The Boy Bride - Chapter One - Arranged Marriage - PG

I never really liked family reunions much. I seem to have been blessed with an overabundance of relatives and sometimes I wonder if those with no family at all are better off than I. Between the thinly veiled insults from my older cousins, the incessant teasing from my sisters, and the muttered disapproval of my catholic aunts I somehow found time to escape under the back porch to eat my watermelon.

I could hear my uncles laughing as they played horseshoes. They never bothered to invite me, but I didn't really care, it was just one more way to avoid my oldest cousin, Sean - the cause of much of my misery for the last year and a half. The rest of the family - minus the younger cousins who were already muddying themselves up to the armpits in the creek - were seated somewhere above my left ear, playing cards.

I spit a seed off into the bushes, and listened to my Uncle Armand telling a funny story about a camping trip he had gone on when he was in college. I had always admired Uncle Armand. Even now, when it was certain that the U.S. was going to lose the war, he managed to make us forget our troubles - if only temporarily. He had also been the first to support me when my parents had caught me making out with another boy in the alley behind our house. That had been last year, two weeks before I graduated from high school, and the first thing my father had done when he had seen what I was doing was to hit me, hard.

Things were better now. Dad had time to cope, and he had even gone out of his way to give me a hug last week. We were starting to do things together again and I think he was really starting to get used to the idea of a son who didn't like girls. Mom, on the other hand, has always given me her support, though I still think she's disappointed that there will be less grandchildren for her to spoil.

Conversation above me had stilled, and in the lull, my mother's voice broke through clearly.

"The arrangements have all been made, Michael and I will tell him tomorrow." She was saying in a soft tone that she only used when she was upset about something. "I still don't feel right sending him away…" Her voice trailed off and I could hear someone blowing their nose into a Kleenex.

"There, there." My grandmother clucked, "It's for his own good, I'm sure they'll treat him well."

My mother's voice was thick when she next spoke, as though she had suddenly developed a head cold or something. "I know, but I can't help but worry that I'm doing the right thing… He's my youngest."

I blinked. It hadn't truly occurred to me until this point that my mother might have been talking about me. I had just assumed that she had been referring to my older brothers, two of whom were drafted and leaving the following week to join the fight against the invaders. However, her words did not make sense. Both Joshua and Robert knew about their assignments, so it wouldn't make sense to "tell them" anything.

So where were they sending me? And why?

Uncle Armand cleared his throat, "I'm sure Ryan will be able to take care of himself, how old is he now?"

"Eighteen." My father said quietly, he wasn't a very loud man, even when he was angry. "A year younger and marriage would be illegal."

I didn't understand this comment at all. I could tell I was blinking furiously, it was a habit I had whenever I was confused and I hated it. That and blushing.

"And the family's name?"

"Takahashi." My grandmother said irritably, "She said that already."

I could hear my uncle sigh.

"I just hope Ryan doesn't take it badly…"

"Not like we have much of a choice."

"Not with this damned war."

"I just want him to be safe!"

"Don't worry about it Cynthia, I'm sure he'll be fine." My father patted her on the shoulder awkwardly, much like the way he touched me when he couldn't find a way to avoid it.

"But I feel like I'm selling him off!" My mother wailed, "He'll be getting married to someone we've never even met, what if the boy is horrible? What if the family hates him?"

My uncle laughed, "Hate him? No one he's ever met has hated Ryan. He's too friendly!"

I agreed completely.

I was the sort of guy people liked to be around. I was happy-go-lucky and adventurous, and gullible to a fault. I used to laugh a lot too, at least, before the war. Girls thought I was cute too, at least, until they found out I had a boyfriend. Didn't have that problem now, as I figured it. My boyfriend was dead, and pieces were slowly sliding into place in my mind as to what my parents were talking about.

I had heard of these arranged marriages before. Japan had closed its doors to refugees, although they had continued taking in Americans for much longer than the Chinese and Koreans had. Still, for desperate families with enough money, wanting to get their children out of harm's way, Japanese citizenship could be attained through marriage.

But for boys?

I wondered what my Japanese husband would look like.

End Chapter One