Another wedding. Another spectacularly unbecoming dress. Another day of pitying looks for the spinster cousin. Another waste of precious days off work. Jennifer sighed and stared unseeing at her reflection. The hairdresser finished twisting a garland of artificial poppies in her hair and she smiled her thanks. He smiled back and leaned down to whisper in her ear.
“At least you have the colouring to take poppies. Makes the other two look like anaemic chickens.”
She rewarded him with a glimpse of her dimples and he sashayed off grinning.
Then it was time to don the dreadful dress. It hung on her slim body with all the pizzazz of a dishrag, and neither of the other unfortunates looked any better. The younger one managed a conspiratorial grimace before the bride’s mother lined them up and looked them over with a gimlet eye. She nodded, albeit somewhat grimly, and stumped off.
The bridesmaids followed the tiny, exquisitely clad, bride up the aisle to where a stolid looking young man (with prospects – and the beginnings of a paunch) awaited her.
Jennifer’s age conferred on her the dubious status of ‘chief bridesmaid’ and would also normally have meant she was expected to schmooze the best man. However, on this occasion it was made very clear to her that the elder, and sourer, of her two peers had first dibs there. Which was one small bonus in a day chock-full of horrors.
The reception. A marquee on the lawn of the bride’s mother’s house, catered by a company Jennifer privately dubbed Bodgitt and Screwham caterers.
She elected not to eat the prawn cocktail.
Fifteen minutes later she had reason to bless her own cynicism. That was when the first person started to vomit. Although that scarcely describes what happened. The bride’s father stood up, turned to face the wall and pebbledashed the tent.
After that it felt as if all hell had been let loose. Jennifer found herself working alongside a tall man with a neatly trimmed auburn beard and exquisite hands.
Three hours later and the last of the really ill people was hospitalised, while the rest were being given rehydration fluid and made comfortable in the house. Jenny sighed and sat down plump on the floor. Her co-worker sat at her side.
“I don’t know about you,” he said carefully, “but I’m bloody starved”.
Which is how the two of them sneaked off to a local steakhouse and shared an enormous steak and a mountain of chips.
Six months later.
Another wedding. No dresses though, and no bridesmaids. Nurse practitioner Jennifer Wells and her tall, auburn haired husband were in the Bahamas on their honeymoon before any of the female cousins even knew there was a wedding on the horizon.
Very late that night she raised a glass of champagne. “Here’s to Bodgitt and Screwham,” she said before her husband’s beautiful and clever hands robbed her of the power of thought.