With nine months to go, we curl up together in the sleeping bag with dead grass and beetles. I suggest the M word. All my friends are starting to push babies out and go to baby massage and pregnancy yoga. We go crummy camping holidays in the rain in the Lake District. Joe blows beery breaths in my face, he mutters, “yeah, babe, whatever.” He turns over, pulling the sleeping bag zip wide open leaving me cold and shivering in the early morning green-dappled tent-haze. Empty beer bottles clink as I push my toes off the blow-up bed. A honeymoon somewhere warm, that’s what I need, leave this mouldy tent behind.
With four months to go, my wedding dress is not new. Mum has organised for me to have cousin Julia’s dress. She says with such short notice, I have to take what I can get. Julia’s dress been reimagined, the seams and dreams adjusted. Jilted Julia. The cutting of the gown, wounding the satin, it won’t heal without a scar. Julia downs the prosecco—she says it’s the bubbles stinging the back of her throat that’s making her cry. I can feel the heat and fury pouring out of her skin. Mother wants Julia to be my chief bridesmaid. I can’t say no.
With three months to go, we go out for dinner, tables sticky, half-ripped beer mats dried in the shape of shells. The chief bridesmaid and the best man. Nigel and Julia. Nothing like a wedding for initiating another. The beer goes down, the wine gets poured, the temperature remains three degrees below freezing. Frost sparking on Julia’s eyelids, the afterglow face paint on her cheeks, the diamanté earrings. We walk back, I commiserate with Nigel, she wraps her arms around Joe. I try not frown; it causes lines.
With two months to go, the cake is finalised, it will be a creation in the purest of white, hiding the darkness of the fruit and brandy swirling beneath. It’s a show-off cake, intricate flowers, spirals and swags. I want a paste model of us in a tent on the top. Mum and Julia laugh, “I don’t think so.” Mum says. I bite back my words.
With three weeks to go, we weekend in Blackpool, my hens around me, sashes and tiaras and glitter. A spa day, garlic prawns, pizza and acidic white wine. Julia dances on the table, a hit with everyone, my friends love her. Headaches all-round the next morning. Powdered scrambled egg for breakfast and there’s no decaf coffee. Julia smirks all the way home, her lips grazed by the beard of man she was kissing all night. I should not pass judgement.
With one week to go, he says I’m being bride-zilla. He raises a finger for me to be silent as he takes a call at the swanky restaurant we go for a pre-wedding treat, just for us. He can’t collect his suit—he will be at the football match. I will have to do it, I was the one who wanted to get married. It’s the rehearsal for my make-up and hair and all my hens will be there, but I will have to drive home with his suit hanging from the hook in the back, as they go off to the nightclub. Julia will have to take over as host. I feel a shiver in my bones.
With forty-eight hours to go, the stag night in Dublin is all-over social media. They drink all day, staggering from pub to pub. Guinness froth on their noses. Julia is there, smirking as he gives her a kiss on her cheek, one hand down her blouse, the other up her skirt. The hens peck around, in DMs and texts and calls. They call her names, promise to shun her at the wedding. I know when they have enough prosecco, they will be her mate again. I can’t cry, I need to look my best.
With ten minutes to go, we sit on the sofa, Dad holds my hot hand in his cool one. “You don’t have to go through with it,” Dad says, “the limo is ours for the day. We could go to the seaside. What do you say love?”
Author Bio: Joyce Bingham is a Scottish writer who enjoys writing short fiction with pieces published by Ellipsis Zine, FlashBack Fiction, VirtualZine, Funny Pearls and Free Flash Fiction. She lives in the North of England where she makes up stories and tells tall tales. Find her on Twitter at @JoyceBingham10.