I'm Stalking

My Husband to Be

“I have to marry who?”

 

My dad had walked me down to the oceanside and was looking out at the island across the shore. 

 

“You don’t mean that stuck up douche-bucket of an upperclassmen who’s always bragging on the news? Please tell me you mean any other Marlow then him.”

 

Arms loosely crossed, he turned his gaze behind me to the iron wall that separated us from them. He had on his usual patient smile as once again he had to tell me news I’d never wanted to hear.

I ran my hands through my hair knocking humidity curled wefts into my face. “I know we’re short on money. I know everyone hardly eats- but you can’t be serious. He’s the type of person who will actively make policies to keep us in poverty. He’s the type that will just build more factories. Just the idea of talking to him makes me sick. Tell me you’re joking. Please tell me you’re joking.”

We stood on the shore and the waves lapped at our toes. It was a calm evening. I took a deep breath just to smell the sea over all the burning wood. He didn’t say anything, knowing I’d end up talking myself into it. I knew it too.

“That's it then, isn’t it? You think I can change him?” He still didn’t look at me. “That must have been a really tough decision for you to make.”

He held the pen and envelope in his hand. I sat down in the gravel and reached out to take it from him. On a large flat rock I betrothed myself to Marlow Princeton. When it came down to it, it was my decision. I was 18 and the only one who could read, no one would know what it was that I wrote. I poured my heart into the paper and then folded it away. My dad dropped to his knees in the gravel beside me. He hugged me, took the letter, and left me to my thoughts.

“I have to marry who?”

 

My dad walked me down to the oceanside and looked out at the island across the shore. 

 

“You don’t mean that stuck up douche-bucket of an upperclassmen who’s always bragging on the news? Please tell me you mean any other Marlow than him.”

 

Arms loosely crossed, he turned his gaze behind me to the iron wall that separated us from them. He had on his usual patient smile once again as he tried to tell me news I never wanted to hear.

I ran my hands through my hair knocking humidity curled wefts into my face. “I know we’re short on money. I know everyone hardly eats- but you can’t be serious. He’s the type of person who will actively make policies to keep us in poverty. He’s the type that will just build more factories. Just the idea of talking to him makes me sick. Tell me you’re joking. Please tell me you’re joking.”

We stood on the shore and the waves lapped at our toes. It was a calm evening. I took a deep breath just to smell the sea over all the burning wood. He didn’t say anything, knowing I’d end up talking myself into it. I knew it too.

As I walked home the projectors started to click. The nightly news could be seen on three different sides of the iron wall. It was just dark enough that you could start to read the subtitles. The light shined in my eyes as I passed a small crowd who stood in the road as one read the text aloud.

 

I'd done that job for a while, reading to those who couldn't, but I found those obsessed with news we couldn't change were pretty unhappy all the time. I never even watched the flickering lights anymore.

But when he said Marlow, I stopped.

A reddish kind of tawny suit fitted tightly to his waist, he had gold and black cuff links that he casually adjusted while chatting.

My hands shook softy now that I was no longer caring a ton of extra weight. He seemed so stable and secure. I wondered what was going through his head.

I'd tried my best by taking on extra jobs but we'd all come to one conclusion.

I had to marry Marlow, I had to move out and if I could send any money home at all then that would be even better.

But the idea that I'd have to convince him-the young man who was disinterested in talking with a prime reporter on the topic of food propagation- it was just unreal.

My throat was dry by the time I got home. Everyone was out working late or already in bed. 

It was a cold night, the kind where the bitterness nips you even though you're wearing four layers of clothes and snuggling with the cutest little yeti ever.

I got up when it was still dark, I thought it must've been close to dawn because, well why else would I wake up?

But there was a rapping on the door that I only heard when I was already snooping around in the main room. 

I opened the door and he immediately smiled and said "Quinn" but not as if it were a question. He held out a steaming thermos.

"I'm happy to see you again." and I still didn't recognize him. He gestured out into the open air and smiles in a way that I just knew he was trustworthy and said "I have a story I want to tell you. It's absolutely fridged out here."

He led us into a tavern I’d worked in for a few months. There was hardly anyone there and so it was quiet, there weren't even pans being tossed around the kitchen. He gestured for me to take a seat, smiling while taking off a white rabbit fur. He wore fine clothes underneath and that made me a little more unsettled.

“Coffee and biscuits for us both please.” He called across the room.

The waitress shot us a glance and went behind a curtain. I licked my lips, wondering if questioning him would mean I had to pay for this meal. He watched me and so I kept still. He took a pouch from his pocket and left it on the table. From the crunch of coins, I could tell it was filled with Eus.

“A day's wages for a simple task.” He said.

“I thought you invited me here to tell me a story?”

“Yes, and I talked myself out of it. You only need to know the goal at hand.”

“Well, what’s the task?”

He rocked back in his seat. Did he come to me because he knew we didn’t have enough money? A man like him might look for desperate people to do his dirty work.

“I need a reporter so I can get some quotes, events, details, and routines.”

I was desperate for money. I was desperate to take back the letter my dad mailed and keep living peacefully and working hard.

“That’s it?” I said after a beat of silence.

“It’s that simple.”

“You came to my door in the middle of the night simply so that you can write a news article? I don’t think so. If you want me to tail someone then just ask. Actually just give me a name.”

The waitress set down two big ceramics of coffee with one hand and then a simple biscuit and gravy plate.

“Thank you.” the man said and then cut into the biscuit.

On his face was a warm grin and smile lines that would turn to crows feet as he aged. Soft dark hair framed his face making it look more angular than it really was. As the smell of the food reached me I too tucked in. And we waited for something.

“Marlow Princeton.” He said.

 

And we ate more. Outside things were starting to pick up more. I could hear doors opening and footsteps on the frozen mud. The bag of coins just sat between us, unmoved.

 

“Why him?” I asked, though I really wanted to know, why me?

 

“He’s planning to become king's advisor soon. I’d like to know everything about him before his campaign starts.”

 

“So you can compete against him?”

 

“Not exactly.” He looked away softly and then back to me.

 

He had kind eyes, a soft face, a knowing smile.

“I’ve packed a bag for you,” He said and gestured to a satual by his feet. “ It has clothes that will fit in with the fashion of the upper-class district along with some soaps and things to clean up with. There’s papers for you and a map marked with a few key places and a list of important people thats written in the front of a notebook. Just take a few notes throughout the day and write everything up when you get home. ” 

 

He had too much faith in me. The clothes, whatever they looked like, would already fetch a high price at any market. Then he pulled out a small tablet. It was not any kind of new touch screen tec but it was still worth far more than a year's wages.

“You’re an idiot.” The chair squealed as I stood up.

“You’re just showing up to random people’s houses in the morning offering them their weight in money? I don’t know what you’re up to but I’m not going to be caught up in it.”

I was halfway to the door when something hit me hard in the back of the head. Coins fell to the ground as the bag untied. I looked at him, the man throwing money away. He took another casual sip of his coffee, finishing it off.

“Marlow’s an asshole. I don’t want anything to do with him, especially not sketchy shit.”

“So you’ve met him already?”

“Already?”

The man nodded. He stooped to the ground and began gathering the Eus.

I could hardly hear his voice. “You’d be doing yourself a favor.”

He stood up and held up a single coin. “For your time.”

I took it. He walked out. I heard the door close and let out a breath. But there was still tension in my shoulders. My feet moved on their own, back outside into the new dawn.

“Oi” I yelled.

He was a few yards down the road. Glasses glinted as he looked at me.

“What story were you going to tell me?”

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