a choice, Katie”

I shook my head, I couldn’t believe that he was willing to go through with this.

“Dad you don’t know what you’re asking of me”

“What else would you have me do?”

“Find another way”

“There is no other way. The clause is clear that you must be married”

My stomach twisted into a tight knot. “I can’t. I just can’t”

“I’m not really asking”

I turned in my chair, not bearing to look at him anymore.

“Can’t you at least wait until I find someone I can love? Can’t they wait until I find someone I at least care about?”, I pleaded.

“There is no allowance for putting it off”, was his answer, “There’s already someone willing to do it. It’s a miracle that they found him so quickly”

“Please don’t do this to me. This isn’t what mom would want for me”

My father was quiet and the silence said it all. A moment later he got to his feet and left the room.

*Flash from the past*

“Rawwwwwwwwr, I’m the most fierce dragon ever and I will come eat you and your kingdom”

“Oh no, please Mr. dragon. Don’t eat me, I’m just a young girl waiting for my prince”

“I will still eat you, princess and no one will stop me!”

“Have no fear, princess! I will rescue you and banish the dragon from this kingdom”

“Oh I love you and want to be with you forever. You just made me the happiest girl in the world, prince Charming”

“Then the prince finally found her and he jumped off his horse and rushed to her side”

“Wow

“The prince leaned down and kissed her and just then the princess opened up her eyes”

“And did they get married and be together forever?”

“Yes, they did. The two were very happy together and had a big, beautiful family together”

“Mom do you think that somewhere out there is a prince who will think I’m a princess?”

“Katie, somewhere out there someone will be waiting for you and he will find you at the right time. Just like the story”

*Ten years later*

“Mom, I had a dream last night about a man on a white horse. All I needed was one look into his eyes and I knew he was the one just as he knew that I was the one for him”

“Katie..”

“It was love at first sight, just like in the movies and everything was so perfect”

“Listen, honey, I know I told you stories when you were little but love isn’t just about romance. Love takes hard work and it is never perfect”

“Aw, mom. I have faith that the right guy is out there and I know it is going to be so romantic when we meet”

*Present*

“I don’t care what anyone says. One day, on a day like any other, you’ll find me and you’ll sweep me off my feet. It will be just like in all those romantic books that I’ve read. You’re my dream. My only dream and I will wait for you”

Or so I thought until one day it all changed. My dreams were shattered. My world broken.

Well dreams don’t always come true, do they?

So instead of waiting for Prince Charming I found myself getting into the shower where I stood for a long time under the hot water to try to calm my nerves.

Then I cried;

I cried because no one could see me cry

I cried because I knew that no one cared if I did

I cried because I missed my mother

I cried because I was only eighteen and getting married to a person I had never met before

You should not have to look for love; love finds you. You can’t force yourself to fall in love. That’s why it’s called ‘falling in love” because you just fall.

Then there’s other times; times where everything you believe to be true come crashing down and along with it dreams turn into dust and you are left with nothing but a fading hope of being swept off your feet. Of falling. Truly and freely.

My name is Katie Hawks and this is my story.