‘You look good enough to eat,’ says Billie.
‘Wish Mum was here.’
Billie smiles and carefully lifts the veil over her face. The photographer clicks away. It is a beautiful moment.
Then Jack comes in. ‘Are you ready?’ he asks.
‘You look amazing. I’m so proud of you. Blake’s one lucky man,’ he says, but, even though he is smiling, his eyes are forlorn.
I pick up the bride’s bouquet—it is made solely from calla lilies—and put it into Lana’s hands.
‘Time I was going,’ I say, my voice all sugar and cinnamon, but nobody looks at me. I exit without Jack having even noticed I was there.
Later. My time will come later.
The bride is on her way. I didn’t get into the same car as Billie, Lana and Jack. I left earlier, came in another. There are expensive chauffeured cars parked all the way up the road. I run up the steps of the church just to have a quick peek inside at the beautiful people. See if I can recognize any celebrities. The sound of violins playing drifts out of the entrance.
The church is the fruit that the tree of money bore. Even I, who have voraciously consumed hundreds of images of glamorous weddings, am startled by what big money can buy.
Overnight, the nave has been transformed into a fantasy garden. All the bays are filled with clusters of magnolia trees and every pew is festooned with greenery swags. The tropical liana vines entwined with flowers and leaves that droop down from the vaulted ceiling give the illusion that the aisle is a garden path. The ground is carpeted with green turf and scattered with flower petals. Hedges surround the altar.
Ah! That’s where the forty thousand roses flown in from Ecuador and Holland at a cost of £125,000 ended up. The back of the church has become the most astonishing rose wall out of which the crucifix looms. I touch a stone pillar, now a luxuriously thick cylinder of flowers, and think of the symbol of the crucifix: nails pounding flesh and fiber into wood.
The pews are full of marshmallow-colored hats and morning suits, but since it is impossible to recognize anyone from the back, I go back outside to wait for Lana’s arrival. I am standing on the top step when the cream Rolls-Royce draws up.
How lucky you are.
Jack gets out first then Billie exits out of the far side. Jack comes around and helps Lana out and Billie picks up her train and holds it in her hands. The sun is shining on them and I realize that these are the people I have grown up with. In an unexplainable, funny, not ha ha way I love them all.
I go down the steps towards them. Lana’s breathing seems wrong, all jerky and light, and Billie tells her, ‘Try not to be a dick. Keep to the plan.’
Which seems to do the trick and makes Lana smile nervously. My Jack offers her the crook of his arm, and Billie gently spreads the train out on the ground so it is like a white bit of cloud trailing her.
India Jane beckons with her hands and as rehearsed the nanny comes forth with Sorab.
I’m not really into babies, but this kid looks edible in a mini tux. The pretty flower girls take their place in front, and Blake’s sister, who seems barely able to contain her excitement, takes her place behind the flower girls. A man in a dark suit speaks into his walkie-talkie and gives the go-ahead signal.
‘Ready?’ Jack asks.
Unable to speak, Lana nods. Well, I don’t know if she is really unable to speak but I am sort of projecting what I would be feeling if I were her. I see her take a deep breath. Billie gets behind Lana, I get in front of Lana and we are off. As we practiced at the rehearsal.
I walk down the aisle to the strains of Canon in D, head up, but tense and conscious of all the eyes on me. I’m not cut out to be the center of attraction. I take my place and sigh with relief. That went well. I swivel my head to look at Blake and I catch the eyes of the best man, the one who could not attend the rehearsal because he was attending the wake, the failed artist, and the one who Fat Mary reckons has a sloooooow hand and has nicknamed Grandview. He stands as tall as Blake and his straight shoulder-length sandy hair is in a ponytail. I disapprove of men with long hair. Lazy hippies.
He winks suddenly. At me!
For some seconds I am so surprised, I stare back at him. Then the bridal processional, Prince of Denmark’s March (Trumpet Voluntary) by Jeremiah Clarke, fills the church and, without acknowledging him in any way, I tear my gaze away from him and towards the entrance.
The bride has arrived at the top step. All heads turn. Gasps and murmurs of approval rise from the seated guests. Truth is, every gasp and seal of approval is deserved. Some women are born to be brides. Lana is one of them. She pauses a moment, a vision in white, before slowly walking down the aisle.
I turn to look at Blake. He has made no concession to any sort of decorum. No surreptitious backward glances, no politely waiting for the bride to arrive by his side—instead he has completely turned his back to the altar and is watching Lana’s progress down the aisle with a rapt expression. Like a rock that has been struck by the sun for such a long time that its skin starts to radiate warmth, his entire being radiates love. There is a soaring innocence in his intensity. And pride. Such pride. He reminds me of a mustang that has not been broken.
When she reaches him, Jack carefully lifts her veil, kisses her lightly on one cheek and, relinquishing her, moves back. Away from her. He is finally free of her. My heart leaps. One day he will be mine.
The rest of the ceremony is a blur.
It all happens, but the events strike me as scraps from a dream. So long awaited and then it slips through your hand like so much sand. Lana whispering, ‘I do.’ Blake possessively slipping a ring onto her third finger because—I read somewhere—of an ancient Greek belief that a vein from that finger goes directly to the heart. The kiss, an extravagant gesture that stretches and exposes the length of Lana’s throat and makes me think of: ownership. Then it is over. The bride and groom are departing hand in hand down the aisle. Outside, we pose for photographs. I try to move closer to Jack.
My plan is foiled by a posh voice.
‘The celebration will continue down the road, six miles from here,’ she announces, a militaristic twinkle in her eyes. I can totally picture her deftly separating someone’s head from their shoulders with a machete, wiping the blood off her hands and calmly sitting down to a round of wedding cake tasting.
The fine guests have been herded to the lawn where they are sipping vintage pink bubbly, nibbling on canapés on the lawn while waiting to be called into the marquee by the ushers. There is a quartet playing. I put down the classy monogrammed cocktail napkin and my drink at the bar, and go back into the house. I smile to and run past the human wall guarding the staircase. Upstairs, I don’t go to the bedroom I stayed in last night, or the room where we all got ready. Instead I go to the room Lana stayed in. I try the door and, to my surprised delight, it opens.