The Marriage Council

“I now call to session this meeting of the Me-cosystem. The agenda today is simple — we are picking a wife.”

“Finally,” said Mother, rolling her eyes. “It’s about time you settled down with a nice woman!”

Father leaned back in his chair and groaned. “Do I have to be here for this?”

“Of course!” shouted Sister, “This is the most important decision of his life. We all have to cast our votes.”

“Alright, alright,” I say, trying to restore order, “this should be pretty easy. We’ve got it down to three candidates, let’s take a look and just make our choice.”

Everyone around the table opened up the folders in front of them and started reviewing the information on the three candidates; Abigail, Bethany, and Cecelia. I waited a few minutes, giving them all time to form their opinions. I watched Mother turn the pages back and forth rapidly, then close her folder within a minute. Father read slowly, leaning back in his chair. Sister didn’t even bother opening her folder. Teacher was taking meticulous notes in the margins, Brother spent most of his time on the pictures tucked in between the other papers, and Boss was on his phone.

“Well, if you all know your vote, no point in putting this off more. Mother, would you like to start?”

“Of course, darling!” Mother grinned ear to ear and leaned forward. “I think the choice is obvious. It’s certainly not Cecelia — you’d grow bored of her in a year. Bethany is closer, perhaps, but too individualistic. You don’t want a woman who can make it so easily without you; you’ll never hang on to her! It’s got to be Abigail! She needs you so badly, so you know she’ll be loyal. And she’ll be a compliant wife. She’s not one to rock the boat, and God knows we need to keep this ship stable. I don’t want to have to fight with my future daughter-in-law about every little thing.”

“Alright, Father?”

Father raised his eyes but didn’t move. “Honestly, son, I’m inclined to disagree with your mother. I know you’ve got ambitions and an adventurous streak. Abigail would just hold you down. I think the choice should be Bethany — she can match your energy and adventurous spirit-”

“No, no, no!” shouted Mother. “He needs a solid foundation! Even if he wants to go out on his little adventures, better to have a reliable woman waiting at home for him.”

“If that’s true, Mother, then why not Cecelia?” I ask.

“Oh, don’t be silly,” mother snaps, without hesitation. “She’s so dull! You’ve got to have at least a few surprises. As I said, she’s boring.”

“That’s where I’ll agree,” said Father, sitting forward now. “Your mother’s got a point, son. Cecelia just isn’t the woman for you. Nothing to keep you guessing. And what’s a wife’s job if not to keep your life interesting?”

“Alright, so that’s one vote for Abigail, and one for Bethany. Sis, what do you think?”

“Oh, I just can’t see you with Abigail or Cecelia. Can’t imagine it at all! It’s got to be Bethany. You two make such a cute couple! Think of the Christmas cards with your smiling faces.” Sister was talking fast, her words pouring out with excitement. “Plus, what a joy it would be to have Bethany as my sister — we’ve already been friends for so long. She would fit right into the family.”

“Fit in! She’ll cause chaos!” Yelled Mother, panic sneaking into her tone.

“Oh, please,” Sister fired back. “Just because you don’t like her doesn’t mean she’s horrible, mother.”

“That’s not it,” Mother spat. “I just think that new additions to the family should be able to get along with everyone.”

“Well, I think Bethany would be just fine at that,” Sister said with finality, leaning back in her chair and turning away from Mother.

“Bro, what about you?” I ask, trying to rub my impatience out of my eyes.

Brother shrugged and spoke casually. “It comes down to numbers, man. And the numbers say Bethany. Thirty-six, twenty-four, thirty-six. That’s all I’ve got to say. Plus, just look at her mother!” Brother held up the picture. “Almost fifty, and she looks like that!? Those are some genes you want to get into, man.”

“Do you have to be such a pig about it?” asked sister, wrinkling her face in disgust.

“Don’t be mad just because you’ll be a raisin by thirty-five,” said Brother, spreading his hands in a gesture of innocence. “Probably time we had a conversation about your marriage. Soon enough, your assets are going to start deteriorating. Gotta snatch someone up before that happens.” He tapped his temple and raised an eyebrow.

Sister scoffed. “Disgusting. You won’t get a vote.”

“Guys, please. We are almost done.” I sigh and take a moment to collect myself. “Teacher, what do you think?”

Teacher took a long breath, gently folding his glasses and placing them on the open folder before him. “Don’t forget you have ethical considerations to make here. Your mother brought up Bethany’s independence as an issue, and I agree, though for different reasons.” He jabbed at the papers with a bony finger. “Abigail is a woman in need of a strong man. You’ve known her for so long, and she’s already done so much for you. She’s more than earned a ring, no? If you want to get a guilt-free night of sleep again in your life, the choice is clear.”

“Alright, two to three. Boss, looks like you’ve got the deciding vote.”

After a moment, Boss put down his phone and directed his gaze straight into my eyes. “Listen, kid; I get that you’ve got all these family and emotional angles to consider, but I feel it’s my responsibility to remind you that the foundation for your future is your career. And the right choice here can make or break your career. Which would you rather have? A woman who will want her own career or a woman who will stay at home and support you? Abigail can deliver that.”

“Moreover, her father is a wealthy and well-connected man,” Boss continued. “Play your cards right with him, and you could have a very early retirement. Plus, I don’t want this Bethany character dragging you out of the office every other week for some crazy adventure.”

“What about Cecelia? She seems like she could be a great support at home.” I ask.

“Sure, but she doesn’t come with the connections. Connections, kid. Remember, they can make any man’s career.” Boss picked up his phone again, cutting short the conversations.

I sighed and looked down at the table. “Well, it looks like a tie. Three for Abigail, three for Bethany, and none for Cecelia.”

“Wait, we haven’t all voted!” A small voice had come from the far end of the table. I looked up and, to my surprise, saw a little girl sitting in one of the chairs, her head peeking over the edge of the table.

“Who are you?” I ask, stunned.

“I’m your future daughter,” she said simply. Her eyes looked straight across the table at me, as though she didn’t see anyone else in the room. I looked around to see the same dumbfounded look on everyone else’s’ faces.

“Well, alright. I suppose you should get a vote,” I say, cautiously. “Who do you prefer?”

“Cecelia!” she said, excitement radiating off of her smile.

My eyes widen. “Why’s that?”

“She’s so nice! And she’s reliable. I know she’ll teach me really well, and make sure I’m safe. She’s virtuous, and I think she’ll make you happy too, dad. That way, you can be an even better dad.” The little girl was bouncing in her seat, grinning ear to ear, dimples forming in her cheeks. “Abigail’s always going to be busy with her own problems, and all she cares about is what other people think of her. Bethany just cares about her looks and having fun — she probably won’t even stick around after I’m born. But Cecelia will always be there, and she’ll always love us!”

There was silence for a long moment before Mother spoke up. “Well, that’s all very nice, but it doesn’t break the tie. You’ll have to pick between Abigail and Bethany.”

“Wait,” I say, looking at my daughter. “Did you say ‘us’?”

“Yeah,” she said, and three other children stepped out from behind her chair. “And we all want Cecelia!” The other children nodded, matching her smile.

One by one, the other faces at the table turned to look at me. Mother’s mouth set in an angry line. Father raised an eyebrow, and Teacher looked disinterested. Brother and sister were both aghast, and Boss looked disappointed.

“Well, that’s four votes. I guess it’s settled.” The disappointment and frustration on the faces around the table was difficult to bear. Ten years later, when I saw a familiar smile on my daughter’s face, I knew I had made the right choice.

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