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“I’m cold and hot at the same time, I’m shivering and sweating. What the hell is wrong with me?” [FRAGMENT]

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It was going to be the happiest day of her life. A veil, a dream white dress, family, guests, a wonderful party. And yet something had gone wrong. Zoe passed out just before the wedding, and although the ceremony went on without a hitch, for a long time after that, she couldn’t help but feel that something bad had happened before she passed out. Will the wedding anniversary celebrated in the place where she married the handsome Toby finally clear her doubts? The closer to the celebration, the more disturbing signals – lies from loved ones, harmful rumors, disloyalty in friendship …

Excerpt from the novel “Wife” by Shalini Boland:

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A 17th-century stone chapel is bursting at the seams from our friends and relatives. Most belong to Toby’s huge family, but that’s okay. I will be part of it soon too. I tied my black straight hair back with a mother-of-pearl comb that belonged to my mother. I am wearing an ivory lace dress embroidered with pearls – it is tight on the game, slightly flared at the bottom. I stand at the entrance and I have the impression that I am dreaming.

“Are you sure you’re okay, Zoe?” Becky looks at me anxiously and Lou adjusts my tulle veil.

Shalini Boland book covers mat. promotional publishers

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It takes a few seconds for me to realize he’s talking to me. I’m staggering with heat. It is very stuffy. Although it’s December, it’s expected to snow, but the small room is crowded and overheated. I can hardly breathe. I should have thought about it sooner. Make sure that the heating temperature is lowered a little. You can clearly see that the guests are too warm too – they have taken off their jackets and are fanning each other with pages with the program of the ceremony.

I wipe the sweat off my top lip and forehead, wishing I had chosen such a tight-fitting dress. The lump on the back of my head is throbbing, I’m a little light-headed, and I may be sick soon.

“I’m fine,” I whisper anxiously to the bridesmaids. I decided not to tell anyone about the fainting, so that it would not completely overshadow the celebration. Toby and his parents have agreed to keep it a secret too.

– Only you’re pretty pale. Becky frowns. “You look great, but… you are uncomfortable.”

“Getting married,” Lou interjects softly, smoothing her black hair. “It’s a big day, so of course she’s uncomfortable.” Gets upset. And your comments don’t help her at all.

Becky glares at her.

– It doesn’t hurt to ask. I’m just worried about my friend, that’s it.

– She’s my friend too.

“If so, you must have noticed that she was paler than usual.”

What I didn’t take into account was that the bridesmaids didn’t really like each other very much, even though they are my two best friends. This is why I did not propose that they stay at the hotel with me yesterday. They arrived in the morning and have been arguing ever since. I don’t know why such hostility between them comes from. They don’t even know each other very well. I went to school with Lou Schiavone and she seems to be a little jealous of my new friendship with Becky Webb, whom I met at work. I shouldn’t be thinking about it right now. Your wedding day is not the time to soothe these kinds of feuds.

I also warmly invited my sister, Dina, but she wrote back that she would not be able to come because she was too late to book tickets from Thailand. So Becky and Lou became my bridesmaids.

Perhaps it was better, especially since our last conversation with Dina, to put it mildly, did not go well. My relationship with my sister is complicated. I don’t want to think about it right now.

When the wedding march sounds, my stomach tightens. I’ve been waiting for this moment for months. I shudder when my dad takes my arm. The bridesmaids bury the battle ax for a while and raise my veil at the same time. I struggle to stop myself from turning around and seeing if everything is okay between them. Despite the tension, I’m not going to interfere. I turn to my father and am amazed to discover that his eyes are shining with tears.

– You look beautiful, Zoe. Just like your mom.

I feel his emotion – I lose my breath and take a deep breath.

– Thank you, Dad.

He’s usually not sentimental, so his words and reaction mean a lot to me. It is a pity that I am not able to appreciate it now, because it is not so good for me. My father’s face starts to blur before my eyes, and I have to breathe sharply again, controlling the nausea. I pray that I don’t faint again. Maybe the flu is taking me? It is hardly a worse time. I’m ready to go down the aisle, but Dad is still holding me down.

The thriller 'Wife' by Shalini BolandThe thriller ‘Wife’ by Shalini Boland mat. promotional publishers

“I have to ask you, Zoe … Are you absolutely sure?” This is an important decision. His words sound decisive. He looks at my eyes.

– What? I regain my clarity of mind for a moment and, annoyed, shoot him a sinister look. Before that, he hadn’t raised any doubts about my marriage plans – honestly, he had never been very interested in my life. So why is he asking me this question now, when I am about to take the oath? – How is it “sure”? What do you mean?

– Does not matter. It’s nothing. He blushes, clears his throat and stares straight ahead.

If I had more strength, I would have objected more strongly. Admittedly, I rarely talk to my father, and I’m not going to start now with nearly two hundred people watching us. Also, Daddy likes to say, “The best lack is no words.”

“The most important thing is that you are happy,” she goes on without conviction. – Mom would be proud of you – she adds.

In response, I just nod my head because I’m so angry that I prefer not to speak. It makes me angry that she mentions my mother. As if that would justify the previous question.

The guests glance at us as they wait for the ceremony to begin. The music is still playing, but we are standing still. Dad seems to realize he’s delaying everything, so he takes the first step, and I follow him across the worn stone floor between two rows of wooden benches. I slow my breathing. I swallow several times to quell the wave of nausea. I’m sure everyone has noticed that there is something wrong with me and are now gossiping fiercely. Or maybe I just imagined it?

Hope I look like my dad said, not what I feel. This is not how I imagined standing on the wedding carpet. I expected excitement and blissful joy. At least it’s a good thing that I passed out before the ceremony, not during it. If only I do not confuse me. I grip my dad tighter and he comfortably pats my hand.

Pale winter light shines through the huge stained-glass window and illuminates the altar, from which we are watched by four colorful figures of saints – they have probably seen many a bride before. As I pass the successive rows of benches, the faces of the guests seem blurry, but I manage to pick out a few friends. I notice elegant hairdressers from the salon where I work. I also see Cassie Barrington with her boyfriend and parents. Only I don’t count her among my friends anymore, since I realized that she only thinks about herself. Unfortunately, I had to invite the Barringtons because my dad is Cassie’s godfather. Not that it mattered. Our parents were just friends when they were young, so the Barringtons asked my godparents to follow the tradition.

Fortunately, I quickly stop thinking about Cassie because I see Celia and Malcolm bursting in pride in front of me. Nick, who is gifting his brother, smiles cheerfully at me. And finally I see Toby. Love of my life.

Dad hands me over to the groom and for a moment I feel like a thing that changes hands. I suppose that’s how women were treated in the past. I blink a few times and shake myself slightly to get rid of these strange thoughts. I must try to enjoy the moment. Soak up every second instead of waiting for it to be over. As I stand in front of the altar, I look Toby in the eye and see that he is clearly worried about me. She kisses my hands. This calms me down for a moment. I try to imagine that we are alone. In our cottage at the foot of the hill, where no one disturbs us.

The pastor starts the ceremony and I listen to the words of the oath. I’ve heard her in the movies a hundred times. Many of my friends have already recited it. My parents used to make it a long time ago. And now I repeat it myself. This is a turning point in my life. Something I will never forget. With a wry hand, Toby slips my wedding ring over my finger.

And the pastor declares us husband and wife. From then on, the atmosphere changes from exalted to joyful. You can almost feel relief in the chapel. The guests clap and the choir sings “Can’t Help Falling in Love”.

– Hi, Mrs. Johnson! Relief shows on Toby’s face.

– Hi, Mr. Johnson. I can’t believe we’re married!

– Me neither. I was afraid you would pass out again. How are you?

– Okay – I answer, although it is a true lie. I feel sick, my ears are clogged and my vision is blurry.

While I’m glad we finally got married, I have the feeling that I missed the ceremony. That I was a ghost elsewhere. I feel like crying when I think how unfair this is. Why am I feeling unwell today, and why did I have to pass out right before my own wedding?

We sign Toby on the register, and the guests rush outside to get some fresh air. Finally, we follow their lead, but first Celia throws a white faux fur wrap around my shoulders.

– Terrible chill. I don’t want you to catch a cold. And congratulations. You are a beautiful couple.

I’m glad he doesn’t ask about how I feel, because I would have to lie again and say that I’m floating on a cloud, although in fact I am overwhelmed by disappointment and black thoughts.

As we leave the chapel, guests applaud, cheer, and throw silver and gold confetti at us. Celia was right, it is very cold, so we follow the stone path to the hotel without hesitation. For an outside observer, everything probably looks like a scene from a movie. The road is decorated with lamps and winter plants – Bethlehem stars, hellebore, holly and ivy. The moment should be magical, but I am not able to enjoy it. I’m cold and hot at the same time, I’m shivering and sweating. I can’t think like I’m missing something. I smile and chat with guests, hug and kiss my husband. However, I have the impression that I am appearing in a performance, that I am acting out learned steps. What the hell is wrong with me?

Excerpt from the novel “Żona” by Shalini Boland (translated by Dorota Malina), which was published by Wydawnictwo Literackie.

Source: Gazeta

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