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Our Contract Marriage

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Two men in their mid fifties sit in a private room of a five star hotel restaurant. The first man pours the second man another drink. Both of their faces are flushed from the wine, and the atmosphere is tense with forced camaraderie. A lawyer is summoned when they finish their meal.

The lawyer presents two copies of a contract and reviews the terms with both men.

"Are you sure you want to go through with this?" the lawyer asks. The question is directed towards the second man.

"Don't cross the line," the first man scolds, although it sounds like a threat, and the lawyer pales.

"I'm sure," the second man says, although it seems as if he's reassuring himself.

The lawyer clears his throat and steps forward. His hand shakes slightly, but only the second man notices as he's shaking slightly too.

"Sign here, here, and here," the lawyer instructs one of the men, pointing with his pen. "Sign here," he instructs the other.

The two men sign, exchange the papers and sign once more.

"Good," says the first man as he hands the lawyer his copy of the contract. He stands up and re-buttons his jacket.

"V-very good," agrees the second, clutching tightly to the papers in his hand. He stands up to shake the other's hand. "It's been a pleasure."

"A pleasure," the first man repeats coldly. He steps back and gestures for the other man to go first.

The two walk out of the private room. At the elevator, the first man says, "Then, I'll leave first." The elevator doors open and he steps in with his lawyer. "Until next month," he says as the doors close and the second man is left alone in the corridor.

The second man lets out a shaky breath and looks down at the contract in his hands.

"This will be okay," he tells himself. His hand trembles as he runs his fingers through his thinning hair. "Everything will be just fine."