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Marriage of Unconvenience by Chelsea M. Cameron (1)

One

“So, I’ve either got to find a new job or I’ve gotta find someone to marry me, ASAP,” I said, sipping my Coke with lime. I wasn’t much of a drinker, and since drinking out was hella expensive, I was soda-only and cheap beers at home on my couch.

As a result of a wacky grandmother, I had thousands of dollars in the bank with my name on them. One catch? I had to be married to collect. I’d lost my job last week, so I was flipping out about how I was going to support myself.

“I’d marry you,” my best friend, Ansel, said as he grabbed a hot wing. “I mean, I don’t have much to offer, and we’d definitely have to get an annulment, but I’d take a bullet for you, babe.” I snorted into my soda.

“I don’t think we could even be fake married.” I loved him to the edge of the earth, but I swear, if we tried to even pretend to be a couple, we’d kill each other. Plus, there was the fact that he was gay and I wasn’t into men.

“Yeah, probably a wise choice. I’m a pain in the ass,” he said, sucking the sauce off his fingers.

“Must you do that?” I asked, handing him a napkin.

“You love me,” he said, wiping off his sauce-covered face and hands.

“I do indeed,” I said, sighing. “But seriously, what am I going to do?”

“I can see if we have any openings. Not sure if you’re up for it, though.”

“I’ll think about it,” I said to Ansel. He worked at a hospital, and I wasn’t sure if I could handle that. I didn’t know if I could deal with crying sick people and fighting with insurance companies.

“Seriously, do. Not every position is patient-focused. You could be happy as hell on a computer with your headphones on.” That would be ideal. I wasn’t super great at peopleing. Only a few of my jobs had been in customer service and I had quickly realized it was not in my wheelhouse, which cut out a lot of potential jobs.

“Or I could help you find someone to marry. I’m not sure how well I would do as a matchmaker, but I’d give it a shot.” He was sweet, but I didn’t need a matchmaker. The inheritance was a long shot. Most of the time I didn’t even think about it.

“What possessed your grandmother to make that rule?” he asked me.

“I was three when she died, but I’ve heard stories. I guess she didn’t like the fact that my parents weren’t married when they had me. How dare!” I gasped and pretended to be scandalized.

“She sounds like a sassy lady.” I laughed.

“Oh, she was. I’ve heard tons of stories. One time, a guy tried to grope her and she beat him with her umbrella until he ended up in the hospital. She could also make a killer cheesecake.”

Ansel nodded.

“Both important.”

“Agreed.”

Coming out tonight with Ansel had been a good decision. My first inclination had been to stay home and wallow in my room with a lot of cake and potato chips. I hadn’t ruled that out yet. I could do a lot in one night.

We finished our wings and sodas and he put his arm around me.

“You’ll land on your feet, I promise. And if you need a few bucks to get you through, I’m here. I’m always here. I don’t have much, but I’m here for you.” I hugged him back and tried to hold back tears.

“You’re a good friend, Ansel,” I said, my voice a little shaky.

“So are you. You’ve been there for me, Lo, when a lot of people weren’t.” His eyes were misty too. He’d started transitioning two years ago, and some of the people we’d been friends with hadn’t taken it well. I’d been struggling with figuring out my sexuality, so the two of us had sort of stuck together and had gone out on our own to find a new group who would appreciate us for how awesome we were, and we had.

I kissed him on the cheek and he mussed my hair.

“You’re gonna be fine, Lo. Or, you might have to reactivate your online dating profile and make a few changes.” I cringed. I’d attempted online dating when I’d first come out, hadn’t had any success, and had found a lot of creeps and people who just weren’t right for me. I didn’t have much hope now.

“Keep your fingers crossed I find a job instead.”

He held up his hands and crossed all his fingers except for his thumbs and then crossed his eyes at me.

“You got it.”

I hadn’t told my mom about losing my job yet, and the lying was killing me. We were pretty close, and I told her just about anything. But I couldn’t tell her about this, because then she would try to give me money that she and Dad didn’t have. Of course, he’d gotten money when Gram died, but all of it was gone now. Gone into the several-hundred-year-old farmhouse they lived in, and to medical bills when my mom had had her gallbladder out.

To add insult to injury, my car needed a bunch of repairs and wasn’t drivable, and my rent wasn’t exactly cheap. Living in Boston cost major bucks, but I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I’d grown up just west of Boston, and had always set the city in my mind as where I eventually wanted to be. I went to BU and graduated with a degree in business and communications. I was a Boston girl, through and through.

I had more than a few friends that had made their way from small towns to Boston and had had to go back and live with their parents. I knew there was nothing wrong with that, but I couldn’t handle the idea of that for myself. There wasn’t a whole lot in the way of industry in my hometown. I couldn’t go back.

My roommate, Lisa, was out when I got back. She and I weren’t exactly friends, but we got along okay for two strangers who shared an apartment. We stayed out of each other’s way, and it worked.

I grabbed a fresh bag of chips with pink sea salt and mixed up a quick mug cake to satisfy my need for something sweet. I stripped down to my bra and undies and put on one of my comfort romantic comedies.

“Thanks, Gram,” I said, raising a chip to the ceiling. As a result of the whole “you have to be married to get the money,” I wasn’t really keen on the whole marriage idea. My parents had eventually gotten married when I was older, but only so they could share health insurance and file a joint tax return. They’d gone to the courthouse and told me about it after. There weren’t even any pictures.

I guess I just didn’t see the point. Why did you need to do something like that to prove your love? And don’t even get me started about the wedding industry. Total expensive bullshit that somehow everyone thought was necessary. Hard pass.

No, I wasn’t getting married. Fake or real.