The cork burst from the bottle, hitting the wall and leaving an indent on the yellow wallpaper. Fae poured the champagne into a slender flute, watching the bubbles snap to the surface and dance around the rim. She drained the glass in three gulps, feeling the bubbles gather in her gullet, causing her to hiccough. Replenishing her glass, she sipped slowly this time.
She reached into the ashtray for the half-smoked cigarette. Lighting the tip, she watched the smoked wander into the air before dissolving into nicotine stained cornices. The cigarette made her dizzy, so she closed her eyes.
From a pink paper bag, she pulled out matching underwear; white silk knickers trimmed with lace, and an angel bra. She removed the price tags and slipped the garments onto her soft pale skin. Standing in front of the mirror, she examined her body; tall and lean with curved hips and strong muscular thighs -the result of two months of hunger and anxious floor pacing. From a drawer in her dresser, she pulled out a lace garter, the same garter that her mother had worn when she had married her father. She smiled at she recalled her parent’s recent silver anniversary celebration. From a red and brown gift box, the same one that had arrived in the post two days earlier, she pulled out the silver pendant. She laid the necklace in the palm of her hand and brushed her thumb over the engraving – Evermore. Fastening the thin chain around her neck, she felt a shiver of excitement when the cold metal dipped into the crease between her breasts.
Seated in front of the mirror, she wound her long hair into a fishtail braid and placed a ‘baby’s breath’ flower crown on top. She applied her makeup, bronze shades to her eyes, cheeks, and lips that not only complimented her russet hair but also created a gorgeous monochromatic and glamorous effect. She liked this face. This was a face she had abhorred for many years until it had been touched so tenderly…
The sound of the letterbox roused her, and she heard a pile of letters hit the floor, it was most likely bills or perhaps the Betterware catalogue.
Stepping into the dress was like stepping into a daydream. The rush of excitement and the smell of a new start hugged her. She felt rich, expensive but most of all, worthy. The dress was all over white, with lace trim around the shoulders where the material stopped – allowing for bare-arms. Sequins swirled in waves around the tummy and spread out around the waist before tapering at the thigh. Then stitched neatly in the seam, was the Armani label beside a slim and slender and slightly battered security tag.
Adam paced the floor; the photographer was late. He dialled the saved number on his phone.
‘I’m stuck in traffic.’ The voice said.
‘If you’re not here at two, I’m fucked.’ Adam snapped.
‘I’ll do my best mate. Bank holiday weekend and all that.’
‘Just hurry up or my necks on the line.’ He hung up and put the phone in his pocket. Seconds later it rang.
‘Adam Scott.’ He answered in a professional voice.
‘It’s me, Lucy.’ A panicked voice sounded on the line. ‘Is Patricia there? There’s a security tag still attached to my dress.’
‘Apparently they were all the same.’ Adam said pushing the bar on the fire exit and stepping outside. ‘Just tuck it into something.’
‘But it’s on my hip. Where’s Patricia?’
‘Wear a scarf around your waist.’
‘What? Patricia isn’t here. Why have I got to organise everything?’ He hung up. Taking a pre-rolled joint from his pocket, he held it between his teeth and lit the end.
There was a taxi waiting outside the flat. The driver had his window rolled down and his arm hung out.
‘Bloody hell.’ He said when she stepped out the front door. ‘They never told me you ordered a wedding cab.’
‘I didn’t.’ She replied, gathering her train into a big ball and stuffing it into the taxi before stepping in.
‘Stetford Gardens. 123a.’
He nodded, rolled up the window, straightened the collar of his shirt and started the engine.
‘The bloody cake is melting with the heat.’ Adam was on the phone again. He stared at the four-tier monstrosity with its frills and piping.
‘Can you find a fridge?’ A woman’s voice said.
‘It’s an empty fucking building Patricia.’
‘Put it beside the window then.’ She said. ‘Has Tony arrived?’
‘Stuck in traffic.’
‘Shit. Are you ready though?’
‘You’re a life saver. Thanks for doing this at short notice.’
‘I’m doing it for the money. That’s all.’
She laughed. ‘I’ll be there in an hour, don’t get stoned. Love you.’
Pavel pulled the cab up close to the pavement. He looked in the rear-view mirror. The bride was rummaging in her bag.
‘Should I beep the horn?’ He said.
‘No. I’ll call.’ She replied into her bag. She pulled out a bottle of perfume and sprayed it in a circle around her neck.
The smell wafted into the front of the car and he coughed.
‘It’s me.’ She said into her phone. ‘I’m outside.’
He looked at the flats. Posher at this side of town.
‘Yes. A black cab.’
Her voice sounds nervous, he thought and caught her eye.
‘Of course, I’m wearing the dress.’ She held a mirror to her face and laughed. ‘Come on, I’m dying to see how you look.’
He looked at his watch.
‘What? Twenty minutes?’ She pulled the phone from her ear. ‘There’s been a slight delay.’
‘I have to keep the meter running.’ He said.
‘Fine.’ She slumped in the back seat.
The rattle of the taxi’s engine filled the silence.
Adam felt used. He’d only agreed to her stupid idea because he’d had three lines of coke and the promise of a blow job.
‘It’ll be over before you know it.’ She’d said.
‘But groom…’ he’d sulked. ‘…I’d be a better best man, or an usher… hell, I’d even be a better priest!’
‘For me darling.’ She said and unzipped his fly. And that was that.
Lifting the collar of his white shirt, he clipped the bowtie into place. He was pulling on his trousers when the door buzzer went.
‘Fuck.’ He said and tucked his shirt into his trousers. He was still fiddling with the button when he opened the door.
A woman stood with arms loaded with flowers. ‘I’ve got a carload of these.’ She said thrusting them into his arms. ‘Get a move on.’
He unloaded the flowers onto a trestle table and hurried back.
‘So, which one are you.’ The woman asked in a strong northern accent. She handed over a cardboard box filled with assorted bouquets.
‘Groom.’ He said looking into the box and counting out loud.
‘I was told ten bouquets.’ She said watching him. ‘Is it ten?’
‘As far as I know.’
‘Greedy boy.’ She laughed.
‘Whatever.’ He felt his face flush.
‘If there isn’t enough, they’ll have to share. We only made what the boss lady asked for.’
He helped her carry the remaining flowers into the room then locked the door as she left. He ran back to the toilet, sat down and flicked cold water onto his face. On the back of the door a heavily lined tuxedo jacket hung in a clear plastic wrapper.
She’d had her eyes fixed on the front door of 123a for the last five minutes, and finally out came Clarissa. She was spectacular in a white silk dress that she’d folded perfectly onto her lap. Clarissa waved, blew a kiss towards the taxi and wheeled to the gate. Her long ebony hair was wound into a plait and trailed down her left shoulder, tiny blue flowers were woven through it. She wore a silver tiara and red lipstick.
As she approached, the driver got out of the taxi and opened the back door. ‘I’m sorry I never expected a…’
‘It’s fine, I can transfer.’ Clarissa said. ‘If you wouldn’t mind holding the bottom of my dress though, until I’m …’
‘…And putting my chair in the boot.’
Pavel watched bride number two slip into the back seat. He handed the silken material into the taxi and closed the door. He wheeled the chair to the back of the taxi and opened the boot. Both brides were locked in a passionate kiss.
Adam was terrible at small talk. As far as he could tell, the best man had arrived, an usher and three bridesmaids. There was a Paul and a Stacey, and maybe a Brenda, but he wasn’t sure. He filled some glasses with champagne, smiled and checked his watch.
By the time Patricia arrived, so had Lucy and Grace and someone else in a white dress, but he didn’t catch her name because she was busy chasing two boys and a silver balloon.
‘Thank God.’ Adam said following Patricia into an empty office. ‘Where have you been?’
‘I’m here now.’ She said, putting down her briefcase and stepping back. She eyed Adam from head to toe. ‘You look delicious darling.’
‘You should’ve been here hours ago. I’ve had to organise everyone.’ He put his hands on his hips. ‘That’s what you’re paid to do.’
‘And you’re paid to look beautiful.’ She tugged the lapels of his jacket .
‘It’s as well I love you.’ He stepped forward and kissed her on the mouth.
The taxi pulled up outside the newly built hotel.
‘Are you sure this is the place?’ Pavel asked, having read in the evening Herald that the hotel wasn’t due to open for another four months.
‘It is.’ Both brides said in unison.
Fae wheeled Clarissa up the ramp. They could hear music playing as they approached the double doors. Two boys stood at the entrance, both in black suits and shiny shoes. The one on the left looked up and smiled revealing a missing tooth. Fae paused and Clarissa took her hand.
‘Nervous?’ Clarissa asked.
‘A bit.’ Fae replied. ‘It is my first time.’
The hall was decorated in silver balloons. Sprays of flowers hung on the wall and were stuffed in giant vases. A long navy carpet stretched from the door to a wooden archway.
On each side of the room identical wooden chairs were lined in rows. Some were already filled. Of course, neither bride knew anyone, except Adam. Everybody knew Adam.
Patricia was great at acting cool, but it was an act. She’d taken two Valium on the journey and had just finished a joint with the groom. She strutted into the middle of the hall and stood on a chair. There were two brides in the corner laughing with a half-naked minister, one inhaling helium from a balloon and singing Bohemian Rhapsody, a disabled lesbian bride with her tongue down the throat of a ginger bride, and four brides fighting over bouquets. Patricia clapped her hands together,
‘Can I have everyone’s attention please.’ She began counting. ‘I’m missing a bride.’
Just then a door burst open and out wandered a best man, a partially dressed bridesmaid and a dishevelled bride.
‘Here.’ The bride shouted and the three snorted with laughter.
‘Groom.’ Patricia turned around as Adam strode into the room, finally doing his job.
‘If you could all make your way to the front now.’ She said and jumped off the chair.
‘Okay.’ She said, satisfied that everyone was listening. ‘We are all gathered here today…’
There was a roar of laughter and a round of applause.
She grinned ‘…I’ll start again. We all are gathered here today…’
‘Excuse me.’ A voice echoed from the back of the hall. ‘I’m here for the photoshoot. Is this Wedding Plus magazine?’