by Karen Kinley

My trembling legs nearly gave away my attack of nerves. Thankfully, they were hidden under many layers of organza and tulle making up the lower half of my wedding gown. I pressed my knees together to quell the shaking.

The priest had already turned to me, waiting for me to recite the vows I had memorized and practiced countless times. Although his countenance was relaxed, his eyes flashed, revealing his impatience.

The man I was about to marry faced me, a small smile playing on his lips. My hands were placed in his upturned palms, and he gently squeezed my fingers in encouragement.

I opened my mouth and began.

“I, Christine, take you, Daniel, to be my lawfully wedded husband…”

Daniel and I met just over a year ago through mutual friends. I had sworn off men for a while because my last two relationships turned out to be huge disappointments. But he won me over instantly. He was handsome, smart, and very attentive. He was curious about my life, asking endless questions about my family, my job, and my friends. He took me out for lavish dinners and romantic picnics. He bought me little presents all the time, saying that when he saw something he thought I would like, he had to get it. But the thing I loved most about Daniel was that he was very demonstrative. He was always holding my hand, pulling me on his lap, rubbing my back. If we were in the same room, we were usually touching. He told me I was the most beautiful woman he had ever known. When he asked me to marry him a mere two months after we met, I didn’t hesitate.

“…to have and to hold from this day forward…”

Planning the wedding and our lives together was so much fun. We both came from big families, so a small event was out of the question. My sister was going to be my maid of honor, and Daniel asked his father to be his best man. I moved out of my small studio apartment and into his townhouse. We bought a new sofa and adopted a cat. Our future was going to be amazing!

Daniel took great pride in introducing me as his fiancée to everyone. He took marriage very seriously. “We promised our lives to each other. And a promise is a promise,” he said, and I kissed him.

“…for better, for worse…”

Being with Daniel was always an adventure, but he did have a serious side. We went skiing in the winter and swimming in the summer. We spent weekends hanging out with friends and evenings reading in bed, then making love for hours. I started to notice, though, that Daniel was always the one making plans…for dinner or vacation, even when we had sex. If I suggested something different, he shot my idea down. Once when I spontaneously invited friends over for a game night, he sulked so much that everyone left early.

“I expect you to check with me before making any plans that involve me,” he spat out the next morning. I was too stunned to argue.

When he was in charge of our time and our social life, Daniel was wonderful. He was kind and loving and dependable. He was the man of my dreams. When we were out with friends, he was the life of the party. Everyone loved him. Especially me. I wanted to make Daniel happy, and when Daniel was in charge, it made him happy. So I let him. Was that so bad?

“…for richer, for poorer…”

I had been working since I was 16 years old. My father had insisted that I get a checking account and learn how to manage my finances. By the time I was 22 years old, I owned stock and had invested in a friend’s landscaping business. When Daniel and I got engaged, he suggested that we merge our finances right away. “It’s what couples do!” he exclaimed, and I agreed.

But when we booked our photographer and gave him a deposit, the check bounced. Daniel had withdrawn over $2,000 from our account without telling me. When I asked him what he needed the money for, he refused to tell me. “It’s none of your business what I spend our money on.” I started to argue with him, but he got enraged and pushed past me with such force that I fell over and sliced my hand on the edge of the glass coffee table.

“…in sickness and in health…”

Daniel was always apologetic when I got hurt even though I “made him angry.” He was quick to point out that nothing would happen if I just didn’t instigate things. One time, I asked him where he went one Saturday that he disappeared for five hours. He flew into such a rage, calling me “an insolent bitch” and told me I should mind my own business. I told him that I only wanted to know because I was worried about him, and he rewarded me with a black eye.

Another time, we went to a very upscale restaurant where I knew one of the waiters. He ended up serving us and lingered at our table several times to chat. Daniel accused me of flirting with him. So Daniel left no tip and sent me to the hospital later that night with a broken arm.

After my cast came off, I finally got up the nerve to mention the idea of postponing the wedding. Contrary to what I expected, Daniel didn’t get angry. Instead, he very calmly took my hand in his, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Christina, when I asked you to marry me, you said yes.” He pressed my fingers together ever so slightly. “And I expect you to keep that promise.”

Over the next few weeks, I suffered a sprained wrist, sported multiple bruises, and needed 14 stitches for a gash on my leg. I’d like to say they were accidents, but they weren’t.

I loved Daniel. It sounded strange, but I really did. And I promised to marry him. But I also promised myself I wouldn’t let him hurt me anymore.

“…until death do us part.”

A promise is a promise.

I planned on killing him tonight.