It was a wild courtship followed by a controversial wedding, and now the honeymoon looks more bitter than sweet. Hewlett-Packard(NYSE: HPQ) posted its first quarterly report since its Compaq nuptials, leaving critics of the merger trying to hold back on the "I told you so" tirades.

The report seems routine enough. The massive $3 billion in merger-related charges and the ultimate $0.14 a share in pro forma profits were expected. Sales dipping by 9% to $16.5 billion weren't far off the mark. Once again, investors ought to be awfully cautious in accepting pro forma results. There's no telling what expenses are included in those "one-time" charges.

The real problems begin when you break down the results. Hewlett-Packard's bread-and-butter imaging and printer business was up by 10%, while the personal systems and enterprise business Compaq offered up as a dowry suffered a 20% top-line slide.

Like a snake swallowing a house rat, it's a slow digestion process. This will take time. Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina fought the unpopular decision to acquire Compaq and had little choice but to see it through, despite the slim margin of victory that isn't much of a mandate on behalf of shareholders.

Fiorina is trying to sell Wall Street on the synergy, when she's actually pitching a lemonade stand to make a lemon like Compaq work. But cost-cuttings are going as planned, and she still sees $2.5 billion in savings next year. That's a substantial sum, even if the company loses some of its sales growth to get there.

The economy is a remedial student, and it might bounce back just as Hewlett-Packard has fully absorbed the rodent in its system. That could be a case of perfect timing, as long as the company can take full advantage of the global downtime to jockey for market position. Unfortunately, the market's a lot of things, but none of them is patient.