Only fifty one more miles until the junction. Fifty eight until the church. Ninety minutes until the ceremony began. Steven was closing in on the wedding.
He fidgeted nervously as he drove, paying little attention to the road, and was now shaking violently with nerves. He tried to distract himself and think of other things, but the inevitable sight of Suzanne’s face when he told her his feelings kept edging back in.
While checking his left mirror after overtaking, he spotted something on the seat next to him. It was Ella’s bag. How had he not noticed? It was the evidence of his abandonment, and an uncomfortable remnant of the woman who may have known his intentions.
He put his hand into the bag and began to rummage around. He was relieved to find that both her phone and her wallet were inside. He rolled the window down, and tossed them out into the long grass of the verge. The rest of the contents were of little interest, so he chose not to eject them, and accelerated faster to put distance between himself and the phone.
The minutes passed excruciatingly slowly, but soon he found himself turning off the motorway, and driving along country lanes. A mixture of guilt, desire and desperation filled his mind, and he was suitably distracted that he almost hit another car on a thin section of the lane. Having pulled slightly onto the verge and slowed down, he accelerated once more, but soon found the car coughing, and coming to a halt.
His eyes darted to the fuel dial. What a fool he had been! He hadn’t filled up at the services because of Ella, and his desperate pace had run the vehicle dry. Was this it? Would he never be able to tell Suzanne that he loved her? Somehow he managed to find some calm in his turmoil, and left the car abandoned on the side of the road. He was only six or so miles from the church, and could see a house maybe a mile away, at the far side of the plain. He began taking large strides up the side of the road, paying close attention for the sound of approaching motors.
He had to tell her. Nothing could stop him.
While waiting for the kettle to boil, Freya sent off a text to her daughter, which simply read:
“Busy with Suz. Be down in a bit. Put dress on. Love you.”
The kettle clicked, she put the phone down on the bedside table, and went through to the bathroom with the hot cup of coffee. Holly was now in her dress, her hair and makeup done, attending to Suzanne’s hair.
Suzanne was obviously still struggling, but some of her energy had receded, and she now just looked very pale and tired. Freya poured a little tap water into the top of the mug to cool the coffee, and placed it in Suzanne’s hand.
“Drink this, Suze. It’ll help.”
She grunted approvingly, and began gulping down the coffee.
“Thank you guys.” She murmured, between mouthfuls, before closing her eyes, and screwing her face up into a ball.
“Do you need some ibuprofen, honey?” asked Freya. Holly, winding locks of Suzanne’s hair in her hands, nodded with authority. Freya scampered out of the room, along the landing to hers, where the box rested on top of her closed suitcase. She grabbed them, and began heading back, but increased her pace when she heard a desperate scream.
“Sorry Holly.” She could hear through the bathroom door.
Freya burst in, to see Suzanne crawling towards the toilet, and Holly standing in horrified silence, her mouth agape, looking at the long brown stain which extended from her waist down to the hem of the dress. Suzanne threw hair head over the toilet, and began vomiting once more. Freya instinctively went over and held her hair back, and looked back at Holly, who wasn’t sure how to express the anger and disgust she felt.
“Take the dress off,” ordered Freya, and Holly, knowing she was right left the room to do so.
Suzanne slumped back from the toilet and leant heavily against the wall.
“I’m so sorry.” She whispered, as she began to sob gently.
Freya fetched her a glass of water, and sat with her arm around Suzanne on the bathroom floor, listening to Holly stomping around in the other room.
Suddenly a loud rattling came from the bath. The girls both jumped, but soon recognised it as Suzanne’s phone, which she had left in the tub as she woke up.
Freya climbed quickly to her feet and checked the caller id: Mum
“It’s your mum!”
“Give it here!” said Suzanne, lifting herself onto her knees. She took the phone and meekly replied:
“Morning sweetheart! How’s it all going?” came Claire’s chipper voice.
“Well. All good here.” She said as Holly re-entered the room wearing her underwear and a baggy t shirt.
“Your Father and I are about ten minutes away. I can’t get hold of Alex, his phone must be off.”
“Alright Mum,” She said before quickly convulsing. Holly grabbed the phone from her as she turned to the toilet.
“Sorry Claire, We’re a bit busy with Suzanne’s makeup at the moment, she’ll talk to you when you arrive.”
The call ended, and Holly threw the phone through the open door onto the unmade bed.
“Suzanne, keep drinking water, Freya go get yourself ready, and find Ana, we’ll meet you at the church. I’ll try to clean the dress. We have one hour.”
The bridesmaids began zipping around, leaving the bride slumped on the cool tiles.
The more she sobered up, the more her doubts grew.
Alex stood outside the girls’ B&B smoking his final cigarette. He had agreed to meet the girls at 10:15, but it was in his nature to arrive at least ten minutes early. He was enjoying the calm of the country air, when suddenly he saw Luke, fully dressed in his wedding garb, bolting up the lane towards him.
He began to pace slowly towards him, and as he approached grabbed him by the arm.
“What’s the matter Luke?”
“I’ve got to talk to Suzanne.”
“No, you don’t.” Said Alex, in his usual deadpan manner.
“I have to.” He put his hands on his thighs and started panting desperately. “Her and Dean. I have to know.”
“Do you mean to say that your best man Dean, is the same Dean that-“
“Of course. Why didn’t you say anything!?” asked Luke, looking desperately up at him.
“You mustn’t talk to her. She’s busy, and besides, it’s bad luck.”
“I have to!”
Alex grabbed Luke by his shirt, pulled him close, and whispered through gritted teeth.
“You will not talk to her. Go have a drink. Calm down. See you at the church.”
He released Luke, and pushed him on his way. After a few steps, it was clear that Dean had followed him. When they met, Luke gave the exhausted Dean a hefty shove, and he fell to the tarmac. Luke walked back towards the pub, and Alex approached Dean.
“He’s a touchy little bitch, isn’t he?” said Dean as he climbed to his feet.
Alex said nothing, but dispatched a punch which left Dean back on the floor, with blood pouring from his nose.
“If you do one more thing which might derail this wedding, I’ll kill you.” Said Alex with terrifying calm. Dean let out a deep groan, and his attacker turned away to return to the B&B.
“We have an agreement then.”
Ana sat in her dress, ready to leave, in an easy chair in the lounge of the B&B. She was skim reading a novel which failed to fully hold her attention, and waiting for her mother to take her to the church. She had texted earlier, but had said nothing about when she might be ready, so Ana was left in a disinterested limbo.
A tired looking woman entered the lounge in an elegant green dress which matched her eyes.
“Are you Ana?” she asked abruptly.
“Yes,” replied Ana, looking up nervously.
“Your Mum just texted and said she’s still busy with Suzanne. I’m Luke’s sister, and she’s asked me to take you to the church.”
“Ok. Are you part of the wedding party?” asked Ana innocently.
“No.” she replied sternly. “Just a guest.”
Ana followed her out of the room, through the dining room and out onto the street.
At this moment, two young hearts leapt. Ana and Robbie had set eyes on each other, and they both produced awkward smiles.
“Ana, this is my son Robbie.”
“Hello Robbie,” said Ana quietly, looking nervously down at the floor.
They began walking up the lane towards the church, and quite soon there was a phone ring from Robbie’s mother’s clutch. She took the call, and strode ahead for privacy, leaving Ana and Robbie alone.
They walked on in silence, both occasionally glancing across at the other. At one point, their eyes met briefly before reverting quickly to the tarmac.
“Thank you for walking me to the church.” Said Ana, trying to break the silence.
“It’s alright,” murmured Robbie. “So where do you live?”
“Fenstanton. Not far from here.”
“My uncle lives there. Careful of this car.”
There was a car making its way slowly up the street behind them, and as they were walking down the centre of the lane, they both edged towards the stone wall on the right side of the road, shifting over at a similar speed, although when Robbie stopped a few inches from the wall, Ana kept moving. They continued walking, and as the car passed, Ana’s hand hit Robbie’s, and they both looked across at each other.
Their eyes immediately darted back down, and the shivers of contact began to settle. Ana felt strangely guilty. It was an accident, but she still felt uncomfortable. She wanted to hold his hand, but didn’t want to scare him, and she felt that she had. How could she tell him she liked being around him? And how could she tell if he felt the same?
Robbie had never felt like he did at that moment. The blood pumped around his veins with desperate excitement, and he wanted nothing more than to touch her hand once more, maybe even embrace her. Should he tell her how he felt? Were such desires to be expressed or buried? He was too young to know. As he walked on he realised he couldn’t hold it in much longer, and vowed that he would tell her at the church.
He thought it scarcely possible, but as he confirmed it in his mind, his blood raced even faster.