Buying the Bride

By: Penny Wylder


“Or I could just catch the train instead. It’s just down the street from my apartment and it’s never late.”

I would’ve taken it, but it has this funk, a mix of body odor and grease traps that seeps into your clothes and is impossible to get out. I didn’t want to stink for our first meeting—I was saving that for the third and fourth meeting when it would be too late for him to back out.

“No,” he says. “Once we go public with our relationship, I don’t want anyone seeing you on public transportation. I have a certain image to uphold.”

Wow, what a snob. I wonder if he realizes how insulting that is to me. I’m guessing by the way his expression doesn’t change, he’s unaware. Oh well. He’s paying me, so it doesn’t really matter if he doesn’t think I’m good enough for his precious image.

He reaches behind his desk into a filing cabinet and pulls out a folder the size of a text book.

“I’ve compiled the details of our relationship. This is our history together. We need to go over a few things.”

“You want me to remember everything in this folder?”

“Yes.”

For real? I know I have a stricken look on my face, and I know through my rocky history in school that learning everything in that folder is going to be nearly impossible for me, but I nod anyway and keep repeating ‘ten grand’ in my head over and over to comfort myself. When Mandi told me she had a job for me and then told me what that job would be, it sounded so easy. Just playing pretend. Like when I was a kid playing ‘house’, and there was the wife and the husband (usually a neighbor boy) and then we could get called in for dinner and go our separate ways. How hard could that be? But now it seems as though it’s actually work, and I’m going to have to earn every penny of that money.

He slides the folder toward me. I pick it up and thumb through the pages. He watches me carefully as I skim through the details. This is going to be harder than I thought. Everything in here is exotic and so beyond my life experience that I wouldn’t know the first steps in how to play the part of this girl he wants me to be.

As I turn the pages I see words like Cabo San Lucas, Carmel (not to be mistaken for caramel, which I’m very familiar with), Venice, and all these other places I’ve heard of but have never been to. I catch a glimpse of a page mentioning a Tiffany necklace he had made as a gift for me, and how we went scuba diving in the archipelagos of Con Son, Vietnam, and how he proposed to me on a fucking glacier near Juneau, Alaska. WTF is this life?

I feel like I might puke. According to this we met in Belize at a five-star restaurant I don’t know how to pronounce. We looked at each other and it was love at first sight. The very night we met, he whisked me off on his private jet to Quebec, Canada where we ate strange, exotic food and made love every night. I’m really hoping that is just part of this story and not something I’m supposed to tell his family. There’s no way I’m talking about my sex life with anyone’s parents, even if it is a fake sex life.

Says here I’m an assistant to a major fashion designer (he has a friend who will vouch for this if questions are asked) and enjoy the finer things in life. Only problem with that is I don’t even know what the finer things in life are to him. I know what that means to me: splurging on a lipstick at Sephora once in a while instead of Walgreens where I usually buy my makeup, and celebrating at Trujillo’s on special occasions with a $12 margarita. I have a feeling our definition of ‘finer things’ are worlds apart. I’m a simple girl from a simple town in Northern California where my family raised sheep on a farm and I spent my childhood barefoot in treehouses.

Regretfully, I put the folder down. “I don’t think I’ll be able to do this job, I’m sorry.”

His eyes narrow. “Why not?”

“I don’t know how to be this girl.” I point to the folder. “I’ve never even been out of California.”

He leans forward, clasping his hands together. God, he’s beautiful. It’s almost uncomfortable being this close to him. I feel the same way in museums and art galleries, like I might taint a painting’s perfection by standing to close to it.

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