The Arranged Marriage

Submitted into Contest #246 in response to: Write a story about someone who takes a joke way too far.... view prompt

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Funny Romance

A man could be forgiven for thinking that the vision of merriment and mirth before him, seated on a bar stool, was in the highest of spirits. Yet, that vision didn’t match with the harrowing tale unfolding before him. 

‘An arranged marriage, you say?’ 

Verity Harbinger’s sky-blue eyes sparkled, and her blonde shoulder length curls bounced as she spoke with animation, a strawberry margarita in hand. 

‘Yes, Sir, I’m afraid so,’ she cooed, adjusting the ‘Bride to Be’ sash that hung across her shoulder. ‘Alas, by this time tomorrow, I will be wed, and my life will have been decided for me. I will be destined to be the wife and womb of Mr Jarrod Worthington.’

Timothy Geraldton’s heart wrung at the prospect of the angel before him being shackled to a man against her will. But then, no man had ever proven to be immune to the charms of Miss Harbinger. Perhaps it was being called, ‘Sir’ that had done it. Timothy had never been called a ‘Sir’ before, but it made him stand just a little taller when Verity said it. Or perhaps it was something about how the smile dwelled in her eyes, and in the corners of her full, rosy lips, tinted red by the cocktail, even when she seemed to be speaking with the utmost seriousness. Or perhaps it was the way her laughter gurgled from her like a flurry of musical notes played on a piccolo. 

‘Of course, my fiancé is the best of men,’ continued Verity. ‘Perfectly sensible, respectable, kind and cowardly.’ 

‘Cowardly?’ asked Timothy, unsure if he had heard correctly.

‘Oh yes. Never a more chicken-livered man would you meet, my Jarrod,’ said Verity, that curl at the corners of her lips taking bloom and unfurling as an infectious smile. ‘Quite the opposite of what I want in a man.’ Verity tittered and then stood, tugging down the hem of the short, white dress she wore. ‘Well, er- Timothy?'

Timothy confirmed with a nod of his head.

‘It has been a great pleasure to meet you tonight.’ The sigh that escaped from between her lips would have brought a swoon from a stone statue of a man. ‘If ever we should meet again, let us smile politely at each other, and nod our heads in the dignified manner you just did, and each know that the other wished that things might have been different.’

Verity made to leave, but Timothy, unable to resist, took her hand in his. Verity turned to him, a slight startle evident in her eyes. He brought his lips to the back of her hand. ‘The pleasure has been all mine, Miss Harbinger.’

Verity lowered her eyes, withdrew her hand, and quickened her departure, lest her would-be beau might be subjected to the hysterical laughter that was about to burst forth from her. Fortunately, she managed to make it to the ladies’ room before it erupted. She was found, with tears streaming down her face and a stitch in her side, by her bridesmaid and Best Friend For Life- or at least until tomorrow- Felicity. 

‘Ver! What on Earth? Where have you been? We’ve been looking everywhere for you!’

‘Oh Flik, I am sorry. I made a new friend, you see,’ said Verity, wiping her eyes on a square of paper hand towel.

‘Let me guess- a man?’

‘Oh yes, a fine gentleman.’


‘We had a pleasant conversation, then I explained to him that I am to be wed tomorrow, and we parted ways. Nothing untoward occurred,’ said Verity, though she barely managed to finish the sentence before doubling over again. 

‘Verity, this mischief must stop once you’re married to my brother,’ said Felicity with a disapproving frown.

‘I fully intend to stop, Flik. Never fear,’ said Verity, re-commencing the task of drying her eyes, and tidying her mascara. ‘Tomorrow, I will be a married woman, with a new-found sense of gravity and responsibility. Just you wait.’


‘Stop the wedding!’

Verity turned with great alarm to see a tall gentleman with brown hair and brown eyes barging down the aisle of the chapel. He was vaguely familiar. A name rattled in the back of her mind- Timothy? Events were hazy, but yes, perhaps it was Timothy.

Of course, to Timothy, the vision in white before him was all too familiar. Verity Harbinger. Looking even more like the resplendent angel he believed her to be in her white, sweetheart wedding gown, her golden curls coiled on top of her head, with just a few, carefully placed to fall around her beautiful face. He had arrived just in time to rescue her from her awful fate. It hadn’t been an easy task to find out the time and location of the wedding, but so determined to play the role of the hero, he had refused to give up.

But now, he was the subject of many confused, concerned and outright angry faces, and he was starting to question if he had done the right thing.

‘Sir.’ That title again. It just seemed to fit. ‘Do you have reason to believe this ceremony should not proceed?’ The celebrant raised his eyebrows at Timothy, and Verity’s eyes pleaded with him. 

Thoughts rattled around in his brain, and he suddenly wished he had put a little more thought into what he would say after, ‘Stop the wedding.’ 

‘The wedding can not go ahead because…because…’- think, Timothy. For God’s sake, think. ‘Because Miss Harbinger is engaged to me!’

A deathly silence was followed a moment later by hushed whispers, to be broken by the melodic sound of Verity’s laughter. ‘Oh dear! There seems to be some mistake. Perhaps this gentleman and I should have a quiet word- in private,’ she said. She flashed her most disarming smile on her husband to be- the one standing at the altar with her- and said, ‘My Love, all shall be right. Wait here. You won’t even notice I’m gone before I will be back.’

The deep furrow between the blonde eyebrows of Jarrod Worthington deepened a little further, but he said nothing, and watched his sweetheart take the hand of the stranger with the brown hair and lead him away.

‘What the devil do you think you are doing?!’ Verity cried, once out of earshot of the ceremony. ‘What happened to a dignified nod of the head when we next saw each other, Timothy? I don’t recall anything about, ‘Stop the wedding!’’

‘I was simply coming to your aid! I couldn’t stop thinking about you after last night. I couldn’t rest, knowing that you were today to become an unwilling bride. I had to help. An arranged marriage is not right. It’s just not right in this day and age- and for a woman such as yourself. You should have any man of your choosing.’

Yes, Timothy was volunteering.

‘Oh Timothy,’ Verity said, with a sympathetic shake of her head, which quickly became a gurgle of laughter. ‘Could you not tell that I was speaking in jest? An arranged marriage- does such a thing even occur in twenty-first century England?’

‘What do you mean, ‘in jest’?’ asked Timothy, suddenly feeling very ill.

‘When I said, ‘arranged marriage’, what I meant was, Jarrod arranged to be married to me, by asking me himself!’ Verity collapsed into a fit of laughter. When she eventually righted herself, she fanned herself with her slender, white-gloved hand and asked, ‘You don’t happen to have any smelling salts on you, do you?’

‘Smelling salts?’ asked Timothy, somewhere between confusion and vexation. ‘Now, Verity, it isn’t the 1800’s.’

‘I never thought for a moment you would take me seriously, Timothy,’ said Verity, who had managed to compose herself without the salts.

‘You lied to me!’

‘No, not at all! I am a storyteller, not a liar. There is a difference!’ Verity argued, emphatically. 

‘Well, what are we to do now? Are you telling me that you do wish to be wed to your groom?’

‘Oh, heavens no,’ Verity exclaimed. ‘But it was all in hand, without the need for your untimely intervention.’ Verity’s eyes sparkled. ‘Come back with me to the ceremony. I will smooth things over with Jarrod. I will tell him it was all one big misunderstanding. You will join the congregation, to show that there are no ill feelings, and the ceremony will proceed as planned. Then, you will find out what I meant by, ‘it was all in hand’.’

No sooner had Verity finished speaking, then her ill-treated fiancé approached, having come in search of her when he had, in fact, noticed she had gone.

‘Ver, My Love, please explain yourself. Who is this man, and why does he believe you to be engaged to him?’

Timothy shrunk back in mortification, but remained within earshot, as Verity explained the whole- her version, of course. ‘My Heart, Timothy and I have spoken, and the confusion has been resolved. You see, Dear Jarrod,’ said Verity, fluttering her eyelashes in such a way that no one could ever believe an untruth could fall from her mouth, ‘I may have gotten a little carried away last night, and I may have given Timothy here the impression that I wished to be rescued from our wedding.’ As Jarrod’s handsome face fell, Verity added quickly, ‘All in jest, of course! You know how I do love to tell stories, My Sweet, and it was my final night as a single woman. I think I just wished to feel young again, you know? A damsel in distress, in need of a knight in shining armour.’

‘You are young, My Ver, and you still will be once we are married. You are only twenty-two years-'

‘Jarrod, you know I prefer you to say, ‘two-and-twenty’,’ Verity scolded. 

‘Right you are,’ said Jarrod, with congeniality. ‘But, My Petal, these lies-'

‘Stories, My Love. I am a storyteller, not a liar. There is a difference!’

‘Right you are,’ said chicken-livered Jarrod, again. ‘These ‘stories’ must stop now. We are to be married and start a life together. You must start taking this seriously. You can still indulge in your fantasies when you read the books you love, but you can’t keep on living your life as though you really are a heroine from a regency romance!’

Verity, to her credit, did her best to look repentant. But the irrepressible twinkle in her eyes should have served as a warning to her beloved- Jarrod, that is- that she wasn’t quite done.

‘Let us return to the ceremony, Dear Jarrod, and before we know it, we will be setting off into the sunset to a life of marital bliss,’ said Verity, and she took Jarrod by the hand leading him back towards the altar. With a subtle turn of her head over her shoulder, she beckoned Timothy to follow, and then with a slight shrug of her shoulders, and a mischievous grin, she signalled that Dear Jarrod may not have been headed for marital bliss, as promised.


‘Verity Harbinger, do you take this man, Jarrod Worthington, to be your lawfully wedded husband?’

‘I- I- I- ah-choo!’

Verity reached for the handkerchief Felicity handed her, and daintily dabbed at her nostrils. 

‘Oh, dear. I’m terribly sorry, perhaps we should try that again,’ she said, with a harried glance down the aisle towards the chapel entrance.

From his position in the back row, Timothy, too, looked towards the entrance, and wondered what- or who- it was that Verity was waiting for. 

‘Could you repeat the question, please, Your Honour?’

The celebrant’s brows slightly creased, but Verity flashed him with her most charming of smiles, and he decided that he could get used to the new title she had bestowed upon him. ‘Verity Harbinger, do you take this man-‘

‘Stop the wedding!’

All eyes turned to see a tall, brown haired, sky-blue eyed stranger enter the chapel, out of breath, his button up shirt half tucked in, and half flailing loose from his black trousers. 

‘This woman is engaged to be wed- to me, Winston Furrows!’

Audible gasps could be heard, cascading around the audience, followed by a babble of hushed conversation. 

‘What ever do you mean?’ cried Verity, convincingly.

‘I have it here, in writing,’ said Winston, striding towards the altar as he pulled a crumpled sheet of paper- or was it parchment- from his pocket. ‘We are to be wed. The match was arranged by our fathers at Verity’s birth. Though neither of our fathers are still living, I have it here in writing- a signed decree.’ Winston handed the piece of paper to the celebrant to inspect. 

The chatter ceased as everyone trained their attention on the celebrant, awaiting his verdict. With a sigh, he handed the piece of paper to Jarrod, and said, ‘All appears to be in order.’

‘Verity, what is the meaning of this?’ cried Jarrod, the look of despair in his eyes enough to make a grown man weep. 

‘My Jarrod, I don’t know what to say!’ said Verity, with feeling. What that feeling was, who could really tell? ‘I’ve never seen this man before in my life, but my father did mention an… arrangement. I didn’t think for a moment he was serious. You know how he liked to jest, God rest his soul.’

‘That’s it then,’ said Jarrod, looking from the hand-written note between his fingers, to his Love. ‘It’s really over?’

Verity sighed, a forlorn sigh, ‘I believe it must be, My Heart. I will save you any further pain by removing myself from your company.’ She bowed her head, picked up the full, satin skirts of her gown, and ran at a jog from the chapel, followed closely by her betrothed- Winston, this time. Timothy, too curious for his own good, slipped discretely from the chapel in their wake. 

As soon as she was around the corner, the laughter sprang forth. She doubled over, and wrapped an arm around her middle, propping herself on the wall of the chapel for support.

‘Oh, Winston. I almost thought you weren’t going to make it in time!’

‘Well, it was a close-run thing, Ver,’ said Winston, tucking his shirt into his trousers as he spoke. 

‘How wonderful it is to finally meet you in person,’ said Verity, finally able to combat gravity again. ‘I must say, you did so well. Oh, I must introduce you to Timothy,’ she said, as she noticed his presence. ‘Timothy, this is my brother, Winston. Winston- this is Timothy, my other would-be rescuer.’ This brought forth another fit of the giggles, that was thankfully brought under control more easily than the last.

‘Your brother?!’ exclaimed Timothy.

‘Half-brother, I should say,’ said Verity. ‘Same father, different mothers.’ This time, Verity did her best to contain her mirth, letting forth only a delicate snort as she caught Winston’s eye. ‘We only knew of each other’s existence a few months ago, after our father’s death. He left a note, on his death bed, which pointed me in Winston’s direction. We have been writing, and Winston kindly agreed to assist me in this- what shall we call it, Winston?’


‘Love it!’ agreed Verity, and then seeing the look of disapproval on Timothy’s face, added, ‘Oh Timothy, it was all in jest! But I do feel it would be best for us to end our betrothal now, don’t you Winnie? Considering it is not only unethical and immoral, but also highly illegal?’

Winston agreed, wholeheartedly. 

Timothy could hardly believe what he was hearing. Really, who could blame him? But, as though hoping he may still have been in with a chance, he asked, ‘So what now? What do you intend to do, now that you are- supposedly- a single woman?’

Verity’s laugh tinkled again. ‘Single? Oh, no.’ 

The sound of a motorbike engine drawing near gave them all pause, then Verity’s mouth curved into a different sort of smile. If an angel could appear sinister, that was the sight that was now before Timothy and Winston. 

Verity stepped forwards towards the footpath as the motorcycle pulled up, and a tall, dark stranger swung his leg off, and removed his helmet. He shook out a head of jet-black hair, and turned his eyes on Verity, looking her up and down, from her blonde curls, that now cascaded around her shoulders, to her elegant ankles, exposed since she had removed the skirt from her gown, to reveal skintight black leather shorts finishing mid-way up her thighs. 

‘You must be Verity,’ the man said, a lop-sided smile curving his lips. 

‘You must be Devon,’ said Verity. 

Devon threw Verity a leather jacket. She put it on around the bodice of her would-be wedding gown, then climbed on the back of the bike. Devon handed her a helmet. 

Verity turned to the gentlemen before her, both standing with their mouths agape. ‘This marriage, I arranged myself, via the internet. Just wonderful what can be achieved with modern technology,’ said Verity, with a satisfied shrug of her shoulders. 

Devon kick-started the motorbike and revved the engine, eliciting an excited gurgle of laughter from Verity as she wrapped her arms around his middle. 

Timothy, determined to be the hero at last- if not in the way he had foreseen originally- found his voice. ‘Sir,’ he said. He wouldn’t be needing the title anymore. ‘There’s something you should know about this woman.’

Devon raised one dark eyebrow at Timothy, the smile still fixed to his lips. 

‘This woman,’ he said, fiercely, ‘is a liar.’

‘Storyteller, Timothy!’ Verity admonished. ‘How many times must I say it? There is a difference!’

With a glance back at Verity, Devon turned his penetrating gaze on Timothy. ‘Storytellers make the best alibis,’ he said with a smirk. Then he pulled out from the kerb, and they rode off into the sunset, leaving Timothy to ponder just where they might be going that didn’t require number plates.  

April 16, 2024 11:23

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1 comment

Jennie B
18:38 Apr 21, 2024

I love your description of her laugh as the flurry of piccolo notes! Such a great way to describe it.


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