Friday, 8 November 2013

White Wedding

"Hello." His voice is rough, grizzled from sleep. I should have called a bit later, I know how he loves his Saturday morning lie-ins.
            "Dan - it's me, Jen."
            "Hey little sis, how are you?"
            "Fine. Actually, more than fine. I've got some news. Or should say, we've got some news. Ruth and I."
            "Oh?" Dan sounds a little uncertain, as he often is when I mention Ruth's name. But he's my brother, and I love him, so I plough on, ignoring his hesitancy.
            "We're getting married."
            "We're getting married. Going for the works, white wedding, big cake and a party. We want a big party. And I want you to give me away."
            "Ruth's got her parents, I don't. I have you. I want you to do it." There is silence at the end of the phone.  "Dan?" Still silence. Then:"People like you don't get married."
            "What's that supposed to mean?"
            "Lesbians, gays, whatever the correct term is these days." His venom is startling. I thought we'd got over this.
            "Don't get me wrong Jen, I'm happy for you. I really am. Ruth's nice enough. I can see she makes you happy..." I say nothing.  He continues, now he has started, it's clear he wants to get this off his chest. "It's not right, though is it? Two women marrying each other. Marriage is for a man and a woman. It just doesn't make sense otherwise."
            I think of marshalling some arguments. About Equality. Justice. Love. But I can sense he is only just getting going. I don't think I can bear it. So I hang up the phone and return to the living room where Ruth is Ruth, wise, compassionate, kind. But even she cannot alleviate this hurt. Not now, anyway. Dan is my only brother. His kids, my only family. If they turn their backs on me now, what will I become? I cannot explain this to Ruth entirely, Ruth who is so central to her parents and siblings,  so loved, so accepted.  She does her best, but she's never known what this feels like: to be outside the fold, excluded from the love you believed would last. I thought Dan had got over this. Clearly, I was wrong.
            But, after a long run, through the puddled park, the yellow-orange leaves drifting about me like blossom, and a hot bath filled with rose-scented bubbles, I feel better. Sod Dan. Sod him. Ruth and I are getting married. The day we never thought possible is going to be ours. I set about planning with a vengeance.


            "Auntie Jen?" The call wakes me at six,
            "Finn! What are you doing up so early?" It is unusual to say the least, and to be honest, I could have done with the extra hour in bed.
            "School trip to Germany. We're leaving in a bit, but I had to call. When I found out. I had to."
            "Found out what?"
            "About your wedding. I saw it on Facebook and asked Dad."
            "He's a tool, Auntie Jen. A total tool."
            "I'd say respect your father, but on this..."
            "I'll do it."
            "Give you away." My eyes prick with tears.
            "Won't you get in trouble with your Dad?"
            "I won't tell if you won't." I smile; I've always appreciated Finn's rebellious streak, it reminds me of my own teenage naughtiness.
            "You're on."
            "Great. I know it's cheesy, but I do love a white wedding."
            "Who was that?" asks Ruth, sleepily as I hang up. I explain. "Thank God for the youth of today," she says. I smile, the warmth stealing through me. She drifts back off to sleep, allowing me to lie and gaze, and gaze at her beautiful face. We are going to be married. I will have someone from my family to support me. I am content.


            On the morning of our wedding I wake alone, but I don't mind. We're embracing every aspect of the white wedding experience, including  traditional pre-wedding separation.  Now as I stretch out in the unfamiliar bed, I simultaneously long for her presence and am filled with excitement at the day ahead. I send her a text: Let's get married today Her reply returns immediately:  It's a date. I smile, and step into the shower.
            The morning is a whirlwind of activity. Angie, Flick and Sue arrive to help with hair, make-up and flowers. Last minute checks are made at the venue. Eddy arrives with salmon and champagne for a light lunch. Finn and his girlfriend Ally pitch up just as I've put the finishing touches to my dress.
            "Auntie Jen, you look gorgeous." He gives me a kiss.
            "So do you." The little boy I once babysat, has suddenly become, in top hat and tails, a handsome young man.  The others pile off to the hotel in two cars, and Finn and I are left alone.
            "How are you feeling?" he asks.
            "Nervous, happy, excited." I don't say that I wish his Dad was here. It's brilliant he's stepped up for me, but I wish he was Dan nonetheless. "Thanks for being here."
            He squeezes my arm, "My pleasure," and then looking at his watch,  "Shall we?"  We walk out to the waiting White Bentley, decorated with white ribbon, a bouquet of pink roses in the back. I am off to marry the woman I love - nothing else matters.
            The journey is short. We pull up outside the front of the red-brick hotel. The sun is glowing yellow in a bright blue sky. It's a perfect day for it. We walk into the hallway, where Ruth is standing with her parents. I catch my breath. This is the first time I've seen her in her dress: it is a simple white silk that hugs are willowy figure and brings out the colour in her cheeks. She looks stunning. I blow her a kiss. She blows one back. The guests are already seated, and now it is time for Ruth to walk down the aisle ahead of me. I watch her glide to the front, conscious of how lucky I am. I am about to start my own walk with Finn, when someone taps me on the shoulder.
            "Hey little sister," It is Dan. Unbelievably, it is Dan. "My job I think," he says to Finn. I am about to protest, but Finn just grins and says, "Go for it." Dan takes my arm.
            "Sorry. I've been a plonker."
            "You have."
            "Start again?" I look up at my big brother, seeing  the sincerity of his apology in his eyes. I look down the aisle where Ruth is waiting for me with the biggest smile on her face. I nod. It's a nice day for it, after all.