When things get rushed, details get missed.
Sounds plausible. Sounds almost innocent - of cause things were going to get 'missed' when you had to rush a wedding, locate an available J.P at such short notice, organise a honeymoon, celebrate a birthday, confirm a Police report, and catch a flight back to the UK - but the truth be known, we knew exactly what we were doing: committing bigamy.
We had both been previously married. PB (AKA hubby) had his divorce through, finalised, but me? I hadn't planned on marrying again so divorce kind of never came up. I just figured I'd get some papers through the mail one day and learn hubby-one had moved on. That was the plan.
But now I had to come up with a new one - we both took a deep breath, confirmed neither had married before, and just hoped like hell no one found out. Good plan.
On the wedding day I was visited by the local Victim's Support Group. I'm not altogether sure what a stuffed toy lion was supposed to represent but I was given one anyhow. I decided to call him Leo. My long term friend Mina was my bridesmaid - turns out she was my Bride of Honour as she was happily married with two kids. I didn't know much about marriage protocol - I'd never done it properly before. PB's best man was my Bride of Honour's husband. It felt more legit and even if they'd only meet minutes before the ceremony, they still had enough time to banter which football team was the best - Liverpool or Manchester United. I didn't give a shit.
My mother was in her element. She had a reason to party, to invite family members she'd not seen in years and have them respect her as an honoured guest. She stapled fake flowers to the trees outside where our vows would be spoken and took to refilling anyone's glass with whatever came to hand. Her second husband walked wistfully through the house not sure where to put his feet. It was the first time he'd met me. The first time he'd seen any of our relatives and we weren't too sure what to make of him either. Aside from the fact that he had an assortment of machetes hanging on the back of the guest bedroom door, he appeared calm and forgiving of such an intrusion, and besides he seemed to tolerate my mother so maybe he wasn't that bad.
The vows were simple. PB mentioned some funny comments and I said "Ditto." On the surface of it all, we appeared to be a sweet, funny, couple, and even I started to buy into the charade. It's not like I didn't want it to work and it's not as if I didn't have feelings for PB. We just had history, bad history, one that involved other women, infidelity, a mistress, a diamond ring, and me caught up in the midst of it all. It was also the reason for my blasé reaction when PB gave me a one-carat diamond solitaire engagement ring - the same one he'd kept in his bottom bedside draw for someone else.
I used to try it one, back in the good old days when we lived with each other in England. I'd steal it from the purple casing and once I even made a trip to the local store, fanning my face all innocent-like, just so I could see it sparkle. I'm sure I looked like an epileptic. But now? Now that it was legitimately on my finger, it seemed to have lost all of its charm.
Things went from bad to worse. First of all, the JP didn't turn up - his embarrassed wife explained he'd forgotten and had already left to go fishing so we were left rummaging through the local phone book for a replacement. Eventually, I relented and Mrs Thorpe arrived. To this day, I don't think anyone cottoned on to why I was so mortified - for me, it was such a cruel twist of fate that this was the same woman who witnessed her 'much older than me son' suspended from school because he gave me a hideous large love-bite while on school camp. Maybe she didn't remember or maybe she did, and she was just pleased to see the back of me, all legally married and soon to be living on the other side of the world far away from her son.
PB and I spent our wedding night in the machete bedroom, taking turns describing useful if not macabre uses for all this man's armoury.
"Maybe your Mum's just into some kinky shit," PB reasoned.
"Nah, he doesn't seem the type."
The following morning, we left for Rotorua. It was the start of our honeymoon and my birthday. A strange day. I expected to feel different, to feel married and I also expected to feel older - I felt neither. PB kept referring to the countryside as something out of a horror movie and once, when we did stop at a small country gas station, where there was only a gas station and restaurant and nothing or anyone else, he asked me to keep the car running while he went in to pay.
He does't handle stress well, does PB, Never did and most probably, never will. It's no wonder, when the English Embassy called us at our hotel, he just ran to the bed, hid under the blankets, and started singing a random tune to block out reality.I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
"There are some inconsistencies with your paperwork," she said, "mainly the status prior to your wedding." I knew, even though PB couldn't hear what was being said (hell, even I couldn't hear over his moaning) that he knew only too well that we'd been caught out. Seven years. That's the only thought I could think of - the term of imprisonment for bigamy, and now it looked like we were on the run.
I stole a glance towards the bedroom and secretly loathed my partner in crime. He was not going to make it, I decided. The stress would kill him first. Suddenly, I heard her apologise. "Look, I don't know how to tell you this but it seems as if your husband was married before."
Oh the relief. It was PB's shit she's uncovered. That was okay. He'd not broken any New Zealand Law. Just an English one and we were heading back there anyhow - I'd turn his butt over to Authorities when we arrived. That was what I would have said only I was so relieved that all I could blurt out was "Oh, I know that!"
Although surprised, she professionally summarised our options: Get his secretary to fax over his decree nisi, redo the paperwork, and hopefully you'll make your flight. Sure, sounds easy but it meant packing up right there and then, heading back to Wellington, some five hours drive away, doing what was required, and then legging it back to Auckland, another eight hours drive, to catch our flight.
But that's exactly what we did.
I knew PB was stressed. He ordered a steady run of whiskey on the flight and neither of us spoke until our stop-over in Perth, Australia, some ten hours later. It was only then that I felt I'd got away with it. It was only then that I thought, maybe this might work.