My family was wrenched apart after the civil war. Firstly, the republican rebels won. They replaced the socialist government by force and dealt with any dissenters. I’m sure you can work out what that means. There was no way my wife (Martine) and I are going to risk anything happening to our home. Or to each other. We abide, reluctantly, with the republicans.
We feel particularly vulnerable as our home is fifty yards from the newly erected border. Over the border lies what is left of the old country. An area governed by the United Nations. Temporarily, apparently. Until the UN is satisfied the new regime governs its people ‘fairly and democratically.’ The early signs are not good. Last week at the border there was a protest. Against the new republican regime. Shots were fired. People fell. There were fatalities. The new regime had made a point. As a result, the UN is staying for the short-term, at least.
My son, Johan, sees things differently. He is not a socialist supporter. Nor a republican. Like me, he’s apolitical. Happy if things appear equitable. He’s also in love with a girl. Daniella. We’ve never met her. She lives in the UN sector. After the republicans ‘won’, but before the border security got its act together, a few made it across to the that sector. Over ‘the wire’, as we locals call it. Johan was one of them. To be with Daniella. He took the risk.
He messaged my mobile phone to say he was safe. A relief.
He messaged it again this morning. With further news. He and Daniella are to marry this afternoon.
‘Marry?’ Martine whispers. Her hazel eyes widen and moisten. She has hardly said any words since Johan left us.
‘Where?’ She runs her left hand through her thick matt of unkempt, tousled black hair.
‘At an office over the wire.’
‘Oh.’ Martine is crest-fallen. This is not the way she thought it would be on our son’s wedding day. She turns and gazes sadly, longingly, out of the kitchen window. Longing for a different way.
‘He says he and his bride will stand opposite our house at five o’clock for a while. We can see them if we want,’ I conclude. I know Johan would want us to see him on his wedding day, even in these circumstances.
Martine’s mouth opens wide. ‘Johan,’ she mouths silently.
‘That way, he says, we can share their wedding day for a few moments.’ I put the phone down on a dusty old kitchen table. I look out of the window with Martine. I can see the border from here. There is a twenty yard or so area between the barbed wire signifying the end of the new regime’s territory, and the wire denoting the start of the UN area. It’s heavily guarded, security personnel every twenty yards or so. But you can see directly through to the other side.
It is there our son and his bride will stand, in about two hours from now. As a married couple.
Martine begins to cry. I feel two tears escape from my eyes. I never cry. Not even when Johan announced his intention to go after Daniella. Our tears are of frustration, really. This is not how Johan’s wedding day should be. Obviously. But it’s what it’s going to be. Apparently.
I catch my reflection in the mirror on the wall. Even with a red face and dark bags under my eyes, I still have the look of a razor blade. Barely visible grey bristles all over my head. Sharp, chiselled. A street fighter. With the look of an alpha male. A helpless, alpha male. I have always been strong. But I can’t do a thing about the situation my family is in. No street fighting man can defeat an entire regime. Whatever fiction tells us.
No further words pass from our lips for the next two hours.
Five minutes to five o’clock arrives. It is hot. With a blue, dusty sky. Dust and dirt seem to get everywhere. Vehicles are covered in it. Steam emanates from buildings, and smoke rises from fires in the litter strewn street. Quite a few people are now homeless, and the fires keep them warm when the night falls. Which it will do in two hours or so. It makes sense to get those fires started early. Me and Martine have spoken about taking someone in. We have room now Johan isn’t here. But nothing has been done yet. We feel suspended and stuck in a living hell. Our son ripped away from us. Our way of life crushed. The streets are a war zone. The authorities are clamping down on people taking in the homeless. At least Johan has a home.
I was not sure if Martine is strong enough to look at Johan and his bride today at five o’clock. But she arrives in the kitchen five minutes early. She has put on a dress not seen for nearly ten years. And tidied her hair. She looks beautiful.
‘I’ll go and wipe the dirt from the window,’ I announce. We can then get the clearest of views when they appear.
And then they arrive. Johan is dressed in a black suit. I have never seen him in a suit. He looks like a man.
‘He looks so grown up,’ Martine says, and smiles proudly. I put my right arm round her shoulder. She looks up at me and smiles with a tear sliding down her cheek.
There is Daniella. In white. Not a wedding gown. Something much nicer, and, I should think, much more beautiful. More appropriate. I can make out her black hair. They are less than one hundred yards away.
We step outside. We are marginally closer. I daren’t go too near the wire. We aren’t supposed to mix with people over the wire.
Johan and Daniella wave. Bravely. Enthusiastically. Happily? We wave back. Martine cries tears of love. I am proud of my son. Johan deserves a good life.
I whip out my mobile phone. And take a quick picture. A Wedding shot over the Wire.
We stand looking at each other for about ten seconds. Any longer will arouse suspicion. We all know this.
A security guard directs a forbidding glare at me. He then looks over his shoulder. At Johan and his bride. And turns back to me. I think he may have clocked what’s going on.
He allows a soft, sympathetic smile to escape from his mouth.
Bio: Paul Matts is a writer from Leicester, England. His debut novel ‘Toy Guitars’ is due to be published in 2019, and he is the author of the short stories ‘Revenge can be Sweet, ‘The Bench’ and ‘One More season’. He also writes flash fiction, including ‘Hollow Love’ and ‘Family Guy?’ His work has been featured in Punk Noir Magazine, WeAreCult and Unlawful Acts. A further novella, ‘Donny Jackal’ is currently being edited. He previously promoted live shows as 101 Productions and owned The Attik night club from 2001-2007. He was also a songwriter and guitarist in The Incurables.
Paul runs a music blog and has recently started a series entitled 101 Significant Figures. This focuses on under-appreciated individuals in the punk and new wave movement. See www.paulmatts.com for more details.