The Arrangement

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Francesca Aldridge, hands clenched tightly together paced her bedroom. The gown she was wearing felt stiff and heavy. She had resigned, already, that her parents had arranged for her to be married to some guy from people they knew as friends. She had never met the family, as they had lived miles away.  

Today, however, the family was going to be arriving for dinner. It certainly was an important affair, as Francine gathered by the numerous preparations going on around the house. Everything was in perfect order, when there came a knock on the front door.    

Franny, as she liked to be called, couldn’t leave her bedroom. She was nervous. She fretted, because she was marrying him, even if she didn’t like him. Oh, Lord, she thought to herself. What am I going to do? I don’t want to be married to a man I don’t know. In a few hours, she would become this man, whose name was the only thing she truly knew about him.    

Jerod Humphries, her mind rolled the name around. “Well, Jarod Humphries,” Francie said out loud to her reflection in the mirror, “What am I getting myself into? “She could hear the commotion going on down below her. The ringing of laughter drifted into her ears. That seemed like a good sign to her.    

Before she left her room, she gave herself a look over. She stood tall and straight. She was wearing the wedding gown her mother had picked out for her. She was pleased by it, even though she was wary about what was about to take place.    

Her mother had good taste. The gown was high-necked. Covered in shimmering white beads and lace, the elegant dress hugged her frame in a flattering way. She’d had her hair done with long ringlets hanging down to her shoulders. Her veil was made of sheer material, except for the band that matched her dress. It flowed to the middle of her back. She had white satin slippers on her feet that made her feel as though she were walking on a cloud. She took up her bouquet, which held a variety of colors arranged in a elegant basket.    

A soft knock came on Franny’s door. She opened it, and there stood her five-year-old niece who was to be her flower girl. She looked absolutely adorable in her little white dress, which matched the one in which she was wearing minus the veil. She held a miniature version of the bouquet she held in her hands.    

Franny leaned down to Carla’s level, kissing her tender forehead. “Come Carla, let’s go. It’s almost time. You look so pretty, my sweet little pumpkin.” The little girl looked up at her, with a big smile. Francine took Carla’s little, warm hand into her own, and left her bedroom.  

The ceremony itself, was going to be held in the large sitting room. The reception was then going to move out onto the terrace. The well-kept lawn ended where a thick, dense forest lay. Everyone was going to be there.  She was so nervous; her hands were shaking. 

She drew in a deep breath as she and Carla stopped just before the door to the sitting room. The music began, and her bridesmaids began their journey down the aisle to the front of the room, where the minister stood. When it was Carla’s time to enter, she hesitated, looking back at Francine. Francine winked and smiled at the little girl. She turned and disappeared, already tossing the red rose petals around.    

The music turned to her entrance music. Here I go, Franny thought. And entered the door. The room had been arranged where there were chairs on both sides of the great room. Each chair had a big, white bow on the back. She was so nervous, she could hardly keep her gaze ahead of her, not to mention she couldn’t even think to look at her groom.  

It was when she got the alter and stopped that she was able to look him over. He was tall, with broad shoulders. He wore a handsome white tux with a black cummerbund. He had on white shoes. His dark skin contrasted nicely against the white. He had jet black hair, just as Franny. His face was handsome. He had striking blue eyes that matched the color of the sky outside the window.    

The ceremony went unhitched. When the reception began, Franny could assess Jarod Timbers, the man who was now considered her husband. During the ceremony, he held his composure as if he were standing at attention. He kissed lightly when it came time.     

When they were dancing with each other, during the reception, he held her lightly, as though he were dancing with someone he’d just picked up. She could smell the light scent of his colon. He was, however, a wonderful dancer, which was very pleasing to Francine. She loved to dance. He spoke very little the entire night.  

Life with Jarod, at first, was awkward. His silence was something she didn’t know how to deal with. He was a man of very few words. He’d get up early, go to the gym he had in his house, and be off to work. He didn’t make too much of an attempt to be romantic.  

She would then be alone in the big house that Jarod owned. Her life, somehow, felt like there was a void. She had never felt that way before. She’d lived with her parents right up until she was married. She didn’t know if she liked being married or not. Jarod was so distant; she couldn’t get him to open up to her.    

For the time being, they were even sleeping in separate rooms. Marriage wasn’t supposed to be like this, she’d thought. She’d imagined unmeasurable happiness when she got married. Why had her parents insisted that she marry Jarod? She’d been fond of Archibald Richards, and had hoped to one day become his bride.  

For months, Franny didn’t believe that anything could change. Jarod remained distant and cool toward her. When he’d get home, dinner was ready. During the entire meal, Jarod would say maybe five words, the rest of the time was silence. Francine didn’t think she could stand the silence anymore.    

One day, while Franny was fixing Jarod’s dinner, it came to her. She felt that if she put her heart into everything she did for Jarod, his attitude might soften. She was stuck living in his house, he could at least make life a little cheerier.    

She’d learned, by speaking with his mother, what his favorite meal was. This day, she’d gone and purchased everything he enjoyed. She’d bought a nice outfit to wear that night at dinner. She had created the dining room to be a cozy, haven. She lit two candles that stood in a sterling silver candle holder, the flame flickering slightly.    

She stepped back, looking at her creation, hoping to stir something within Jarod. She’d made up the guest bedroom to be romantic haven, with candles lit from the bedroom to the bathroom, where a large, sunken tub was filled with bubbles, surrounded by rose petals. The scent of apple spice filled the room.    

Franny was waiting by the door when Jarod walked in. The foyer was filled with lit candles. When he entered, she could see the surprised look etched on his handsome face. He stopped and looked around. Then he smiled and approached Franny. 

He stood before her, looking down into her eyes. He pulled her a little closer. “You did this for me?” he asked. Francine nodded. He looked more deeply into her eyes, searching them. She continued to hold his gaze. “I love it, Mrs. Jarod Humphries,” he said softly.     

Franny freed herself, reluctantly from his arms. “This isn’t the only thing,” she told him. “Follow me.” She led him to the dining room. She had him seated. She’d decorated the dining room with more candles, and had covered the table with a maroon covering, dinnerware set perfectly for two.    

“This is amazing, Franny,” he said, his voice thick with emotion. “What a greeting to come home to.” Once again, he looked into her eyes, searchingly. With no more words, he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her to him closer than before.    

When dinner was finished, they moved to the sitting room, where candles flickered, dancing in the darkness. He looked about him, a pleased look fell over his face. “I see you have every room decorated. What is the special occasion, Franny?” he asked curiously. “Oh, and by the way, you look stunning.”  

Franny smiled. She felt a shift in his attitude, becoming softer with her, rather than the harsh, military stance he’d displayed for the last few months. She went to the mini bar in the corner of the sitting room, and fixed them both a glass of sparkling champagne. She moved to sit down beside Jarod on the plush couch. She handed him the other glass she held.    

“This toast, Jarod,” Franny said, lifting her glass in the air, he followed her gesture, “marks a new beginning for us. We’ve been married for nearly six months. We still act like just strangers living together. I’m your wife. I wish you’d treat me in that manner.”  

Jarod looked stunned. He didn’t say anything for a long time. Instead, he sat sipping his champagne, gazing at Francine. The silence was killing her. Say something! her mind screamed at him. He moved closer toward her, taking her smaller hands into his. Once again, he was searching her eyes.    

“Franny, I’ll be honest with you. I, maybe like you, weren’t happy with this arranged marriage thing that we both were put into without either of our consent. Our parents, for whatever reason, arranged this. Why, I didn’t know. That was…….” his voice trailed off for a moment.   

He continued, “Until tonight, that is. I couldn’t see you as my wife, before, simply because I felt like I wasn’t given my own choice. Tonight, though, Franny, you changed all that. The gesture you made……” he moved around pointing to the candles, “all the candles, the delicious dinner you specially made for me..all this is very touching. I love it, Francesca. I love you, “he finished.  

Francine was beaming with happiness. She’d succeeded in softening Jarod’s heart toward her. Maybe now, they could start their life as husband and wife, as was their position in life. “Jarod, I’m so happy to hear you say that. I wasn’t sure that you’d ever come around to see me for who I am to you. I felt the same way. I was angry with my parents for making me marry you. I had other ideas about how I wanted my life path to go. Being married wasn’t in that equation.”  

“Well, Mrs. Jarod Humphries, I am pleased to have you as my wife.” He took her hands, once again into his larger ones. “Now that I’m able to see more clearly, I realize that I have been married to a beautiful woman all the time, inside and out. I must say, Franny, I’m glad you’re my wife. I’ll say it again, I love you.” With that, Franny led him on the candlelit path to the guest bedroom., where they truly became husband and wife.    

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