Julie arrived to work early the following Monday. She wanted to make sure everything was ready. A refreshing Sunday had helped her get over her sorrow of not having Byron to talk to and she was ready to begin her new life as a married, albeit distantly, woman.
The week previous she had taken leave, this not only gave her time to finalize all the wedding plans, but also gave her sufficient time off for people to assume she had been on a honeymoon. They didn’t need to know she had just been married the past Saturday.
She was well prepared, a new name plate, had been acquired. Julie had debated legally changing her name but it had seemed a bit too much effort, so instead the name plate that once read Julie Smith now simply read, “Mrs. Julie Smith.” No one really put the prefix on their name plate but she would break the mold if it meant one more point that proved to the world, particularly Larry’s world, that she was indeed married.
Several pictures had been purchased and printed of her and Byron. She was now trying various places in the office to place them. Once they all had a home, she pulled out a thumb drive with an updated slideshow to use as a screensaver. Throughout the last few weeks she had taken selfies of herself and Byron at almost every place they had gone. And she had quite a convincing collection that would play across her screen. Sitting back she looked over her handy work with pride and satisfaction. No one visiting this office would dare say that this was the office of an old maid. Instead, it was clearly a happily married, not to hit on, set up with, or feel pity for, woman.
The day to day work was just that, like any other day. But all her little efforts were paying off. At a morning meeting Jan noticed her ring, and congratulations followed. When Ryan came in to hand her a set of plans he noticed the picture and asked, “ Who’s this?”
“That’s my husband, Byron,” came her ready reply.
“Yup, just recently.”
He too followed with congratulations.
And when the boss walked by, he asked, “How was your time off?”
“It was great.”
“Are these pictures new...wait...did you get married?”
“Yes, I did.”
Then he said the thing all the co-workers had said in their head but were not willing to say out loud. “Oh, I guess you really did have a boyfriend.”
“You thought I made him up?” Julie said.
Her boss instantly regretted allowing his tongue to outpace his better judgement and defensively said, “No, of course not. Although, Larry was convinced you did.”
“You can’t trust anything Larry says.” Boy, that felt good to say, she thought.
“Well, you have a good day.”’ The boss said on his way out.
Julie muttered as he left, “Oh trust me, I will.”
But as good as all this felt the real moment of glory wouldn’t be until Larry had walked through that door. And this was the one point that had been the grey lining on an otherwise perfect day. Larry usually had annoyingly interrupted her 4 times by now. It would be just like him to call in sick on the only day of his existence that Julie was actually looking forward to seeing him.
For a brief moment, Julie contemplated walking by his cube, simply to verify he was in. But, where was his cube? She had avoided seeing him for so long that she had forgotten exactly where he sat. Not that she never needed to get a hold of him. After all, he was the drafting lead on several of her projects, but if she ever had something to show him or give him she put it on the side of her desk, knowing that in a few minutes he’d be poking his head in. Now that she thought about it, it wasn’t just for things for Larry. She often set things for other people aside, thinking, ‘I’ll have Larry grab it when he comes by and take it to them.’
There was a brief moment of fear as she thought all this effort was putting an end to her free office delivery service. But the benefits were great and that wasn’t even counting the added exercise, and this put her mind at ease. And right on cue, Larry’s little pointy head made its entrance, “Hey JuJu bug, miss me. I was off this morning getting my pearly whites cleaned. I want to keep your view, top notch.” The smile he gave was almost as obnoxious as he was.
“It’s Julie, or better yet, you can call me Mrs. Smith.”
“Mrs? I hate to break it to you babe, but that’s usually not given as an honorary title.”
“Very funny Larry.”
“Thanks, I am pretty clever.”
“For your information, I am very, very happy to let you know that while I was out, I got married.”
“Yeah right...nice try. To who? Your imaginary…” His face looked much like Prince Humperdinck when he discovered Wesley, very much alive and in the bedroom of his fiance.
“Oh, you like that picture. It was taken of Byron and I,” she paused, “on our wedding day.” She had purposely chosen the photo that was displayed most predominantly because the perspective made Byron look rather tall and impressive.
“Lovely,” he said as clearly as anyone’s whose world had just crashed down around his perfectly clean teeth could. “You know… I was...well...just kidding this whole time. I knew he was real. If you’ll excuse me, I need to run to a meeting.” And he was off.
If was with much more joy than guilt that Julie sat back knowing that the meeting he had to rush off to only had two invitees, himself and a box of tissues.
Julie wasn’t the only one who was finding wedded bliss. Monday mornings were not Byron's favorite but today had a special feeling in the air. Today, he was going to work not only as a marriage counselor but a married marriage counselor. He would never have to hear his clients say "well how would you know?", "you wouldn't understand", or his favorite "that's easy for a single guy to say." The gold band still gleaned from its newness. It was probably thicker than most bands, but he wanted the fact that he was married to be noticed rather than spoke. As long as nothing was said, he wouldn't have to mention the fact that he was newly wed, at least not to his new clients.
He had been around long enough to realize that no one took newly weds seriously. Whenever his clients commented on seeing a couple that looked like they were enjoying being together, they would quickly say, "Oh, they must be newly weds, like they know anything about marriage." He continued to think of ways of helping his clients realize he was married without getting himself labeled as in the "honeymoon stage."
Byron’s first act was to give birth to a small army of fake internet profiles that were now running a rather successful, ‘Dr. Lewis is a happily married man,’ PR campaign. For every comment on RateMyCouncilor.com or similar site that scathed about his lack of ring, certificate and therefore qualification, was met with a response from harleys4life343 or balletmom751647 (It appears ballet is really making a comeback.) saying, “Not that it matters, because councilors can be good, even if not married, but you might want to check your facts, because I know for a fact, that Dr. Lewis is happily married.”
Byron had been torn if the ‘happily’ was too much. He had deleted it, put it back, and then deleted it about 5 times before ultimately saying, ‘I am married, and I’m happy, so I’m happily married.’
As weeks rolled on, it became clear that balletmom751647 knew how to run a PR campaign. The number of dropped clients was doing just that, dropping, while the number of new clients was expanding. Before long, all of his minions, even his favorite hipster, vegan_burkenstocks4ever found themselves in early retirement.
Byron was even allowing himself to do the one thing he swore he would never do, use his own experience in his counseling. “You know, Mr. Jordan, I find in my relationship, sometimes my wife needs her space, some time alone, some “me” time. Maybe you just need to give her some room.”
Often in defense of marriage; and his billable rate, Byron would say to clients, “Marriage is one of the best life and financial decisions you will ever make.” And for him it was true. The improved business far more than made up what he had to pay Julie each month. He couldn’t see a downside to this marriage thing. That is, until his secretary fell in love.
Here is Chapter 13.