Let’s Get Married, Chapter 2

Previously: Chapter 1 [U]

Two inspectors call. Rated: U.

* * * * *

Part 2: Marry in haste, repent at leisure

The intercom buzzed for the fourth time in quick succession, its low whine penetrating Ashley’s hungover state.

“All right. Jesus! I’m coming,” she muttered as she rolled off her couch and made her way gingerly towards the wall panel. She slapped the button with the palm of her hand, as she rested her forehead against the cool plaster. “What?”

“Ms Davies, there are some people here from the government who want to see you and Mrs Davies,” the doorman said.

Ashley was confused. What the hell had her mother done to have the government knocking down her door first thing in the morning? Drugs? Espionage? Racketeering? And why did they think Christine would be there anyway?

“Did they say what it’s about?” she asked.

“No, ma’am. Just that they wanted to speak to you and your wife.”

Shit. That Mrs Davies.

Ashley felt the hangover all but disappear, replaced by a very different type of nausea.

She looked over her shoulder. The apartment looked okay, no messier than it usually was. She’d gone to a party the previous evening but hadn’t brought anyone home, so there wasn’t anything incriminating that she needed to put away.

“Did you tell them my wife isn’t here just now?” She wasn’t sure if the Feds or INS agents or whoever they were could overhear their conversation, but Anthony, the weekday doorman, was a stand-up guy. He’d covered for her many times before, but usually by keeping her mother or particularly pushy wannabe-girlfriends at bay.

“I believe I did.” His vagueness and hesitancy seemed to indicate that he was, indeed, within earshot of the agents. “Ms Davies?” the doorman prompted.

“Yeah, yeah. I guess you’d better send them up, then.”

She did another quick scan of her apartment. There was little she could do in the coming few minutes to mitigate the fact that it probably didn’t look like a marital home, whatever that was supposed to look like. She smoothed her palms down on the front of her rumpled shirt and tried to swallow her nerves.

She was standing there, in the middle of her non-marital home, when suddenly she remembered her wedding photograph. As a joke, Kyla had taken one of the pictures in which Ashley and Spencer were kissing and had it ostentatiously framed. Ashley had come home one day to find it prominently displayed at her bedside. No matter how many times she hid it, Kyla always found it every time she came over and put it back out on display.

Suddenly, Ashley was very happy that her sister had such a warped sense of humour. She dashed into the master bedroom and retrieved the framed photo from the drawer where she’d put it, then hurried back and placed it on the mantle over the fireplace.

She had no need to retrieve her wedding ring. It was on the ring finger of her left hand, where it had remained since the ceremony. She didn’t know why she still wore it. In the beginning, she had done it as a ‘fuck you’ to Christine and the late Grandpa Davies. But she was still wearing it nearly four months later. She rubbed the back of the ring with her thumb as she looked at the photograph. It was surprising how real it looked, like any other couple’s treasured memory. But, then, they were wearing wedding dresses and kissing. That tended to indicate a happy day.

There was a knock on her apartment door and she took one last deep breath before striding over and opening it. Two men in grey suits were standing expectantly. The older one had the slumped shoulders of a man who was in a job he no longer loved, but the younger one had a firm set to his jaw. He meant business.

“Gentlemen, please come in. I’m afraid my wife has left for work already, but I’m happy to help however I can.” She gave what she hoped was an accommodating and helpful smile.

“Ms Davies, is it?”

“Yes?” She was bemused at the question — they surely knew her name? — then realised that he was probably asking how she preferred to be addressed. After all, the majority of married women, gay and straight, probably still took their spouse’s name or went with the hyphen.

Ashley Davies-Carlin. Ashley Carlin-Davies. Neither sounded natural to her.

“I’m Agent Eaves and this is my partner, Agent Sorensen,” the taller, younger man stated as they entered the apartment. “We’re from the INS.” Both men presented their ID for inspection and Ashley nodded politely.

She realised that the three of them were still standing just inside her doorway and indicated the living area with a sweep of her hand. “Please, sit down.” The men took the couch, while Ashley perched on the edge of an armchair. When nothing more was said, she asked, “Is this about my wife’s citizenship application?”

“In a manner of speaking.” Eaves reached into his pocket and removed a hardback notebook and pen. “There has been an allegation.” He clicked the button on his pen a couple of times. He was clearly not a man to come quickly to the point.

“Oh?” Her mouth was bone dry.

“Yes.” He looked over her shoulder, no doubt noticing the wedding photograph. Scratch that. He had probably seen it as soon as he had entered the apartment. He didn’t seem like he missed anything ever.

Ashley felt certain that he was deliberately saying little as a way of making her nervous and gauging her reactions. She was equally sure that many people fell into the trap of filling the silence with unnecessary admissions. She wasn’t that easily manipulated.

Only a few seconds passed before Eaves spoke again. “My office has received an allegation questioning the validity of your marriage.”

My office, he said, not our office. Ashley glanced at Sorensen. This was definitely not his show. She wondered if there had been a time when Sorensen had been the senior partner and if he had taught the younger man everything he knew, only to see himself being outpaced.

“Should my wife not be here for this conversation?” She was trying to remain composed, but her mind and heart rate were both racing.

Eaves’ mouth twitched in a self-satisfied fashion and she could tell that he was relishing what he was doing. “The allegation is against you, Ms Davies.”

* * *

Spencer’s apartment building did not have a doorman. And the occupant of 3C did not answer her buzzer. Ashley checked the time on the lock screen of her phone. She was early. She looked up and down the street for any sign of a coffee shop or, even better, a bar. There was a Korean convenience store on the opposite corner. Maybe she could get a bottle of Coke. A fifth of whisky also sounded good. Strychnine would probably work, too.

Her attention was caught by her wife rounding the corner by the store. Spencer was wearing what looked like a heavy docker’s coat, the collar turned up against the wind. On most people, it would have been a ridiculous attempt at downmarket chic; on her, however, it looked just right. The blonde had her keys in her hand and she didn’t even look at Ashley as she unlocked the front door. They walked upstairs in silence. Only when Spencer had shut and bolted the door of her studio apartment behind them did she speak.

“Coffee?”

“No, you’re okay.”

“Sit,” Spencer commanded, as she shrugged off her heavy jacket and hung it on the back of the door.

Despite the fact that she had asked for this meeting, she judged that Spencer deserved the first word, but she walked off into a small adjacent room, no doubt the bathroom, leaving Ashley fiddling with her wedding ring. She’d noticed that Spencer didn’t wear hers, but that was hardly surprising.

When Spencer returned, she said nothing.

“How have you been?” Ashley asked.

“Fine. You?” The response was tight, clipped. Ashley hadn’t explained why she needed to see Spencer and the blonde’s wariness was evident.

“Not so great, actually,” she admitted, rubbing the bridge of her nose. “I got a visit from the INS.”

“For Christ’s sake, Ashley! Why didn’t you say on the phone?”

“I wanted to tell you in person.”

“Jesus!” Spencer wrung her hands together. “And I just heard from Phil that everything was okay.” Phillip Sachs was Spencer’s immigration lawyer.

“Yeah?”

“I got a job. And I passed the citizenship test. There’s only really the formalities left.”

“That’s great, Spence.” Ashley actually already knew this. Kyla had told her that Spencer had got a job as a cameraman — camerawoman? cameraperson? — at one of the shopping channels, while Eaves had seemed only too happy to mention that her wife’s citizenship had been on the verge of being granted.

Had been.

“Well, obviously everything’s not that great, as you said, if the INS have been to see you.”

“Actually, the problem’s not you. It’s me.” It wasn’t the first time she’d used that line with a woman.

Spencer looked confused. “I’m not following.”

“My mother —” She shook her head and started over. That woman didn’t deserve to be called that. “Christine is upset at losing her meal ticket and the only way she can get it back is to have our marriage invalidated. So, her lawyer contacted NYPD and accused me of trying to defraud my grandfather’s estate.” She squeezed her eyes shut. She couldn’t talk and look at Spencer. She hadn’t expected to feel quite so guilty. “Turns out, that’s not actually a crime. There’s no law against marrying for money. Something that you’d think my mother of all people would have known. So, anyway, she then contacted the INS, hoping to get our marriage declared fraudulent that way instead. Which is why they showed up at my place this morning. God love her, she thinks so highly of me that she actually thinks that I’m taking advantage of you. The INS stressed that no allegation had been made against you.”

She stared at the ceiling, resting her head against the chair’s high back, waiting for Spencer’s anger. She was shocked when she felt a hand touch her arm and give it a quick squeeze. She brought her head down and opened her eyes. Spencer looked more thoughtful than anything.

“So, what happens now?”

“There’s gonna be an investigation.”

Spencer slumped back in her chair. “Well, that was always a risk.”

“You’re not mad?” She couldn’t believe just how well Spencer was taking the news. Of all possible outcomes, she had really not expected calm resignation.

“I’m sure that will come. Give me time.” Spencer made a small noise that Ashley took for a sarcastic laugh. “You want a real drink? There’s a bottle of vodka in the icebox. Russian. A present from a friend.”

“God, yes.”

Spencer made the short journey to the kitchen area. “I don’t think I’ve got any mixers. Is over ice okay?”

“Fine by me.”

She rummaged in the fridge. “Oh, wait, there’s OJ.”

“Smooth or with bits?”

“Bits.”

Ashley wrinkled her nose. “Straight up, then.”

The blonde returned with the vodka, a huge carton of juice and two highball tumblers, one with ice in it. They had scenes from the original Star Trek on them. Hers featured James Tiberius Kirk; Spencer’s, Spock.

“Nice glasses.”

“Present.”

“Another friend?”

“Brother.” Spencer poured a couple of fingers of vodka into the glass with ice and handed it to Ashley. She prepared her own with the juice. They both knocked back their first drink quickly and Spencer fixed another round. “Well, I guess you’d better tell me everything.”

By the time Ashley had finished telling Spencer everything she knew, right down to each ominous pause and piercing glare from Eaves, she could feel her cheeks quite flushed from the alcohol. Spencer had interjected often, asking pretty insightful questions, but never in an accusatory tone. It felt almost as if they were friends.

“So, I guess we both know what this means,” Spencer concluded. Her speech wasn’t quite slurred, but she was speaking deliberately in the manner of someone who was having to process each word individually.

“Yeah.” Even before Eaves and Sorensen had left her apartment, Ashley had known that the only possible option was for them to move in together for however long the investigation lasted.

“I suppose your place makes more sense. It’s not like we’d both fit in here.”

Ashley glanced around. The apartment was nice enough, but it was still only a studio with the bed, living area and kitchen all in one room. There were bigger walk-in closets in the house she had grown up in. “I guess not. How do we do this?”

“I have no idea.”

“I can call my car service to help you move, if you like.”

Spencer chuckled. “Your car service?”

Ashley felt defensive. “It’s like a taxi, only —” She couldn’t think of an appropriate adjective.

“Rich?”

She gave Spencer a mock glare. “I can always leave you to bring your stuff in hefty bags on the subway.”

“That’s not very wifely.”

“Unfortunately for us both, I’m no-one’s idea of a wife.” Until she had agreed to marry Spencer, it had never occurred to her that she might ever get married. She wasn’t exactly good at relationships. In fact, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d been in a proper relationship. Probably back when she still slept with boys. High school, possibly.

Spencer shook her head in amusement. “Let’s hope we can both convince the INS otherwise.”

It made Ashley feel better that the blonde was taking everything in her stride. She had honestly expected much more shouting and a lot of blame being thrown her way. But Spencer was acting like they were in it together, which, in a very real sense, they were.

She murmured, “It’s like that movie after all.”

“What?”

“The one from our wedding day.” That definitely felt weird to say. “With Andie MacDowell and Gerard Thing.”

“Oh, Green Card! Yeah, I see what you mean.”

“Or, the other one, with Sandra Bullock.”

“I don’t think I know that one.”

The Proposal?” she prompted. Spencer shook her head. “We can rent it. Sandra Bullock’s Canadian, just like you, and gets engaged to her male secretary.” She looked at her wife as something occurred to her. “How come you don’t have an accent anyway?” Spencer’s normal speaking voice was generic North American with no obvious regional inflection.

“I haven’t lived in Canada since I was three. My parents are with the World Health Organisation.” Spencer looked off to the side as she recalled the details. “Um, lemme see, Norway first, Oslo — I loved it there. Then Albania, Turkey, Moldova, Tunisia, Paris, New York. I’ve always gone to American or International schools. And I’ve been here eight, nine years.” She raised her shoulder in a half-shrug. “New York’s the only place that’s felt like home.”

“Where are they now?”

“Brussels and Kazakhstan.”

“Eh?” Ashley’s geography wasn’t the best, but she was pretty sure those countries were quite far apart.

“Based out of Brussels, but their current assignment’s in Kazakhstan. They used to be field researchers, but now they advise and support governments in establishing Public Health structures.”

“Sounds important.”

“I suppose.”

Ashley had no idea that Spencer’s childhood had been so exotic. Other than Mexico and the Caribbean, she’d only been outside the US once, when she was fifteen. Her father had taken her cruising on his yacht around some of the Greek islands. It was the only holiday they’d ever taken together.

A thought penetrated her alcohol-blurred mind. “You went to boarding school and you’re calling me out for being rich?”

Spencer snorted wryly. “WHO paid for the schools.”

“Ahhh.” Ashley squinted at her. “So, we’re agreed? My car will come by for you and your stuff?”

“Sure.”

“When?”

“This weekend?”

“Sounds like a plan.”

They fell silent until Spencer asked, “How are we going to explain the fact that I still have this place?”

Ashley shrugged. “You couldn’t get out of your lease and you’ve got a millionaire wife who can afford to pay for pretty much anything?” She looked at the bottle of vodka. She desperately wanted another drink, but there was hardly any left. “I wonder if they’ll talk to our neighbours.”

“To find out if we’ve been living together, you mean?”

“Yeah.”

“Dunno. Never been investigated before.”

“Me, either.” She thought about it. “I don’t really have any. Neighbours, I mean. My apartment’s the only one on my floor and I don’t know any of the other people in the building by name, only by sight.” As far as she could tell, many of them were away for weeks or months at a time. Or maybe they just kept different hours from her.

“I think the boys next door are students. They probably wouldn’t notice if I had a circus troupe coming in and out of here. I only moved in a few weeks before our wedding and I’m not really home a lot anyway.”

It had felt weird to Ashley when she’d mentioned the wedding; it felt even more bizarre to hear Spencer say it. This time, they both stared at the bottle on the table, a fact that Spencer picked up on. “Might as well,” she commented, dividing the remaining vodka between them. “More ice?”

“Nah. It’ll just slow me down.”

Spencer didn’t add juice to hers, either. She raised the glass in toast. “To married life.”

Ashley clinked her glass against Spencer’s with a wry smile. “In sickness and in health.” They gulped down the alcohol and banged their glasses on the table simultaneously. Ashley giggled. “We should probably be more careful with the wedding crystal.”

Spencer chuckled. “Knowing Glen, they probably came free with a keg of beer.” She rubbed her eyes. Ashley guessed the alcohol was getting to her, too.

Just then, they were interrupted by the incongruous sound of the Bee Gees’ Staying Alive. Spencer’s face was blank as she stood, a little unsteadily, and walked over to the front door to retrieve her phone from the pocket of her coat. She kept her back to Ashley as she answered it.

“Hey, you.”

Soft tone, warm. A friend, then. Possibly more.

“I can’t talk right now. I’m with someone.” A laugh. “No, not even slightly.”

Oh, definitely more than a friend.

Spencer’s voice dropped further. “Later? I’m not sure. How about I call you?” A pause. “No, I —”

Didn’t sound like the girlfriend liked being put off.

“Look, I’ll explain tomorrow. Yeah, yeah, me too. Bye.” Spencer didn’t turn around straight away. Ashley guessed that she hadn’t wanted to have that conversation in front of her and was composing herself.

Feeling like she’d intruded, she stood. “Is that the bathroom?” she asked, pointing in the direction of the door Spencer had disappeared behind earlier.

“What? Oh. Yeah.”

She stayed in the bathroom much longer than she needed to, not sure that she wanted to go out and face Spencer again. She took the opportunity to have a peek around the bathroom cabinet. There was only one toothbrush, so the girlfriend must be newish, or possibly Spencer stayed over at her place.

Ashley had imagined that there would have been a lot of organic products. Spencer seemed the type to buy scratchy, ethically sourced stuff that was hand-made by artisans in foreign countries — save-the-world-type things. But there were only a few jars and bottles, all from the same high-end range. Again, the fact that there was little variety pointed to only one person using the cabinet.

The single bottle of perfume was very similar to the scent that Spencer had worn at their wedding. Ashley recalled the citrus tang enveloping her when they kissed. It was also expensive, imported. And the bottle indicated that Spencer had paid for the bespoke version, which was probably why it was subtly different from before.

She sighed and closed the cabinet, looking at herself in its mirror. Her eyes were bloodshot from the vodka and her cheeks were flushed. She raised her hand to drag it through her hair and she caught sight of her wedding ring. She turned her hand around in front of her face, looking at the ring from various angles.

That was her real-but-not wife outside the door. They were not friends. They were not lovers. They were not in some frothy romantic comedy. They were almost-strangers in deep, real-world, Feds-at-the-door shit. No amount of jokes about their Star Trek wedding crystal was going to fix that.

When she returned to the main room, Spencer was standing at the window, her arms wrapped around herself. Her blonde hair was tied back in a loose ponytail and Ashley could see the back of her neck. There was a visible bruise just peeking out from the neckline of her t-shirt. The mysterious girlfriend must be a biter.

“I was thinking.”

“Oh?” Ashley stood where she was, just inside the room. She was pretty sure they weren’t about to sit down and chat again. The phone call had definitely ended the entente they’d been enjoying.

“I should probably come back with you.”

Ashley noticed a backpack on the end of the bed that hadn’t been there before. It looked sturdy and featured a Swiss flag emblem on it, another sign that Spencer bought only quality merchandise. “Are you sure you want to do that?” She debated mentioning the girlfriend and asking if Spencer needed to speak to her, but decided against it.

“I don’t think it matters what either of us want right now. I think we have to do what’s best for both of us.” Spencer was still staring out of the window and her voice was small, distant. “Do you have a room I can use?”

“Yeah, yeah. Of course.” Her apartment had three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms. Space was not an issue.

“Then we should get going. I’ve got work tomorrow afternoon and I don’t usually drink on weeknights.” She turned and lifted the backpack onto her shoulder. Her eyes were red. She had definitely been crying. “I’ll just get some stuff from the bathroom and then I’m ready. I’ll stop by here on my way home over the next couple of days and then get the big stuff at the weekend.”

Ashley picked up her own jacket while Spencer disappeared into the bathroom.

“I see you’ve put your ring on,” she called out from behind the door. Ashley didn’t correct the implicit assumption that this was recent and had been prompted by the INS visit. “If you look in the jewellery box in the top drawer of the bedside locker, you’ll find mine. Grab it for me?”

“Sure.”

The jewellery box was the only thing in the drawer apart from some paperbacks, all thrillers: Conan Doyle, Tess Gerritsen, those Swedish ones everyone had been reading a couple of years before. Ashley took the box out and opened it carefully. There were several gold and silver chains and about a dozen pairs of earrings thrown in haphazardly. She couldn’t see the ring.

“It’s in the bag.”

Ashley looked up at the blonde, who was brushing her hair, having taken it out of its ponytail. “Hmm?”

“The velvet bag.”

Ashley picked out a small, navy bag with a gold thread tie. She loosened the knot and tipped it out. The matching partner to her own ring fell into her palm. She held out her hand to Spencer and watched the other woman slip the ring onto her left hand. She wondered if Spencer had taken it off as soon as she got home from their aborted ‘honeymoon’.

“Shall we?”

She placed the jewellery box on the bedside locker. “Let’s.”

* * * * *

Next up: Chapter 3 [U]

14 Comments

  1. iocaste
    Posted 7 April 2012 at 7.03pm | Permalink

    Loved it! Thank you Dev!

  2. yula
    Posted 7 April 2012 at 8.17pm | Permalink

    The girlfriend need to go…and soon!…Great post as always! XD

  3. yula
    Posted 7 April 2012 at 8.35pm | Permalink

    ouuuu iocastee!…kai esu edw? :P

  4. iocaste
    Posted 8 April 2012 at 5.47am | Permalink

    Τώρα κατάλαβα! Hello fellow Corinthian ;)

  5. lol
    Posted 8 April 2012 at 8.45am | Permalink

    Great storyline, love how similar it is to The Proposal. The Proposal has always been one of my favourite shows, can’t wait till more updates come streaming in :)
    Thanks for the hard work :D

  6. 2bz2breading
    Posted 8 April 2012 at 9.12am | Permalink

    Loved it.

  7. yula
    Posted 8 April 2012 at 9.53am | Permalink

    @iocaste: Hellooo…hihi δεν με είχες καταλάβει,ε? :P Every time that dev posts something,we catch up μαρή! haha

  8. Posted 8 April 2012 at 3.17pm | Permalink

    Love it, love it, love it! dev is the queen of antici-pation!! I love how Spencer matter of a factly makes plans for their future, “We can rent it” without any hesitation. It was such a sweet moment when they were in sync. Stupid g/f had stupid timing ;-). Thanks dev! Can’t wait for more!

  9. cbrammer
    Posted 8 April 2012 at 4.16pm | Permalink

    I think it’s sad that Ashley has been wearing her ring since their wedding day and Spencer has had hers stored away. At least it was put nicely into a bag instead of thrown in carelessly with the rest of the jewelry.

    I suppose it was just an ‘agreement’ and that there is no reason why Spencer should have any emotional attachment to it. But still…

    Let’s hope that the bruise is nothing as serious as an abusive girlfriend. It always breaks my heart to read about a battered Spencer. I’m going to pretend that it was Glen who was calling to invite her to another night of kickboxing. Rough sport :)

  10. Posted 9 April 2012 at 7.15am | Permalink

    Love it Dev. Can’t wait for the next.

  11. Posted 9 April 2012 at 2.44pm | Permalink

    Oh so there’s a girlfriend? I smell drama!

  12. Clom
    Posted 10 April 2012 at 10.26am | Permalink

    Fuck the girlfriend… no, wait! Fuck Ashley, throw over the girl!!

  13. spikkels8
    Posted 12 April 2012 at 1.31pm | Permalink

    grrrr girlfriends always mess up Spashley…. luckely we all know she’s be gone soon… Thanks Dev!!!

  14. anne
    Posted 14 April 2012 at 11.48pm | Permalink

    I feel bad for Ashley. I vote to throw the girlfriend and Christine over a cliff.

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