My One Month Marriage – Shari Low (Digital Sample)

 Read on for an exclusive extract from ‘My One Month Marriage’ by Shari Low

My One Month Marriage  

By Shari Low 

Chapter One 

Sunday – The Four Sisters 

 I’m in one of those unofficial clubs that no-one really wants to be in. You know, like the “Association of People Who Got Jilted at The Alter.” Or “The Secret Society of Dumplings Who Let Online Scammers Empty Their Bank Account Because They Believed The Had An Uncle In A Remote Territory Who Left Them Millions In Their Will.” 

In this case, I’m Zoe Dalton, the latest fully paid up member of the “Collective Of Fools Who Had Marriages That Lasted For Less Time Than A Four-Part Mini-Series.”  

A month. 28 days to be precise.  

And it’s not even as if I have the folly of youth as an excuse. 33 years on this planet is long enough to learn some vital life lessons. Always floss morning and night. Pot pourri has no purpose. And if you’re getting married, ensure that it’ll last longer than the flowers you carried up the aisle.  

Otherwise, you’ll be me, the idiot who is sitting on the floor, consumed by fear that the local village newspaper will use my story as a human interest feature, surrounded by presents that I need to return. Except the cocktail shaker. That one’s already open and in use.  

“Do you feel like an idiot?” Verity asked, handing me a drink that’s so pink it could very well be radioactive.  

“No,” I lied, only to be met with her raised eyebrow of cynicism. “Ok, of course I do. I mean, even Kim Kardashian’s shortest marriage lasted 72 days. It’s a sad day when I’m more of a disaster than a reality show star who built her career on the size of her arse.”  

I took a sip of… “What is this?” I asked, when my taste buds threw their hands up, at a loss as to what they were faced with.  

Verity shook her head, her pony tail swinging as she did so. Even on a Sunday morning, after the most traumatic 24 hours in our family history, she still looks great. My elder sister has been on this earth for fourteen months longer than me and something happened in those 14 months that gave her a level of physical superiority that the rest of us could only hope to match. She one of those women who has visible cheekbones and naturally fiery, thick long red hair, so you could pretty much put her through a car wash and she’d come out the other end, sweep her hair up in a messy bun and look fabulous. Now she was shrugging. “No idea. I just put a bit of everything in the fridge into the cocktail shaker. There’s gin, cream, raspberry juice, pineapple…” 

“I don’t have pineapple juice,” I interrupted. 

Verity didn’t break stride. “Crushed pineapple from a tin… you’ll find it lurking at the bottom of the glass. And there’s…” She went into full education mode. This is what happens when one of your three sisters is a primary school teacher. Not only is she relentlessly organised and can calm a class of stroppy eight years olds with some kind of Jedi mind trick, but she has a remarkable memory for facts and an absolutely pitch perfect technique for delivering them.  

Unfortunately in this case, her pupil had zoned out. What did it matter what was in there? As long as it contained alcohol that would reduce my feelings of general crapness by even one degree, I was game.  

There was a crash at the door. “What did I miss?” Yvie wailed as she entered the room, balancing several plastic bags and a tray giving off a distinctly ‘lasagne’ aroma on her forearms.  

I swallowed a slither of pineapple. “Just some rampant self pity, wails of regret and some general pathetic wallowing.” 

My younger sister nodded thoughtfully. “All just as expected then. Will lasagne help? Doris, our cleaner on the ward, made it. She says it’s her ancient, traditional family recipe but she’s from Paisley, has no Italian descendants and has never been further than Great Yarmouth on her holidays, so I have my doubts. In saying that, I’m starting the diet tomorrow, so not point letting this go to waste.”  

Dropping the bags on the floor, she wandered out in the direction of the kitchen clutching the lasagne, the stiff blue trousers of her nursing uniform rustling as she went. The youngest of the four of us, Yvie was 28 a few months ago, and is a charge nurse in a facility for the elderly on the outskirts of Glasgow. When I’m in my dotage, there’s no-one else I want to look after me. Although, I’m hoping that she’ll tend to my every need on the 14th deck of a cruise ship floating around the Caribbean, rather than in a pre-fab building on the edge of a residential estate with a birds eye view of the nearby motorway. Still, she loves her job and nursing is what she’s always wanted to do. Even when we were kids, she got an undeniable thrill when one of us needed emergency first aid.  

I heard the sound of the oven door banging shut, before she re-entered with a glass of radiation pink. “I took some of this from the cocktail shaker,” she informed us. “It looks suspiciously like something I’d prescribe for acid reflux. Right, what’s the latest? Married anyone else since I saw you yesterday? Divorced yet? Engaged again?”  

I refused to rise to her innocent-faced sarcasm, instead going for dry threats and indignance. “If you carry on like that I’m going in to work.” 

“It’s Sunday,” Verity pointed out, always one to insert facts into the equation.  

“And that’s what got you into this mess in the first place,” Yvie added, following it up with, “Jesus, my bra straps are killing me. Did I mention I’m going back on the diet tomorrow?” 

 “You did. Is it the same one as last week? And the week before?” Verity teased.  

“Not sure, but right now I’m hoping I lose nine and a half stone of smug older sister.” Yvie fired back. She took no cheek from anyone and I love her for it. 

“I thought you were embracing your curves?” I asked, confused.  

“That was last week. This week, I want to book a holiday, wear a bikini and I’ve realised that to feel good about that I’ll need to loose the equivalent weight of a small dingy in a month and a half. Starting right after that lasagne.”  

I didn’t argue. Only a fool got in between Yvie and her ever-changing body confidence issues.  

“Anyway, I preferred it when we were reveling in your disaster of a life,” she told me. “Where were we?”  

“Where were we?” It was like an echo, only said in a voice that was sharper than the other three in my flat. Marina, only her head and neck visible round the side of the door, is the oldest of the four of us and the dedicated grown up. She’s the kind of woman who makes lists, has a pension plan, and who knows the difference between a vintage bottle of plonk and something off the shelf at Lidl.  

“Yvie has just pointed out that my work was to blame for all this.” 

“Yes, well she’s not wrong,” Marina concurred before her head and shoulders disappeared and I heard the sound of her clicking heels fading as she headed down my hardwood floorboards in the hall to the kitchen. I’d bet my last pound that she was carrying a bag that had sushi and humous – she considered healthy food to be the only option, even in a crisis.  

Yvie gestured to the door. “See? Even her Highness agreed. I finally feel validated as an adult.”  

I ignored the playful barb. Successfully negotiating life with three sisters is fifty percent love, thirty percent tolerance, and twenty percent staying out of the dynamics between the others.  

Especially, in this case, as they both had a point. My job as partner of a marketing company, The B Agency, in the centre of Glasgow had definitely contributed to my current situation. If I hadn’t worked there, I wouldn’t have met Tom. I wouldn’t have fallen in love. He wouldn’t have broken my heart. And then I wouldn’t have gone on to screw up my life so colossally that I was now contemplating eating dodgy lasagne while wondering what I was going to tell my mother when I returned her generous wedding gift of a lavish, smoked glass beaded chandelier. Granted, it was lovely. But the fact that I live in a flat with low ceilings transformed it from a stunning decorative statement to a concussion risk.  

But back to the point. Yvie and Marina were right. If I’d worked anywhere else – the civil service, Top Shop, NASA, then none of this would have happened.  

And to quote everyone in the entire history of the world who ever messed up, I just wish I could go back in time and change it.  

In fact, right now I’d settle for just understanding it.  

There were still so many questions. So many uncertainties.  

My phone buzzed and I stretched over ceramic planter in the shape of a pair of wellies to retrieve it from the table beside the sofa.  

Marina’s heels clicked into the room while I read it and in my peripheral vision I could see that she elegantly slid into the armchair by the window, plate of sushi in hand.  

The name at the top of the notification made my heart sink. Roger Kemp. Sadly, no relation to anyone who was ever a member of Spandau Ballet.  

With a shaking thumb, I swiped open the message.  

Roger Kemp was a friend and client, the director of a hotel chain that employed our agency for all it’s marketing needs, I’d asked him for a favour. A slightly underhand, confidentiality-breaching, possibly borderline-illegal favour.  

I’d asked him to find out who had paid for a room in one of his hotels on the night that I’d ended my one month marriage. It would mean asking someone in his financial team to check back on the credit card records and giving me the sordid details.  

Now I was staring in disbelief at the answer, typed right there on the screen of my phone. 

“This didn’t come from me and I’m sorry – the name on the credit card was Ms. Dalton.”  

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.  

One for each of the three of my sisters. And yes, I was aware that two were misdirected, but right now, I didn’t feel like being balanced and reasonable.  

The idle chit chat in the room stopped as each of my sisters, Marina, Yvie and Verity, clocked my expression and realised that something was very, very, wrong.  

Marina, always direct in any situation, was the first to react.  

“Oh God, what now? What is it?” 

Without even realising what I was doing, my gaze went from one of them to another as I spoke.  

“I just need to know…” I said, my voice low as I struggled not to choke on the words. “Which one of you slept with my husband?” 

 

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