“Wakey wakey!” sang Holly as she walked across the dark room towards the curtains. Freya followed her in, but stumbled on the empty bottle on the floor.
“Goodness me Suze, you’ve made a bit of a mess!”
The curtains opening slowly revealed the chaos that Suzanne had left. The bedclothes were everywhere, the bedside table was face down in the centre of the room, and there was a large stain on the carpet by the bed. The girls’ eyes urgently scanned the room for their friend.
“Maybe she’s gone down for breakfast?”
“Are you in the bathroom, Suze?” asked Holly as she closed in on the door.
“Oh hey guys!” slurred Suzanne from the other side. Holly pushed open the door, to see the bride to be, grinning widely from the bathtub, covered by a tartan blanket she had found in the wardrobe.
“Alright Suze? Been pre-drinking?” asked Freya jokily, as Holly watched on in disbelief.
“Yeah but I ran out, so I thought I’d have a bath.”
Holly grabbed Freya’s shoulder and pulled her out of the bathroom.
“What are we going to do!” she hissed.
“Oh, she’ll sober up.”
“The ceremony is in less than five hours, and she’s totally hammered!”
“Calm down, Holly. We’ll get her some coffee, make her a fry up and she’ll be right as rain.”
“You better be right!”
Holly went back into the bathroom, and took Suzanne’s arm.
“Alright Suzanne, we’re going to get ready now, ok?”
She released a nonchalant grunt, and Holly tried to lift her from the bath, but struggled as she was quite petite compared to Suzanne.
“Freya! Get in here and help!”
Freya grabbed the other arm, and they lifted the bride from the bathtub. The two girls held her as she took clumsy, laboured steps from the bathroom to the end of the unmade bed, where she sat down.
“Alright,” said Holly as if talking to a child, “We’re going to get you ready now. You don’t want to look a mess for Luke now, do you?”
“No, I love Luke.” Suzanne drawled. “Not as much as that other guy I went out with at uni, but he was a lying prick, so…”
“Alka-Seltzer.” Said Freya, offering her friend the now fizzing mug.
“Aw it tastes like salt,” protested Suzanne, spitting it back into the cup.
“Down in one.” Barked Freya, and her request was met. “So, should we start with hair or make up?”
“Let’s start by getting her sober enough to stand, shall we?”
Claire jumped slightly on hearing the phone begin to vibrate restlessly in her bag. She was always a little shaken after flying, and as she stood waiting in the luggage hall with all the pressure of maintaining their marital façade for one more day, she was positively rattled. She picked the phone up, looked at the display, and noting that it was Alex, answered the call.
“Hello darling. What’s the matter?”
“Nothing’s the matter,” replied Alex irritably, “I just want to know how you’re getting on.”
“Oh, quite alright. Your father’s just waiting for his suitcase, and then we’ll be on our way.”
“Good.” There was a brief silence before he spoke again.” You will behave this afternoon won’t you?”
“Of course we will! It would have been quite a pointless charade if we were to give in now.”
“And you’ll tell Dad too. You mustn’t let Suzanne know about the divorce. She isn’t ready.”
“Really Alex, There’s no need to sound so dramatic! It’s uncle Kevin you should be telling to behave!”
As she said this, Stan sidled up next to her, trailing two large suitcases behind him.
“It’s Alex. He’s telling us to behave.”
He tutted, and wandered off towards the car rental desks.
“Ok darling, I’ll see you later. Bye now.”
She abruptly ended the call, dropped the phone back into her bag, and strode purposefully after the man she so loathed.
It would have seemed foolish if he had dared to say it out loud, but Robbie hadn’t stopped thinking about Ana all night. Hours had ticked slowly by, and he had imagined the soft warmth of her hand, and her delicate smile until he was too tired to stay awake any longer.
“Is this love?” he thought as he wandered down the stairs of the B&B for breakfast. Surely at nine he was not old enough to be in love? But he wanted nothing more than to be near her, and to talk to her! Yet in a cruel twist of fate the wedding was today, and he wouldn’t be able to go and play football in the evening. He had been quite nervous about his job as ring bearer, but the bouleversements he felt within him had usurped this fear.
He walked into the dining room, and looked around for his mother, but she was not to be seen. Seeing him dawdling by the entrance, one of the young waitresses came by, smiled broadly, and asked him his name. He told her, and she showed him to the same table they had dined at last night. He felt vaguely irritated, as this was the table he would have gone and sat at, on account of his previous situation.
He ate a hearty breakfast, as he wondered where his mother might be. Still asleep in the room most probably. She tended to at weekends, and much to her annoyance, she was not a part of the wedding party like he was, despite being the sister of the groom.
He rose to return to the room to wake his mother, and as he turned he saw a sight which made his insides drop, and his entire body tremble. It was Ana! She sat, politely slicing up a rasher of bacon, gazing vacantly across the empty table.
Robbie rerouted his exit to pass her, and as he did she calmly said: “Hello Robbie. Fancy seeing you here!”
“Yeah I’m here for the wedding.” He mumbled, conscious now of the ketchup he was spilt on his sleeve.
“Me too! I’m the flower girl! Are you the page boy?”
“Yeah. Why are you eating alone?” He immediately felt guilty for asking, but was relieved when she replied:
“Oh my Mum’s upstairs. She’s a bridesmaid you see.”
“Oh. Well, I’ll see you later then.”
“You will,” she said, slowly lifting the corners of her lips into a relaxed smile.
Dean’s arms and the table top formed a protective wall around his aching head, yet the words “Morning Prick”, were still audible through the barrier, albeit in a slightly muffled tone.
“Morning Dean. Alright?” said Luke, lowering himself into a chair.
“Yeah.” Came the muffled reply. “Bit of scrambled egg and a shot of whiskey and I’ll be fine.”
He lifted his head from his hands to reveal a ghastly pale visage. He had grey rings under his eyes, and a smudge of red lipstick to the left of his chin.
“Did you even go to bed last night?” asked Luke as he looked at his dishevelled best man.
“For a few hours.” Replied Dean, a cheeky grin spreading across his face as he spoke.
“Nothing ever changes,” said Luke, turning to try and get the attention of the waitress. She spotted him, dashed over and took his order. Soon after she presented Dean with a mountain of egg, beans and sausages, accompanied by a large mug of milky coffee and a double shot of Bell’s.
“Mate, that is disgusting.”
“Beans and egg. Classic combo.” Declared Dean, rather louder than his thumping head would have wanted him too. Soon Luke was presented with two stale supermarket croissants, and a half empty jar of jam, which had obviously been lifted straight from the kitchen.
“How come we have to stay in this nasty pub and the girls get to stay in the fancy B&B?” whined Luke.
“Don’t call it nasty! The landlord, Don, had a trial at Leicester!”
“What do Don’s broken dreams have to do with my crap breakfast?!”
“Stand up bloke, Don. Must have given me four free drinks last night. His daughter’s a laugh too.”
“You’re the worst.”
Dean smiled through a mouthful of toast, and lifted the coffee mug towards his face, which gained colour by the second.
“So Luke. You’ve made it. You’re Marrying Suzanne Richardson.”
“Today is going to be the best day of my life,” he said sitting back in his chair. “Not even your antics can ruin this for me.”
“You’re a better man than me, mate.”
“Obviously.” Said Luke, raising his eyebrows mockingly.
“I suppose this empirically proves that you are better with the ladies than I am.” Said Dean with unusual candour, as he stuffed a forkful of egg into his mouth.
“What do you mean?” asked Luke smiling confusedly.
“Well, Suzanne ditched me after about a month, and you’re marrying the girl. Clear victory mate.”
Luke’s smile faded, and he pulled his right elbow up onto the table to support his head. How had he not known? Why hadn’t Dean told him? Why hadn’t Suzanne told Him?! They had told each other about all their old flames, and she had neglected to mention Dean. Maybe it was nothing serious, but Dean was involved, so it must have been! Why had she hidden it from him? He was incensed, but vowed to stay calm until he had probed for further details.
“Oh. I didn’t know you and Suze had a thing?” he said, in an overly deadpan tone.
“Yeah. It was pretty crazy really. She just came at me in first year. Good times.” Dean was smiling slightly, and noticing Luke’s discomfort he threw out a defensive comment. “She was a bit of a mess at the time though. She must have been. What confident woman would go for this?” he said gesturing towards his unkempt profile.
“But she and I were friends at the time. Why didn’t she tell me? It doesn’t make sense. How long was there between you breaking up with her and us getting together?”
“Well, we didn’t really break up. I mean we were never really together. It was just-“
“How Long Dean!?” Luke’s Confusion had despair had distilled into a fiery anger, and both Dean and Suzanne were in his sights.
“Couple of weeks…” murmured Dean, hiding behind his large coffee mug.
“You bastard!” yelled Luke, rising from the table.
“Don’t do anything stupid Luke!” shouted Dean desperately.
“How do you get to the B&B?”
“I don’t know, And you mustn’t see-“
“It’s by the offy.” Luke stormed away, and Dean shouted after him.” I’m sorry mate!”
Dean fell back into his chair, and conscious of the scene called the waitress over.
“Could I get some more eggs? And maybe another whiskey?”
Steven and Ella climbed into the car, and he lifted his heavy hands onto the wheel and the journey continued. He was exhausted from his sleepless night, and found her restored enthusiasm more irritating than ever.
“Sleep well?” she said, shading her eyes from the low sun with her left hand.
“Not bad.” Said Steven.
“Fantastic! I love the morning before a wedding. It’s just so exciting!”
Steven was silent, and given his intentions rather uncomfortable. Ella soon became engrossed in the breakfast show on the radio, and Steven was left once more with his thoughts. Nothing had changed. The emotions and convictions had simply become stronger. He had to stop the wedding, tell Suzanne how he felt, and live with the consequences, whatever they may be. He quashed the notion that she might reject him. It was only by his own cowardice that they weren’t together, and it had finally been overcome.
“Ooh a quiz!” yelped Ella. “I love quizzes!”
Steven’s attention was suddenly drawn back to the radio.
“Yesterday, alt rock titans Weezer released a new album, so that’s the subject of this weeks “Saturday Showdown”!” said the tinny voice of the presenter. “How’s your Weezer knowledge Sam?”
“Not too bad, Dave” came the callers reply.
“Ok then Sam, question one of five: What was the name of Weezer’s breaktrough single, whose video featured clips from the tv show, “Happy days”?”
“BUDDY HOLLY” yelled Ella. “That’s easy.”
“Buddy Holly?” said the caller nervously.
“Correct! But remember the questions get harder as we go on, Sam.”
For the next three questions Ella blurted out a guess long before the caller could hazard a guess, and Steven tried to concentrate harder on the radio so as to ignore her.
“Ok, Sam, This is the final question. If you get this right, you win two thousand pounds! But remember now, this is serious Weezer trivia now.”
Steven sighed at the tedious broadcast which Ella was fascinated by.
“Ok, Sam. What is the name of the B-side to Weezer’s 1994 single “Undone”, which also featured on the soundtrack to Kevin Smith’s “Mallrats”?”
“SUZANNE!” yelled Ella, which prompted a most bizarre response from Steven.
He let out a short, surprised yelp, which then disintegrated into a sort of guilt filled gasp, before a heavy exhale. Ella suddenly lost interest in the show and began to eye him closely.
“Are you ok, Steven?”
“Yes.” He said unnaturally. He knew it in his head that he had revealed something to Ella, and her inquisitive persona was now going to slowly unravel it, no matter how painful it might be. He had to tighten up.
“So you said you knew Suzanne at school. Were you close?”
“Fairly. We got on well.”
“Is she a good kisser?” asked Ella candidly.
Steven was speechless, but his mouth fell open in the most obvious way.
“So you went out!” yelled Ella smugly. “Why’d you break up?”
“She moved away.” Said Steven coldly. “But we weren’t going out.”
“Sure. Sure.” Ella’s confidence was unbearable. How dare she act like this!
“I’m sleepy. I need a coffee.” Murmured Steven, urgent to get away from her and recover.
He pulled into a service station, and they both got out and she disappeared into the bathroom as he went to fetch his coffee. She knew about their past, but did she know about his plans? He sipped the warm black brew, but it only accelerated his thoughts. He sat down at a sticky table and noticed Ella at a fast food counter being handed a small greasy parcel. She opened it, took a bite, and walked over to him.
“Yep. Let’s go.” Said Steven automatically. Did she know? Would she try to stop him? Of course she would. She’s a bridesmaid! They both climbed back into the car and Steven sat motionless in the driver’s seat.
“We all good?” said Ella, smiling across at him.
“Think so,” he replied, once more on autopilot.
“So are you looking for closure, or…”
“Sorry Ella, could you put that wrapper in the bin before we go? I don’t want to get the car all greasy.”
“No problem,” she said, hastily chewing the final mouthful of her sandwich. She opened the door, climbed out, and began to run awkwardly towards the bin. She dropped the wrapper in, but when she turned, Steven had already reversed out of the parking pace, and was accelerating away.
He couldn’t take the risk. He was now alone, and nothing could stop him from confronting Suzanne. He shook violently as he went down the slip road, the memory of Ella’s middle finger in the rear view mirror still painfully clear. Only sixty more miles until Steven would face his beloved, for the first time in six years.