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For Common Good - Stories of Us. The Bride (Part One of Three) by Deborah Matthews


By Deborah Matthews









Judith raised her head to glance across at the woman who was whispering, rather unsubtly, to the greying gentleman next to her. She could not place who she was. As the woman’s cold blue eyes looked back at her unflinchingly, Judith looked quickly down at the little gold face of the small Cartier watch on her wrist. Her something borrowed. The evening sun glinted off the short hand pointing to where a six ought to have been, while the long hand crept up a clockwise arch towards the watch’s sole diamond, at the position of twelve. She looked up again and smiled an apology at the woman, who turned back to her companion, the feathers of her burgundy hat swaying slightly at the sharp motion.


Whoever said that a woman’s wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day of her life

was a damned fool. Fighting the now overwhelming urge to burst into tears, she looked

down at her too-tight shoes, the view partly obscured by her rounded shame. She didn’t

want to get married, but at seventeen and being the only daughter of one of the

country’s most prominent businessmen, freedom of choice was the last thing that she

had. While all of her friends were probably already at the jetty to head down the islands

for a weekend lime, here she was, standing right within the left gate of the Cathedral of

the Immaculate Conception waiting for Father Maurice to let their small party into the

side door to seal her fate. Thankfully the steady stream of parishioners leaving Friday

evening mass by the front entrance were too preoccupied basking in their renewed

piety to notice the five people standing between the frangipani and the large, Gothic

wrought iron gate with strained looks on their faces. She needed steadying. Standing for

so long in the tight leather flats was becoming unbearable. Before she could reach out to

grab the hand of the only person in the group that they knew, the large teak door

strained open and she was looking at the anxious face of Father Maurice.


“Come in, come in” he beckoned with his left hand, while running his right through his

thinning hair, “let’s get you all situated.” Judith’s father shook his hand grimly. “Father I

can’t thank you enough for accommodating us. This is my daughter, Judith” he said, pulling the frightened girl forward into the light of the cathedral’s center aisle. “Her

mother decided against coming, considering the circumstances,” he continued, “and I

can’t tell you where the child’s father is.” Before he could say much else, the blue eyed

feather hat wearer stepped forward, and spoke to the priest while directing her cold

gaze at Judith’s father. “We,” she started, while gesturing to the greying gentleman at

her side, “are his grandparents. He will be here. I just can’t think of what could be

keeping him, because he ought to have been relieved about an hour ago.” Father

Maurice took a handkerchief embroidered in gold from a pocket hidden under his

vestments and mopped his brow. “Ah, yes. Well I’ve wrapped up this evening’s mass

rather quickly for this. As soon as he arrives we will get started. It’s almost six!”


Judith walked to the wooden pews neatly lining the center aisle of the cathedral, and sat

heavily on one of the benches. She stretched her legs out and took a look at her feet. The

patent leather flats, her something blue, strained against her swollen feet with one vein

in particular pulsing behind her dark flesh, threatening to burst. As the blood flowed

back into her toes warming them, her sweaty palms felt colder. It wasn’t that she didn’t

love Luke, she just didn’t understand why she was being made to do this. Neither of

them wanted to be married, but their families were adamant that a bastard would not

be born bearing either of their names. She sighed and looked beyond her father and the

priest whispering urgently to each other near the … which station of the cross was that?

She looked toward the front of the building where, above the altar, a small statue of the

deity for which the cathedral was named stood, lit softly from below. “What did you tell

Joseph when you found out that you were with child, girl?” she muttered, “What you tell

his family when they doubted it was his?” The longer Judith stared at the statue, the more

blurred it became as tears welled up in her eyes. When the floor rocked violently

beneath her feet, one of the tears escaped and rolled down her cheek.


Outside, as slowly as the sun was setting, pandemonium built.


“What the arse was that!” exclaimed the companion of the feathered hat wearer. At his

outburst he received a slap on the arm from his wife that echoed through the empty

church. He made a swift sign of the cross in atonement. Judith stood up and started

moving towards the main doors which opened out onto Independence Square.



Before she could reach the back of the church another loud sound cracked through the Port-of-Spain air, forcing her to hold on to the closest pew for support. She stared around at the

little wedding party wildly, hoping to find an answer for the swelling chaos on the

streets outside. Father Maurice passed by her, his robes billowing behind him as he ran.

She looked at him trying to stop passers by to find out more about the noises. Feeling a

hand on her shoulder, she looked up at her father’s kind face. “Don’t worry girl. Dem

boys mus be score a goal or something!” Judith wanted to laugh with her father, but she

knew that whatever was happening had to be closer than the stadium was to them.


“Faddah! Faddah is de en ah de whorld! Is Ammagiddeon! Fire in town! De Germans

come and blow up de police station!” Father Maurice held the frenzied man by his

shoulders, trying to get him to calm himself down. “Speak sense man!” he urged, “What

you mean the Germans??” The man broke free of the priest’s grasp and started running

east towards Nelson Street screaming that the Germans were dropping bombs in town.

Judith felt her father’s hand begin to grip her shoulder tighter as they both looked at the

priest trying, albeit frantically, to find out why pandemonium was breaking out at this

hour on a Friday evening. Normally people would be walking or sitting around, maybe

with a drink in hand, leisurely taking in the cool air of the setting sun over the city. But

now, besides the pedestrians pouring out of the city’s center and Broadway and the

surrounding streets, cars were also jockeying East and South. Even the vendors on the

corner of Charlotte Street were trying to pack up their goods, which was odd

considering that the after work crowd was their peak time for sales.


Father Maurice walked slowly back into the church, his face drained of colour. “Speak

man!” Luke’s grandmother barked at him, “What the arse going on out there?” Though

her face was steeled, Judith could tell that she was frightened. “I don’t know what is

happening exactly, but the Central Police Station was bombed just now. The street is on

fire…” His words faded into a high-pitched ringing in Judith’s ears. Bomb? She turned to

face Luke’s grandparents, and she saw that they both had come to the same realisation

that she had in that moment. Luke was a recruit, fresh out of the St. James Barracks and

assigned to the Central Police Station. Why wasn’t he at the church yet? Was he still at

the station? Judith held her belly, felt the new life stirring within her, and began

walking purposefully towards the front entrance of the cathedral. “Judith?” her father called after her. “Judith don’t go outside there! Judith!” She glanced over her shoulder

and saw her father moving towards her. Beyond him, she caught a glimpse of the dimly

lit statue of the Virgin Mother poised resolutely above the Gothic altar, and she knew in

her heart that she had to find Luke. She started running, and though jolts of pain shot

through her feet, her only thought was to find Luke. She had to find Luke.



END of PART ONE of THREE


"The Bride," is a product of Debra's The 1990 Project, an undertaking tasked with curating first person narratives of the July 1990 attempted coup d’etat in Trinidad & Tobago, with the intent that conversations about this part of our history will help us to heal from the collective trauma experienced then, that yet informs our present.


Deborah Le Anne Matthews is a cultural worker in Trinidad & Tobago for almost 20

years. She has worked alongside some of the most recognizable names and institutions

in the local culture sector as a performer, researcher, teacher, trainer, consultant,

administrator, writer and designer.


Deborah participated in the Writing for Culture cohort of our For Common Good: Arima x Louisville Exchange which was facilitated by Louisville Story Program which has become our 'Stories of Us' project.

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