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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2187223
One sentence uttered meant a lifetime sentence of low expectations (winner, Cramp!)

"Keep your expectations low and we should be fine." It was said straight into her ear, very softly.

"You are joking, aren't you?" Sushila whispered back.

"No, I'm not. That's how most marriages break up. Un-met expectations."

The priest was calling their attention. They sat there on low stools, in front of the holy fire, carrying out ritual after ritual as the priest instructed. "Now this fruit basket. Place it here, it's your offering to the Gods."

They exchanged garlands, they held hands and walked around the fire seven times as they took their wedding vows. A shower of flowers from friends and family, some rice scattered, and the eight hour ceremony was done.

They were man and wife.

The bride's female cousins and aunts started singing the 'farewell' song, telling the girl to remember her parents as she started her new life at her husband's house, the couple touched the feet of various elders, hugged them, wiped a few tears, and got into the limousine that was to take them to the airport for their honeymoon. The chauffeur drove slowly through the wedding guests, all waving.

"What's that you said about expectations?" Sushila asked her husband, once they were out on the road.

"Well," he replied, "we don't know each other very well, do we? I mean, we've opted for this arranged marriage and we've only known each other three days."

He couldn't see her face very well, she was still wearing her red wedding saree with the front pulled like a veil. If he had seen the look Sushila gave him, maybe Rohit would not have been so complacent.

The car-ride to the airport and the flight were uneventful. They arrived at the hotel in time for a late supper, and then -- to bed, in the honeymoon suite, for their first night together.

"I'll be a while," Sushila said. "Have to get these heavy clothes off, and want to soak in the tub."

"I'll -- er -- join you ...?" Rohit's voice tapered off as the bathroom door closed in his face.

Somehow, he didn't dare knock and ask how much longer she'd be -- even after an hour had gone by. He was in his blue bunny pajamas and in bed, almost asleep, when she emerged. She was in frayed shorts and a t-shirt with a collar.

"Not asleep yet?" she asked, cheerfully, as she slipped in to her side of the bed.

"I thought ... you know ... honeymoon."

"Ah! My mother said you might expect sex. Then you said we need to keep our expectations down, so I figured maybe you didn't. Goodnight."

He had reached for her, but withdrew his hand as she turned her back on him, cuddled into her pillow and muttered, "My goodness our ceremonies are tiring. I'm going to sleep till noon."

She was as good as her word. He had not only woken up and breakfasted, but bought himself a stack of comic books at the hotel bookshop and finished reading them before she stirred.

"Is it almost lunch time?" she said, by way of greeting, as she stretched her limbs and yawned. "Mom said you might want to go for a romantic early morning walk or something, but you said that about low expectations, so I figured I could just be myself, you know, get over all that exhaustion."

Rohit's Diary
April 4, 1999

Dear Diary,
I have no idea where Sushila is. She left a note saying 'going for a movie with friends. Mom said you might expect me to make dinner afresh, but why, when there's enough left-over from lunch? I know you don't expect much -- you're not fussy about freshly cooked food and things. Not sure when I'll be back, don't wait up, sweetie.'

We got back from our honeymoon yesterday, diary, and both of us are resuming office tomorrow. I must say I did expect her to want to spend this evening together ... but I'm the one who said keep the expectations low.

Rohit's Diary
April 4, 2019

Dear Diary,
Can you believe we've been married twenty years? Celebrated our anniversary last week. Twenty happy, blissful years. And you know why? Because of those low expectations. We sat and had a talk about that, that night when Sushila got back from her movie and dinner. She told me outright that she thought my tone when I whispered that to her during the wedding ceremony meant that I was trying to get out of being a good husband.

Anyway, we clarified things and ... well, today, for me, is our actual 20th anniversary, because it's the 20th anniversary of the day we made love. Imagine that! We made love after we got home from the honeymoon!

We clarified what we meant by low expectations, and we found this motto worked for our marriage. It has worked to help us raise one happy daughter, one reasonably happy son, two dogs and a recently-acquired kitten.

So yeah, keep those expectations low -- and those actions high!

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