Here you can find examples of some of my short stories, many of which are featured in ‘Mr Pinkerton’ an anthology of twenty four stories.
Hope you like…!
Always the Bridesmaid.
My mother’s jaw dropped in horror! “But Jayne, this will be the third time you’ve been a bridesmaid and you know what they say, never the bride and all that!” Mum means well but you can’t turn down attending your best friend at her wedding just because of some ancient superstition, can you? Anyway, I don’t subscribe to such ideas, touch wood.
“Make sure you catch the bouquet…” Mum went on and on.
“Mum! That’s so old fashioned, and what makes you think I want to be the next one to be married? Twenty eight’s hardly on the shelf, is it?” I challenged her, only to receive one of those knowing looks and a wry smile. I knew when to concede to my mother’s wisdom and quickly changed the subject.
The wedding merry-go-round had begun with a vengeance and I found myself being dragged round every bridal shop in the city. But Rachel’s enthusiasm was infectious and I had to admit that I enjoyed our first few shopping trips, until about the fifth consecutive weekend. Yes, I was delighted for my friend, she and Gareth were so obviously made for each other, but I had other things to do during my precious weekend hours… well, I had been promising myself I’d re-grout the bathroom tiles for ages, and my library books were well overdue! Rachel had to understand that I had a life of my own. Each time she tried on a wedding dress she preened and sighed in front of the mirror,
“Do you think Gareth will like me in this one?” she enquired for the twenty something time. Perhaps here I should confess to feeling just a teeny bit jealous of my best friend. Rachel is as near perfect a specimen as anyone could wish to be; a consummate size ten, with obedient tresses of naturally blonde hair which framed her exquisite heart shaped face and set off her strikingly blue eyes. She would have looked incredible wearing a sack! What made me even more covetous was that her personality was every bit as beautiful as she was. Everyone loved her and deservedly so, she was the full package.
This being my third time as a bridesmaid, I was becoming something of an expert. The hen night was child’s play. No, literally, it was! With my considerable experience of organising such events, I had encountered many of the pitfalls that can happen when giggling girls and alcohol are mixed in large quantities. Rachel wasn’t into that kind of night out and begged me to stick to innocent fun with nothing embarrassing, so in my wisdom, I hired a rather large bouncy castle and then struggled to find an indoor venue to accommodate it! The local community centre eventually fitted the bill and we were all set, a couple of hours behaving like children, then a quiet meal at Rachel’s favourite Indian, simple, innocent fun. What could possibly go wrong?
The A&E department of the general hospital was extremely busy that Saturday night. Obviously if I had known that the bride-to-be was going to break her leg slipping off the bouncy castle, I would have chosen a quieter night. There were also as many alcohol fumes in the waiting area as there would have been had we settled on a night out clubbing, but Rachel was extremely gracious about it all and lay patiently on the hospital trolley, trying hard not to wince with pain. I think perhaps I was suffering more than she was. I certainly felt guilty knowing that her dream of walking down the aisle would never happen; a wheelchair takes some of the romance out of a wedding. Then I would have to face her parents, they had trusted me to look after Rachel and I had assured them that I would, and Gareth too. What he was going to say was best not to think about.
At least there was a week to become accustomed to the plaster cast before the wedding. The father of the bride would just have to push his daughter down the aisle and for some of the photographs we planned to prop Rachel up or at least disguise the chair with the voluminous fabric of the dress and sensitive angles and posing; the photographer seemed to relish the challenge. Gareth took care of the necessary changes to the honeymoon plans and the hotel happily changed their room to a ground floor suite.
On the plus side, Rachel had an unexpected full week off work before the wedding, which she actually needed to adjust to her newly limited mobility. I of course tried my best to be useful, and not only from a sense of guilt; I really wanted my friend to enjoy her day. On the Monday evening before the wedding, I arrived at Rachel’s house to help her decide the final seating plan for the reception, always a tricky business. She was playing around with place cards when I arrived and seemed to have most of the plan complete.
“There are just a few problems to iron out” she told me, “Mainly where to seat Uncle Harry.”
“Why?” I asked, “Is he difficult to get on with, halitosis, b.o. or two heads?”
“Oh no, nothing like that.” Rachel chuckled, “It’s just that he’s so painfully shy, we need to sit him with someone who’ll bring him out of his shell. He’s never married and has no one to bring to the wedding. Perhaps I’ll just put him with Aunt Gladys’s family, they’re a lively bunch!”
We soon had the seating plan all sorted out and I was all for opening a celebratory bottle of plonk when Rachel went all serious on me.
“Jayne, could I ask a big favour of you?”
She had me there didn’t she? How could I refuse her anything while I still felt terrible about the hen party?
“After the reception could you look after Uncle Harry for me? He’s such a dear and he’s on his own and… well you know, he’s so shy and everything, and you don’t have a partner for the evening reception do you? I wouldn’t ask, but he’s my favourite uncle and I haven’t seen him for ages. I need to know someone’s looking out for him.”
Great, I thought, just what I need, to be lumbered with a shy morose uncle! But of course, I smiled and agreed happily, just hoping he wasn’t the sort to get drunk and maudlin at family weddings.
All things considered, the week went pretty smoothly and eventually the big day arrived. I stayed overnight at Rachel’s house then we began the big day with a trip to the hairdressers. A little pampering was just the thing we needed to steady the nerves, then we returned, coiffed and manicured to perfection. Well, Rachel looked perfect even with the plaster cast. I, as usual, felt like plain Jayne in comparison, but I managed to stifle my own feelings to concentrate on the bride.
The sun shone, the service was meaningful and enough tears were shed to comply with tradition. Gareth looked extremely handsome in his tuxedo and Rachel, as ever, was stunning. The photographer did a really good job with the photos, positioning the happy couple in some quite romantic poses, you know the sort, he looking lovingly down as she gazed up into his eyes. It almost brought me to tears. And the reception certainly lived up to expectations. It was a fantastic country hotel, oozing with charm and character. Tea and sarnies would have been romantic in that setting, but the meal was out of this world. Three courses of pure ambrosia, I had to restrain myself from finishing off the bride’s untouched meal. (Could that be why she is so thin and I’m so…well, curvy?)
I was slightly distracted during the meal by table 3, where Aunt Gladys and her family sat with Uncle Harry. I recognised Gladys from some photos at Rachel’s house and also because she is the image of Rachel’s mum. Her family were all grown up and although I couldn’t remember their names, it didn’t matter, all I was interested in was Uncle Harry, I needed to know what to expect. As I looked around the table, I could identify Gladys’s two daughters, a giggly pair dressed in overkill, and her son, looking slightly embarrassed at his sisters’ behaviour. Uncle Harry sat opposite Gladys, slurping up his raspberry pavlova and cream as if he had been starved for a week, although he looked far from starved! To say he was portly would be kind, with a red bulbous nose which suggested he enjoyed his drink as well as his food. The lack of hair on his head was made up for in the bushy moustache which danced on his top lip as his jaws worked on his food. What had I let myself in for? Rachel had really dropped me in it; taking advantage of the guilt trip I was on to lumber me with the uncle from hell. Still, I owed her, I would do my duty.
The speeches were over and the cake ceremoniously carved up and passed round. The guests were beginning to relax after the delicious food and drink and alas, it was time for me to fulfil my promise. The hotel staff were busily clearing the tables, making ready for the evening buffet and disco when I spotted Uncle Harry sitting alone at the side of the room. I breathed deeply pulling myself up to my full 5’ 3’’height and marched over. Fixing a smile on my face, I offered my hand to Harry.
“Hi, you must be Rachel’s uncle, I’m Jayne…” I was about to ask how he was enjoying the wedding, when he opened his mouth and let out the most revolting belch, I had to resist the urge to turn and run, I did owe my friend.
“Better out than in, that. Aye lass, I’m Rachel’s uncle and I was hoping to have a little chat with the prettiest bridesmaid I’ve ever seen!”
Yuk, gross… did I really have to talk to this man? Then I looked across at Rachel in her wheelchair, wistfully watching as her guests began to dance. Not for her the pleasure of leading the dancing with her new husband. Okay, it was only for a few hours so I obediently sat beside that hulk of a man as he patted the empty seat next to him.
It only took about two minutes of Uncle Harry’s company for me to work out why he wasn’t married, but what I couldn’t for the life of me grasp was why Rachel had said he was her favourite uncle, but then she did say she hadn’t seen him for ages. Harry had two pints of beer on the table in front of him. As he downed the first, in one gulp, I glanced again at Rachel. She smiled and gave me a little wave; I bravely smiled back, trying to look as if I was having fun. It was going to be a long night.
I caught Rachel looking at me a few times in the next twenty minutes or so and she seemed as if something was bothering her. She must be feeling awful being an observer to the dancing at her own wedding. When Harry excused himself to go back to the bar, I moved over to talk to her.
“Are you okay?” I asked, praying that nothing was wrong.
“Yes, but I hoped you’d be giving some of your attention to Uncle Harry.” Rachel looked disappointed.
“I am” I replied, “He’s only gone to get another drink.”
“Oh no.” Rachel began to shake with laughter, “That’s not Harry, that’s Uncle Jim, Gladys’s husband. That’s Harry over there.” She pointed to the young man sitting in the far corner, studying the flowers on the wallpaper, the young man I had mistakenly thought to be Gladys’s son.
“But he’s not much older than you. How can he be your uncle?”
“He’s mum’s youngest brother, an afterthought as far as my grandparents were concerned. Did you really think I’d ask my best friend to babysit someone like Uncle Jim?”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I should have known it wasn’t in her nature to play a trick like that. Rachel took me over and introduced me to Harry. He was, thankfully, the complete opposite of Jim and as Rachel excused herself to return to her new husband, I sat beside Harry and the evening just got better and better. Underneath his shyness I found a kind, sensitive and interesting man. He loved his niece as I did, but we found we had much more in common. He was also rather gorgeous; I don’t know why he hadn’t been snapped up by some lucky girl.
I could hardly believe it was midnight, the evening had flown by in Harry’s company, and I was beginning to wish it would never end. It was time for the bride and groom to say goodbye to their guests and head off to an unknown destination. As Harry and I made our way to Rachel to wish her well, there was a flurry of activity and a rush of female guests heading towards the bride.
‘Oh no’ I thought, ‘she’s going to throw her bouquet.’ I turned to move away from the throng, determined not to even attempt to catch it, mainly for fear of living with my mother if I did. She would be unbearable. I smiled at Harry as I turned, but his attention was distracted and before I could drag him away, Harry had caught the bouquet. A cheer went up, and his face turned crimson. In his embarrassment, he quickly passed the flowers to me.
When I eventually managed to see Rachel, she had a wicked grin on her face.
“What do you think of Uncle Harry?” It was only then that I realised I had been set up, but I didn’t care in the slightest. I bent down to kiss my friend and said a quiet thank you.
“I can certainly see why he’s your favourite uncle.” I whispered.