The One Month Marriage. Judith Stacy

The One Month Marriage - Judith Stacy

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      “That’s not why I came here,” Jana said. “I’m only here to tell you I want a divorce.”

      Breath left Brandon in a huff as color drained from his face. Jana rushed on, anxious to get this ordeal over with, to leave and never return.

      “My aunt’s attorneys will arrange everything,” she said.

      Brandon didn’t respond.

      “You needn’t worry. I won’t ask for anything.” Jana gestured around the room. “You can keep it all.”


      “I’ll be certain everything is handled quickly. Goodbye, Brandon,” she said, and hurried toward the door.


      The wrath, the raw anger in Brandon’s voice brought Jana up short. She whirled. Fists clenched, shoulders rigid, jaw set, Brandon glared at her.

      She hadn’t expected him to say nothing at all. But she hadn’t expected him to disagree, either. After all, it had been fourteen months, fourteen long months, with no communication whatsoever. Certainly, Jana hadn’t anticipated the fury she saw now on her husband’s face.

      He came around the desk. “You want a—a—a divorce?”

      Jana drew up her courage. “Yes.”

      Brandon didn’t speak, just glared. She rushed on, feeling pressured to explain. “I’ve been gone too long. We’re practically strangers.”


      Jana drew in a breath. “Our marriage is dead.”


      She dug deep, finding the calm she’d struggled to develop these last fourteen months. “Brandon, you have to face the truth. It’s over.”

      “We’re married,” Brandon told her, his anger growing. “Whether you like it or not. Legally and in the eyes of God. We’re married.”

      Her anger flared. “I hardly need you to remind me of the vows I took.”

      “Somebody needs to.” Brandon flung the words at her. “Before you go running off again.”

      “I don’t deserve to be spoken to as if—”

      “And fourteen months ago I deserved to hear you tell me to my face that you were leaving!”

      “I was gone two days before you realized I’d left!”

      That shut him up. Brandon’s anger subsided, but only a little. He drew in a breath and tilted his head left, then right, easing the tension in his neck, as she’d seen him do so many times before.

      “At the time, I was heavily involved in a crucial business deal that was teetering on collapse, if you recall,” Brandon explained, his voice softer but just as tense. “I had early-morning meetings, meetings that stretched into the night. It didn’t occur to me to look into my wife’s bedroom each evening to see whether or not she’d run off.”

      Jana met his gaze but didn’t answer. His explanation was reasonable, yet didn’t erase the pain she’d gone through at the time.

      After another long moment, Brandon spoke again, his voice straining for calm.

      “As I said, we are married. You and I are bound together by law and in the sight of God. Our marriage isn’t over simply because you declare it to be.”

      A thread of panic whipped through Jana. “We haven’t seen each other in months. We hardly knew each other to begin with—”

      “Then how can you know that our marriage is over?” Brandon demanded, his eyes boring into her. “How can you declare it dead when we haven’t even given it a fair chance?”

      Jana determinedly held herself rigid, refusing to let him see the chaos his words—his logic—stirred in her.

      “What makes you think, after all this time and all that’s happened, that we can make it work?” Jana demanded.

      “Nothing’s happened that can’t be undone,” Brandon insisted.

      Jana gulped, guilt replacing her panic. “That’s not true. Things—”

      He put up his hand, silencing her. “Perhaps we can’t work out these problems you believe we have. But we won’t know unless we try.”

      Her resolve crumbled further. “Brandon, it’s not that simple.”

      “Yes, it is,” he said. “And if our marriage dies, at least it will die with us trying to do the right thing.”

      Jana’s knees weakened, but for a different reason now. Never—ever—had she imagined Brandon would be so adamant about keeping their marriage together. She had no idea their union meant so much, or anything at all, to him.

      “Just say you’ll try,” Brandon said.

      Did she hear a plea in his voice? She wasn’t sure.

      Jana shook her head. “I can’t live here forever, waiting, wondering how things will turn out.”

      “Then give it a month,” Brandon said quickly. “Four weeks. Our vows are worth that much, aren’t they?”

      Jana didn’t reply. How could she disagree?

      “I’ll think it over,” she finally said.

      That didn’t seem to suit him, but he nodded. “Tomorrow? You’ll give me your answer?”

      “Yes, I’ll come back tomorrow. Before six,” Jana said, the old habit returning without her even realizing it. Six o’clock. He had always wanted her home before six o’clock.


      An odd wave of vulnerability sounded in his voice, and for an instant, he looked hurt and lost, touching Jana’s heart unexpectedly, making her want to rush to him, touch her palm to his cheek, soothe him.

      But in the next instant, Brandon’s expression hardened again and so did Jana’s heart.

      “I’ll be here before six o’clock,” she told him. “I promise.”

      Brandon just nodded. He stood there looking at her for a while, and Jana didn’t know what to do or say. Nothing seemed appropriate, so she simply turned and left. To her surprise, Brandon walked alongside her through the house and out into the driveway. He waved off the driver up top and opened the hansom door for her himself.

      “I’ll send my carriage for you tomorrow,” Brandon said.

      “It’s not necessary.”

      He gestured to the cab. “You needn’t ride around in public transportation. I’ll send my carriage—”

      Jana touched his arm, even though she hadn’t meant to.

      “I said I’ll be here tomorrow, and I will,” she told him.

      His jaw tightened, but finally he nodded. “Fine, then.”

      Jana climbed into the cab, pointedly ignoring his proffered hand. Brandon closed the door and held on to the handle.

      He gazed at her though the open window. “There must have been something…something you liked about our marriage.”


      “Something you liked about…us.”

      Jana gazed steadily at him. “Nothing.”

      Brandon stepped back and signaled the driver who turned the cab into the street. Jana watched out the window at Brandon standing on the steps, following the cab with his gaze.

      She turned away, slumping deeper into the seat.

      How could she live here, in the house, for four weeks? How could she manage it…when

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