Jeff’s phone rang at 6:00 A.M. His bedroom was dark except for a sliver of early morning light peeping around the corners of the window blinds. There was no traffic noise from the street behind his house. His wife of thirty years lay asleep beside him.
Jeff grabbed the phone and picked up the receiver, hoping the shrill sound didn’t wake his wife.
“Get the paper now! Read the front page. I think Adam has done something awful!” Madeleine, his sister, screamed at him.
Adam, their oldest brother, was often in the paper. He was a former senator so Madeleine and Jeff were used to reading articles about their brother.
Jeff yawned and looked at the clock. He didn’t need to get up for another hour. “What is so bad that you had to call me this early? Couldn’t it wait?”
“No! When you read the paper, you’ll know why,”
Madeleine told him.
Taking his cell phone with him, Jeff went downstairs and opened the front door. He grabbed the newspaper off the bottom step. The flimsy plastic bag was damp with the morning dew. “Oh, my God, do you really think he did this?” he said to Madeleine after he read the headline and the first few lines of the article. “Why would you think that? He never believed us. Did something happen?”
“Yes. He called me yesterday and sounded depressed as usual. He said he changed his mind and hired a private investigator to find her.” Madeleine paused to take a sip of coffee. “He was already so fragile. This may have been the last straw. Maybe he finally cracked.”
"I will not marry him," Hannah said as she stamped her foot on the living room floor. "I don't care what you have promised. I will not marry him. How dare you make arrangements for my wedding? To someone I have never met. To someone almost fifty years old and who lives in America. What were you thinking?" she hissed at her parents.
She now understood why the house had been awash with frantic activity --- drapes pulled down and dusted, rugs taken outside and beaten, and the floor polished to a shine. Mama had yelled at Clarisse, the maid, to make sure the upstairs rooms were swept twice.
"You'll meet him, and you'll marry him," Hannah's mother said, loudly, which was unlike her.
"Your papa and I are tired of answering questions about why you aren't married yet. People think something is wrong with you." She paced the room, moving objects from place to place. "I don't want people to think that you can't get a husband; that you are no longer a virgin. Your sisters and brothers are married --- it's past time for you." She paused, took a deep breath, and announced, "It's arranged, so there's no way to get out of it."
Hannah still lived with her parents. That was what proper, unmarried women did until they found a husband and raised a family... As far as she was concerned, a husband was not part of the vision she had for her life.