A Civil Wedding

A Civil Wedding
By Leigh Mathers

 

Claudia smoothed the ivory satin over her five-month bump, and swayed girlishly in front of the long mirror, hardly able to believe her own reflection.  She was more at home in jeans as a rule – baggy ones these days – but today resembled an exotic princess.

She swished up and down, enjoying the gown’s rippling feel on her leg, and the serene way her new cream shoes forced her to walk.  The small tiara twinkled in her softly bobbed hair, as though giving Claudia a wink that said ‘you’re gorgeous.’

Through the bay window beyond the mirror, she could see the first clusters of guests, those few relatives who had not spitefully declined their invitations.  They looked like a rainbow of chickens in their silks and fascinators, nattering to each other, words Claudia couldn’t hear.

This was a small, weekday civil wedding at Ackleton Manor, a hotel and converted country house.  It had been booked at short notice, and there were many absentees.  Their loss, thought Claudia scornfully.
She watched her family bobbing across the gravelled car park, until a knock drew her to the door. 

Violet was there, in the colour that matched her name.  Her elegant suit emphasised her still trim figure, and her hat was as wide as the doorway. 

‘Grandma, you look stunning.’  Claudia manoeuvred herself beneath the brim for a hug.

‘Violet for Violet.’  Her grandmother did a saucy little spin.

‘Joan Collins eat your heart out!’

‘Now let me look at you.  Ah, how proud would Grandpa have been!’

‘Don’t start,’ Claudia warned, laughing, ‘I’m hormonal enough as it is, remember!  I can’t wait to see Kenny’s face, though.’

‘I know!  He is an immensely lucky man, but then I am somewhat biased!  And even if this place does flood with tears, I’ll be all right.  I can sit in this thing,’ Violet pointed to her hat, ‘and row myself to safety!’

Alan, Claudia’s father, who had been hovering in his tailcoat all this time, looking pale, now hugged his daughter.  ‘You look gorgeous, my sweetie.  Absolute knockout.  Will you girls excuse me a mo, though, I’m going to dash off for a ciggie.’

‘Thought he’d given up,’ said Claudia.

‘Poor love,’ Violet sympathised, ‘he’s working himself up about his speech.’

‘A few glasses of red at dinner’ll calm him.’

Claudia glided over to the flowers, which were propped on a cardboard block.  She picked up her posy of hyacinths and rehearsed her walk, carrying them demurely back and forth past the mirror.

‘Aunty Norma’s not coming, you might know.’

‘Didn’t expect any better from her.’

‘Disowned me, in fact.’

‘What?  How vile!’

‘Called us “grotesque”.’

‘Unbelievable!’

‘I suppose I don’t qualify as a “blushing bride” in her prudish eyes.’

Claudia stroked her tummy protectively with her flower-free hand.

‘No sour grapes there then about never having married herself!’

‘Oh, of course not!  I sometimes wonder quite who she’s saving herself for, at her age.  Not that that’s the only issue here, of course.  Then there’s Larry and Cath, who’ve had it away to Gran Canaria.  They say they’d booked the holiday before knowing about the wedding, but I’m sceptical.’

‘It’s a case of being under big sister’s thumb, though, with Larry, isn’t it?’

‘Oh, he’s always been influenced by Norma.  Honestly, you’d think Kenny and I were beasts with three heads, the way that lot carry on.  Beats me how a pair of consenting adults in love can cause so much offence.’

‘No one could be more in love than you and Kenny.’

‘I know, but that small fact seems irrelevant to the likes of them.’

‘Well you cause no offence to us, that’s for sure.’

‘No, you’ve been a total rock these last few months.’ 

The two women embraced emotionally in silence for a few moments, needing each other, drawing comfort at this poignant time.

‘“You haven’t known him five minutes,” is one of the kinder comments we’ve had.  “Got the bloke living with you before you even know what he’s all about.”  “Making a laughing stock of yourself,” “scandalising the family,” blah blah.  They’ve even taken issue with Kenny being a bit younger than me.  Anything to detract from the real reason they’re all so anti.’

‘Ah, forget them.  This is going to be a wonderful day.’

‘The best ever.  But on the issue of us rushing into this, Kenny did actually suggest postponing ’til after the baby comes along.  A tiny bridesmaid or pageboy would have been adorable, but frankly I’m impatient.’

‘Too right!  What do they think, that delaying another four months or so will give them time to talk you out of your supposed error of judgement?’  There was a knock at the bedroom door.  ‘Ooh, that’ll be Dad again.’  Claudia laid her posy down gently and opened the door. 

‘Look who I bumped into.’  Alan, smelling of smoke and still looking wobbly at the prospect of his son of the bride speech, was accompanied now by the photographer.

‘Good morning, ladies.  I’ll just grab a few shots, if I may, of the bride and her granddaughter.’

******

Twenty minutes later, Alan escorted the stately Violet down the aisle.  His pregnant only daughter, Claudia, the only bridesmaid, was beaming in ivory behind them, exchanging doting smiles with her own husband in the congregation. 

Kenny stood straight as a ramrod and grinned jubilantly at his purple-suited bride.  Today was his and Violet’s three-month anniversary.  Three months since they were first paired for a foxtrot at their ballroom class.

Within weeks, the light-footed lovers were cohabiting in Violet’s warden controlled bungalow.  A month ago, they’d booked their wedding – much to Norma and Larry’s disgust.

‘I’m eighty-two, Claudia,’ Violet had protested to her granddaughter, ‘and Ken’s seventy-one.  Your grandpa’s been gone eight years now, Ken’s been divorced nearly twenty, we’re harming nobody, we have so many shared interests, enjoy our companionship, know we want to be together.

‘Your dad’s the only decent one amongst my children.  He supports us.  Norma and Larry can rant all they like about me being impulsive and daft, but actually all they’re scared of is losing their inheritance.’

Claudia now dabbed her eyes as her grandma and new step-grandpa exchanged their gold rings and vows.
She thought of the judgemental lot who were staying away today.  Definitely their loss, she decided.

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