“And the trouble is, we’ve never actually… well, seen him with you, have we, love?” Mum’s continuing, as she stuffs the cushion into its transparent bag. “Not in the flesh. And then there was that piece in the paper saying he was single…”
“He didn’t say single!” My voice is shrill with frustration. “He said no comment! Mum, have Janice and Martin told you they don’t believe me?”
“No!” Mum lifts her chin defiantly. “They wouldn’t dare say a thing like that to me.”
“But you know that’s what they’re saying behind our backs.”
We stare at each other, and suddenly I see the strain in Mum’s face, hidden behind her bright facade. She must have been so hoping we’d pull up together in Luke’s flash car, I suddenly realize. She must have been so wanting to prove Janice wrong. And instead, here I am, on my own again…
“He’ll be here,” I say, almost to reassure myself. “He’ll be here any minute.”
“Of course he will!” exclaims Mum brightly. “And as soon as he turns up — well, then everyone will have to eat their words, won’t they?”
The doorbell rings and we both stiffen, staring at each other.
“I’ll get that, shall I?” I say, trying to sound casual.
“Why don’t you?” agrees Mum, and I can see a tiny shine of hope in her eyes.
Trying not to run, I hurry down the stairs and, with a light heart, fling the front door open. And it’s… not Luke.
It’s a man laden with flowers. Baskets of flowers, a bouquet of flowers, and several flat boxes at his feet.
“Wedding flowers,” he says. “Where do you want them?”
“Oh,” I say, trying to hide my disappointment. “Actually, you’ve got the wrong house, I’m afraid. They need to go next door. Number 41.”
“Really?” The man frowns. “Let me just look at my list… Hold that, would you?”
He thrusts the bridal bouquet at me and starts rooting around his pocket.
“Honestly,” I say, “they need to go next door. Look, I’ll just get my—”
I turn round, holding Lucy’s bouquet with both hands, because it’s quite heavy. And to my horror, Angela Harrison is just arriving at the foot of the stairs. She stares at me, and for a moment I almost think she’s going to kill me.
“What are you doing?” she snaps. “Give me that!” She wrenches the bouquet out of my hands and brings her face so close to mine I can smell the gin on her breath. “Listen, young lady,” she hisses. “I’m not fooled by the smiles. I know what you’re up to. And you can just forget it, all right? I’m not having my daughter’s wedding wrecked by some deranged little psychopath.”
“I’m not deranged!” I exclaim furiously. “And I’m not going to wreck anything! I don’t fancy Tom! I’ve got a boyfriend!”
“Oh yes,” she says, folding her arms. “The famous boyfriend. Is he here yet?”
“No, he isn’t,” I say, and flinch at the expression on her face. “But he… he just called.”
“He just called,” echoes Angela with a little sneer. “To say he can’t make it?”
Why won’t these people believe that Luke’s coming?
“Actually… he’s half an hour away,” I hear myself saying defiantly.
“Good!” says Angela Harrison, and gives me a nasty smile. “Well — we’ll see him very soon, then, won’t we?”
By twelve o’clock, Luke still hasn’t arrived, and I’m beside myself. This is a complete nightmare. Where is he? I loiter outside the church until the very last minute, desperately dialing his number, hoping against hope I’m suddenly going to see him running up the road. But the bridesmaids have arrived, and another Rolls-Royce has just pulled up, and he’s still not here. As I see the car door open and a glimpse of wedding dress, I hastily retreat into the church before anyone can think I’m waiting outside to disrupt the bridal procession.
As I creep in, trying not to disturb the organ music, Angela Harrison darts me an evil look, and there’s a rippling and whispering from Lucy’s side of the church. I sit down near the back, trying to keep composed and tranquil — but I’m well aware that all Lucy’s friends are shooting surreptitious glances at me. What the hell has she been telling everyone?
For a second I feel like getting up and walking out. I never wanted to come to this stupid wedding anyway. I only said yes because I didn’t want to offend Janice and Martin. But it’s too late, the bridal march is starting, and Lucy’s walking in. And I have to hand it to her, she’s wearing the most drop-dead gorgeous dress I’ve ever seen. I stare wistfully after it, trying not to imagine what I would look like in a dress like that.