The night was mild and it was nice out there in the yard. I’d half-expected to find a score of other smokers but to my surprise I was the only one. I savoured the silence, lit up and inhaled deeply. Whether it eventually kills you or not, there is nothing quite equal to a long-awaited nicotine rush. It was only when it had finished and bland reality had returned that I noticed that I’d been joined by another.
“Nice night,” she said, lighting up. She had a foreign accent.
“Yeah,” I replied. It was.
We puffed away in silence. Then she asked, “Is this your local?”
“Yeah,” I replied, before adding, “You in the Function Room?”
“It’s my daughter’s wedding.”
“Thanks.” She paused. “The happiest day of your life.”
“Your wedding day; the happiest day of your life. That’s what it’s supposed to be, isn’t it?” She paused again. “Was yours?”
“Never took the plunge I’m afraid, so can’t say. What about you?”
“I tell everybody that it was. I told my daughter that thing only tonight.”
“But was it…?”
“Yes and no.”
I looked at her and she looked at me. She was a handsome lady, stunning in her youth I’d have imagined. “What d’you mean by that?” I said.
“My wedding was different. I am from… well, it doesn’t matter where except that it is much poorer that here. I was young and in love. Then I got married to my husband. We’re still married, that’s him over there.”
I saw a dim outline through one of the Function Room windows.
“He was my ticket to a better life, yet I couldn’t bear to tell my boyfriend until the very day my fiancé arrived in the country, the day before our wedding.”
“Was it your parents who…?”
“Perhaps it was their fault, perhaps mine; perhaps you should blame economics or God if He exists? Perhaps it was no one’s fault. All I know is that whilst I smiled for all the photographs inside my heart ached. It was the most miserable day of my life. Even in bed afterwards I only saw my boyfriend’s face. That’s what made it bearable, dare I say even enjoyable? But then, when I fell asleep, he was there with me for real. We were sat by a babbling stream in a meadow full of wildflowers, the sun shining overhead and the smell of wood smoke in the air. I was not married and we were to be together for all eternity. We held each other tight and then we kissed and what a kiss it was! Heavenly, pure bliss! And so, it was the happiest day of my life also.”
We both inhaled in the night air and pictured that meadow and stream with two young lovers lain on the grass.
“What about your marriage?”
“Good, happy. We learnt to love one another.”
“And your boyfriend?”
“A friend told me that he married himself later that year. A girl from my class at school.”
“But with my daughter, I told her to follow her heart, nothing else, not money or prestige or security.”
“And did she?”
“Oh yes. He’s not my choice mind, a bit wet in my opinion, but he is hers and that’s what matters.”
We both took another drag on our cigarettes. Mine was finished and so I threw it to the ground and stubbed it out with my shoe. She did likewise.
“I told her the truth though. As she was getting dressed this morning I said to her, ‘On my wedding night I shared the greatest kiss of my life with your father.’”
“She doesn’t know?”
“No one does.”
We looked at the lights through the windows.
“I’d better be getting back,” she said.
“Likewise,” said I.
And so we parted.
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