9. The Fateful DecisionMature

9. The Fateful Decision

My heart felt as thought it was about to burst from my chest, what with its frantic flurryings. Trying to still my pulse so that it didn't thump visibly in my neck, I looked over at Ellie for help - as though she knew more about the situation than I did.

I love you, Ellie. I will do anything to protect you. I will stop at nothing to make sure you aren't put in a position that compromises your wellbeing.

"You trust him," I said to Caruso. "You say you trust this man implicitly."

"I do."

The child was still crying, though the tears had slowed down some. I watched as that James fellow patted his baby's back and bounced her up and down. Studying James' interaction with his daughter, I somehow knew that I could trust him, too.

"I...I will do whatever it takes to protect Ella. I won't let her get caught." I took a shaky breath. "How will we get married?"

"I actually took the liberty of already marrying you," Caruso said. "I can't tell you how, but you're both now married, as soon as you sign these documents. I knew you'd say yes, Katie, so I decided to spare you the trouble of having to wait for the paperwork. Now all you have to do is sign these certificates."

I looked over at James. "So we're going to only be married in our fake names," I said. "We're not going to be technically married - at least, not our real selves."

"Actually, that's why I have two certificates here. James wanted to be married not only for your fake identities, but for your real ones, too. He said he didn't want to be living with a woman who was not his wife."

I rolled my eyes at James, perturbed. "How moral of you."

"Thank-you," James replied, unblinking.

"Let me get something straight," I said. "You have no idea who I am. You have no idea what I've done in the past. You have no right to decide whether we're married in real life or not."

If James was irked by my statement, he didn't show it. "I understand. It's just...I have strong convictions."

"Yeah, well, I used to sell myself for a living."

The confession was so unexpected that I immediately felt humiliated. Why on earth had I told him that? It wasn't something I was proud of. In fact, it was something that I hadn't talked about at all. Until now. I lowered my eyes and watched as James signed the certificates.

Caruso didn't let me see James' real name as I signed the real-life marriage document. And he didn't let James see my name, either. So I was married to someone who I didn't even know. Oh, great.

After signing the document with our fake names, I turned to Caruso. "I now pronounce you husband and wife," he said, but left out the "You may now kiss the bride" part. I was grateful.

Ellie had been watching with a wide-eyed expression on her face.

"Listen, Ella, this isn't for real. In a little while, after we've been married long enough to keep people from thinking we're suspicious, it'll be just you and me again. I promise, Ella - it'll be just the two of us in a year or so." I shivered. Things had drastically changed since yesterday.

For the next hour, Caruso told James, Ellie, and me the plans he'd made for us. He'd gotten a hold of an old clunker that we would drive to Illinois, where we would settle down in a city called Kerrington. There, we would find jobs, enroll Ellie in public school, and live our lives. The idea of living as fugitives scared me to no end, but there was no going back now.

"When do we leave?" I asked.

"As soon as I finish remaking your appearance," Caruso said, handing the car keys to me. He knew better than to give them to James, considering how little I trusted my own husband. "Do you have your license?"

"I never got around to it, but I had a driver's permit until it expired. I've been driving anyways, though."

Caruso smiled. "I'll change that," he said. "As soon as I'm with your make-overs, you'll have yourself a shiny new license."

Funny how the words did nothing to excite me.

The End

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