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  1. 1. Also by Sophie KinsellaTHE SECRET DREAMWORLD OF A SHOPAHOLICSHOPAHOLIC ABROADand published by Black Swan
  2. 2. ShopaholicTies the KnotSophie KinsellaBLACK SWAN
  3. 3. SHOPAHOLIC TIES THE KNOTA BLACK SWAN BOOK : 0 552 99957 1First publication in Great BritainPRINTING HISTORYBlack Swan edition published 200213579108642Copyright � Sophie Kinsella 2002The right of Sophie Kinsella to be identified as the author ofthis work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and78 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.All the characters in this book are fictitious,and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead,is purely coincidental.Condition of SaleThis book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not,by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out orotherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than thatin which it is published and without a similar condition includingthis condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.Set in 11/12pt Melior byKestrel Data, Exeter, Devon.Black Swan Books are published by Trausworld Publishers,61-63 Uxbridge Road, London W5 5SA,a division of The Random House Group Ltd,in Australia by Random House Australia (Pty) Ltd,20 Alfred Street, Milsons Point, Sydney, NSW 2061, Australia,in New Zealand by Random House New Zealand Ltd,18 Poland Road, Glenfield, Auckland 10, New Zealandand in South Africa by Random House (Pty) Ltd,
  4. 4. Endulini, 5a Jubilee Road, Parktown 2193, South Africa.Printed and bound in Great Britain byClays Ltd, St Ives plc.
  5. 5. For Abigail, who would have foundthe brilliant solution in a flash.
  6. 6. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSWriting this book was tremendous fun; researchingeven more so. I am exceedingly grateful to all, both iBritain and in the States, who allowed me to come anask them lots of stupid questions and gave me so mucinspiration.My thanks to Lawrence Harvey at the Plaza, who coulnot have been more helpful, and to the ever wonderflSharyn Soleimani at Barneys. Also to Ron BenIsraElizabeth and Susan Allen, Fran Bernard, Prest(Bailey, Claire Mosley, Joe Dance at Crate and BarrJulia Kleyner and Lillian Sabatelli at Tiffany, ChariotCurry at Brides, Robin Michaelson, Theresa Ward, GtLancaster and Kate Mailer, David Stefanou and JasAntony and lovely Lola Bubbosh.A million thanks, as always, to my wonderful age:Araminta Whitley and to Celia Hayley, to the endlesssupportive and encouraging Linda Evans, and of courto Patrick PlonkingtonSmythe.And lastly to the people whove been there all the wthrough. Henry, Freddy and Hugo, and the purpposse. You know who you are.
  7. 7. NEW YORK NY 10005Miss Rebecca BloomwoodApt B251 W 11th StreetNew YorkNY 100147 November 2001Dear Miss BloomwoodNew Joint Account No: 5039 2566 2319We are pleased to confirm your new joint bank account withMr Luke J Brandon, and enclose explanatory documentation.A debit card will be sent to you under separate cover.We at Second Union Bank continually pride ourselves on ourhighly individual approach to clients. Please contact mepersonally at any time if you have a query, and I will help inany way I can. No matter is too small for .my attention.With kind regardsYours sincerelyWalt PitmanHead of Customer Services
  8. 8. SECOND UNION BANK300 WALL STREETNEW YORK NY 10005Miss Rebecca BloomwoodApt B251 W 11th StreetNew YorkNY 1001412 December 2001Dear Miss BloomwoodThank you for your letter of 9 December regarding your jointaccount with Mr Luke J Brandon. I agree the relationshipbetween bank and client should be one of friendship andco-operation, and in answer to your question, my favoritecolor is red.I regret however, I am unable to reword entries on yourforthcoming statement as you request. The particular debititem you refer to will appear on your next statement asPrada, New York. It cannot be changed to Gas bill.Yours sincerelyWalt PitmanHead of Customer Relations
  9. 9. SECOND UNION BANK300 WALL STREETNEW YORK NY 10005Miss Rebecca BloomwoodApt B251 W 11th StreetNew YorkNY 100147 January 2002Dear Miss BloomwoodThank you for your letter of 4 January regarding your jointaccount with Mr Luke J Brandon, and for the chocolates,which I must return. I agree it is difficult to keep tabs onevery tiny purchase, and was sorry to hear that the odd littlemisunderstanding had arisen between you.Unfortunately, it is impossible to split the statement in half asyou suggest, sending half to yourself and half to Mr Brandonand keeping it our little secret. All income and outgoingsare itemized jointly.This is why it is called a joint account.Yours sincerely,Walt PitmanHead of Customer Relations
  10. 10. OneOK. Dont panic. I can do this. It is definitely possible.Its simply a question of maneuvering a bit to theleft, and hefting up a little, and pushing a bit morefirmly... I mean, come on. Just how hard can it be tofit a cocktail cabinet into a New York taxicab?I grip the polished wood more resolutely, take a deepbreath and give another fruitless shove. Its a blue-skiedwinters day in Greenwich Village, the kind when theair feels like toothpaste and every breath makes yougasp, and people walk around muffled behind scarves.But Im sweating. My face is scarlet and my hair hasfallen out of my new Cossack hat in front af my eyesand Im aware that on the other side of the road, all thepeople sitting on the window seats of Jo-Jos cafe arewatching me with amusement.But Im not going to give up. I just know this willwolk.It has to, because no way am I paying some hugedelivery charge when I only live round the corner.Its not gonna fit. The taxi driver pokes his head outof the window and gives me a matter-of-fact look.It will! Ive got the first two legs in . . . I give adesperate push. If I could just force the other two legsin somehow. This is like taking a dog to the vet.Plus Im not insured, he adds.That doesnt matter! Its only a couple of streetsaway. Ill hold it all the way. Itll be fine. The taxi
  11. 11. driver raises his eyebrows and picks at his teeth with agrimy toothpick.You think youre going to fit in as well as that thing?Ill squash up! Ill do it somehow! In frustration Igive the cocktail cabinet another push, and it jamsagainst the front seat.Hey! You damage my cab, you pay for it.Im sorry, I say breathlessly. OK, look, Ill startagain. I think I just came at it from the wrong angle - As carefully as I can, I lift the front end of the cocktailcabinet out of the taxi and back onto the pavement.What the hell is that, anyway?Its a 1930s cocktail cabinet! Look, the top comesdown... I unhook the front flap and with a twinge ofpride, display the mirrored art deco fittings inside.This is where you put your glasses . . . and there aretwo fitted cocktail shakers...I run an admiring hand over it again. The minute Ispotted it in the window of Arthurs Antiques, I justknew I had to have it. I mean, I know Luke and I had alittle agreement about not buying any more furniturefor the apartment - but this is different, surely. A realcocktail cabinet, just like in Fred Astaire and GingerRogers films! Its going to completely transform ourevenings. Every night, Luke and I will mix martinis,and dance to old-fashioned songs, and watch the sungo down. Itll be so atmospheric! Well have to buy oneof those old-fashioned record players with the bighorns, and start collecting 78s, and Ill start wearinggorgeous vintage tea dresses.And maybe people will start dropping by for cocktailsevery night. Well become known for our wittysoirees. The New York Times will run a piece on us!Yes! The cocktail hour has been reinvented with anelegant twist in the West Village. Stylish expat British couple Rebecca Bloomwoodand Luke Brandon . . .Theres a clunking sound as the taxi door opens andI look up in a slight daze to see the driver getting out.Oh, thanks, I say gratefully. I could do with some14
  12. 12. help. Maybe if youve got some rope we could tie itonto the roof...No roof. No ride. He slams the passenger door and Istare in horror as he gets back into the drivers seat.You cant just drive away! Its the law! You have totake me. The Mayor says so!The Mayor dont say nothing about cocktailcabinets. He rolls his eyes and starts the engine.But how am I going to get it home? I cry indignantly.Wait! Come back! But the taxis already zooming offdown the street, and Im left on the pavement, clutchingthe cabinet, wondering what to do next.Right. Think laterally. Maybe I could carry it home.Its not so far.I extend my arms as far as I can, and manage to getmy hands round both ends of the cabinet. Slowly Iraise it off the ground, take a step forward - andimmediately drop it again. God, thats heavy. I thinkIve pulled a muscle.OK, so maybe I wont carry it. But I can still easily getit home. If I just move one set of legs forward a coupleof inches.., then the other...Yes. This will definitely work. Its a tad slow, but if Ijust keep going.., if I get into a rhythm...Left side forward.., right side forward...The trick is not to worry about how much ground Imcovering but just to keep making steady progress. Illprobably be home in no time.A pair of teenage girls in padded coats walk past meand giggle, but Im too intent to react.Left side forward.., right side forward...Excuse me, comes a sharp, harassed voice. Couldyou please stop blocking the sidewalk? I turn round and,to my horror, see a woman in a baseball cap andsneakers approaching with about ten dogs on leads, alldifferent shapes and sizes.Oh God. What I dont understand is, why can peoplenot walk their own dogs? I mean, if you dont likewalking, why not get a cat? Or a tank of tropical fish?15
  13. 13. And now theyre upon me. All yapping and barkingand twisting their leads . . . and I dont believe it! Apoodles lifting its leg against my beautiful cocktailcabinet!Stop it! I shriek. Get that dog away!Come on Flo, says the woman and shoots me abaleful look as she drags the dogs away.Oh this is hopeless. Just look how far Ive got. Ihavent even reached the edge of the Arthurs Antiquesshop window yet, and Im exhausted.So, comes a dry voice behind me. Perhaps youdlike it delivered after all?I look round to see Arthur Graham, who ownsArthurs Antiques, leaning against the door flame of hisshop, dapper in a jacket and tie.Im not sure. I lean against the cocktail cabinet,trying to look unconcerned. As though I have plenty ofother options, including just staying here on the pavementfor a while. Possibly.Seventy-five dollars, anywhere in Manhattan.But Im not anywhere in Manhattan! I want to wail.Im just round the corner!Arthur smiles implacably at me. He knows hes won.OK. At last I admit defeat. That might be a goodidea.I watch as Arthur summons a man in jeans, whoannoyingly comes and lifts up the cabinet as though itsmade of paper - then follow them both into the warm,cluttered interior of the shop, where I find myselflooking around again, even though I was only in hereten minutes ago. I just adore this place. Everywhereyou turn, theres something you might want. Like thatfantastic carved chair, and a hand-painted velvet throw. . and look at that amazing grandfather clock! Everysingle day, there are new things in here.Not that I come in here every day.Im just.., you know. Guessing.Youve made an excellent buy there, says Arthur,gesturing to the cocktail cabinet. You clearly have a16
  14. 14. very good eye. He smiles at me, and writes somethingon a ticket.Im not so sure about that, I reply, with a modestshrug.Although I suppose the truth is, I do have rather agood eye. I used to watch Antiques Road Show everySunday with Mum, so I expect some of the expertisesank in.Thats a fine piece, I say knowledgeably, noddingtowards a big gilt-flamed mirror.Ah yes, says Arthur. Modern, of course...Of course, I say hurriedly.Obviously I could tell it was modern. I just meant itwas a fine piece bearing in mind it was modern.Are you interested in 1930s barware to complement the cabinet? Artl]ur looks up.Highballs . . . pitchers.. We get some lovely pieces in.Ooh yes! I beam at him. Definitely!1930s highballs! I mean, who wants to drink fromsome crappy modern glass when you can have anantique?Arthur is opening his big leather book markedCollectors and I feel a slight glow of pride. Im acollector! Im grownup!Miss R. Bloomwood . . . 1930s barware. I have yournumber, so if we get anything in, Ill call. Arthursurveys the page. I see from this that youre alsointerested in Venetian glass vases?Oh! Erm... yes.Id kind of forgotten about, collecting Venetian vases.In fact Im not even sure where that first one has got to.Also nineteenth-century watch fobs Hesrunning his finger down the list. Shaker moulds . . .needlepoint cushions . . . He looks up. Are these allstill active interests?Well . . . I clear my throat. To be honest, Im not quite so into the watchfobs any more. Or the Shakerthings.I see. And the Victorian jam spoons?
  15. 15. 17
  16. 16. Jam spoons? What on earth did I ever want a load ofold jam spoons for?You know what? I say thoughtfully. I think Ill juststick to 1930s barware from now on. Build up a reallygood collection.I think youre wise. He smiles at me and startscrossing things off the list. See you again.As I come out of the shop into the street, its freezingcold and single flakes of snow are drifting down fromthe sky. But Im glowing all over with satisfaction. Imean, what a fantastic investment. A genuine 1930scocktail cabinet - and soon Ill have a barware collectionto match! Im so pleased with myself.Now, what was it I came out for again?Oh yes. Two cappuccinos.Weve been living together in New York now for a year,and our apartment is on West 11th Street, in the reallynice leafy, atmospheric bit. There are ornate littlebalconies on all the houses, and stone steps up toall the front doors, and trees all along the pavement.Right opposite us lives someone who plays jazzpiano, and on summer evenings we stroll up to the roofterrace which we share with our neighbours, and sit oncushions and drink wine and listen. (At least, we didthat one time.)As I let myself into the house, theres a pile of postfor us in the hall, and I quickly flick through it.Boring...Boring...British Vogue! Ha!Boring...Oh. My Saks Fifth Avenue store-card bill.I look at the envelope for a moment, then remove itand put it in my bag. Not because Im hiding it. Simplybecause theres no particular point in Luke seeing it. this really good magazine article recently, entitledToo Much Information? in which it said you shouldfilter out the days events rather than tell your partner18
  17. 17. every single tiny thing and overload his or her wearymind. It said your home should be a sanctuary, andthat no-one needs to know everything. Which, whenyou think about it, makes a lot of sense.So Ive been filtering out quite a lot recently. Justtedious, mundane little things like well, likestore-card bills, and the exact price I paid for a pair ofshoes . . . And you know, the theory must be right,because its made quite a big difference to our relationship.I put the rest of the post under my arm and start towalk up the stairs. There arent any letters from England,but then, I wouldnt expect there to be today.Because tonight.., guess what? Were flying home! Formy best friend Suzes wedding! I just cant wait.Shes marrying Tarquin, whos a really sweet guyshes known all her life. (In fact, hes her cousin. Butits legal. They checked.) The weddings going to be ather parents house in Hampshire, and theres going tobe loads of champagne, and a horse and carriage . . .and best of all, Im going to be bridesmaid!At the thought, I feel a pang of yearning inside. Im solooking forward to it. Not just being bridesmaid - butseeing Suze, my parents and my home. It occurred tome yesterday I havent been back to Britain for oversix months, which suddenly seems like a really longtime. I completely missed Dad getting elected captainof the golf club, which Was his life ambition. And Imissed the scandal when Siobhan at the church stolethe roof money and used it to go to Cyprus. And worstof all, I missed Suze getting engaged - although shecame out to New York two weeks later to show meher ring.Its not that I mind exactly, becauseIm having sucha great time out here. My job at Barneys is perfect, andliving in the West Village is perfect. I love walkingthrough the tiny tucked-away streets, and buying cupcakesat the Magnolia bakery on Saturday morningsand walking back through the market. Basically, I love19
  18. 18. everything I have here in New York. Except possiblyLukes mother.But still. Your homes your home.As I reach the second floor, theres music coming fromthe door of our apartment, and I feel a little fizz ofanticipation inside. Thatll be Danny, working away.Hell probably have finished by now! My dress will beready!Danny Kovitz lives upstairs from us, in his brothersapartment, and hes become one of my best friendssince Ive been living in New York. Hes a fabulousdesigner, really talented - but hes not all that successfulyet.Well, to be honest, hes not successful at all. Fiveyears after leaving fashion school, hes still waiting forhis big break to come along. But, like he always says,making it as a designer is even harder than making it asan actor. If you dont know the right people or have anex-Beatle as a father, you might as well forget it. I feelso sorry for him, because he really does deserve tosucceed. So as soon as Suze asked me to be herbridesmaid, I asked him to make my dress. The greatthing is, Suzes wedding is going to be stuffed full ofrich, important guests. So hopefully loads of peoplewill ask me who my dress is by, and then a wholeword-of-mouth buzz will start, and Danny will bemade!I just cant wait to see what hes done. All thesketches hes shown me have been amazing - andof course, a hand-made dress will have far moreworkmanship and detail than youd get off thepeg. Like the bodice is going to be a boned, handembroidered corset - and Danny suggested putting in atiny beaded love-knot using the birthstones of all thebridal party, which is just so original.My only slight worry - tiny niggle - is the weddingsin two days time, and I havent actually tried it on yet.Or even seen it. This morning I rang his doorbell to20
  19. 19. remind him I was leaving for England today, and afterhed eventually staggered to the door, he promisedme hed have it finished by lunchtime. He told me healways lets his ideas ferment until the very last minute- then he gets a surge of adrenalin and inspiration, andworks incredibly quickly. Its just the way he works, heassured me, and hes never missed a deadline yet.I open the door, and call Hello! cheerfully. Theresno response, so I push open the door to our all-purposeliving room. The radio is blaring Madonna, the televisionis playing MTV, and Dannys novelty robot dogis trying to walk up the side of the sofa.And Danny is slumped over his sewing machine in acloud of gold silk, fast asleep.Danny? I say in dismay. Hey, wake up!With a start, Danny sits up and rubs his thin face. Hiscurly hair is rumpled, and his pale blue eyes are evenmore bloodshot than they were when he answered thedoor this morning. His skinny frame is clad in an oldgrey T-shirt and a bony knee is poking out of his rippedjeans, complete with a scab which he got rollerbladingat the weekend. He looks like a ten-year-old withstubble.Becky! he says blearily. Hi! What are you doinghere?This is my apartment. Remember? You were workingdown here because your electricity fused.Oh. Yeah. He looks around dazedly. Right.Are you OK? I peer at him anxiously. I got somecoffee.I hand him a cup and he takes a couple of deepgulps. Then his eyes land on the pile of post in myhand and for the first time, he seems to wake up.Hey, is that British Vogue?Er . . . yes, I say, putting it down where he cantreach it. So - hows the dress doing?Its going great! Totally under control.Can I try it on yet?Theres a pause. Danny looks at the mound of gold. "21
  20. 20. silk in front of him as though hes never seen it beforein his life.Not yet, no, he says at last.But it will be ready in time?Of course! Absolutely. He puts his foot down andthe sewing machine starts whirring busily. You knowwhat? he says over the noise. I could really do with aglass of water.Coming up!I hurry into the kitchen, turn on the tap, and waitfor the cold to come through. The plumbing in thisbuilding is a little bit eccentric, and were always on atMrs Watts, the owner, to fix it. But she lives miles awayin Florida, and doesnt really seem interested. Andother than that, the place is completely wonderful.Our apartment is huge by New York standards, withwooden floors and a fireplace, and enormous floor-toceiling windows.(Of course, Mum and Dad werent at all impressedwhen they came over. First they couldnt understandwhy we didnt live in a house. Then they couldntunderstand why the kitchen was so small. Then theystarted saying wasnt it a shame we didnt have agarden, and did I know that Tom next door had movedinto a house with a quarter of an acre? Honestly. If youhad a quarter of an acre in New York, someone wouldjust put up ten office blocks on it.)OK! So hows it-- I walk back into the living roomand break off. The sewing machine has stopped, andDannys reading my copy of Vogue.Danny! I wail. What about my dress?Did you see this? says Danny, jabbing at thepage. "Hamish Fargles collection demonstrated hiscustomary flair and wit," he reads aloud. Give me abreak! He has zero talent. Zero. You know, he was atschool with me. Totally ripped off one of my ideas--He looks up at me, eyes narrowed. Is he stocked atBarneys?Erm... I dont know, I lie.22
  21. 21. Danny is completely obsessed with being stocked atBarneys. Its the only thing he wants in the world. Andjust because I work there as a personal shopper, heseems to think I should be able to arrange meetingswith the head buyer for him.In fact, I have arranged meetings with the head buyerfor him. The first time, he arrived a week late for theappointment and shed gone to Milan. The second time,he was showing her a jacket and as she tried it on, allthe buttons fell off.Oh God. What was I thinking of, asking him to makemy dress?Danny, just tell me. Is my dress going to be ready?Theres a long pause.Does it actually have to be ready for today? saysDanny at last. Like literally today?Im catching a plane in six hours! My voice risesto a squeak. Ive got to walk down the aisle in lessthan . . . I break off and shake my head. Look, dontworry. Ill wear something else.Something else? Danny puts down Vogue and staresat me blankly. What do you mean, something else?Well...Are you firing me? He looks as though Ive told himour ten-year marriage is over. Just because Ive run atad over schedule?Im not firing you! But I mean, I cant be a bridesmaidwithout a dress, can I?But what else would you wear?Well . . . I twist my fingers awkwardly. I do havethis one little reserve dress in my wardrobe...I cant tell him Ive actually got three. And two onhold at Barneys.By whom?Er... Donna Karan, I say guiltily.Donna Karan? His voice cracks with betrayal. Youprefer Donna Karan to me?Of course not! But I mean, at least its there, theseams are actually sewn...
  22. 22. 23
  23. 23. Wear my dress.Danny--Wear my dress! Please! He throws himself down onthe floor and walks towards me on his knees. Itll beready. Ill work all day and all night.We havent got all day and all night! Weve got about .. three,ours.Then 111 work all three hours. Ill do it!You can really make a boned embroidered corsetfrom scratch in three hours? I say incredulously.Danny looks abashed.So . . . um . . . we may have to rethink the designvery slightly...In what way?He drums his fingers for a few moments, then looksup. Do you have a plain white T-shirt?A T-shirt? I cant hide my dismay.Itll be great. I promise. Theres the sound of a vanpulling up outside and he glances out of the window.Hey, did you buy another antique?An hour later I stare at myself in the mirror. Imwearing a full sweeping skirt made of gold silk - toppedby my white T-shirt, which is now completely unrecognizable.Dannys ripped off the sleeves, sewn onsequins, gathered hems, created lines where there werenone - and basically turned it into the most fantastictop Ive ever seen.I love it. I beam at Danny. I love it! Ill be the coolestbridesmaid in the world!Its pretty good, isnt it? Danny gives a casual shrug,but I can see hes pleased with himself.I take another gulp of my cocktail, draining the glass.Delicious. Shall we have another one?What was in that?Erm . . . I squint vaguely at the bottles lined up onthe cocktail cabinet. Im not sure.It took a while to get the cocktail cabinet up the stairs
  24. 24. and into our apartment. To be honest, its a bit bigger24
  25. 25. han I remembered, and Im not sure itll fit into thatlittle alcove behind the sofa, where Id planned to putit. But still, it looks fantastic! Its standing proudly inthe middle of the room, and weve already put it togood use. As soon as it arrived, Danny went upstairs and raided his brotherRandalls drinks cupboard, and Igot all the booze I could find in the kitchen. Weve hada Margarita each and a Gimlet, and my invention calledthe Bloomwood, which consists of vodka, orange andM&Ms, which you scoop out with a spoon.Give me the top again. I want to pull in that shouldertighter.I peel off the top, hand it to him, and reach for myjumper, not bothering about trying to be modest. Imean, this is Danny. He threads a needle and startsexpertly gathering along the hem of the T-shirt. So,these weird cousin-marrying friends of yours, he says.Whats that about?Theyre not weird! I hesitate for a moment. Well,OK, Tarquin is a tiny bit weird. But Suze isnt at allweird. Shes my best friend! Danny raises an eyebrow.So - couldnt they find anyone else to marry exceptfrom their own family? Was it like, "OK, Moms taken .. my sister, too fat.., thedog.., mm, dont like thehair..." Stop it! I cant help giggling. They just suddenlyrealized they were meant for each other.Like When Harry Met Sally. He puts on a film-trailervoice. They were friends. They came from the samegene pool.Danny...OK. He relents, and snips off the thread. So, whatabout you and Luke?What about us?Dyou think youll get married?!I . . . I have no idea! I say, feeling a slight colourcoming to my cheeks. I cant say its ever crossed mymind.Which is completely true.25t
  26. 26. Well, OK. Its not completely true. Maybe it has crossedmy mind on the very odd occasion. Maybe just a coupleof times Ive doodled Becky Brandon on my notepadto see what it looked like. And I might possiblyhave flicked through Martha Stewart Weddings once ortwice. Just out of idle curiosity.Perhaps, also, its occurred to me that Suze is gettingmarried and shes been going out with Tarquin for lesstime than me and Luke.But you know. Its not a big deal. Im really not intoweddings. In fact, if Luke asked me, Id probably say no.Well... OK. Id probably say yes.But the point is, its not going to happen. Lukedoesnt want to get married for a very long time, ifat all. He said that in an interview in the Telegraph three years ago, which Ifound in his cuttings file. (Iwasnt poking about. I was just looking for an elasticband.) The piece was mainly about his business, butthey asked him about personal stuff too - and then theycaptioned his picture Brandon: marriage at the bottomof agenda.Which is absolutely fine by me. Its at the bottom ofmy agenda, too.While Dannys finishing off the dress, I do a littlehousework. Which is to say I tip the dirty breakfastdishes into the sink where they can soak, dab at a spoton the counter - and then spend some time rearrangingthe spice jars in the spice rack, according to colour.Thats such a satisfying job. Almost as good asorganizing my felt-tip pens used to be.So do you guys find it hard living together? saysDanny, coming to the door and watching me.No. I look at him in surprise. Why?My friend Kirsty just tried living with her boyfriend.Disaster. All they did was fight. She said she doesntknow how anyone does it.26
  27. 27. I slot the cumin jar next to fenugreek (what is fenugreek?), feeling rather smug.The truth is, Luke andI have had hardly any problems since living together.(Except maybe the incident when I repainted the bathroomand got gold glitter paint on his new suit. But thatdoesnt count, because as Luke admitted afterwards, hecompletely overreacted, and anybody with sense wouldhave seen that the paint was wet.)Now I think about it, perhaps weve had the oddteeny little dispute about how many clothes I buy.Perhaps Luke has on occasion opened the wardrobedoor and said in exasperation, Are you ever going towear any of these?Perhaps weve also had the odd argu-- flankdiscussion, about how many hours Luke works. Heruns his own very successful financial PR company,Brandon Communications, which has branches inLondon and New York and is expanding all the time.He loves his work, and maybe once or twice Iveaccused him of loving work more than me.But the point is, were a mature, flexible couple whoare able to talk things through. We went out to lunchrecently and had a long talk, during which I sincerelypromised I would try to shop a bit less and Lukesincerely promised he would try to work a bit less.Then Luke went back to the office and I went to Deanand DeLuca to buy supper. (And found this amazingextra virgin olive oil with crushed organic bloodoranges, which I must find a recipe for sometime.)Living together has to be worked at, I say wisely.You have to be flexible. You have to give as well astake.Really?Oh yes. Luke and I share our finances, we share thechores . . . its all a matter of teamwork. The point is,you cant expect everything to stay as it was before.You have to accommodate.Really? Danny looks interested. So who do youthink accommodates more? You or Luke?27
  28. 28. Im thoughtful for a moment.Its difficult to say, really, I say. I expect its aboutequal on both sides.So like . . . all this stuff. Danny gestures aroundthe cluttered apartment. Is it mostly yours or mostlyhis?Ermm . . . I look around, taking in all my aromatherapycandles, vintage lace cushions and stacksof magazines. For an instant, my mind flicks backto the immaculate, minimalist apartment Luke had inLondon.You know... I say at last. A bit of both...Which is kind of true. I mean, Lukes still got hislaptop in the bedroom.The point is, theres no friction between us, I continue.We think as one. Were like, one unit.Thats great, says Danny, reaching for an apple fromthe fruit bowl, Youre lucky.I know we are. I look at him confidingly. You know,Luke and I are so in tune, sometimes theres almost a .. sixth sense between us.Really? Danny stares at me. Are you serious?Oh yes. Ill know what hes about to say, or Ill kindof feel when hes around...Like The Force?I suppose. I give a nonchalant shrug. Its like a gift.I dont question it too closely--Greetings, Obi won Kenobi, says a deep voicebehind us, and Danny and I both jump out of our skins.I swivel round - and theres Luke, standing at the doorwith an amused grin. His face is flushed from the coldand there are snowflakes in his dark hair, and hes sotall, the room suddenly seems a little smaller.Luke! I exclaim. You scared us!Sorry, he says. I assumed you would feel mypresence.Yes. Well, I did kind of feel something . . . I say, alittle defiantly.Of course you did. He gives me a kiss. Hi Danny.
  29. 29. 28
  30. 30. Hi, says Danny, watching as Luke takes off his navycashmere coat, then loosens his cuffs while simultaneouslyunknotting his tie, with the same assured,deft movements he always makes.Once, when we were very pissed, Danny askedme, Does Luke make love the same way he opens achampagne bottle? And although I shrieked and hithim, and said it was none of his business, I could kindof see what he meant. Luke never fumbles or hesitatesor looks confused. He always seems to know exactlywhat he wants, and he pretty much always gets it,whether its a champagne bottle opening smoothly or anew client for his company, or, in bed, for us to...Well. Anyway. Lets just say, since weve been livingtogether, my horizons have been broadened.Now he picks up the post and starts to leaf brisklythrough it. So how are you, Danny?Good, thanks, says Danny, taking a bite of apple.Hows the world of high finance? Did you see mybrother today? Dannys brother Randall works in afinancing company, and Lukes had lunch with hima couple of times.Not today, no, says Luke.OK, well when you do, says Danny, ask him ifhes put on weight. Really casually. Just say, "Why,Randall, youre looking well covered." And then maybecomment on his choice of entree. He is so paranoid thathes getting fat. Its hilarious.Brotherly love, says Luke. Beautiful, isnt it? Hegets to the end of the post and looks at me with a slightfrown.Becky, has our joint account statement come yet?Er... no. Not yet. I give him reassuring smile. Iexpect itll come tomorrow!This is not entirely true. Our bank statement actuallycame yesterday, but I put it straight in my underweardrawer. Im slightly concerned about some of theentries, so Im just going to see if theres anything I cando to rectify the situation. The truth is, despite what .29
  31. 31. I said to Danny, Ive been finding this whole jointaccount thing a bit tricky.Dont get me wrong, Im all for sharing money. Infact, hand on heart, I love sharing Lukes money.It gives me a real buzz! I just dont love it whenhe suddenly asks, What was this seventy dollars inBloomingclales for? and I cant remember. So Iveworked out a whole new tactical response - which is sosimple, its brilliant.Its to spill something on the statement, so he cantread it.Im going to take a shower, says Luke, gathering upthe post. And hes almost out of the room - when hestops. Very slowly he turns back and looks at thecocktail cabinet as though seeing it for the first time.What is that? he says slowly.Its a cocktail cabinet! I say brightly.Where has it come from?It... um... actually, I bought it today.Becky... Luke closes his eyes. I thought we said nomore crap.Its not crap! Its genuine 1930s! We can makeamazing cocktails every night! Im feeling a bit nervousat his expression, so I start to gabble. Look, I know wesaid no more furniture. But this is different. I mean,when you see a one-off like this, you have to grab it!I tail away and bite my lip. Luke silently walkstowards the cabinet. He runs a hand along the top, thenpicks up a cocktail shaker, his mouth tight.Luke, I just thought it would be fun! I thought youdlike it. The guy in the shop said Ive got a really goodeye...A really good eye, echoes Luke as though in disbelief.I gasp and scream as he throws the cocktail shaker inthe air, and Im wincing, waiting for it to land with acrash on the wooden floor - when Luke neatly catchesit. Danny and I gape as he throws it again, twirls roundand rolls it down his arm.
  32. 32. 3o
  33. 33. I dont believe it. Im living with Tom Cruise.I worked as a barman for a summer, says Luke, hisface breaking into a smile.Teach me how to do it! I cry excitedly. I want to beable to do that!And me! says Danny. He picks up the other cocktailshaker, gives it an inexpert twizzle, then tosses it at me.I make a grab, but it lands on the sofa.Butterfingers! mocks Danny. Come on, Becky. Youneed to get in practice for catching the bouquet at thiswedding.No I dont!Sure you do. You wanna be next, dont you?Danny... I try to give a light-hearted laugh.You two should definitely get married, Danny continues,ignoring my daggers. He picks up the cocktailshaker and begins tossing it from hand to hand.Its perfect. Look at you. You live together, you dontwant to kill each other, youre not already related... Icould make you a fabulous dress... He puts down theshaker with a suddenly intent expression. Hey listen,Becky. Promise me, if you get married, I can make youraress.This is appalling. If he carries on like this, Luke willthink Im trying to pressure him. He might even think Itold Danny to bring up the subject deliberately.Ive got to redress the balance somehow. Quickly.Actually, I dont want to get married, I hear myselfsaying. Not for at least ten years.Really? Danny looks taken aback. You dont?Is that so? Luke looks up with an unreadable expression.I wasnt aware of that.Werent you? I reply, trying to sound nonchalant.Well, now you know!Why dont you want to get married for ten years?says Danny.I... erm... I clear my throat. As it happens, I havea lot of things I want to do first. I want to concentrateon my career, and I want to . explore my full.31
  34. 34. potential.., and.., get to know the real me first...and.., be a whole . . .um... rounded person.I tail off and meet Lukes quizzical gaze slightlydefiantly.I see, he says, nodding. Well, that sounds verysensible. He looks at the cocktail shaker in his hand,then puts it down. Id better go and pack.Hang on a minute. He wasnt supposed to agree withme.32
  35. 35. TwoWe arrive at Heathrow at seven the next morning,and pick up our hire car. As we drive to Suzesparents house in Hampshire, I peer blearily out of thewindow at the snowy countryside, the hedgerows andfields and little villages, as though Ive never seen thembefore. After Manhattan, everything looks so tiny andkind of . . . twee. For the first time I realize whyAmericans go around calling everything in Englandquaint.Which way now? says Luke, as we arrive at yetanother little crossroads.Erm, you definitely turn left here. I mean.., right.No, I mean left.As the car swings round I fish in my bag for theinvitation, just to check the exact address.Sir Gilbert and Lady CleathStuartrequest the pleasure of your company...I stare, slightly mesmerized, at the grand swirlywriting. God, I still cant quite believe Suze andTarquin are getting married.I mean, of course I believe it. After all, theyve beengoing out for well over a year now, and Tarquinsbasically moved into the flat I used to share with Suze - although they both seemto be spending more andmore time in Scotland. Theyre both really sweet and33
  36. 36. laid-back, and everyones agreed that they make abrilliant couple.But just occasionally, when Im not concentrating,my mind will suddenly yell Whaat? Suze andTarquin?I mean, Tarquin used to be Suzes weird geekycousin. For years he was just that awkward guy in thecorner with the ancient jacket and a tendency to humWagner in public places. He was the guy who rarelyventured beyond the safe haven of his Scottish castle andwhen he did, it was to take me on the worst date ofmy life (although we dont talk about that any more).But now hes . . . well, hes Suzes boyfriend. Stillslightly awkward, and still prone to wearing woollyjumpers knitted by his old nanny. Still a bit tatty roundthe edges. But Suze loves him, and thats what counts.Just like Bagpuss.Oh, God, I cant start crying yet. I have to pacemyself.Harborough Hall, reads Luke, pausing at a pair ofcrumbling stone pillars. Is this it?Erm . . . I sniff, and try to look businesslike. Yes,this is it. Just drive in.Ive been to Suzes house plenty of times before, but Ialways forget quite how impressive it is. We head downa great big long avenue lined with trees, and intoa sweeping gravel drive. The house is large and grey,and ancient-looking, with pillars at the front and ivygrowing over it.Nice house, says Luke as we head towards the frontdoor. How old is it?Dunno, I say vaguely. Its been in their family foryears. I.tug at the bell pull to see if by any remotechance its been mended - but it obviously hasnt. Iknock a couple of times with the heavy doorknocker andwhen theres no answer to that either, I pushmy way into the huge flagstoned hall, where an oldLabrador is asleep by a crackling fire.Hello? I call. Suze?34
  37. 37. Suddenly I notice that Suzes father is also asleep bythe fireplace, in a large winged armchair. Im a bitscared of Suzes father, actually. I certainly dont wantto wake him up.Suze? I say, more quietly.Bex! I thought I heard something!I look up - and theres Suze standing on the staircase,in a tartan dressing gown with her blond hair streamingdown her back and an excited smile.Suze!I bound up the stairs and give her a big hug. As I pullaway were both a bit pink about the eyes, and I give ashaky laugh. God, Ive missed Suze, even more than Idrealized.Come up to my room! says Suze, tugging my hand.Come and see my dress!Is it really lovely? I say excitedly. In the picture itlooked amazing.Its just perfect! Plus you have to see, Ive got thecoolest corsety thing from Rigby and Peller . . . andthese really gorgeous knickers...Luke clears his throat and we both look round.Oh! says Suze. Sorry, Luke. Theres coffee andnewspapers and stuff in the kitchen, through there.She points down a corridor. You can have bacon andeggs if you like! Mrs Gearing will make them for you.Mrs Gearing sounds like my kind of woman, saysLuke with a smile. Ill see you later.Suzes room is light and airy and overlooks the garden.I say garden. Its about 12,000 acres, with lawnsrunning down from the back of the house to a clump ofcedar trees and a lake, which Suze nearly drowned inonce when she was three. Theres also a walled rosegarden to the left, all flower beds and gravel paths andhedges, which is where Tarquin proposed to Suze.(Apparently he got down on one knee and when hestood up, gravel was clinging to his trousers. That is so Tarquin.) On the righttheres an old tennis court and35
  38. 38. then rough grass, extending all the way to a hedge,beyond which is the village church graveyard. As I lookout of the window now, I can see a vast marqueebillowing to the rear of the house, and a tented walkwaybeing put up, which will snake past the tenniscourt and over the grass, all the way to the churchyardgate.Youre not going to walk to the church? I say,suddenly fearful for Suzes Emma Hope shoes.No, silly! Im going in the carriage. But all the guestscan walk back to the house, and therell be peoplehanding out hot whiskies as they go.God, its going to be spectacular! I say, watching asa man in jeans begins to hammer a stake into theground. And in spite of myself, I cant help feeling atwinge of envy. Ive always dreamed of having somehuge, amazing wedding, with horses and carriages andlots of hoopla.I know! Isnt it going to be great? Suze beamshappily. Now, I must just brush my teeth...She disappears into the bathroom and I wanderover to her dressing table, where the announcementof the engagement is stuck in the mirror. The HonSusan Cleath-Stuart and The Hon Tarquin CleathoStuart. Blimey. I always forget Suze is so grand.I want a title, I say, as Suze comes back into theroom with a hairbrush in her hand. I feel all left out.How do I get one?Ooh, no you dont, says Suze, wrinkling her nose.Theyre crap. People send you letters saying Dear MsHon.Still. Itd be so cool. What could I be?Erm , . . Suze tugs at a tangle in her hair. DameBecky Bloomwood?That makes me sound about ninety-three, I saydoubtfully. What about . . . Becky Bloomwood MBE?Those MBE things are quite easy to get, arent they?
  39. 39. Easy-peasy, says Suze confidently. You could getone for services to industry or something. Iltnominate36
  40. 40. you, if you like. Now come on, I want to see yourdress!OK! I heave my case onto the bed, click it open andcarefully draw out Dannys creation. What do youthink? I proudly hold it up against myself and swooshthe gold silk around. Its pretty cool, isnt it?Its fantastic! says Suze, staring at it with wide eyes.Ive ever seen anything like it! She fingers the sequinson the shoulder. Where did you get it? Is this the onefrom Barneys?No, this is the one from Danny. Remember, I toldyou he was making me a dress?Thats right. She screws up her face. Which onesDanny, again?My upstairs neighbour, I remind her. The designer.The one we bumped into on the stairs that time?Oh yes, says Suze, nodding. I remember.But the way she says it, I can tell she doesnt really.I cant blame her - she only met Danny for about twominutes. He was on his way to visit his parents inConnecticut and she was pretty jet-lagged at the timeand they barely spoke. Still. Its weird to think thatSuze doesnt really know Danny, and he doesnt knowher, when theyre both so important to me. Its like Ivegot two completely separate lives, and the longer Im inNew York, the further they split apart.OK, heres mine, says Suze excitedly.She opens a wardrobe door and unzips a calico cover - and theres a simplystunning dress, all drifting whitesilk and velvet, with long sleeves and a traditional longtrain.Oh God, Suze, I breathe, my throat tight. Youregoing to be so completely beautiful I still cant believeyoure getting married! "Mrs Cleath-Stuart." Ooh, dont call me that! says Suze, wrinkling hernose. It sounds like my mother. But actually it is quitehandy marrying someone in the family, she adds,closing the wardrobe, because I can keep my name andtake his, all at the same time. So I can keep being S CoS37
  41. 41. for my frames. She reaches into a cardboard box andpulls out a beautiful glass frame, all spirals and whorls.Look, this is the new range - Suzes career is designing photograph frames, whichsell all over the country, and last year she diversifiedinto photograph albums, wrapping paper and giftboxes, too.The whole theme is shell shapes, she says proudly.Dyou like it?Its beautiful! I say, running my finger round thespirals. How did you come up with it?I got the idea from Tarkie, actually! We were outwalking one day and he was saying how he used tocollect shells when he was a child and about all thedifferent amazing shapes in nature . . . and then it hitme!I look at her face, all lit up, and have a sudden imageof her and Tarquin walking hand in hand on theblustery moors, in Aran sweaters by the Scotch House.Suze, youre going to be so happy with Tarquin, Isay heartfeltly.Dyou think? She flushes with pleasure. Really?Definitely. I mean, look at you! Youre simplyglowing!Which is true. I hadnt really noticed it before, butshe looks completely different from the old Suze. Shesstill got the same delicate nose and high cheekbones,but her face is rounder, and somehow softer. Andshes still slim, but theres a kind of a fullness . . .almost a...My gaze runs down her body and stops.Hang on a minute.No. Surely... No. Suze?Yes?Suze, are you . . . I swallow. Youre not . . .pregnant?No! she replies indignantly. Of course not!38
  42. 42. Honestly, whatever can have given you-- She meetsmy eye, breaks off and shrugs. Oh, all right then, yes Iam. How did you guess?How did I guess? From your . . . I mean, you look pregnant.No I dont! No-one else has guessed.They must have done. Its completely obvious!No it isnt! She sucks in her stomach and looks atherself in the mirror. You see? And once Ive got myRigby and Peller on...I cant get my head round this. Suze is pregnant!So - is it a secret? Dont your parents know?Oh no! Nobody knows. Not even Tarkie. She pullsa face. Its a bit tacksville, being pregnant on yourwedding day, dont you think? I thought Id pretend itsa honeymoon baby.But you must be at least three months gone.Four months. Its due at the beginning of June.I stare at her.So how on earth are you going to pretend its ahoneymoon baby?Well... She thinks for a moment. It could be a bitpremature.Four whole months?Nobodyll notice! You know how vague my parentsare.This is quite true. They once arrived at Suzes boardingschool to pick her up at the end of term - whichwould have been fine, except shed left two yearsbefore.What about Tarquin?Oh, he probably doesnt even know how long ittakes, says Suze airily. Hes used to s.heep farming,and they only take about five months. Ill tell himhumans are the same. She reaches for her hairbrushagain. You know, I once told him girls need to eatchocolate twice a day or they faint, and he completelybelieved me.39
  43. 43. Suze is right on one point at least. Once shes squeezedinto her corset, you cant see the bulge at all. In fact, aswe both sit in front of her dressing table on the morningof the wedding, grinning excitedly at each other, sheactually looks thinner than me, which is a tad unfair.Weve had such a great couple of days, chilling out,watching old videos and eating endless KitKats. (Suzeis eating for two, and I need energy after my transatlanticflight.) Luke brought some paperwork with himand has spent most of the time in the library - but foronce I dont mind. Its just been so nice to be able tospend some time with Suze. Ive heard all about the flatshe and Tarquin are buying in London and Ive seenpictures of the gorgeous hotel on Antigua which sheand Tarquin are going to for their honeymoon, and Ivetried on most of the new clothes in her wardrobe.Theres been loads going on all over the house, withflorists and caterers and relations arriving everyminute. Whats a bit weird is, none of the family seemsparticularly bothered by it. Suzes mother has been outhunting both the days that Ive been here, and herfather has been in his study. Mrs Gearing their housekeeperis the one whos been organizing the marqueeand flowers and everything - and even she seemspretty relaxed. When I asked Suze about it she justshrugged and said, I suppose were used to throwingbig parties.Last night there was a grand drinks party for lots ofSuzes and Tarquins relations who have all come downfrom Scotland, and I was expecting everyone to betalking about the wedding then, at least. But every timeI tried to get anyone excited about the flowers, or howromantic it all was, I got blank looks. It was only whenSuze mentioned that Tarquin was going to buy hera horse as a wedding present that they all suddenlygot animated, and started talking about breeders theyknew, and horses theyd bought, and how their greatchum had a very nice young chestnut mare Suze mightbe interested in.40
  44. 44. I mean, honestly. No-one even asked me what mydress was like.Anyway, I dont care, because it looks wonderful.We both look wonderful. Weve both been madeup by a fantastic make-up artist, and our hair is upin sleek chignons. The photographer has takenso-called naturalistic pictures of me buttoning Suzeinto her dress (he made us do it three times, myarms were aching by the end). And now Suze isumming and aahing over about six family tiaras whileI take sips of champagne. Just to stop me gettingnervous.What about your mother? says the hairdresser toSuze, as she pulls wispy blond tendrils round her face.Does she want a blow-dry?I doubt it, says Suze, pulling a face. Shes not reallyinto that kind of stuff.Whats she wearing? I ask.God knows, says Suze. The first thing that comes tohand, probably. She meets my eye, and I pull a tinysympathetic face. Last night Suzes mother came downstairsfor drinks in a dirndl skirt and patterned woollyjumper, with a large diamond brooch on the front.Mind you, Tarquins mother looked even worse. I reallydont know where Suze has managed to get her sense ofstyle from.Bex, could you just go and make sure she doesnt puton some hideous old gardening dress? says Suze.Shell listen to you, I know she will.Well... OK, I say doubtfu.lly. Ill try.As I let myself out of the room, I see Luke comingalong the corridor in his morning dress.You look very beautiful, he says With a smile.Do I? I give a little twirl. Its a lovely dress, isnt it?And it fits so well--I wasnt looking at the dress, says Luke. His eyesmeet mine with a wicked glint and I feel a flicker ofpleasure. Is Suze decent? he adds. I just wanted towish her well.41
  45. 45. Oh yes, I say. Go on in. Hey Luke, youll neverguess!Ive been absolutely dying to tell Luke about Suzesbaby for the last two days, and now the words slip outbefore I can stop them.What?Shes . . . Oh God, I cant tell him, I just cant. Suze would kill me. Shes got a really nice wedding dress, I finish lamely.Good! says Luke, giving me a curious look. Theresa surprise. Well, Ill just pop in and have a quick word.See you later.I cautiously make my way to Suzes mothers bedroomand give a gentle knock.Hellooo? thunders a voice in return, and the door isflung open by Suzes mother Caroline. Shes about sixfeet tall with long rangy legs, grey hair in a knot and aweatherbeaten face which creases into a smile whenshe sees me.Rebecca! she booms, and looks at her watch. Nottime yet, is it?Not quite! I smile gingerly and run my eyes over heroutfit of ancient navy blue sweatshirt, jodhpurs andriding boots. Shes got an amazing figure for a womanher age. No wonder Suze is so skinny. I run my gazearound the room, but I cant see any telltale suitcarriers or hat boxes.So um, Caroline . . . I was just wondering whatyou were planning to wear today. As mother of thebride!Mother of the bride? She stares at me. Good God, Isuppose I am. Hadnt thought of it like that:Right! So, you.., havent got a special outfit ready?Bit early to be dressing up, isnt it? says Caroline.Ill just fling something on before we go.Well, why dont I help you choose? I say firmly, andhead towards the wardrobe. I throw open the doors,preparing myself for a shock - and gape in astonishment.42
  46. 46. I dont believe it. This has got to be the most extraordinarycollection of clothes Ive ever seen. Ridinghabits, ball dresses and Thirties suits are jostling forspace with Indian saris, Mexican ponchos . . . and anextraordinary array of tribal jewellery.These clothes! I breathe.I know. Caroline looks at them dismissively. A loadof old rubbish, really.Old rubbish? My God, if you found any of these in avintage shop in New York . . . I pull out a pale bluesatin coat edged with ribbon. This is fantastic.Dyou like it? says Caroline in surprise. Have it.I couldnt!Dear girl, I dont want it.But surely the sentimental value . . . I mean, yourmemories--My memories are in here. She taps her head. Not inthere. She surveys the melee of clothes, then picks upa small piece of bone on a leather cord. Now, this Imrather fond of.That? I say, trying to summon some enthusiasm.Well, its--It was given to me by a Masai chief, many yearsago now. We were driving at dawn to find a herd of elephants, when a chieftainflagged us down. A tribeswoman was in a fever after giving birth. We helpedbring down her temperature and the tribe honoured uswith gifts. Have you been to the Masai Mara, Rebecca?Er... no. Ive never actually been to--And this little lovely. She picks up an embroideredpurse. I bought this at a street market in Konya.Bartered for it with my last packet of cigarettes beforewe trekked up the Nemrut Dagi. Have you been toTurkey?No, not there, either, I say, feeling rather inadequate.God, how under-travelled I am. I scrabblearound in my mind, trying to think of somewhere Ivebeen that will impress her - but its a pretty paltryline-up. France a few times, Spain, Crete... and thats43
  47. 47. about it. Why havent I been anywhere exciting? Whyhavent I been trekking round Mongolia?I was going to go to Thailand once, come to think ofit. But then I decided to go to France instead and spendthe money I saved on a Lulu Guinness handbag.I havent really travelled much at all, I admit reluctantly.Well, you must, dear girl! booms Caroline. Youmust broaden your horizons. Learn about life from realpeople. One of the dearest friends I have in the world isa Bolivian peasant woman. We ground maize togetheron the plains of the Llanos.Wow.A little clock.on the mantelpiece chimes the halfhour, and I suddenly realize were not gettinganywhere.So anyway.., did you have any ideas for a weddingoutfit?Something warm and colourful, says Caroline,reaching for a thick red and yellow Poncho.Ermm . . . Im not so sure that would be entirelyappropriate... I push between the jackets and dresses,and suddenly see a flash of apricot silk. Ooh! Thisis nice. I haul it out - and I dont believe it. ItsBalenciaga.My going-away outfit, says Caroline reminiscently.We travelled on the Orient Express to Venice, thenexplored the caves of Postojna. Do you know thatregion?You have to wear this! I say, my voice rising to asqueak of excitement. Youll look spectacular. And itsso romantic, wearing your own going-away outfit!I suppose it might be rather fun. She holds it upagainst herself with red, weatherbeaten hands whichmake me wince every time I look at them. That shouldstill fit, shouldnt it? Now, there must be a hat aroundhere somewhere... She puts down the suit and startsrooting around on a shelf.So - you must be really happy about Suze, I44
  48. 48. say, picking up an enamelled hand mirror and examiningit.Tarquins a dear boy. She turns round and taps herbeaky nose confidentially. Very well endowed.This is true. Tarquin is the fifteenth richest person inthe country, or something. But Im a bit surprised atSuzes mother bringing it up.Well, yes . . . I say. Although I dont suppose Suzereally needs the money...Im not talking about money! She gives me a knowingsmile and suddenly I realize what she means.Oh! I feel myself blushing furiously. Right! I see!All the Cleath-Stuart men are the same. Theyrefamous for it. Never a divorce in the family, she adds,plonking a green felt hat on top of her head.Gosh. Im going to look at Tarquin a bit differentlynow.It takes me a while to persuade Caroline out of thegreen felt hat and into a chic black cloche. As Imwalking back along the corridor towards Suzes room, Ihear some familiar voices in the hall downstairs.Its common knowledge. Foot and mouth was causedby carrier pigeons.Pigeons? Youre telling me that this huge epidemic,which has wiped out stocks of cattle across Europe,was caused by a few harmless pigeons?Harmless? Graham, theyre vermin!Mum and Dad! I hurry to the banisters - and therethey are, standing by the fireplace. Dads in morningdress with a top hat under his arm, and Mums dressedin a navy jacket, floral skirt and bright red shoes whichdont quite match her red hat.Mum?Becky!Mum! Dad! I hurry down the stairs and envelopthem both in a hug, breathing in the familiar scent ofYardleys talc and Tweed.This trip is getting more emotional by the minute. I45
  49. 49. havent seen my parents since they came out to visit mein New York four months ago. And even then they onlystayed for three days before going off to Florida to seethe Everglades.Mum, you look amazing! Have you done somethingto your hair?Maureen put some highlights in, she says, lookingpleased. And I popped next door to Janice this morning,so she could do my face. You know, shes taken acourse in professional make-up. Shes a real expert!I can.., see! I say feebly, looking at the lurid stripesof blusher and highlighter painted on Mums cheeks.Maybe I can manage to wipe them off accidentally onpurpose.So, is Luke here? says Mum, looking around withbright eyes, like a squirrel searching for a nut.Somewhere around, I say - and Mum and Dadexchange glances.He is here, though? Mum gives a tense little laugh.You did fly on the same plane, didnt you?Mum, dont worry. Hes here. Really.Mum still doesnt look convinced - and I canthonestly blame her. The truth is, there was this tinyincident at the last wedding we all attended. Lukedidnt turn up, and I was completely desperate, and Iresorted to... um...Well. It was only a tiny white lie. I mean, he couldhave been there, mingling somewhere. And if theyhadnt had that stupid group photograph, no-onewould ever have known.Mrs Bloomwood! Hello!Theres Luke, striding through the front door. ThankGod for that.Luke! Mum gives a relieved trill of laughter. Yourehere! Graham, hes here!Of course hes here! says my father, rolling his eyes.Where did you think he was? On the moon?How are you, Mrs Bloomwood? says Luke, with a
  50. 50. smile, and kisses her on the cheek.46
  51. 51. Now, Luke, you must call me Jane. Ive told youbefore.Mums face is pink with happiness, and shes clutchingonto Lukes arm as though he might vanish in a puffof smoke. He gives me a little smile, and I beam happilyback. Ive been looking forward to this day for so long,and now its actually here. Its like Christmas. In fact,its better than Christmas. Through the open front doorI can see wedding guests walking past on the snowygravel in morning dress and smart hats. In the distance,the church bells are pealing, and theres a kind ofexcited, expectant atmosphere.And wheres the blushing bride? says Dad.Im here, comes Suzes voice. We all look up - andthere she is, floating down the stairs, clutching astunning bouquet of roses and ivy.Oh Suzie, says Mum, and claps a hand to hermouth. Oh, that dress! Oh . . . Becky! Youre going tolook-- She turns to me with softened eyes and for thefirst time seems to take in my dress. Becky... is thatwhat youre wearing? Youll freeze!No I wont. The church is going to be heated.Its lovely, isnt it? says Suze. So unusual.But its only a T-shirt! She gives a dissatisfied tug atthe sleeve. And whats this flayed bit? It isnt evenfinished properly!Its customized, I explain. Its completely unique.Unique? Dont you have to match the others?There arent any others, explains Suze. The onlyother person I would have asked is Tarquins sisterFenny. But she said if she was a bridesmaid again shedjinx her chances of marriage. You know what they say."Three times a bridesmaid . . ." Well, shes been oneabout ninety-three times! And shes got her eye on thischap who works in the City, so she doesnt want to takeany chances.Theres a short silence. I can see Mums brain workinghard. Oh God, please dontBeckylove, how many times have you been a47
  52. 52. bridesmaid? she says, a little too casually. There wasUncle Malcolm and Aunt Sylvias wedding . . . but Ithink thats it, isnt it?And Ruthie and Pauls, I remind her.You werent a bridesmaid at that, says Mum at once.You were a . . . flower girl. So its twice, includingtoday. Yes, twice.Did you get that, Luke? says Dad with a grin. Twice.Honestly, what are my parents like?Well, anyway! I say, trying quickly to think ofanother subject. So... er...Of course, Becky has a good ten years before sheneeds to worry about anything like that, says Lukeconversationally.What? Mum stiffens, and her eyes dart from Luke tome and back again. What did you say?Becky wants to wait at least ten years before she getsmarried, says Luke. Isnt that right, Becky?Theres a stunned silence. I can feel my face growinghot.Urn . . . I clear my throat and try to give a nonchalantsmile. Thats... thats right.Really? says Suze, staring at me, wide-eyed. I neverknew that! Why?So I can . . . um. . . explore my full potential, Imumble, not daring to look at Mum. And . . . get toknow the real me.Get to know the real you? Mums voice is slightlyshrill. Why do you need ten years to do that? I couldshow it to you in ten minutes!But Bex, how old will you be in ten years time? saysSuze, wrinkling her brow.I wont necessarily need ten whole years exactly, Isay, feeling a little rattled. You know, maybe.., eightwill be long enough.Eight? Mum looks as though she wants to burst intotears.Luke, says Suze, looking perturbed. Did you knowabout this?48
  53. 53. We discussed it the other day, says Luke with aneasy smile.But I dont understand, she persists. What aboutthe--The time? Luke cuts her off neatly. Youre right. Ithink we should all get going. You know its five totwo?Five minutes? Suze suddenly looks petrified.Really? But Im not ready! Bex, where are yourflowers?Er . . . in your room, I think. I put them downsomewhere...Well, get them! And wheres Daddy got to? Oh shit, Iwant a cigarette--Suze, you cant smoke! I say in horror. Its bad forthe-- I stop myself just in time.For the dress? suggests Luke helpfully.Yes. She might.., drop ash on it.By the time Ive found my flowers in Suzes bathroom,redone my lipstick and come downstairs again, onlyLuke is left in the hall.Your parents have gone over, he says. Suze says weshould go over too, and shell come with her father inthe carriage. And Ive found a coat for you, he adds,proffering a sheepskin jacket. Your mothers right, youcant walk over like that.OK, I agree reluctantly. But Im taking it off in thechurch.Did you know your dress is unravelling at the back,by the way? he says as he helps me into the jacket.Really? I look at him in dismay. Does it look awful?It looks very nice. His mouth tWitches into a smile.But you might want to find a safety pin after theservice.Bloody Danny! I shake my head. I knew I shouldhave gone for Donna Karan.As Luke and I make our way over the gravel to thetented walkway, the air is still and silent and a watery49
  54. 54. sun is coming out. The pealing bells have diminishedto a single chiming, and theres no-one about except asole scurrying waiter. Everyone else must already be inthe church.Sorry if I brought up a sensitive subject just then,says Luke as we begin to walk towards the church.Sensitive? I raise my eyebrows. Oh, what, that? Thats not a sensitive subjectat all!Your mother seemed a bit upset...Mum? Honestly, shes not bothered either way. Infact.., she was joking!Joking?Yes! I say, a little defiantly. Joking.I see. Luke takes my arm as I stumble slightly on thecoconut matting. So youre still determined to waiteight years before you get married.Absolutely. I nod. At least eight years.We walk for a bit longer in silence. In the distance Ican hear hooves on gravel, which must be Suzescarriage setting off.Or, you know, maybe six, I add casually. Or . . .five, possibly. It all depends.Theres another long silence, broken only by the soft,rhythmic sound of our footsteps on the walkway. Theatmosphere is growing very strange between us, and Idont quite dare look at Luke. I clear my throat and rubmy nose, and try to think of a comment about theweather.We reach the church gate, and Luke turns to look atme - and suddenly his face is stripped of its usualquizzical expression.Seriously, Becky, he says. Do you really want towait five. years?I... I dont know, I say, confused. Do you?Theres a moment of still silence between us, and myheart starts to thump.
  55. 55. Oh my God. Oh my God. Maybe hes going to . . .Maybe hes about to--Ah! The bridesmaid! The vicar bustles out of the50
  56. 56. porch and Luke and I both jump. All set to walk up theaisle?I er... think so, I say, aware of Lukes gaze. Yes.Good! Youd better get inside! adds the vicar toLuke. You dont want to miss the moment!No, he says, after a pause. No, I dont.He drops a kiss on my shoulder and walks insidewithout saying anything else, and I stare after him, stillcompletely confused.Did we just talk about.., was Luke really saying...Then theres the sound of hooves, and Im jolted outof my reverie. I turn to see Suzes carriage comingdown the road like something out of a fairy tale. Herveil is blowing in the wind and shes smiling radiantlyat some people who have stopped to watch, and Ivenever seen her look more beautiful.I honestly wasnt planning to cry. In fact, Id alreadyplanned a way to stop myself doing so, which was torecite the alphabet backwards in a French accent. Buteven as Im helping Suze straighten her train Im feelingdamp around the eyes. And as the organ music swellsand we start to process slowly forward into the packedchurch, Im having to sniff hard every two beats, alongwith the organ. Suze is holding tightly to her fathersarm and her train is gliding along the old stone floor.Im walking behind, trying not to tap my heels onthe floor, and hoping no-one will notice my dressunravelling.We reach the front - and theres Tarquin waiting,with his best man. Hes as tall and bony as ever, andhis face still reminds me of a stoat, but I have to admithes looking pretty striking in his sporra.n and kilt. Andnow hes gazing at Suze with such transparent loveand admiration that I can feel my nose starting toprickle again. He turns briefly, meets my eye and grinsnervously - and I give an embarrassed little smile back.To be honest, Ill never be able to look at him againwithout thinking about what Caroline said.51
  57. 57. The vicar begins his Dearly beloved speech, and Ifeel myself relax with pleasure. Im going to relishevery single, familiar word. This is like watching thestart of a favourite movie, with my two best friendsplaying the main parts.Susan, wilt thou take this man to thy weddedhusband? The vicars got huge bushy eyebrows, whichhe raises at every question, as though hes afraid theanswer might be no. Wilt thou love him, comfort him,honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and,forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long asye both shall live?Theres a pause - then Suze says, I will, in a voice asclear as a bell.I wish bridesmaids got to say something. It wouldnthave to be anything very much. Just a quick Yes or I do.When we come to the bit where Suze and Tarquinhave to hold hands, Suze gives me her bouquet, and Itake the opportunity to turn round and have a quickpeek at the congregation. The place is crammed to thegills, in fact there isnt even room for everyone to sitdown. There are lots of strapping men in kilts andwomen in velvet suits, and theres Fenny and a wholecrowd of her London friends, all wearing Philip Treacyhats, it looks like. And theres Mum squashed upagainst Dad, with a tissue pressed to her eyes, too. Shelooks up and sees me and I smile - but all she does isgive another sob.I turn back and Suze and Tarquin are kneeling down,and the vicar is intoning severely, Those whom Godhas joined together, let no man put asunder."I look at Suze as she beams radiantly at Tarquin.Shes completely lost in him. She belongs to him now.And, to my surprise, I suddenly feel slightly hollowinside. Suze is married. Its all changed.Its a year since I went off to live in New York, andIve loved every minute of it. Of course I have. Butsubconsciously, I realize, Ive always had it in the back52
  58. 58. of my mind that if everything went wrong, I couldalways come back to Fulham and have my old life withSuze. And now... I cant.Suze doesnt need me any more. Shes got someoneelse, who will always come first in her life. I watch asthe vicar places his hands on Suzes and Tarquinsheads to bless them - and my throat feels a little tightas I remember all the times weve had together. Thetime I cooked a horrible curry to save money and shekept saying how delicious it was even while her mouthwas burning. The time she tried to seduce my bankmanager so he would extend my overdraft. Every timeIve got myself into trouble, shes been there for me.And now its all over.Suddenly I feel in need of a little reassurance. I turnround and quickly scan the rows of guests, looking forLukes face. For a few moments I cant spot him, andalthough I keep wearing my confident smile, I feel aridiculous panic rising inside me, like a child realizingits been left behind at school; that everyone else hasbeen collected but them.Until suddenly I see him. Standing behind a pillartowards the back, tall and dark and solid, his eyes fixedon mine. Looking at me and no-one else. And as I gaze back at him, I feelrestored. Ive been collected, too; itsOK.We emerge into the churchyard, the sound of bellsbehind us, and a crowd of people who have gatheredoutside on the road start to cleer.Congratulations! I cry, giving Suze a huge hug. Andto you, Tarquin!Ive always been a teeny bit awkward aroundTarquin. But now I see him with Sure - married toSuze - the awkwardness seems to melt away.I know youll be really happy, I say warmly, andgive him a kiss on the cheek, and we both laugh assomeone throws confetti at us. Guests are alreadypiling out of the church like sweets out of a jar, talking53
  59. 59. and laughing and calling to each other in loud confidentvoices. They swarm around Suze and Tarquin,kissing and hugging and shaking hands, and I moveaway a little, wondering where Luke is.The whole churchyard is filling up with people, andI cant help staring at some of Suzes relations. Hergranny is coming out of the church very slowly andregally, holding a stick, and is being followed by adutiful-looking young man in morning dress. A thin,pale girl with huge eyes is wearing an enormous blackhat, holding a pug and chain-smoking. Theres a wholearmy of almost identical brothers in kilts standing bythe church gate, and I remember Suze telling me abouther aunt who had six boys before finally getting twingirls.Here. Put this on. Lukes voice is suddenly in myear, and I turn round, to see him holding out thesheepskin jacket. You must be freezing.Dont worry. Im fine!Becky, theres snow on the ground, says Lukefirmly, and drapes the coat round my shoulders. Verygood wedding, he adds.Yes. I look up at him carefully, wondering if by anychance we can work the conversation back to what wewere talking about before the service. But Lukes gazingat Suze and Tarquin, who are now being photographedunder the oak tree. Suze looks absolutely radiant, butTarquin might as well be facing gunfire.Hes a very nice chap, he says, nodding towardsTarquin. Bit odd, but nice.Yes. He is. Luke--Would you like a glass of hot whisky? interrupts awaiter, coming up with a tray. Or champagne?Hot whisky, I say gratefully. Thanks. I take a fewsips and close my eyes as the warmth spreads throughmy body. If only it could get down to my feet, which, tobe honest, are completely freezing.Bridesmaid! cries Suze suddenly. Wheres Bex? Weneed you for a photograph!54
  60. 60. My eyes open.Here! I shout, slipping the sheepskin coat off myshoulders. Luke, hold my drink--I hurry through the melee and join Suze and Tarquin.And its funny, but now all these people are looking atme, I dont feel cold any more. I smile my most radiantsmile, and hold my flowers nicely, and link arms withSuze when the photographer tells me to, and, in betweenshots, wave at Mum and Dad, who have pushedtheir way to the front of the crowd.Well head back to the house soon, says MrsGearing, coming up to kiss Suze. People are gettingchilly. You can finish the pictures there.OK, says Suze. But lets just take some of me andBex together.Good idea! says Tarquin at once, and heads off inobvious relief to talk to his father, who looks exactlylike him but forty years older. The photographer takesa few shots of me and Suze beaming at each other, reload his camera. Suze accepts a glass ofwhisky from a waiter and I reach surreptitiously behindme to see how much of my dress has unravelled.Bex, listen, comes a voice in my ear. I look round,and Suze is gazing at me earnestly. Shes so close I cansee each individual speck of glitter in her eyeshadow. Ineed to ask you something. You dont really want towait ten years before you get married, do you? Well... no, I admit. Notreally.And you do think Lukes the one? Just... honestly.Between ourselves.Theres a long pause. Behind me I can hear someonesaying, Of course, our house is fairly modern. Eighteenfifty-three, I think it was built - Yes, I say eventually, feeling a deep pink risingthrough my cheeks. Yes. I think he is.Suze looks at me searchingly for a few momentslonger - then abruptly seems to come to a decision.Right! she says, putting down her whisky. Im goingto throw my bouquet.55
  61. 61. What? I stare at her in bewilderment. Suze, dont bestupid. You cant throw your bouquet yet!Yes I can! I can throw it when I like.But youre supposed to throw it when you leave foryour honeymoon!I dont care, says Suze obstinately. I cant wait anylonger. Im going to throw it now.But youre supposed to do it at the end!Whos the bride? You or me? If I wait till the end itwont be any fun! Now, stand over there. She pointswith an imperious hand to a small mound of snowygrass. And put your flowers down. Youll never catch itif youre holding things! Tarkie? She raises her voice.Im going to throw my bouquet now, OK?OK! Tarquin calls back cheerfully. Good idea.Go on, Bex!Honestly! I dont even want to catch it! I say,slightly grumpily.But I suppose I am the only bridesmaid - so I put myflowers down on the grass, and go and stand on themound as instructed.I want a picture of this, Suze is saying to thephotographer. And wheres Luke?The slightly weird thing is, no-one else is comingwith me. Everyone else has melted away. Suddenly Inotice that Tarquin and his best man are going aroundmurmuring in peoples ears, and gradually all theguests are turning to me with bright, expectant faces.Ready, Bex? calls Suze.Wait! I cry. You havent got enough people! Thereshould be lots of us, all standing together...I feel so stupid, up here on my own. Honestly,Suze is doing this all wrong. Hasnt she been to any
  62. 62. weddings?Wait, Suze! I cry again, but its too late.Catch, Bex! she yells. Caaatch!The bouquet comes looping high through the air,and I have to jump slightly to catch it. Its bigger andheavier than I expected, and for a moment I just stare
  63. 63. dazedly at it, half secretly delighted, and half completelyfurious with Suze.And then my eyes focus. And I see the littleenvelope. To Becky.An envelope addressed to me in Suzes bouquet?I look up bewilderedly at Suze, and with a shiningface she nods towards the envelope.With trembling fingers, I open the card. Theressomething lumpy inside. Its...Its a ring, all wrapped up in cotton wool. Theres amessage, in Lukes handwriting. And it says...It says Will You...I stare at it in disbelief, trying to keep control ofmyself, but the world is shimmering, and blood ispounding through my head.I look up dazedly, and theres Luke, coming forwardthrough the people, his face serious but his eyes warm.Becky - he begins, and theres a tiny intake ofbreath around the churchyard. Will you Yes! Yeee-esssss! I hear the joyful sound rippingthrough the air before I even realize Ive opened mymouth. God, Im so charged up with emotion, my voicedoesnt even sound like mine. In fact, it sounds morelike...Mum.I dont believe it.As I whip round, she claps a hand over her mouth inhorror. Sorry! she whispers, and a ripple of laughterruns round the crowd.Mrs Bloomwood, Id be.honoured, says Luke, hiseyes crinkling into a smile. But I believe youre alreadytaken.Then he looks at me again.Becky, if I had to wait five rears, fhen I would. Oreight - or even ten. He pauses, and theres completesilence except for a tiny gust of wind, blowing confettiabout the churchyard. But I hope that one day preferablyrather sooner than that - youll do me thehonour of marrying me?
  64. 64. 57
  65. 65. My throats so tight, I cant speak. I give a tiny nod,and Luke takes my hand. He unfolds my fingers andtakes out the ring. My heart is hammering. Luke wantsto marry me. He must have been planning this allalong. Without saying a thing.I look at the ring, and feel my eyes start to blur. Itsan antique diamond ring, set in gold, with tiny curvedclaws. Ive never seen another quite like it. Its perfect.May I?Yes, I whisper, and watch as he slides it onto myfinger. He looks at me again, his eyes more tender thanIve ever seen them, and kisses me, and the cheeringstarts.I dont believe it. Im engaged.58
  66. 66. ThreeOK. Now, I may be engaged, but Im not going to getcarried away.No way.I know some girls go mad, planning the biggestwedding in the universe and thinking about nothingelse.., but thats not going to be me. Im not going tolet this take over my life. I mean, lets get our prioritiesright here. The most important thing is not the dress,or the shoes, or what kind of flowers we have, is it?Its making the promise of lifelong commitment. Itspledging our troth to one another.I pause, halfway through putting on my moisturizer,and gaze at my reflection in my old bedroom mirror. I,Becky, I murmur solemnly. I, Rebecca. Take thee,Luke.Those ancient words just send a shiver up yourspine, dont they?To be thine . . . mine . , . husband. For better, forricher . . .I break off with a puzzled flown. That doesnt soundquite right. Still, I can learn it properly nearer the time.The point is, the vows are what matters, nothing else.We dont have to go over the top. Just a simple, elegantceremony. No fuss, no hoopla. I mean, Romeo andJuliet didnt need a big wedding with sugared almondsand vol au vents, did they?Maybe we should even get married in secret, like59
  67. 67. they did! Suddenly Im gripped by a vision of Luke andme kneeling before an Italian priest in the dead ofnight, in some tiny stone chapel. God, that would beromantic. And then somehow Luke would think I wasdead, and hed commit suicide, and so would I, and itwould be incredibly tragic, and everyone would say wedid it for love and the whole world should learn fromour example...Karaoke? Lukes voice outside the bedroom doorbrings me back to reality. Well, its certainly a possibility...The door opens and he holds out a cup of coffee tome. He and I have been staying here at my parentshouse since Suzes wedding, and when I left thebreakfast table he was refereeing my parents as theyargued over whether or not the moon landings actuallyhappened.Your mothers already found a possible date for thewedding, he says. What do you think about the--Luke! I put up a hand to stop him. Luke. Lets justtake this one step at a time, shall we? I give him a kindsmile. I mean, weve only just got engaged. Lets justget our heads round that first. Theres no need to dashinto setting dates.I glance into the mirror, feeling quite grown-up andproud of myself. For once in my life Im not rushing.Im not getting overexcited.Youre right, says Luke after a pause. No, you areright. And the date your mother suggested would be aterrible hurry.Really? I take a thoughtful sip of coffee. So . . . justout of interest.., when was it?June 22nd. This year. He shakes his head. Crazy,really. Its only a few months away.Madness! I say, rolling my eyes. I mean, theres nohurry, is there?June 22nd. Honestly! What is Mum like?Although... I suppose a summer wedding would be
  68. 68. nice in theory.60
  69. 69. Theres nothing actually stopping us getting marriedthis year.And if we did make it June, I could start looking atwedding dresses straight away. I could start trying ontiaras. I could start reading Brides! Yes!On the other hand, I add casually, theres no real reason to delay, is there? Imean, now weve decided, inone sense, we might as well just . . . do it. Why hangaround?Are you sure? Becky, I dont want you to feelpressured--Its OK. Im quite sure. Lets get married in June!Were getting married! Soon! Hooray! I catch sight ofmyself in the mirror again - and a huge, exhilaratedbeam has spread itself over my face.So Ill tell my mother the 22nd. Luke interrupts mythoughts. I know shell be delighted. He glances at hiswatch. In fact, I must get going.Oh yes, I say, trying to muster some enthusiasm.Yes, you dont want to be late for her, do you?Lukes spending the day with his mother Elinor, whois over in London on her way to Switzerland. Theofficial version is that shes going there to stay withsome old friends and enjoy the mountain air. Ofcourse everyone knows shes really going to have herface lifted for the zillionth time.Then this afternoon, Mum, Dad and I are. goingup to meet them for tea at Claridges. Everyone hasbeen exclaiming about what a lucky coincidence it isthat Elinors over here, so the two families will beable to meet. But every time I think about it, mystomach turns over. I wouldnt mind if it was Lukesreal parents - his dad and stepmum, who are reallylovely and live in Devon. But theyve just gone outto Australia, where Lukes half-sister has moved,and they probably wont be back until just before thewedding. So all were left with to represent Luke isElinor.Elinor Sherman. My future mother-in-law.61
  70. 70. OK . lets not think about that. Lets just getthrough today.Luke . . . I pause, trying to find the right words.How do you think itll be? Our parents meeting for thefirst time? You know - your mother.., and my mother .. I mean, theyre not exactlysimilar, are they?Itll be fine! Theyll get on wonderfully, Im sure.He honestly hasnt a clue what Im talking about.I know its a good thing that Luke adores his mother.I know sons should love their mothers. And I know hehardly ever saw her when he was tiny, and hes tryingto make up for lost time.., but still. How can he be sodevoted to Elinor?As I arrive downstairs in the kitchen, Mums tidying upthe. breakfast things with one hand and holding theportable phone in the other.Yes, shes saying. Thats right. Bloomwood, B-l-oom-woo-od.Of Oxshott, Surrey, And youll fax thatover? Thank you.Good. She puts away the phone and beams at me.Thats the announcement gone in the Surrey Post.Another announcement? Mum, how many have youdone?Just the standard number! she says defensively. TheTimes, the Telegraph, the Oxshott Herald and the EsherGazette.And the Surrey Post. Yes. So only.., five.Five!Becky, you only get married once! says Mum.I know. But honestly...Now, listen. Mum is rather pink in the face. Youreour only daughter, Becky, and were not going to spareany expense. We want you to have the wedding ofyour dreams. Whether its the announcements, or theflowers or a horse and carriage like Suzie had . . . wewant you to have it.Mum, I wanted to talk to you about that, I say
  71. 71. 62
  72. 72. awkwardly. Luke and I will contribute to the cost--Nonsense! says Mum briskly. We wouldnt hear ofit.But--Weve always hoped wed be paying for a weddingone day. Weve been putting money aside especially,for a few years now.Really? I stare at her, feeling a sudden swell ofemotion. Mum and Dad have been saving all this time,and they never said a word. I... I had no idea.Yes, well. We werent going to tell you, were we?Now! Mum snaps back into businesslike mode. DidLuke tell you weve found a date? You know, it wasnteasy! Everywheres booked up. But Ive spoken to Peterat the church, hes had a cancellation, and he can fit usin at three on that Saturday. Otherwise it would be aquestion of waiting until November.November? I pull a face. Thats not very weddingy.Exactly. So I told him to pencil it in. Ive put it onthe calendar, look.I reach for the fridge calendar, which has a different recipe using Nescaf foreach month. And sure enough,as I flip over to June, theres a big felt-tipped BECKYSWEDDING.I stare at it, feeling slightly weird. It really is happening.I really am going to get married. Its not justpretend.And Ive been having a few ideas about themarquee, adds Mum. I saw a beautiful striped one in amagazine somewhere, and I thought, "I must show thatto Becky..." She reaches behind her and hauls out a stack ofglossy magazines. Brides. Modern-Bride. Wedding andHome. All shiny and succulent and inviting, like aplate of sticky doughnuts.Gosh! I say, forcing myself not to reach greedily forone. I havent read any of those bridal things yet. Idont even know what theyre like!Neither have I, says Mum at once, as she flicks63
  73. 73. expertly through an issue of Wedding and Home. Notproperly. Ive just glanced through for the odd idea. Imean, theyre really just adverts mainly...I hesitate, my fingers running over the cover of Youand Your Wedding. I can hardly believe Im actuallyallowed to read these now. Openly! I dont have to sidleup to the rack and take tiny, guilty peeks, like stuffinga biscuit into my mouth and all the time wondering ifsomeone will see me.The habits so ingrained I almost cant break it. Eventhough Ive got an engagement ring on my finger now, Ifind myself pretending Im not interested.I suppose it makes sense to have a very brief look, Isay casually. You know, just for basic information...just to be aware whats available...Oh sod it. Mnms not even listening, anyway, soI might as well give up pretending Im not going toread every single one of these magazines avidly fromcover to cover. Happily I sink into a chair and reachfor Brides, and for the next ten minutes were bothcompletely silent, gorging on pictures.There! says Mum suddenly. She turns her magazineround so I can see a photograph of a billowing whiteand silver striped marquee. Isnt that nice?Very pretty. I run my gaze down interestedly to thepicture of the bridesmaids dresses, and the bridesbouquet . . . and then my eye comes to rest on thedateline.Mum! I exclaim. This is from last year! Howcome you were looking at wedding magazines lastyear!Ive no idea! says Mum shiftily. I must have . . .picked it up in a doctors waiting room or something.Anyway. Are you getting any ideas?Well... I dont know, I say vaguely. I suppose I justwant something simple.A vision of myself in a big white dress and sparklytiara suddenly pops into my head . . . my handsomeprince waiting for me... cheering crowds . . .64