10 Years, Actually: Harry & Karen, David & Natalie, John & Judy
by Bobby Finger
This is part of a week-long series celebrating the tenth anniversary of Love Actually.
David and Natalie married in 2004. They and their story were soon known around the world. And what a story it was! A regular girl. One of the most powerful men in the world. Charming, now famous photos of the two at a children’s Christmas pageant. They were like Charles and Diana, but, you know, without the unpleasantness of royalty. Their wedding wasn’t elaborate, nor was it televised. David wore a suit. Natalie wore a simple red dress (as did many new brides the following season). After being re-elected in 2008, David announced that he wouldn’t seek a third term and would, instead, focus on his campaign promises.
“If I can get them done in five years, I’ve done my job,” he told reporters at the beginning of his second term. “And if I can’t, I haven’t. And the voters will have to find someone who can.” This rational, no-nonsense, attitude was effective in boosting his popularity, but ineffective at achieving his goals. With the ongoing war in the Middle East and economic problems now plaguing the world, David’s second term was rough. And their marriage suffered.
Natalie had never stopped being his assistant, but if you witnessed their interactions, you’d think she stopped being his wife. Work was a place to work, but so was, unfortunately, their home. Being married to the Prime Minister stopped being a fairy tale, and instead became a dreary political drama. In private, she counted down the days until he left office. In public, she remained happy and optimistic. The whole of the Kingdom loved her, but she only cared about the opinion of one.
And so, they kept going. David had aged a decade in those five years. And she, maybe seven.
This past May, David’s successor was chosen. A woman. A conservative. Both David and Natalie were impressed by her handshake. After waving goodbye to their jobs, they moved to Cornwall. It’s a small place right on the water — just a few bedrooms. Technically it’s a castle, but homes in that area look like that because they must.
It gets cold that close to the ocean, but that’s why they have all those layers of stone — as well as each other — to keep warm.
Karen and Harry went to great lengths to be certain the kids never heard them fight. No, they waited for sleepovers and field trips and visits to Daniel and Carol’s home. But when she and Harry were the only two around, she screamed. She had made a decision to stop crying about it, but she would certainly continue screaming, and Harry would accept it as his punishment. He listened to every word and rarely responded because he knew it wouldn’t help. She needed to let it out, so he let her. This would fix things, he thought.
“Oh, you just feel guilty,” his mates would tell him. “You just want it to stop.”
“Of course I do. If you love someone, marry them, and then fuck someone else, isn’t guilt the bloody obvious thing to feel?”
She had one or two nights a month to make him feel as terrible she felt, and by summer of that year, it was all out of her system. She had said everything she needed to say. Mia had quit. Harry had apologized profusely. And the kids were, they both presumed, none the wiser.
On the first night they shared a bed since it happened, neither slept. They stayed awake, on their sides, whispering like they’d done when they were in their 20s.
“Do you forgive me?” he asked.
“You’re in the bed, aren’t you?”
“You know I never stopped loving you. I could never.”
She paused and repeated herself. “You’re in the bed, aren’t you?” Harry laughed. And, after a few deep breaths, “I’m fully aware of love’s propensity to die a nasty death. We both are. And I know a loveless marriage harms everyone under the roof. But I’m also aware of love’s oft-ignored ability to survive a fracture. To be, oh, wrapped up in a cast. And, though it leaves a hideous scar, it heals.”
She brushed Harry’s hair with her fingertips as he cried quietly, then leaned in until there were mere atoms between them.
“If our love — our marriage — had been over, we would have ended it. But it wasn’t.” She became aware of her impending rhyme, but decided to go ahead with it. “So we mended it.”
Today, the scar is hardly visible at all.
John and Judy remain very happy and in love.
Bobby Finger is fully aware that he changed the election cycle around.