Pen

The Best of Times Short Story Competition


Autumn 2016 Results




Wedding Crashers

Copyright © Rananda Rich 2016


“Should anyone here present know of any reason that this couple should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace.”

I smile at the man who will be my husband, until there is a crash of doors opening at the back of the church.

“I object!”

I turn to see who has dared to interrupt my day. My ex is standing there, motorbike helmet still in hand, his mop of curly hair flattened. I have not seen him for years. I turn back.

“Please continue,” I whisper to the vicar.

He shrugs his shoulders. “I can’t. I have to hear what his objection is.”

“Who’s that?” my husband-to-be whispers to me.

“No-one,” I say.

Our small crowd of invited guests, squashed as they are into the narrow wooden benches, start to murmur amongst themselves. I look at my maid of honour. She catches my eye and raises an eyebrow, but otherwise stays deadpan. Good girl.

“Might I suggest we take a five minute break,” says the vicar to both of us. “He may have a valid objection,”

“He doesn’t,” I say.

The vicar nods but persists. “I have a private room out the back. Will you wait here while I talk to him?”

I look at my husband-to-be. My confusion is reflected on his face.

The wedding guests rustle in their pews behind us, straining to hear our whispering.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the vicar announces. “We will adjourn for a few minutes.”

A few male guests stand, patting their pockets for their cigarettes and head out. The vicar heads down the aisle and leads my ex, the objector, to a door at the back that goes to the working rooms of the church.

My husband-to-be reaches for my hands. “You look beautiful today. No matter what, we’ll be telling our grandkids about this one day.”

“One day!” I say. “We can discuss it with them tomorrow. They’re all there watching us!”

Sure enough, Davey and little Bobby are quietly fighting in the first row of my husband-to-be’s side. On my side, I can see Carol feeding her daughter. The baby may be attached for hours. My eldest grandchild, Basil, is staring at me, a look of deep concern on his face.

“It’s OK,” I mouth silently to him and then give what I hope is a radiant grin. I do a little wave at Cousin Doris who is sitting just behind him.

The vicar has been gone a while. My toes are starting to feel pinchy in my shoes. I thought by now I might be sitting down at the table set up to the side, signing the paperwork, being photographed. I might have been overly ambitious with these heels.

“Carly! Carly…” I whisper to my maid of honour. She totters over.

“Can we sit down yet?” she whispers. “My varicose veins are starting to throb.”

“I know what you mean, Carly,” I say. “Tell you what, do you want to go and find out why Kurt is here?”

She nods and starts to totter down the steps, her own posh heels exacerbating her frailty. Her son, Edward, steps forward from the second row and takes her arm.

“Who’s Kurt?” says Ben. My husband-to-be has overheard. To be honest, I thought he was deafer than that.

There is another crash at the back of the church. The door has blown open again and an elderly gentleman dodders in.

“Am I too late?” he says in a thin reedy voice. “Is it over? Please say it’s not. I want to object.”

He is waving his walking stick around in the air as he rails. Some of the younger members of the congregation don’t know whether to step forward to support his frail frame or keep back to avoid getting whacked.

“Who’s that?” says Ben next to me. His hand is now resting on the small of my back.

“No-one,” I say. I haven’t seen Murray for years.

My maid of honour, Carly, is still only halfway back up the aisle, holding onto her son’s arm. As they approach Murray she holds her other arm out to him and, leaving Edward, escorts Murray, arm in arm, to the side door. Good girl, I think.

Ben and I face our guests. They all quieten down and look at us.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” I say, taking Ben’s hand. “I’ve waited my whole life to marry this man. I’m sure that a few more minutes won’t matter. Thank you all for being so patient.”

There are smiles and wedding hats nod up and down.

The church door crashes open again. Everyone spins round to see who it is this time. It is Ben’s nephew, Steve, returning from his cigarette break.

“Sorry,” he mouths and gives a sheepish wave of unwanted stardom, but it is only a few minutes later that the door crashes open again. This time there are tuts of annoyance from the congregation until there is a great bellowing.

It’s Charles, Harold’s dad. He was definitely not invited.

“What the bloody hell is going on here!”

There are gasps from the more pious of the guests.

“This cannot be allowed to proceed,” he says.

Chloe has ripped herself off Carol’s teat in surprise and she opens her mouth wide and screams into the accumulating cacophony. I see Carol wince and she scrambles to put her exposed flesh away. I see her nudge Harold, and I watch as my son shuffles up the aisle, nearly as portly as his father and takes him to the side door, to join Kurt, Murray, Carly and the vicar, before returning to his seat in the front row.

Ben leans over to me.

“Now I know that was your ex-husband. I suppose the other two are also former….?”

I shrug and smile helplessly back.

A few minutes later, Carly emerges from the side door, alone. She walks up the aisle as regally as if she were the bride, but I know it is because she is missing her walking stick. I can see it propped against the lectern to one side of me.

The guests watch her slow progression. She totters up the steps to where we are still waiting by the altar and takes me by the arm to the table in the corner where we should have been signing the paperwork by now.

“What is it? What’s going on?” I say.

“Ooh, that’s better,” she says as she sinks into a chair.

I lean over her with my back to the crowd. I look back and I see Ben looking rather adrift in front of everyone.

“What are they all doing in there?” I hiss.

“I don’t know,” says Carly. “The vicar is at a loss. He says he has never, ever had anyone object at a wedding before, let alone two, then three objections.”

“So Kurt, Murray and Charles are in there?” I say.

Carly nods.

“In the same room together! But what are they doing here?” I say.

“I don’t know. They asked me to leave.”

I look at Ben and think about our union, our delayed union I realise. I tap my foot.

The side door at the back of the church opens. The guests watch as the vicar strides up the aisle, his robes swishing. Ben and I wait for him at the altar.

The vicar blushes and coughs into his hand.

“They want to talk to Ben.”

Ben looks at me for guidance. Oh be a man and take charge, I think. I purse my lips and give a tiny nod.

Ben strides down the aisle and through the door. I fantasise about a massive brawl that they will have over me. Or maybe they will organise duels, two pairs fighting and the winners progressing to a final showdown. But all of that will delay the ceremony.

We wait. Carol tries to calm Chloe who has by now ratcheted up into full voice. If things had gone to plan I would be married to Ben by now and Chloe would be outside being wheeled around in her pram, settling into her nap. Ten year old Basil has some kind of device that he has pulled out of an inner pocket of his smart little suit. He has tuned out of his surrounds, especially his screaming baby sister right next to him.

The door opens at the back of the church. Four men emerge, Ben in the lead. They haven’t been in there that long; they all appear to be in one piece. They walk up the aisle, in a row, perfect Ben, mop-haired Kurt, beanpole Murray, and portly Charles; my eclectic love life.

Ben comes and stands beside me. The other three stay in the aisle. Ben leans across and kisses me on the cheek.

“I’m sorry my dear. Know that I love you.”

I turn to the other three.

“What have you done!”

“We told him the truth about you, Daisy.”

“I don’t know what you can possibly mean by that, Kurt.”

“We told him what to expect once the glow has worn off.”

“You’re talking nonsense, Murray.”

“Let him go, Daisy. Give him a chance to be happy with a nice person.”

“Charles! You are pushing your luck.”

“Is it true, Daisy? Really? You’ve…You’ve always seemed so lovely,” says Ben.

“I am, Ben, I am lovely,” I almost screech at him.

“Be careful of her, Ben, I’ve got the scars to prove it,” says Kurt. “They’re worse than anything I ever got from my motorbike.” He starts to roll up his shirt.

“That’s ridiculous, Kurt, those scars actually are from your motorbike. I couldn’t help it if I accidentally kicked the stand while we were…”

There are gasps and then titters from the crowd.

Doddery old Murray steps forward and brandishes his cane again. “Let me warn you, Ben, about what happened to my bank balance. Decimated, just decimated, Ben. I hope you’ve got a good accountant.”

“You gave me the blank cheque book, Murray, you told me to treat myself. So I did, every time you had a bit-on-the-side.”

Another gasp from the guests.

“I’ve been in therapy for years Ben,” bellows Charles. “I tried everything but there was no pleasing her.”

“I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there, Charles. It’s a miracle that Harold ever came along. There was almost no ‘pleasing’ me due to your flaccid little problem…”

More gasps and more titters.

Harold wilts with shame in the front row. Carol is beside herself next to him trying to soothe the screaming Chloe. She stands and the howls amplify around the church as she heads down the aisle. She stands at the back rocking Chloe, the cries reduced now to hiccups, Carol unable to tear herself away from the unfolding events.

“You men,” I say calmly, looking at each of them. “Wrong time, wrong place, poor judgement as always.”

I wipe an invisible tear away, I stand taller and face the congregation with a brave smile on my face. Ben steps forward and takes my arm. He looks warily at the three men now that the other side of their accusations have been revealed.

“We can’t let you proceed. Ben, she’s a malicious cow and if that doesn’t put you off, we’ll have to resort to technicalities,” says Kurt pushing his grey curls out of his eyes. “Frankly, she’s a bigamist. She’s still married to me.”

“And me,” flails Murray.

“And me,” booms Charles.

“Kurt,” I say. “Our full-moon-hippy-happy-wedding on the beach in Thailand in ‘seventy-two? Guess what! It was a fake wedding. No legal basis whatsoever.”

“And Murray,” I say with sugar in my voice. “Just because you said you viewed us as married whenever we were together, doesn’t mean we actually were. And maybe if you had kept your dick in your pants when we weren’t...”

I stop because I notice that Carly has gone bright red.

“And as for you, twenty years together, Charles, and this is how you repay me for raising your son and heir!”

But Charles is taking a piece of paper out of his pocket.

“You know what this is?” he says waving it at me, his jowly chins echoing his indignation.

“I hope you’re going to tell me it’s our divorce papers from years ago, my dear,” I say. “Because the day I stopped being a Juraszczyk and became a MacDonald again was the happiest day of my life... until today of course.”

I put my hand on Ben’s arm. “This was all dealt with when our marriage certificate was issued. So can we all just get on with it.”

“Uhhhm, Daisy?” says Charles. “Look. Look carefully.”

I take the paper from him.

“All signed, dated, like I said.”

“Look again, Daisy. Look at who you divorced.”

I look closer at the document.

“Yes. We are divorced.”

“Guess again, Daisy.”

Then I see it; the spelling. I was married to Charles Juraszczyk. I appear to have divorced Charles Juraszczczyk. Such a small thing, a typo.

“This is rubbish, Charles.”

“Shall we test it in court?”

The vicar shrugs his shoulders when I look at him.

“You’re all crazy,” I say with venom. “Is this what you men have cooked up between yourselves? Have you formed your own little boy-losers club to punish me for your own failings?”

The three men raise wry eyebrows at each other and Ben takes a step away from me. And just like that the day is lost, possibly Ben with it. The guests are silent, shocked and still.

I compose myself, force a smile, and address the congregation. “Now, everyone, I suspect matters are adjourned for the day, but there is one hell of a party, sorry Father, waiting for us down the road. Distinguished guests, dear friends, join Carly and me at the venue, to celebrate bravery, strength and independence. And we’re both hankering for a strong gin.”

A light ripple of laughter eases the tension in the crowd and there is the rustling of belongings being gathered.

Carly and I hold onto each other as we walk down the aisle as if we are the ones just betrothed. I play to the sympathy of the guests and let myself feel frail and spent. They smile and give me the thumbs up as we pass before they file out behind us. I see Carol ahead of us, rocking her baby, my granddaughter. Her tired face looks concerned as I watch her, but then she too breaks into a smile as I approach. Good girl, I think.

As we leave the church, I take one look back. Ben is wavering. He is yearning to be part of my party. He will be, another day, if I choose. I walk on and walk out. As for Carly? My maid of dis-honour? Murray huh? Unacceptable. I will deal with her later.