Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg
Paris, France
December 31
Writer, copy editor, translator, travel planner. Head servant to my cat.
A reader, a writer, a fingernail biter, a cat person, a traveller, a cookie inhaler, an immigrant, a dreamer. …And now, self-employed! If you like my blog and if you're looking for sparkling writing, painstaking proofreading, nimble French-English translation, or personalized travel planning, feel free to check out


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JUNE 22, 2011 4:48PM

The Dream Marriage

Rate: 21 Flag

The Fiction Wednesday prompts for this week were:

Plan A: Do your own thing.  Write on any topic, in any style you want.


Plan B:  (Suggested by OSer Shiral): 

Write a story where the main character accidentally (or deliberately!) crashes a wedding.  

I chose Plan B.  I hope you enjoy my story, and thanks, Shiral, for the prompt idea!


The Dream Marriage



“Faster!  Faster!”  Thomas Battle tried to keep his command to a soft muttering.  He’d done what he could to make the chair man run at a speed that hung at the cusp of human possibility, but he dared not do anything further.  No use adding to his very soon-to-be-sullied reputation by killing a fellow.

The chair man’s feet seemed almost to glide over the rough cobblestones.  Thomas felt slightly sick as his chair lurched around a corner.

And then, they were there, and he prayed to whatever power governed him in this moment that they weren’t too late.

Using all that remained of his strength, he clumsily descended the Bath chair, ignoring the shooting pains in his gout-ridden body, and raced, stumbling slightly in the cracks between cobbles, to the church door, then through it.

The calm of the scene before him was almost a laughable contrast to the mad race he’d just endured. At the altar, a grey-dressed bride and a young man held hands and listened to the pastor.  He strained his ears, hoping he’d arrived at just the right time, for that would be one slightly lighter smear on his reputation, to call out what he had to say when asked, and not after everyone had been satisfied that what was going to pass, was fine in the eyes of law and Lord.

"If any of you can show just cause why they may not lawfully be married, speak now; or else for ever hold your peace." 

Thomas knew the words had been spoken with the same soft solemnity as the others, and that it was only for him and perhaps one other person, whom he thought he could make out concealed in the shadows to his right, that they rang through the space and vibrated through the stones of the floor. He took a breath and called out, “They cannot marry – that is not Miss Lyeleigh!”

As he’d feared, the statement was followed by gasps from the well-dressed guests, and looks of astonishment from everyone but the Lyeleighs, including the impostor.  But these latter quickly hid their knowledge, slipping on surprised expressions as easily as a hat under the warm sun.

He heard Miss Lyeleigh's fiancé laugh.  “But,” he gasped out, “of course it is her!  I would know my own future wife!”

This relieved the others, and they all gave chuckles in reply.  Still, Thomas knew he might convince them.  He might –

“Sir,” came the voice of Charles Lyeleigh, father of the young woman in question, “are you much acquainted with my daughter?”

This was not fair at all, nor was it expected.  Privately, the Battles and the Lyeleighs knew each other very well. All families like them knew each other quite well, and had for centuries.  In public, though, they never were seen in the same circles, so as not to arouse any sort of suspicion, should one of them be caught out.

“I- ” Thomas blustered.  He’d never been gifted at discourse.  Blast it.


Even if the Battles and the Lyeleighs had been able to associate in society, I would never have invited Thomas Battle to my wedding. I don’t know how he found out about my plan – sometimes those of us who share this gift simply receive inklings, as though the person performing the spell had whispered them their intentions.  And just as he knew what I was about, I knew that he would come to fight it somehow. I’d thought the chair man would have a time with his heavy, gouty body, but of course Thomas had anticipated that, and used a little magick for help. And so he’d arrived at the perfect moment.  Then again, even when he made his declaration, I knew I was safe: for who would have believed him?

Everyone believed it was I, Olivia Lyeleigh, at the altar with Peter Dunning, the man I was to marry.  Even my family had no real idea of what I’d done.  They only suspected something when they heard Battle’s yells.  If not for that, I would have bluffed them all.

My intentions were pure and love-inspired.  I have seen marriages that quickly become hell for both parties, and I could not allow that to happen to my beloved and I.  And so the idea had come to me to create another me.  It was a difficult spell, but when it was finished, she – I – was perfect.  Nothing in appearance differed between us. All of my memories, my sentiments, my laughter, she shared.  Of what I know of the history of our family, no one in my generation, nor in the generation previous, had ever performed such a trick so well.

I would allow this other me to live with Peter for a time – perhaps a year, perhaps more. From the shadows behind a pillar, half concealed by that natural feature of the building, and half concealed by enchantment, I watched as Thomas Battle was escorted from the church.  I watched as the nervous laughter of our guests subsided, I observed my parents and brothers and sisters struggling not to exchange puzzled glances.  I watched as the other Olivia made her vows, and then I parted.  I would travel across the continent.  I would observe everything that happened between Peter and this other self of mine, and if things were promising, then one day I would return and take her place.

Two years passed, and every night I visited them in my sleep.  I never saw any grand disagreement, and I never saw the love fade from my Peter’s eyes, nor from mine.  Still I waited.  Perhaps two years was not time enough for first love to die.  I let pass five more years.  Then five more.  Still nothing changed in that happy couple.  By now, the other Olivia had brought three children into the world.  You might say it is a horror to have created such a being, a falsehood I would replace.  These children’s mother would always be a lie. And so I waited, hesitating, watching now absently the places I travelled, the marvels I should have revelled in knowing.

And one day I awoke and saw myself in the looking glass.  My reflection was that of a woman of a certain age, a flower faded.  I had had my adventures, it was true.  But something in me knew I could never go back to Peter. I could never take the place of that other Olivia – that happy Olivia.  I’ve always been able to create life and lies, but I could never think of extinguishing either.  I should have known that the day I put my plan in motion.

I have no real notion of why Thomas Battle protested what I’d done.  I have half a mind to return to England and ask him myself.  I do know for certain that, had I or my family listened to him, and had we somehow found a way to wash away evidence of what I’d done, I would be in my rightful place, with my love, steadfast and unfading, by my side. I do know that Thomas Battle’s irruption into the church that day could have saved me. 

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Sorry for any mistakes - I had to put this up fast - today has raced by and I now have to go plan my English lessons for tomorrow - Argh!!!
This was so unique and odd I had to read it three times. It was though it was I telling the story I was so into it.
Great job Alysa and rated with hugs
The first fiction I've read on can this be topped?
Excellent, Alysa : )
Linda - Thanks. I think this was odd, too. It comes from my visit to Bath and wanting to do something with the "Bath chair" I saw on display at the Assembly Rooms; hardcore Jane Austen reading I've been doing lately; and a project I've had in mind for a while, as well as some thoughts that came to me while watching the wedding we attended this weekend. Thanks for reading it three times - I'm at once honored and sorry this took so much of your time!

Just Thinking - Thank you, but I hope you'll read more OS fiction -there are some very gifted writers out there! If you're interested, you can go to the OS Wednesday Fiction Club blog and check out the list of stories for this week. :-)
A profound and modern existential dilemma. Could easily have been expanded into a novelette with all of the implications for the angst of women in any age.
A fun story. It was interesting to me that she didn't really miss being married and watched their happiness from afar.
I could use three of me! One to write, one to get out and exercise and play and one to do the housekeeping and be mom and wife!! I am wondering what a chair man is though....
I was expecting something blossoming from your visiting Bath and attending a wedding last week; and you didn't disappoint, Alysa. Enjoyed this very much!
ASH - Thank you for reading and I will be reading your contribution to Fiction Wednesday tomorrow, alas, because it's super-late here and I have to start getting to bed. I actually have thought of writing a novel with some of these concepts in mind. Thanks for your opinion.

Susie -Thanks and I'm glad you liked it. I think Olivia wasn't necessarily happy to watch her marriage unfold without her, but she felt it was what she needed to do, at first, and then she couldn't stop things being that way. A "chair man" is the man who pulled a "Bath chair", a special wheeled chair used to transport sick people in Bath, England. The last one went out of service only in 1949, which amazes me since why the heck would they need to continue making some poor guy lug a person to and fro, when there were cars?! If you're interested, there's a photo of a Bath chair at the end of my last post, "Bath Time".
Fusun - Thanks so much! I wasn't sure how or if Bath would inspire me, fiction-wise, but there you go. The city and its charms have stayed with me - and the boyfriend, too. We're already talking about planning a trip back, maybe for our next anniversary.
I'm with Ash, plenty of material here to expand into a novelette. An engrossing yarn as always. I love this phrase " the eyes of the law and the lord."
What a quirky and sweet little piece. Sometimes I watch from the shadows the other me and other times I catch glimpses of her in the mirror.
An interesting twist of thought. I enjoyed this. :)
A very odd tale. It appears to me that she was a commitment-phobe who wanted the best of both, but did not get to enjoy either. R
Gripping and fascinating piece here. I don't know what else to say.
Oh very cool! Thanks for the info. I will go back to look~
Olivia the observer risks nothing and gains nothing.
Wonderful, and suprising! I really hadn't expected magick. I think the world needs some Bath Chair races.

It makes me want to know more; why didn't the real Olivia mind more seeing her love marry even a replica of herself? I can understand her wanting to have both the marriage and the adventures, but it seemed she was really into adventure and not really into being conventionally married.

I also wondered whether Thomas Battle was in love with Olivia and a somewhat deluded old man. I wasn't expecting him to be traveling in magically enhanced ways. =o)

An interesting tale! I'd love to have another me to deal with things I don't want to deal with.
Okay, wait, I don't think I get this. Why did Olivia create a doppelganger of sorts (of the non-evil variety)? To see if her beloved would remain in love with "her?" I breezed through the read so you must have done something right but I'm a little iffy on the motivation.
BB – Thanks so much! I’m glad you enjoyed this and I’ve been thinking about taking some aspects of this idea and creating a novel or even a series. Thanks so much for your vote of confidence.

Miguela – I wish I had a double to watch!

Blinddream – I am flattered by this comment from a true master of the twist!

Sheila – I’m glad you enjoyed this!

Trudge – I like how you summed it up. I don’t know if she’s a commitment-phobe, just afraid of what the future holds..and yet I guess that is being a commitment-phobe…hmm…re-evaluating my life.

steve – Thanks so much for reading and I’m surprised to find you speechless!

Susie – I’m glad to oblige. I was going to use the photo again but it’s not a photo in a normal setting – rather the chair in a museum, so I decided against it.

Stim – You and Trudge are great at summing this up!

Shiral – I’m glad you enjoyed this, and Bath chair races WOULD be cool…as long as you were the one in the chair, and not the “chair man” (or woman). As for Olivia, for me, she sees her double getting married as a temporary solution. Like me, she likes to test the waters, plan things out. She didn’t want to get married only to find her and Peter’s love had died within a short time. Of course, when can you ever be sure that love will last forever? On top of that, she has a hard time killing what she’s created. But I really believe she did hope to one day have a conventional marriage with the man she loved. I also really enjoyed your Thomas Battle angle – I hadn’t considered that….

lschmoopie – Oh, yes, how cool would that be! Only, I think I’d feel bad for my double after a while. I’d send her on vacation and then end up getting stressed out and obsessing over how mean I’d be to make her come back and… I am not fit to have a double….I hope you’d fare better than I.

Seth – I’m glad you breezed through this but I’m sorry it wasn’t clear. I posted this in a hurry and maybe should have spent more time. I wanted to say that Olivia did love Peter and did want to be married to him but was afraid of what the future might hold. In so many couples, love can fade or even die out. So for her, the solution was to make a double to sort of test and see if the marriage would even continue to be full of love and passion for a year or two. Of course, she then kept telling herself she needed to wait longer and see – and she also had trouble with the thought of one day having to do away with her double, or even just taking away all the double had come to know and love. The idea is, if you plan things too much, you can really miss out. I think it might be a message to myself.
Ah, I've gotchya now. By trying to protect herself from the pain she might have felt if the marriage didn't work out she wound up excluding herself entirely. A Hamlet-esque tragic flaw of indecision and over-planning. Oh, and good prose often requires multiple reads, isn't entire obvious on a breeze through :-)
my God, i feel as though i have found an unpublished
jane austen -on-steroids
or a
demure v.woolf who remembers her manners
well, an original
alyssa i never saw

cuz i was in cape cod.

grey-dressed bride
and a young man held hands
and listened to the pastor.
He strained his ears, hoping he’d arrived at just the right time...

outfoxed by the woman who is too up to date and modern
for her own good.

i saw a wedding today. at my local catholic church.
bridesmaids in cute short purple dresses.
one beauty in pale blue,
late, i guess.
reminds me of u.
I am speechless, so unique. R
yeah me too. speechless.

i like this for its archetypal reverberations,
peter= well, you know
and also the rock

"And one day I awoke and saw myself in the looking glass.
(no doubt a terrible tragedy, this.)

My reflection was that of a woman of a certain age,
a flower faded.

(to her, maybe. she could come to america and
be a cougar)
I had had my adventures, it was true.
(we as inquiring readers need more details, ha. :-) )

But something in me knew I could never go back to Peter.

no, not peter.

maybe:ah, to state the damn obvious,
doubting thomas?

what about the big guy himself?
walt whitman?
o i mean alan ginsberg.
o no i mean art james.

i mean: the mighty american ubermensch, half formed
and in need of

see: queen jane approximately, dylan.

there is a need now for frenchmen to become americanized.
no woman better for the job. bring him here, the
boyfriend. has he been to our shores?

sorry to be so intrusively personal, but
we are in need of alyssian elegant understatement here.

jersey style.u said so yourself:

then one day I would return an

d take her place "
Seth – I’m glad you appreciate the theme

James – I’m so glad you liked this. And I love what you said about the bridesmaids you saw. Though I am the farthest thing anyone should think of when it comes to weddings – they’re not really my thing, though I can appreciate the love that, ideally at least, is being declared and displayed.

hugs – Thank you! This was just the product of Jane Austen and Bath and the prompt, plus a long-brewing idea I’ve had. I’m glad you seem to like the result.

James – You always make these amazing connections. I hadn’t thought of any significance behind Peter’s name. Let’s say it was subliminal? ;-) It’s interesting that, like Shiral, you seem to think Olivia and Thomas have some kind of romantic connection or the potential for one. That also didn’t occur to me when I was writing this…but it’s interesting…. Lastly, the boyfriend comes with me to the US every year. I’ve converted him to certain American things – like the appreciation of air conditioning, and a love of Taco Bell. On the other hand, he still has so many prickly French qualities. And thank you for using the word “elegant” in association with my writing. I think you might be joking (especially because New Jersey is also involved), though….You have been feisty lately!
Lady Alyssa,
I may be a bit feisty lately but this only makes my brain work better,
and when my
brain is up
and running
I like making associations in
this fictional universe of ours.

Yours,though, is a real place, your universe.

Thank you for this.
James E.
ps gal:
there are NO MISTAKES,
you need not apologize ever.
jme again. meant to say that earlier. whoops, forgot.
James - Thank you. My universe does feel real to me sometimes, as I'm glad it does to you. I'll try to remember not to apologize - but I'm bad at not apologizing....
Very interesting take on choice. Makes you think. Also, this story could have easily taken place in East Asia. Until I read "Bath chair," I thought I was in Hong Kong.
So sorry to have caught this so late but what a read..Amazing.