Short Story
                                          The Solemn Vow
                                                                By Gregory Cioffi


    They said nothing, as they fervidly gazed into each other’s eyes. They kept this amorous vigil as the
celebrant continued to speak.

    “Into this holy union, Jaimie Laramie and Desdemona Elapidae now come to be joined. If any of you
can show just cause why they may not lawfully be married, speak now; or else for ever hold your peace.”

    Silence. Father Santo turned back toward the couple.

    “I require and charge you both, here in the presence of God, that if either of you know any reason why
you may not be united in marriage lawfully and in accordance with God's Word, you do now confess it.”

    Desdemona's head drifted downwards as she took notice of her dress. A minute grin crossed her face
as she thought of how truly beautiful the white pattern was. She gazed back up as the priest was now
looking solely at her. She felt suddenly uncomfortable, as she wasn't sure why his eyes stared into hers.

    “Desdemona, will you have this man to be your husband; to live together in the covenant of marriage?
Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be
faithful to him as long as you both shall live?”

    Without hesitance she replied, “I will.”

    He then turned to the man and asked him the same. Desdemona looked out into the cathedral.
Statues of fallen saints decorated the room, their enduring presence seemed protective of the sacred
house of worship she now stood amid. She looked back at her beloved.

    “I will,” he replied.    

    Desdemona innocently smiled, and her eyes began to water. Jaimie gently placed her right hand in his.
Her hand trembled.

    “In the Name of God, I, Jaimie, take you, Desdemona, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day
forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we
are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.”

    As his lover repeated the verse, Jaimie stared at her enthralled by her utter beauty. He thought to
himself how lucky of a man he truly was.

    “This is my solemn vow,” she concluded.  

    As they loosened their hands, the best man presented the ring to Jaimie. Jaimie slid the symbol on her
ring-finger.

    “Desdemona, I give you this ring as a symbol of my vow, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor
you, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

    Father Santo stepped closer to the pair and joined their hands.

    “Jaimie, and Desdemona, you have come here today to seek the blessing of God and of his Church
upon your marriage. I require, therefore, that you promise, with the help of God, to fulfill the obligations
which Christian Marriage demands.” He turned to face the crowd.  “Now that Jaimie and Desdemona have
given themselves to each other by solemn vows, with the joining of hands and the giving and receiving of a
ring, I pronounce that they are husband and wife, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit.” Father Santo turned back to Jaimie. “Jaimie, you have taken
Desdemona to be your wife. Do you promise to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and
in health; and, forsaking all others, to be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?”

    “I do.”

    “Desdemona, you have taken Jaimie to be your husband. Do you promise to love him, comfort him,
honor and keep him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, to be faithful to him as long as you
both shall live?”

    “I do,” she replied, while swiping away a tear jolting down her rosy cheek.

    The priest continued to speak, but neither lover heard the words as they so passionately viewed each
other.

    “You may kiss the bride.”
    
    Jaimie notched his head and traveled toward her invigorating lips. Their mouths interlocked as they
could hear their families cheering. As Jaimie pulled away, Desdemona lustfully bit his lower lip, causing a
small cut, and a droplet of blood to trickle down. He pulled back to see her playful smile.  
                                                                                                    

                                                                    Three Years Later


    Helpless, Jaimie sat looking at his wife. His hair was in disarray and his face unshaven. He sat
motionless, hunched over, as his eyes were red from the constant removal of tears. He gazed in
unmitigated fear at Desdemona's pallid skin. Intravenous bags sat on a pole next to her, their lines tracing
back to her veins. He softly took his hand and placed it within hers as their rings slightly touched.

    “Honey,” he whispered. “Can you hear me?”

    Desdemona turned to face her husband, whose eyes glistened. She let out a meager smile, her face
appearing achy from the labor of doing so.

    “Hey,” he said with a doleful smile.

    She took a deep breathe in an attempt to speak. “Where is my family?”

    “They went to get something to eat. They'll be back in a little while.” She nodded, with a disappointed
countenance. “Sweetheart, there is something I want to let you know. Do you remember our wedding?”

    She thought back, remembering him standing across from her radiant and beautiful. She made no
movements, but Jaimie saw the answer in her eyes.

    “I was thinking about my vow. I said that I would love and cherish you until we are parted by death. But
that's not true, Desdemona because I am going to love and cherish you for all of time. And one day, not so
far off, I'm going to meet up with you, and everything will be the way it was, and we can be together forever
just like we planned. This is my new solemn vow to you, I swear it.”

    Desdemona, in a state of sudden sadness, shook her head. She gathered enough energy to talk and
tightly held his hand.

    “Listen to me,” she said as she coughed. “Don't. Live your life. I want you to. Find someone new and fall
in love all over again.”

    “No!” he passionately responded. “Never. And I don't want you to say anything like that again, okay? I'm
here for you, and I always will be.”

    She gently placed her head against her pillow and looked at Jaimie with anguish and despondency.

    Jaimie could hear the chattering of his wife's family approaching.

    “I'll be right back, sweetheart.”

    As he turned his back and walked out of the room, Desdemona forlornly placed her frail hand upon her
forehead. A tear slid down her feeble cheek.

    “How is she feeling?” asked her mother.

    Jaimie, with his head looking down, muttered, “Same.”

    “Come, let's go back in,” stated her father.

    Desdemona's parents walked into their daughter's room, while Jaimie stood outside, looking at his
wife's sister.

    “Why don't you see her?”

    “I don't want to.”

    Jaimie stepped closer to her, and angrily grabbed her hand.

    “What is wrong with you? I don't know why you have such a disdain for your sister, but for God sakes
she doesn't have that much longer! Put away your differences.”

    “You don't know her, Jaimie.”

    “Of course I know her, she's my wife! You are talking like a madwoman!”

    Sister shook her head, turned around, and walked away from Jaimie. Suddenly, he heard something
drop. He looked back to see mother's cup of soup on the floor. He then heard a shriek coupled with
uncontrollable crying. He rushed to the room to see his beloved lifeless on the hospital bed.    


                                                                    Three Months Later

    Jaimie sluggishly walked out of his bathroom with a tissue in hand. He made his way to the bedroom
where his eyes fixated upon a framed picture of Desdemona that stood erect on the night table adjacent to
his bed. He delicately picked up the sacred remnant of his lover and cleaned her, appreciating her beauty
with every stroke of the tissue. He placed it back down, having her face his pillow. He crumpled up the
tissue and threw it in a small garbage can on the floor. He ran his fingers through his lengthy hair and took
a deep sigh. He knelt down, placing his elbows upon his bed. He interlocked his hands and placed them
on his forehead.

    “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women-”

    Cacophonous knocking interrupted Jaimie's orison. Irresolute, he stood and walked to the front door.
He peered out the side of the curtain to see three men in black suits. The knocking continued.

    “Who is it!?” he shouted.

    “We are agents, Mr. Laramie. We need to speak to you. We would appreciate it if you would let us in.”

    Hesitantly, Jaimie unlatched the door and subsequently opened it. Sunlight penetrated into his home
and he instinctively placed his hand in front of his face. Through his squinting eyes he saw the three men
enter with transcending rays of yellow hue. The door closed and he could see the somber nature of the
agents.

    “Why are you here?”

    “Mr. Laramie, I am Agent Verlee.  Perhaps it would be best if you took a seat.”

    Jaimie, not believing that they could provide him with any bad news that would supersede his loss, sat
showing little interest.

    “So what do you want?”

    “I understand that you must be going through a tough time with your grieving, but we have some rather
disturbing news.”

    Jaimie looked up, slowly showing interest.    

    “Mr. Laramie, we believe that your former wife, Desdemona Elapidae, was not who you thought she
was, or was at least a very different person before you met her.”

    Fury suddenly sparked in the eyes of Jaimie as he boasted, “Don't you ever speak of my wife as
anything but angelic. Get out!”    

    “I know this is hard for you to grasp, especially now, but we have recently gathered sufficient evidence
that forces us to believe that Desdemona was linked in numerous murders over the last decade.”

    “Blasphemy! Get the hell out of my house!”

    “Jaimie please, listen. We have no records of your wife's fingerprints, and there was never an autopsy
done after her death.”

    “I don't have any.”

    “We know that. The reason why we are here is because we wanted to inform you that we will be
unearthing her remains in order to extract a DNA sample.”

    “What? You can't do that! This is preposterous!”

    “I understand your resistance, but this is not an open debate. There is a very good possibility that she
wasn't the person that you thought you knew.”

    Jaimie stepped closer to her, and angrily grabbed her hand.

    “What is wrong with you? I don't know why you have such a disdain for your sister, but for God sakes
she doesn't have that much longer! Put away your differences.”

    “You don't know her, Jaimie.”

    “Of course I know her, she's my wife! You are talking like a madwoman!”

    Jaimie's head dropped in confoundedness.

    “We will, of course, also require you to come in for questioning,” said Verlee in a monotone voice.  

    “I want to be there,” Jaimie responded as he raised his head to look directly into the agent's eyes. “I
want to be there when you go to her grave.”

    “We will see what we can do.”

                                
                                                                     
Three Weeks Later


    “It has been four months since my last confession, Father,” said Jaimie in a woeful, grisly voice.

    “What do you wish to confess, my son?” asked Father Santo.

    “I have no new confessions,” he responded while looking through the lattice. “I have come for advice in
this very dark time.”

    “What is on your mind?”

    “When one is in love, does that love not extend beyond the grave?”

    “It does. What is it that you truly wish to ask?”

    “True love is when you support your partner despite their wrongdoings, right? It is when you are willing
to follow them wherever they go because you care for them so deeply you would literally do anything for
them.”

    “My son, you have gone through a traumatic experience. One that I wish no man had to go through. But
your commitment and renewal of love is very refreshing in God's eyes. Your inner conflict is quite
understandable. I can only say that life will focus in perspective as time moves on.”

    “I made a vow to Desdemona on her deathbed that I would love and cherish her until we meet in the
afterlife.”

    “And do you plan to uphold this vow?”

    “I do.”

    “Then I think you have made the right decision. You should continue on your path of righteousness. You
must not be tempted by outsiders as you continue your life. Do only what you feel is right and the church
and God shall support your every decision.”

    Jaimie, kneeling, discontentedly shook his head and said, “At what point does God stop forgiving?”

    Father Santo, bewildered by the question, responded, “Why do you ask this?”

    “I was just curious. Is everyone redeemable? Or is there a point where ones actions are so atrocious
that they are damned eternally?”

    “He who does not love remains in death. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's
merciful love means remaining separated from Him forever by your own free choice. The only way to reject
Heaven is to reject God. But your life is pure, I do not understand why you speak like this?”

    “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

    “Matthew 5:7. Is there something you wish to tell me, my son?”

    Jaimie, appearing disillusioned, ignored the priest's question and stood up. He exited the confessional
and latterly the church.   
    
    He sat, looking at it. It felt uncomfortable in his hands but he knew it was obligatory for his desired
destiny. He rose and walked into his bedroom where the picture of his former bride resided among the
darkness. He picked her up, and kissed her mellifluous lips.

    “See you soon.”

    Jaimie proceeded to the front door, placed his gun in his waistband, zippered up his drab jacket and
exited his home.

    He stood silent, and secluded in the shadows. He waited. Footsteps. Jaimie got ready as he stood
stationary. He could now see a man walking down the alley, towards him. The man had littered sideburns
and walked askew. Jaimie raised his gun as he gripped it tightly. The man had no knowledge of his
presence. The walker strolled directly into his line of fire. A shot let off and the man instantaneously
plummeted to the ground. Jaimie crept up to the deceased, as blood began spreading out from under the
body. Instant contrition encompassed him and he gasped at his malignant action. Franticly, he ran off.

    Jaimie slammed his hand on his kitchen table. How will I see her if I have remorse? I must ensure my
damnation! I would rather be suffering in excruciating pain alongside my love than live eternally alone.
Jaimie's intrinsic rant was interrupted by unexpected knocking at the door.  He quickly put his gun in his
drawer, and slid a kitchen knife up his sleeve. The pounding continued until Jaimie opened the door.
Father Santo stood in the entrance.   

    “Father?”

    “I don't normally make house calls, but I feel this is warranted. May I come in?”

    “Please,” said Jaimie as he welcomely held his hand out.

    “I was weary when you left today. I know something is wrong, Jaimie. What is it?”

    “Nothing is wrong.”

    “Something is wrong,” Santo persisted. “I don't marry a couple, watch them grow, and then be unable to
sense when something is not right.  Tell me what is going on, my son.”

    “For God sakes, father! I just lost my wife!”

    Santo nodded in understanding. He began to walk around, observing Jaimie's home.

    “I've never been inside. It's a beautiful home.” No response. “You know, I saw you at church every
Sunday, but never Desdemona. How come?”

    “I suppose she just wasn't the church type of person.”

    “Oh. Well that certainly doesn't make someone a bad person. Will I still be seeing you at church
regularly?”

    “I doubt it.”

    “And why is that, my son.”
    
    Jaimie hesitantly responded, “The house of God is no longer the place for me.”

    Santo was taken back by Jaimie's bluntness.   

    “Why do you talk like this?”

    Jaimie's head drifted downwards. Father Santo approached him and warmly placed his hand upon his
shoulder.

    “Speak,” Santo insisted.

    “Desdemona,” Jaimie squawked as his emotions began to take over.

    “What about her?”

    His head still descended, he answered, “She was not who I thought she was.” He frenziedly placed his
hands on his scalp and tugged upon his slovenly hair. Jaimie attempted to hold back his tears but they
erupted from his squinting eyes like bats out of hell.

    “Go on.”

    “Before I met her, she did horrible things.” He glanced up. “She killed. Numerous times. I didn't believe it
at first until they showed me the evidence. But even then, I wouldn't let myself believe it. So I went to her
sister's, who never spoke to her. I asked her if any of the names of the victims rang a bell.
They all did. And they all had conflicts with Desdemona. I didn't know,” he cried.

    Father Santo grabbed Jaimie and hugged him tight. “It is okay, my son. This is not your doing.”

    “I loved her, Father. I will always love her.”

    “Jaimie, I know she was your wife but these new revelations change everything, you must understand.”

    “I'm keeping my promise. I will meet her in the afterlife.”

    “Think about what you saying, my son!”

    Jaimie stared deep into Father Santo's eyes. “I did.” From his sleeve he pulled out the knife, and
violently plunged it into the priest's midsection. Santo's eyes enlarged as he gasped.

    As he began to fall backward he uttered, “May God forgive you.” He hit the floor hard.

    Jaimie stood over him and remarked, “When you see Him, tell him not to.”

    Jaimie watched as the priest slowly exited this world. He hoped his friend's death wasn't too painful,
and felt comfort knowing Santo was bound for Heaven. Suddenly, the phone rang. Jaimie appeared
startled from the break in silence. He picked it up.

    “Hello?”

    “Hi, Jaimie.  I'm so sorry to call you at this hour, I hope you're feeling a little better. I just realized that I
misplaced your note on when you plan to come back to work, and I wanted to make sure that got as much
time as you need.”

    “I'll be back tomorrow.”

    “Tomorrow? Are you sure?”

    “Yea.”

    Jaimie hung up. Tomorrow is it. He proceeded into his bathroom, opened the cabinet and removed a
razor, and shaving cream. Tomorrow I will see you. He turned the faucet on, and felt the water. Too cold.
He turned the knob until steam egressed from the sink.  He covered his face with the gel until his facial hair
was submerged under it. He wet the blade under the scorching water. I want to look beautiful for you. Just
like our wedding day. Jaimie pulled into the staff parking lot. He fixed his tie in the mirror, and took a deep
breathe. He grabbed his briefcase, and stepped out of the vehicle. He walked up a few steps and entered
the brick building. A woman with glasses saw him enter and warmly approached him.

    “Mr. Laramie! Welcome back. Are you doing okay?”

    “Pretty good, I suppose.”

    “Aw good. Again, I am so sorry for your lose. But your second graders are going to be so excited to see
you! The permanent sub was okay, but definitely no replacement.”

    “Good to hear,” Jaimie said as he smiled. “Well I guess I'll go to my class and set up.”

    “Good luck, Jaimie!”

    Jaimie walked down the hall, exchanged exhausting greetings with everyone and put on fictitious
smiles. Finally, he entered his desolate room. He walked over to his desk and carefully placed his
briefcase down.

    Jaimie looked out to see his twenty second graders. Their eyes were wet. He closed the storybook he
had just read and crossed his legs. As he was about to speak, the sparkle of his wedding ring caught his
eye. Jamie seemed to lose contact with reality as various memories and thoughts bombarded him. He
promptly shut his eyes, regained his composure, and reopened them to see faces of concern.

    “So who can tell me what happened at the end of The Josefina Story Quilt?”

    A small girl with curly blond hair and freckles raised her hand.

    Mr. Laramie pointed to her and said, “Yes!”

    “Are you okay, Mister Laramie?”

    “Yes, I'm quite fine. Can you answer the question?”        

    “Josefina died.”

    “She did,” he responded sadly. “But is the ending all sad, or is it a little bit of a happy ending?”

    A little boy raised his hand.

     Mr. Laramie pointed to him and he answered, “It's a little happy because Faith made a patch of a tree
for her quilt.”

    “And why a tree?”

    “Because that is where Josefina was buried.”

    “Exactly. So although Josefina died tragically, Faith is remembering her and honoring her by making a
patch about Josefina to put on her quilt. Now she will never forget Josefina, and Josefina will always be
part of her life.” He looked up at the clock. “Look at the time! I think we have to go to lunch now. You can
get your things.”

    The students rose and ran to get their lunch bags.

    Jaimie was alone in his room. He unlocked his briefcase and was about to open it until someone
walked in. He quickly shut it.

    “Jaimie, man, so good to see you! Are you coming to the faculty room for lunch?”

    “Yea, I'll be there in ten minutes.”

    “Alright good, see ya in a few.”

    As the teacher left, Jaimie slowly opened the briefcase. In it laid the picture. He picked it up, kissed it,
and placed it on his desk.

    “I'll see ya in a few, baby.”

    He lifted up the first compartment in his carrier to reveal a bottom section. In the subdivision laid a sub-
machine gun. He looked out the window to see the most innocent boys and girls. Their pureness coupled
with their inability to realize the true function of the world made his contemplation seem unfair. But then
again, what was fair? This is what he had to do.

    Jaimie walked down the corridor, his weapon hidden under his suit jacket. He neared the side door
which lead to the playground. A security guard smiled at him, and he nodded in response. He pushed the
door open and stepped outside. It was warm, with a gentle breeze. Jaimie stood still for a moment and
enjoyed the peaceful sunshine as it radiated against his face.

    “No remorse,” he whispered to himself.

    He walked into the middle of the playing field, as children ran and chased each other around him. Their
giggles and authentic joy brought temporary contention to his face. He reached in his jacket.
Desdemona. He speedily pulled out the gun and began unloading without hesitance. Screams soon
commenced and echoed throughout the air. They ran to no avail, as Jaimie showed no mercy. The security
guard instinctively dashed outside, but was quickly assassinated. Within minutes Jaimie was the only one
standing, as children covered the ground like grains of sand on a beach. Tears of love strolled down
Jamie's face as he imagined Desdemona. He placed the gun against his head.

    “To reject Heaven is to reject God. To reject God is to reject life,” he uttered. “Here I come my love.
Here I come.”
About Gregory Cioffi

Gregory Cioffi (SAG-
AFTRA, AEA) is a
professional actor and a
published writer. This is
his fourth publication in
Blood Moon Rising. His
stories have also been
published in The Feral
Press, Mystery Weekly
Magazine, Aphelion, and
Allegory Ridge. Greg’s first
film, The Museum of Lost
Things, just recently won
awards at both The Long
Island International Film
Expo and The Madrid
International Film Festival.
To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.