This Kind Of Love Is Problematic

Chapter One: The Blinded Bride

People are always saying marriage is full of ups and downs. Men often congratulated me for being a lucky bachelor, and warned me in alcohol scented whispers to never tie the knot – because I'd be tying two knots if you know what I mean. I never saw the appeal of married life, but I couldn't help but be sceptical of these men's descriptions; it certainly couldn't be so very bad, or people wouldn't do it, and there wouldn't be this thing called love.

Since getting married however, I have begun to believe the rumours.

It started on one of those days; around the middle of every week, I'm visited by delightful persons who call themselves cute super hero names. Usually I'm quite happy to entertain them and play their game, and of course provide encouragement for next time, but every now and again it just gets tiresome. So instead of waiting in the field for Mr Hero man's heroic if predictable entrance like I normally would have, I went out for a walk. I was passing through a tribal region of the world; it's full of wonderful cultures that are more often than not at war with each other.

Given I could hear Mr Hero calling out for me, I decided to play a game with him, and slipped into one of the tribe's villages. They are not fond of me, unfortunately, and consider me an evil spirit, so I had to do this carefully; sneakily.

I have to admit dodging young tribes people and slinking along the sides of buildings took the edge off my boredom for a while, but there was a limit, and just as I was thinking I might start some chaos by revealing myself, I was urged to pause beneath a window at the sound of voices; and I am one for gossip.

'Thank you for writing that for me,' a feminine voice said sweetly, 'I couldn't manage without you. In fact, I don't think I shall. Why don't we call this off?'

'Nice try,' an older sounding woman replied, 'Believe me Kana; I don't want to have to force this on you. But we don't have a choice. As a blind girl, you've no other value to our chief than to be given away to this man. I am sure he's likable enough; willing enough to marry a blind girl, so there you go.'

'No other value?' there was a bitter chuckle, 'Mother what kind of man requests his fiancée be locked up before he comes to meet her?'

'Perhaps one who worries for your safety? He might have asked so you wouldn't be attacked in the meantime.'

'Don't be so patronizing. I may be blind but I am not useless or fragile, you know that. I can defend myself. I don't need to write this journal; I'm only doing it because you wanted something to remember me by, something in my words. I don't need writing to survive. I don't need to see to know what's happening.'

'Oh Kana, I didn't mean it like that. I just meant he may not understand that about you at first. You know he will learn.'

'I don't know that. How can the chief abuse me like this? Just because I'm blind, I don't get a say? How is that fair?' the girl called Kana demanded, and there was the sound of movement, 'I have the right to object to this. Arranged marriages aren't right.'

'Kana!' her mother's tone became superior, 'This could bring peace to our tribes. We'll all have to do our part; everyone will honour you for your sacrifice.'

'Admit it mother,' Kana replied sadly, 'the chief chose me because no one else would ever willingly marry a blind girl. That's the only reason.'

'The chief chose you because he thought it was the best option, that's all. It doesn't have anything to do with your blindness; but yes… it is the best choice for you as well my darling. Get some rest. I am told he will arrive tomorrow night to meet you.'

The sound of a door closing softly ended the conversation. 'You wouldn't know I was blind to see me move. It's only my eyes that give me away. If people understood that, they wouldn't be so willing to just sell me like this.' There was a sigh. 'I'm not useless.'

And I, hearing the distressing argument, and being the gentleman I was, climbed up the side of the building, and slipped in through the window…

[---]

A scuffling sound was heard from the window and Kana whipped around, pale grey-white sightless eyes fixed on the spot where the noise came from. 'Who's there?' she snapped, 'You cannot come in here. Only my mother is allowed to see me.'

The peculiar figure sitting on the edge of the window grinned, scanning back over the conversation he'd heard for any excuses he could come up with. 'Oh, right. What about your fiancé?' he questioned and those sightless eyes narrowed noticeably, 'That's me,' he told her, 'I'm Shin. I'm your fiancé – the one from the other tribe.'

She snorted. 'If that's true, why didn't you come in through the door?' she asked, 'Prove to me you are who you say you are. Tell me something only he should know.'

Stepping onto the floor and causing her to shift slightly to keep her empty gaze on him, he dusted down his coat and nodded. 'Very well. I came in through the window because I did not want to draw attention to us. I thought it was romantic.' Somehow, he knew she could tell he was lying. 'And as for something only he would know…' He studied her carefully and started to giggle. 'Oh no I couldn't, I simply couldn't do that,' he teased.

'What?' she hissed, sounding alarmed. 'Why are you so quiet?' she added, 'I can't get a good idea of where you are.' He realised this must be making her anxious, the lack of sound coming from him other than his voice.

'Well,' he went on, 'if you insist. The thing only your fiancé would know is… your full name! Kana Canary!'

He didn't know that blind girls could dead pan, but this one did. 'Are you serious? The entire tribe knows my name dummy. And Canary is not my last name, because we don't have last names.' She sighed, slumping onto her bed, 'And anyway, it's ok. I believe you. I mean, what would you know about me? Nothing.'

'Oh ho,' he thought, 'it was a trick question!'

'So why are you here so early?' she continued, 'I heard you were coming tomorrow. Couldn't wait? I could have.'

Shin smirked. 'No, I couldn't wait. I've been longing to see you.'

She sat upright, head facing slightly away from him and eyes fixed on something just over his shoulder. He guessed she couldn't see exactly where he was, since he didn't give the signs she would usually rely on to follow people. 'Shin? You don't sound like someone from the other tribe. While we worship knowledge and do all we can to obtain it, your tribe is fixated on power, right? Strength. Everything is judged by how strong and brave you are, instead of how clever you are. I was expecting someone… I don't know, buff sounding. Full of testosterone.'

He sat cross legged on the floor, removing his hat and setting it on his lap. 'Well I'm very different to most people,' he answered vaguely, 'That doesn't really interest me. Knowledge seems a more fulfilling pursuit; tell me some things that you know.'

'I know you're a weirdo.'

The corners of his lips twitched upwards. 'See, we're already getting to know each other; arranged marriages aren't that bad.'

She shook her head. 'That's garbage. I hate this whole set up. If you don't, then something's wrong with you.'

He blinked, tugging his pocket watch from his coat. 'Ah,' he noted pinching the bridge of his nose, 'well maybe there is then.'

She was frowning in his direction, head tilted to the side. 'What is that ticking sound?' she enquired, 'I've never heard that sound before.'

Shin leant forward, taking in all he could about this girl. 'How old are you?' he asked.

'Um, nineteen?'

Sniggering at how she'd phrased it as a question, he reached out slowly and grabbed her hand, surprising her. 'So, I'm hoping to leave tomorrow night… think we can make the wedding ceremony tomorrow?' This, Shin told himself, was a brilliant idea; it would be a great joke to play, and he was really bored. It was reason enough. Luckily he had enough knowledge about Kana's tribe to know that the men sometimes left the tribes on travels seeking knowledge (or power, in the case of the rival tribe) and when they did so, they took their wives with them, no questions asked.

'Are you joking?' she asked anxiously, 'No way!'

He shrugged. 'No way? I don't think so. I'll go introduce myself now, and ask everything to be set up. Just a small private affair, you and me, the celebrant and a couple of witnesses. You won't have to worry about a thing.'

She looked appalled; horrified. Stunned into a disbelieving silence, he glanced once again at his pocket watch and squeezed her hand in farewell. 'See you tomorrow.'

As he scrambled back out the window she murmured, 'I hate you already.' Her only answer was his amused laugh.

[---]

Kana wet her lips, tugging awkwardly at her loose black hair. 'Mother… why does it have to be today? It's so sudden.'

'Well, Shin has arrived early, hasn't he? Kana, you know that he's your future husband, and we must do as our husbands say. Come, it isn't so bad. What should we do with your hair? Something traditional? Or simple?'

In Iskoola, Kana's tribe, wives did as their husbands said, and did not question instructions. Usually husbands were fairly relaxed about this, and didn't abuse their hold, but Kana should have known that someone from the Aparajita tribe would exploit their customs. 'The simpler the better mother,' she replied, 'and do I really have to wear all these necklaces? They feel so heavy.'

'It's a traditional Iskoola wedding; yes, you have to wear the traditional bridal jewellery and clothes. At least you're not from the west; imagine if you were to wear all that cloth? The brides in the west cover their faces with cloth. That is how much they wear. It is as if they couldn't think where else to put it all.' Her mother paused, seeing that there was no response forthcoming from her daughter, and continued, 'Even though this isn't the wedding I envisioned for you, I did the usual.' Scooping something up and dropping it into her daughter's hands, she said, 'Here. I made it of course; your traveller's pouch.'

Running her fingers over the object, a tiny smile alighted on Kana's lips and she groaned. 'Ok mother. You can do what you like with my hair.'

Squeaking in delight, her mother proceeded to pull and curl and uncurl her hair when she didn't like the curls. 'Your hair looks lovely straight,' she told her, but Kana wasn't really paying attention.

Her father knocked on the door and stepped into the room. 'I've just been speaking to Shin,' he informed them, 'It's bizarre, but he's all dressed up like a westerner, just as he was last night.'

Kana raised her eyebrows curiously. 'Really?'

'Oh…' her mother pouted, 'I suppose he's all set to leave right after the wedding. He really does want to get out there, doesn't he?'

'It would seem that way,' her father replied, 'so I suggest you gather all your things together now Kana, and put them in your traveller's pouch. I'll see you at the wedding.'

Her mother, teary eyed, continued to decorate Kana's head. Eventually she decided on pulling it up into a neat ponytail and placing a plain green-gold bandana in her hair which was pierced with a few brass rings. She then looped some of her excess hair over the sides of the bandana and pinned it in tightly.

The rest of Kana's wedding outfit consisted of several extravagant and weighty tribal necklaces around her neck, a simply decorated gold-brown shirt that ended above her navel, and a tidy skirt made from the leaves of plants in the area. 'Oh!' her mother exclaimed, looking at her, 'You look so beautiful.'

Kana didn't care; even if she had wanted to go through with this wedding, or was marrying someone she cared about, she didn't need to look beautiful because having been born blind, she didn't know what beauty looked like. Even so, it pleased her to be told she was so. 'Thank you mother. Now, let's get this wedding over with.' Stiffly, the bedecked woman stood up and stepped out the door. 'Mother, in the procession, am I with father or you?'

'With your father dear, that's how Shin wants it.'

Nodding curtly, she ignored her mother's attempts to guide her down the unfamiliar corridors of the church, feeling the vibrations from the ground through her feet, and listening to the voices of people around her to avoid crashing into them. Because Kana had been blind since her birth, she'd grown up seeing through vibrations, and was perfectly capable of moving without help by this time. The problem was that anyone who knew she was blind didn't realise this, and people who weren't told she was blind until later marvelled at how someone who ought to be so helpless moved as if she weren't disabled in any way.

There was music in the main hall of the church and she aimed for it, for this was where the wedding was taking place. At the moment, her tribe's best dancers would be giving a performance, and following this a bridal procession would enter the church, beginning with her mother and ending with herself and her father.

She waited patiently for her cue, chewing her lip in horror and realising now that there was finally no escape left for her; today she would marry a pigheaded muscle man from the Aparajita tribe, and be stuck with him forever. She would be taken from her precious home and family and moved to the Aparajita tribe's settlement, encouraged by women with too many muscles and much too deep voices to grow big and strong, and to keep her nose out of the books. She was going to hate life forever, and there was nothing she could do about it anymore. 'For my tribe,' she reminded herself, 'For the Iskoola and Aparajita tribes to seal the treaty, a marriage must take place. This is my role as an Iskoola tribeswoman. This is simply my duty, my part in the grand scheme of things,' she told herself, and taking a deep breath, entered the church.

A little over an hour later, she wasn't even a pure Iskoola tribeswoman anymore. She felt horribly as if her whole identity had suddenly been robbed from her, and nothing made sense in the world any longer. 'Remember,' her mother said to her, squeezing her hands, 'Shin is going travelling first. You've spent months with me, training to be a good wife. Just remember what I said; your husband you serve first, and then your tribe, and finally yourself. You'll do wonderfully. Now there will be peace between Aparajita and Iskoola anyway, and I'm sure we can visit each other all the time. Excuse me,' she released her daughter's hands and turned to the strangely thin frame beside her. This Kana couldn't wrap her head around; Aparajita were above all else told to be strong. As a result, being kind of… buff, was a requirement. Perhaps they had done the same as the Iskoola then, and sent a failure to marry. Someone who wouldn't get married otherwise, so why waste the opportunity. Perhaps that was why he was so thin. 'Excuse me,' her mother repeated, and her father rested a hand on her shoulder, 'Shin… you'll take care of Kana, won't you? She's a good girl. We'll be able to see her whenever we like, won't we?'

Shin withdrew from his wife's side and bowed lightly to his mother-in-law. 'Of course ma'am, I wouldn't dream of separating you. For long, in any case.'

'Thank you.'

Saying her farewells, Kana could have no idea how long it would be before she would see her beloved home and family again, or just how different she would be.