19 December 2011
Trust Not The Vow ... Chapter 9
Rachel was confused when she slid her hand over the edge of the bed and received neither a wet lick nor a muzzle in her palm. At once perturbed that something dire had happened to Rex, she focused on the location of his bed, but saw instead an unfamiliar tallboy. She realised her mistake. This was not her room. It was Cynthia's room, and today was her wedding day.
Growing accustomed to the dimness, she looked around, taking in the ancient double wardrobe at the side of a walk-in cupboard. Stripped to the bare wood, it had been painted lemon and stencilled, larkspur up the sides and passion-flowers creeping up the front. It was very pretty and exceptionally well done, considering Cynthia always professed to be no good at art.
An original marble washstand served as a dressing-table. It was situated between two casement windows, in front of a huge spherical wall mirror. Two garments, one ivory and one peach, hung in polythene bags on the exterior of the wardrobe, entirely shrouding the mirrored door through which Cynthia would behold her unmarried appearance for the last time.
Pink and green curtains wafted slightly at one window, permitting periodic splodges of wintery sunlight to linger on the ceiling. Rachel felt an instant's disquiet. In Cynthia's highly nervous state, fine weather was crucial; a downpour would be intolerable.
Cynthia was still asleep, huddled below the covers and gently snoring, oblivious to the world and her forthcoming destiny. The digital timepiece revealed that it was seven o'clock, far too early to disturb the bride-to-be. Rachel had stayed overnight so that she would be on hand to assist with the dressing, but that was hours hence. There was a lot to get through before then. Below stairs, a vacuum cleaner droned, the last chance Cynthia's mother had to tidy round before the detonation of events.
Rachel eased herself from the warm bed, shivered when the cool air struck her bare skin. Satisfied that Cynthia's form was well covered, she pulled on her lilac polyester robe and left the room.
‘You'll sit down and do as you’re told,’ instructed Mrs Mates. ‘You'll be no use to Cynthie if you're starving hungry.’
Rachel was happy to obey since there was a stiffness in her neck that warranted attention. She sat down and worked her head from side to side.
‘Were you lying by the window, duck?’
Rachel nodded, then wished she hadn't, having forgotten that Mrs Mates knew all the remedies for aches and pains. Before she could say ‘Don't touch’ her neck and shoulders were being manipulated until the problem spot was detected. Without a word of warning, Mrs Mates yanked Rachel's head to one side, bringing scalding tears to her eyes. But the ruthless treatment worked, she could move again without pain. Marvellous!
Cynthia's mother turned the browning sausages in a giant-sized pan and broke an egg alongside.
‘Can I pour the tea?’ Rachel asked.
‘Yes, providing you do it sitting down. You must relax, duck, while you can. The day will be tiring enough.’
What a pleasant, homely soul Mrs Mates was. Amy Skinner was quite the opposite. She would expect to be waited on by anyone willing to do it. Not demand it, not any more, but if she sat here and Cynthia arrived in her bridal gown offering tea, she would thank her kindly and settle back to watch her pour.
Because Mrs Mates seemed to be undertaking rather a lot on this memorable day, and because her conscience was pricking, Rachel collected two big plates from the rack above the cooker and positioned them on the counter. ‘I presume you're eating too,’ she said, raising her eyebrows in enquiry.
Three succulent sausages and an over-easy egg connected with the first plate. Rachel's mouth was overrun by juices. ‘Gosh, Mrs Mates, that looks delicious.’
Adding two slices of fried bread, Mrs Mates said, ‘Eat up, duck. It'll be a lengthy stretch before you get anything else.’
‘You've got to, 'cause I'm buttering you up for the cadge.’
Rachel discharged a dollop of tomato ketchup on top of the crisp bread. ‘What do you want me to do?’
‘Church flowers. My sister and niece want help arranging all those blooms. I told Cynthie not to overdo it, but she took no notice. Church'll be overrun with greenfly, I wouldn't wonder.’ Mrs Mates produced a clipboard on which were listed all the jobs that had to be done. ‘Now then, someone'll have to let Simon in. He's due at eleven. I'll be trying to do something with me phizog about then. Oh, yes, and a woman from Needhams is coming to do Cynthie's make-up.’
Rachel sliced into the second sausage and slipped a large portion in her mouth. ‘It'll be like having a full make-over,’ she said.
‘If you like, duck, but you'd say it easier with your mouth empty.’
Embarrassed, Rachel masticated and swallowed the sausage before offering to do whatever Mrs Mates requested.
‘Bless you, my duck. It's all a bit hectic for me to cope with.’
As Mrs Mates proceeded to fry her own egg, Rachel caught the glint of tears. ‘Hey, Cynth's Mum,’ she said soothingly, ‘Don't you go making your eyes red. Not before church, anyway.’
Rachel ran upstairs to check on Cynthia, opening the door gently. Two bleary eyes regarded her. ‘There's no need to creep around,’ Cynthia grunted.
‘Happy wedding day,’ cried Rachel.
‘Don't look so damned happy.’
‘Why? What's the matter?’
‘I feel sick.’ Cynthia raised herself on her elbows. ‘I can't go through with it.’
Rachel was alarmed in case she meant it. All that preparation, for nothing? ‘Don't be daft,’ she said firmly. ‘You're simply suffering pre-wedding stress.’ A tug at the blankets revealed Cynthia's splendid figure, scantily attired in briefs and a filmy top. ‘Come on. Your Mum's cooking breakfast.’
Cynthia rescued the bedclothes. ‘I couldn't eat a thing.’
‘Well, I'll leave you to it. I'm off to help at the church.
‘Great. You can tell the Priest the wedding's off.’
Grinning, Rachel mercilessly heaved aside the bedclothes. ‘Tell him yourself when you get there. Now come on, your Mum's been up all hours slogging. The least you can do is go down and say hello.’
BY the time Rachel returned from church, where she had begged the Lord to ensure that her friend recovered her sanity, Cynthia was luxuriating in the bath. She was cutting it so fine that Rachel feared the wedding really was off, until Mrs Mates assured her that Cynthia was now in excellent fettle and raring to go. Thank you, Lord.
Simon's arrival was imminent. He was the limp-handed stylist Cynthia swore was the only individual who could tame her hair into a decent style. Rachel's straight bob was already washed, but it would need damping and blow-drying properly before Simon could insert the peach coloured roses. And then it would be the turn of the make-up artist. A complete waste of money in Rachel's view, since Cynthia could achieve professional results even when peering in the crazed cloakroom mirror. But this was her special day and when Rachel's special day came she would, money permitting, do the same.
Simon brushed and stroked Rachel's hair until it shone. ‘Attractive lights, you've got, dearie,’ he said, combing it off her forehead and fingering the strands, demonstrating his approval with frequent purrs. ‘My partner has lights like yours. Beautiful hair, but short. I'm forever telling him to grow it. He won't, though. Marcus is a dear, but ever so obstinate.’ He stuffed a number of hairpins between his teeth and began to entwine the
roses. ‘Yours would look ever so fetching a fraction longer.’
Fascinated, Rachel observed the transformation. Her bone structure appeared to be changing and her rarely seen ears looked dainty beneath trails of wisps. Gary would love it, she was sure. ‘I may grow it for my own wedding,’ she said.
‘Getting spliced? That's grand, sweetie. Come and see Simon nearer the date and we'll discuss a style.’
‘Would you really do it for me?’
‘Sweetie, it would be my pleasure. I seldom get the chance to handle rich hair like yours.’
Rich! It was the first Rachel knew about rich.
While Simon teased and sprayed and coaxed her hair, Rachel scrutinised her image, seeing the coppery sheen as if for the first time, noting the way it shimmered in the glow of theatrical bulbs surrounding the looking-glass. Every hair glistened like gossamer. And every blemish shows, she thought, touching a reddening spot on her chin and resolving to have a quick word with the woman from Needhams.
Following the hair-dos and cosmetic artistry, Rachel assisted Cynthia to dress, a laborious task with her weeping mother hovering and interfering. For some reason best known to herself Mrs Mates was most anxious that all thirty-two pearl buttons at the back of the bodice should be double-checked to make certain they were securely fastened. Rachel sniggered inwardly as she stood, veil in hand, waiting for her to finish the ultimate inspection. At the day's conclusion, Curtis would likely rip the dress apart in his haste to get at Cynthia's flesh.
Mrs Mates dealt with the final button then spoke warningly to her daughter. ‘Now, Cynthie,’ she said, ‘Don't you forget to tell Curtis to be extra careful when he helps you out of this frock. You don't want his clumsy fingers ripping it to shreds.’
Rachel twisted aside to suppress a rising giggle.
‘You all right, duck?’ Mrs Mates asked in a concerned voice.
Rachel nodded and took a swig from Cynthia's bottle of Evian.
Sarcastically counselling her to drink as much of her precious water as she liked, Cynthia went on to imitate her mother. ‘You positive you're all right, duck?’ she asked, conveying by a twinkle in her eye that she understood exactly what Rachel had foreseen.
Rachel unfolded the veil, preparing it for when Simon returned. During the ritual of dressing he had been closeted in the kitchen with coffee and slices of angel cake, awaiting the call to commence fixing the pearl encrusted head-dress.
Mrs Mates went to summon him.
‘I'm glad you resisted the urge to utter one of your facetious remarks,’ Cynthia commented.
‘Your Mum would have belted me if I had.’
‘True. Anyway, what were you thinking?’
‘I had an impression of Curtis, delirious and probably drunk, in a hurry to penetrate your person, wrenching the dress asunder and filling the bed with a cascade of buttons.’
‘Likewise! Funny how the fancy for sex relaxes one. I feel absolutely great now. In fact, the sooner I get operational the better.’
‘Yoo-hoo, can I come in?’
Cynthia saluted Simon and hastened to sit at the washstand.
‘Ready for Simon are you, dearie,’ he remarked, swamping her with a spotless pastel-blue cape.
‘More than ready, Simon.’ Cynthia reached for her perfume and dabbed Heaven Scent on her wrists. ‘Do what you will with me.’
‘I'm not your type, sweetie,’ he answered, expertly flicking his comb and swiftly affixing pearls and rosebuds and silk ribbons.
‘It looks superb,’ acknowledged Cynthia as Simon monitored his handiwork in the mirror. She caught his eye, flirting outrageously. ‘Would you take me on, Simon?’
‘You want someone a whit more butch.’ Simon made a couple more adjustments, then lightly rested his hands on Cynthia's shoulders and winked at her reflection. ‘If you encounter a spare one at this wedding of yours, give him my card, there's a love. I could use a change.’
Cynthia was as radiant as a summer sun as she posed by the white Bentley, standing a little ahead of her father. The photographer had swept her skirt imposingly behind her, thus creating a refined but haughty stance. It was difficult to believe the tenseness she had suffered, the tantrums and repeated assertions that the wedding was off.
When it’s my turn, I hope I look as gorgeous, prayed Rachel from inside the porch. She had followed the Priest's example of sheltering from the raw wind and was now rubbing her arms, hoping the goose-pimples would quickly disappear. Fortunately Cynthia's gown had full sleeves, otherwise she, too, would be trembling like a jelly. Still, the photographs would be sunny. Only the guests would know how cold it was.
Progress up the aisle seemed eternal to Rachel, who had one eye glued to Cynthia's train - constantly worrying about the havoc it would cause if she stepped on it - and the other eye on the guests, smiling and nodding to those she knew.
Eric Hudspith was with Mildred. She was austerely dressed in a black tweed coat with a real fur collar buttoned to the throat. Eric twirled his trilby and gave a surreptitious wink.
The column moved slowly on, giving time to admire the diminutive bunches of cyclamen affixed to the pews. There was insufficient scent to conquer the musty smell, but the colours compensated.
Geoff Simmonds, the bay foreman, was there with his latest woman friend. They were with several of the office girls, all wearing suits and hats and waving enthusiastically as the procession passed.
And there was Amy, in the pew in front, wearing her new Brussels lace blouse under a plain velvet suit the colour of crushed strawberries. The wide-brimmed cream hat she'd spent hours trimming with strawberry tulle, looked fabulous. A lace handkerchief was in her right hand, held high, ready to mop the tears, as weep she would. Rachel took a moment to speculate how much the ensemble had cost, fleetingly wondering how Amy had found the cash, but then Toby came into view, beaming like a piccaninny eating melon. He looked great in a navy suit and rather flamboyant waistcoat; as Rachel passed, he stuffed out his chest like a peacock, as if to say, Here girl, look at me; don't I look the works.
At the altar, the ceremony commenced.
Dearly beloved ....
Holding Cynthia's bouquet, Rachel studied Gary's manly rear. She allowed her eyes to rove slowly downwards to where his torso narrowed, conjuring up a picture of firm, lean buttocks for which she would soon have fondling rights. He looked terrific in
tails. She wanted him to wear them at their wedding, and she would be swathed in antique cream silk.
Wilt thou, Curtis Anthony Ledbetter ....
The smell of out-of-season roses drifted upwards. Too strong!
Rachel lowered her head to inhale the scent, convinced the florist had added additional perfume.
Wilt thou love her ....
Gold and cream flowers would go admirably with antique cream silk. It all depended on the season.
If it was a winter wedding she would wear cream leather gloves, if she could find any in the shops. Rachel made a mental note to visit Needhams when next in town. She wouldn't want gloves in summer, but her nails would need concentrated treatment. Maybe she should book an appointment with a manicurist.
I, Cynthia Rosemary ....
Rachel transferred her weight to the other foot. Already her toes were pinching. The shoes Cynthia had chosen for her were not as comfortable as they looked. When she got married, her feet would be clad in stylish courts, fabricated from the softest
With this ring ....
A broad band, one that would not wear thin like Amy's, which was in danger of splitting.
Those who God has joined together ....
Gary proved to be a marvellous best man and was indispensable at the reception. He was a great favourite with the females. Giggling girls listened attentively to his yarns and the older generation smiled affectionately, fussing over him like a long-lost son. In the evening, he waltzed with grannies and was bagged by teenagers for the rock and roll. Not to be outdone, Amy commandeered him for quicksteps and an occasional jive.
Rachel jealously considered he spent far too much time dancing with her mother, though she couldn't complain that he was wholly inattentive. Whenever they were together, he proudly raised her hand to show off her sapphire cluster to all who demonstrated an interest in their engagement. Amy preened when this happened and quickly attached herself to her future son-in-law, possessively clutching his arm as though afraid he might escape, and bragging about how clever her daughter was to capture such a charming young man.
Nearing the end of the evening, Rachel reluctantly accepted her boss's invitation to join the throng on the floor, though it was anybody's guess what the dance was. Eric was decidedly squiffy. He danced like an amorous bear, putting his hands on the base of her spine and pulling her to him without a care as to who might be paying heed. His steps didn't match either the music or her own movements and his feet landed on the hem of her dress so often she was scared the material would rip.
The long-haired burly drummer in a sleeveless vest was apparently determined to thump a hole in his drum. The noise was deafening, but the tempo had slowed and Eric now swayed with his cheek touching hers, hips jutting in order to wiggle them to the beat. Her skin crawled with distaste and she hankered to be back at the bar, where Gary was talking to Amy, and Toby was engrossed in conversation with Eric's wife.
The drummer terminated his solo performance and the rhythm unexpectedly speeded up. Eric abandoned his impassioned pose and broke into a dance that could only be described as a gallop. Rachel hung on for dear life when he spun her round to avoid a jiving couple, and collided with Cynthia and Curtis. Thankfully, at that point, Eric stopped to have a word with Curtis, who was almost hidden by the bunched folds of his wife's skirt.
‘Your Mum's enjoying herself,’ said Cynthia breathlessly, stealing a minute to recover from the collision.
‘She always does,’ Rachel retorted, grudging eyes wandering across the room. Her parents were advancing to the dance floor, and Gary was impatiently tapping his foot against a table leg, indicating his dislike at being abandoned. She tugged Eric's arm. ‘I'd better get back,’ she said, thinking she could just walk away, but Eric's arm again encircled her waist. ‘Right, dear girl. I'll whirl you to the corner.’
Having refused lifts from various couples, Gary and Rachel strolled home. It was a night for lovers. Stars twinkling in the black sky motivated Rachel to pause and search for the brightest, and to track the plough, shivering until Gary drew her towards him to share his coat. She snuggled inside, pushing her arms round his waist, acutely aware of the protuberance inside his pants. Shutting her eyes, she angled her head to seek his lips; her innards fluttered, and passion surged her loins. And with his mouth on hers and his penis swelling against her thigh, she cursed the layers of garb which prevented him from gaining access. She moaned, ‘Oh Gary, I do want you.’
‘Not now,’ he mumbled, nibbling her ear, then he cupped her face and peered into her eyes. ‘There's time enough when we're wed.’
‘Oh, Gary. I can't wait that long.’
Taking her hand, Gary gazed at her ring. For one hideous moment, Rachel thought he was intending to remove it.
‘Then we'll have to make it sooner. Could you wait five weeks, until Christmas?’
Rachel's reply rose from her belly and travelled at high speed to emerge into the night air as an impassioned whoop. ‘Yes! Oh, yes.’
(to be continued)