Steven strode purposefully along the lane. He had nothing left to lose, and the house at the edge of the forest was now only a few metres away. He didn’t know quite what he intended to do, but he knew he had to get to the wedding and tell Suzanne how he felt. He slowed slightly as he approached in order to eye up his possibilities, and on seeing a large 4×4 tucked around the far side of the house he sped up once more.
He went over to inspect the vehicle, checking carefully that no one was looking on from the windows. He located the fuel cap, and was pleased to see it pop open easily. There was no lock on the lid of the tank, and as he began to unscrew, he felt the soothing scent of petrol around him.
He began to look around again. He still needed a tube of some sort for siphoning, and something to catch the liquid from the end of the tube. Seeing nothing, he quietly opened the wooden gate behind the car, and wandered into the back garden. All of the windows seemed clear, and as soon as he had checked this he saw a watering can propped up against a small shed. He went to fetch it, and from the far side of the garden, he spotted a hose leaving a tap on the back wall of the house.
He went over to the hose, and began to follow its path across the garden. It left the wall, crossed the path he stood on, before diving beneath the soil for irrigation. Digging it up would be quite a job, and it was most likely pierced so as to allow the soil to moisten. He could cut off the first metre or so, but he had nothing sharp, and unless the fuel tank was full, it wouldn’t be long enough to set up a siphon.
He cursed his luck, and began to look for another tube, but soon saw something which brought a wry smile to his face. How hadn’t he seen it before? A green framed bicycle was leant up against the opposite side of the shed to where he had found the watering can. He went over to take it, but was once again left rueing his misfortune, as he saw that both tires were hopelessly flat. Why have a bike if you can’t use it!
The shed was locked, so there was no hope of finding a pump, and he decided that his best chance of making the ceremony was simply to stop wasting time and keep on walking. He left the garden, walked past the 4×4, flipping the fuel cap down as he went. He looked back at the house, and disappointedly turned back to the road.
He took a couple of steps, but stopped dead in his tracks as he heard the unmistakable sound of a window opening.
“Can I help you?” Came the gentle female voice. He turned to face the woman, whom he instantly deemed to be slower than him if she were to give chase.
“No, it’s just my cars broken down, and I’m late for a wedding. How far is it until Tilton?”
“At least an hours walk, dear. Do you want a lift?”
Steven was speechless for a moment. “That would be fantastic!”
The woman left the window, and after a few moments, emerged from the front door with keys in her hand. They both climbed into the car, and in seconds they were on their way.
He had done it. Steven was going to make the wedding, and he was going to meet his appointment with destiny. He was only in the car for around five minutes before he started seeing people in elegant dress who were obviously heading for the church.
“Oh look at those two,” said the driver gesturing to a young boy and girl walking up the lane in their wedding attire.
“Adorable,” said Steven distractedly.
They came to the crossroads which formed the centre of the village, and the car stopped.
“I’ll drop you here because it’s hard to turn around at the bottom of the lane,” said the woman gesturing towards the church.
“I cannot thank you enough.” Steven was genuinely affected by the woman’s kindness.
“No problem, dear. Enjoy the wedding!”
Steven alighted and began slowly walking towards the church gate. He had made it.
Robbie and Ana had arrived at the church. Maybe he should tell her after the ceremony? But no, he had to get this peculiar weight off his chest. The two of them now stood outside the main door, and soon she began to lean on the church wall. She was smiling gently, just happy to be in Robbie’s company, and also excited for the day’s festivities.
“Ana I have something to say.”
“Go on then,” said Ana, now smiling broadly due to Robbie’s bizarre opening.
“I don’t know why but I feel weird around you. And I -”
“Good weird or bad weird?
“Good weird. I can’t explain it, I just like being around you, and I’d like to hold your hand.”
She smiled, looked down at her feet, and was ready to reply when a shadow fell on the wall.
“Well Ana! You look beautiful! Do you want me to do your hair like I did last week?” came Freya’s chirpy voice.
“Ooh yes!” replied Ana dashing off.
Robbie was perturbed by her keenness to leave and the nonchalance of her whole demeanour. She hadn’t had time to reply, but she could have made an excuse. She could have nodded. Anything she might have done would have hurt less than mere distraction.
He had never felt so small as he begrudgingly went to take his place at the front of the hall.
“Half of something cool and refreshing,” said Luke, sitting himself on a stool at the bar.
“Stella?” came the reply, which received an appreciative nod.
The barmaid turned, picked up a glass and began to pour. Luke’s anger was subsiding.
He loved Suzanne, and she loved him, so there must be a reasonable explanation why she hadn’t told him about her and Dean’s dalliance. He took a sip from the glass, and sighed pleasantly at the cool fizz hit the back of his throat.
He rested himself on the counter and began to feel rather excited about the wedding once more. He was nervous, but he knew he was doing the right thing, so his doubts were replaced by a strong exhilaration.
“Pint of Guinness and a double Bell’s.” came a hoarse voice from down the bar. Luke recognised the voice, and turned to see Dean, mopping his face with napkins from the bar, a large dusty streak down the shoulder of his suit.
“Alright Luke?” he replied, lifting an arm to wave.
“What happened?” asked Luke, dropping from his stool to confront him.
“Alex. Bit of a prick isn’t he?”
“Alex did this to you?”
“Yeah. Probably just a bit of best man, usher banter. I’ll be alright.”
Fury rose up in Luke.
“I’ve had just about enough of that wretched little man!” he shouted, slamming his glass on the counter, and heading for the door.
“He’s not worth it Luke!” Dean shouted after him, before smiling at the arrival of his drinks. He held the condensation covered glass to his face for a few seconds, took the whiskey, and then emptied the pint.
“Thanks love.” He said, lifted himself uncomfortably from the chair to follow Luke.
Suzanne had sobered up considerably in the last twenty minutes, and a harsh wall of pain was spreading across her temples and down towards her dry eyes. She had brushed her teeth, applied basic makeup, and tied her hair functionally behind her head. It wouldn’t be visible for the veil until the reception, so she would get Holly to fix it later on.
“It’s no use!” said Holly bursting into the room. “It just won’t come out.”
She was referring to the large brown stain on the lilac dress. It now had less defined edges, but was still distinctly brown, and spread across most of the front of the dress.
“Holly, I’m not sure I want to get married.” Said Suzanne quietly as she unzipped the dress bag.
“What?! But you do love Luke, don’t you?” replied Holly with surprise.
“I do, it’s just why did I do what I did last night? I’m just not sure.”
At this point there was a knock at the bedroom door.
“Who’s there?” demanded Holly, now exhausted from the rollercoaster ride of a morning.
“Alex. You’re late.”
“Come in Alex.” Said Suzanne.
“Why aren’t you dressed?” he asked staring desperately at the two women.
“There’s been an incident with my dress.” Said Holly, gesturing towards the bed where it lay.
“It needn’t be a problem, you can just be a member of the congregation.”
“What? No!” shouted Holly.
“It’s too late for us to be caring about you, when Suzanne isn’t even dressed. I’m sure she’ll manage with two bridesmaids.”
“Where’s Ella?” interjected Suzanne. Large, warm tears had started tumbling down Holly’s face, and embarrassed by this display, she ran into the bathroom and slammed the door behind her.
“Flakey Ella? Never mind her. Put the dress on, and let’s get going.”
“I’m not sure I want to. I…”
There was a short silence, which broke with his commanding voice:
“You have to go. You love Luke, he loves you, everyone’s waiting. There’s nothing more to it.”
“But…” murmured Suzanne, going to sit on the bed.
“You have to go. You’ll regret it if you don’t.”
“Why does it mean so much to you?” asked Suzanne meekly.
“It doesn’t.” replied Alex, now quite angry. ”I just want to see you happy, and I don’t think you’re making the right decision.”
She had no reply. He pulled the dress from the hanger, handed it to her, and went to wait outside.
“You’ve five minutes.”
The truth was that it did mean a lot to Alex. With the collapse of his parents’ marriage, and his own loneliness, he had to prove that love could be true, and be a success. He couldn’t say this though, partly because he was too proud, but also because he himself couldn’t really understand why it meant so much to him.
Alex strode back towards the church, and five minutes later Suzanne emerged, and climbed into the car which would take her down the lane, to make her final appearance as an unmarried woman.
It was happening. The wedding was going ahead.