The musty kitchen was hot and stuffy, the stench of alcohol
lingered everywhere and despite obvious effort it was grimy and
unkempt. The couple sat at the table looked tired and weary. The
man was jaundice and his eyes bloodshot, the woman had aged
beyond her years; a youthful beauty however, lay in her eyes that
now glittered with tears. Another couple sat opposite them, a
look of unhidden disgust on their faces at their surroundings.
The second woman kept glancing down at her expensive silk summer
dress scared of spoiling it. Doubt showed on the rich couple's
faces but it was eased when a photo was passed to them. Glancing
at each other, they nodded in agreement and placed a leather
briefcase on the coffee stained table. The first couple opened it
staring at the crisp green money inside with amazement. Somewhere
else in the apartment a door clicked.
Lena entered the apartment, dropping her bag and closing the door
behind her. Reaching the kitchen she stopped suddenly in
surprise. Visitors? She looked swiftly from her parents to the
smartly dressed couple sat on the other side of the table.
Something defiantly wasn't right, her mother was crying silently
and her father seemed unusually sober.
"What's going on?" her voice was strained and her softly arched
eyebrows drawn with worry. Her mother's crying escalated to
hysterical sobs, her father sighed heavily.
"We're arranging your marriage," he stated bluntly and she stared
at him blankly. The couple opposite stood up to leave and the
woman announced primly.
"I think we should leave now, any way, we need to talk to Brendan
and I'm sure you want to discuss this with Lena alone."
"Thank you," said her father, strangely polite and the couple
left without another word taking the briefcase with them. "Lena I
think you should sit down, your mother and I have some news."
"What was that about me getting married?" she whispered, sinking
into one of the recently unoccupied seats.
"We have arranged your marriage to Mr and Mrs Carr's son to pay
of our debts." Then for the first time Lena's mother spoke.
"He's very nice. And your father has promised to give up gambling
and drinking if you agree. We need this money so badly bella." At
the sight of her mother's tear streaked face Lena couldn't
disagree. Swallowing her objections Lena spoke slowly.
"You're getting paid for this?" her parents nodded. "Enough to
pay off the loans and rent?" they nodded again. Lena sat there
silently for many minutes, her parents watching her with concern.
She was weighing up the positives and negatives in her mind, it
was a difficult task. The negatives all applied to herself, but
by sacrificing her needs the benefits for her parents were