The Bridal Path
Did you know that bridal shoes are none returnable? I didn’t, not until I tried to return mine anyway. Not something you think about when you’re shopping for your own wedding I guess, or at least not something you want to think about.
I’d never really been superstitious before either. Of course, I could just blame my mother for planting the worry in my head in the first place. Something I really do believe in is the power of suggestion. A Wicca friend of mine once told me, ‘it’s not the magic itself that has the power but the belief of the person casting the spell that makes it work. That belief transposes to whoever is on the receiving end and therefore becomes real.’ Magic, superstition it’s all the same thing really, whether it’s true or not is a whole other matter. My point is, if my mother hadn’t told me about the superstition in the first place the whole thing may never have happened.
Saturday afternoon, eight weeks to the day before my wedding date, I picked up my bridal shoes.
The dressmaker had said I must have them by my next fitting. They were from a French designer and the shop didn’t carry my size so I’d had to wait six weeks for them to come in. They were gorgeous, white to match my dress with a one and a half-inch heel, not too high so my feet didn’t ache and not so low I would feel too short at the side of my six-foot husband-to-be. They were a simple court shoe with a funky pattern in the satin and a curly sort of cut out shape on the side.
“I hope that’s just the empty box on the table Cal?” My mother called through from the kitchen.
“No, the shoes are inside, I brought them round for you to look at, they’re lovely, take them out.”
“Don’t you know you should never put new shoes on the table? You’ll bring bad luck at the wedding.”
“Oh don’t be daft Mum, besides they’re in a box. Just open it.”
I looked around as my mother came into the living room carrying the box in one hand and my shoes in the other.
“I really wish you hadn’t done that.”
“Please Mother, don’t be silly. Here let me try them on for you.”
Once she saw them on my feet she seemed to relax again.
“They are fabulous darling. You’re going to look stunning.” I was never certain who was more excited about my marriage, her or me. Mark and I met at university when we were nineteen, now, nearly five years down the line we had finally decided to get married. Both our families loved the idea and had been talking about it for so long we saw it as inevitable. Mark never actually proposed. It was just something that came up in conversation in the car after a nagging session with his mother.
“Maybe she’s right, we should move forward in this relationship,” he said.
“Well, yes I know but it’s not like we are in a hurry right?” Talking about ‘one day was one thing but actually going ahead hadn’t really crossed my mind.
“We can’t just keep trundling along, why don’t we just do it? It’s the natural progression.” I thought about it for a minute. He was right it was and I did love him, in fact, I couldn’t imagine being without him.
“Ok.” And that was that. We set the date, booked the church and got carried away with the wedding plans. It’s amazing, suddenly it’s all you talk about, it’s like there is nothing else going on in your life. There were moments when I couldn’t remember what on earth we had ever talked about before we started planning. Everyone was asking me about my ‘big day’, telling me how lucky I was. I felt like the young actress that just landed the leading role in next year’s blockbuster.
My dress fitting appointment came and it looked fantastic, the final seams were going to be done closer to the date, but she pinned up the hem and tightened the shoulder straps. I was beginning to get excited. My mother was with me; her eyes glistening with pride. But somewhere in the pit of my stomach, I felt a twinge of concern. Ever since she’d told me off for putting the shoes on the table I’d been silently nervous that something was going to go wrong. But every bride worries right? It’s perfectly normal. I was just looking for something bad to happen, surely.
The following Friday I came home from work to find Mark practically bursting with excitement.
“You remember my best friend from school, the one who moved to Canada with his family when we were sixteen? Well, I invited him to the wedding, and guess what? He’s actually coming.”
“Babe, that’s fantastic.” Of course, I remembered, Mark had told me so much about this guy that I felt like he was my friend too.
“He’s bringing his girlfriend. I hope you don’t mind, I said they could stay here.”
“No of course not, why would I mind?”
“Well, it’s just that they thought they would come over early and stay for a few weeks.”
“A few weeks!”
“Well yeh, it’s not a problem, is it? We do have a spare room.”
“No, it’s fine really. When are they arriving?”
“Next Wednesday.” What could I say? He was still his best mate even if they hadn’t seen each other in eight years.
We picked them up from Heathrow at stupid o’clock in the morning, (note, next time someone tells you they are landing at 4 am on a school night, order them a cab.) I tried to look enthusiastic but I’ve never done well when deprived of sleep. I forced a smile as Matt and Shell, who looked far less worse-for-wear than me, wheeled their luggage trolley towards us. In fact Shell, I decided, looked fabulous, all fresh-faced, big brown eyes softly made up and her dusty blond hair bouncing around her shoulders as though she had just walked out of the hair salon. She was wearing a pair of hipster shorts and a tight khaki t-shirt cropped a couple of inches above her belly button to reveal a highly toned stomach. Her body curved in all the right places and her legs were long and lean. I tugged my baggy cardigan tighter over my bust and wondered if it was possible to see cellulite through a loose-fitting skirt. I wasn’t fat by any means but I had to admit I could have used a few trips to the gym. And Matt was by far the best looking man I had ever laid eyes on, I couldn’t bear the idea he would think me unworthy of his best mate. By the time we got home we were all starving so Mark pulled out some bacon and eggs and cooked up some breakfast. I picked at mine consciously wondering whether Mark would prefer me to have a body like Shell’s. You could say I became a bit paranoid about it.
When I confessed my worries to Mark a few days later he just laughed and said, “Why would I want you to change the way you look?” which didn’t exactly alleviate my fears. I began to watch Mark when Shell was around. Every time they spoke I watched his body language and the way his eyes skimmed over her flawless bronze skin. They got on so well, laughing and talking, they seemed to have so much in common, far more than Mark and I. She barely wore any makeup yet she always looked fantastic, to top it off she was bright, bubbly and just, well, so nice. I wanted to hate her, but she was lovely. Perhaps that was part of the problem; she was being too nice. Some nights I even came home to find dinner already cooked.
“Well, you guys have been at work all day and you’re being so kind letting us stay here, it’s the least we can do.”
Three weeks before the wedding we had a call from the photographer’s wife. Apparently, he was a quad bike nut. He’d been off on Sunday afternoon and gone out for a ride, hit a rock at the wrong angle and turned the bike over. It landed on top of him breaking his left leg, three ribs and both his arms. A quad bike for god’s sake! How random is that? All I could think about was my mother saying 'you’ll bring bad luck on the wedding.’ I sent a bouquet of flowers to the hospital with a get-well-soon card, but where do you acquire a wedding photographer in the middle of June at three weeks notice? In the end, a friend of my fathers, an “amateur” photographer, said he would be more than happy to take the pictures for us. I agreed out of pure necessity. Shell said she felt terrible,
“If there’s anything I can do to help just let me know, you must be under so much pressure.” I was sure I could see more than just a flirtatious glint in Mark’s eyes when he looked at her, and they stayed up talking long after Matt and I went to bed. As a result, I began to spend more and more time in Matt’s company.
Two days after the photographer's accident I had a call from the reception venue.
“I’m so sorry Miss Drummond but there’s been a terrible error, our regular receptionist was away when the bookings were made and it’s only just come to my attention, but, well...” I know what’s coming. Perhaps I had cursed my own wedding. “…the temp accidentally booked your wedding on the same day as one that was booked in months before…” Here we go, they’re going to tell us first come first served, and if they do that, I‘m calling the whole thing off. “…It is possible to fit both parties in, we have another room but it’s smaller, and well your party has fewer guests so we thought…”
“It’s fine. Just move us into the other room.” Ok, it could have been worse, but anything else and I mean it, it’s cancelled. The hotel manager couldn’t believe I was being so calm about it, neither could Mark or my mother.
“I told you didn’t I? It was those damn shoes. Maybe if you take them back and get a different pair…!”
“Mother, maybe it’s… never mind, maybe you’re right.” Of course, the shop wouldn’t exchange the shoes. Apparently, they get far too many cancelled weddings, so they had to make a ‘no returns policy.
Matt was the only one home when I got in that night. Mark and Shell had gone grocery shopping. Matt was sitting with his feet up on the sofa watching the six o’clock news.
“Hey you, how ya doing? I heard about the latest disaster. You poor thing, it must be a nightmare.”
He moved his feet to the floor so I could sit next to him. I was trying not to notice just how fit he was. His legs were solid muscle from skiing; his arms were strong and protective and those eyes! He saw me looking and smiled up at me from under long blond lashes. I wanted to touch him. I fought hard not to, really I did, but all I could think of was what it would feel like to kiss those softly curved lips of his.
“I, err, I’d better go lay the table for dinner.” I tried to walk but my legs didn’t obey me.
“Are you all right?” I looked into his clear blue gaze.
“I, I’m...” Then it just all came flooding out. “I just don’t know if I’m doing the right thing. I mean I love Mark, really I do, but we, well, this is going to sound terrible, but I really think we’re just getting married because that’s what we’re expected to do.’ I was beginning to babble. ‘He’s a lovely man and I doubt I could ever find anyone better, but at the same time the rest of our lives well, that scares me. Am I being silly? It's just pre-wedding jitters right?” Finally, I took a breath. Slowly he let his eyes roam over my face. There it was again the urge to kiss him.
“Cal, everyone gets a little nervous before they get married and so much seems to have gone wrong for you, you’re bound to be a bit uptight.”
“I know, you’re right, I’m being silly.” I looked down at my fingernails and I could feel his eyes still on me. “But, well, is it enough? I mean we’re great friends Mark and I, and it’s all very comfortable but...” What I meant was Mark had never made me go weak at the knees the way Matt did. I looked back up into his eyes and felt myself drift into them. He didn’t look away. He stood up and stepped in close to me. Gently he lifted his hand and brushed my hair away from my eyes. “Maybe I’m just not being realistic. Love isn’t like in the movies.”
“Cal, I’m really not the person to ask. I’m afraid I may not give you an objective opinion.”
“I know, your Marks best friend, I’m sorry…”
“Yeh, I am, but I’m also incredibly attracted to you.”
Before I could stop myself I kissed him. It’s not like he tried to resist or anything, in fact, quite the opposite, but it was still my fault. His body felt like a rock pressed against mine and his lips were warm and passionate. We never even heard the front door click.
“What the hell?” Mark.
“Oh my God!” Shell.
“I can explain,” Matt and I, simultaneously. Trite I know but it’s amazing how such a situation brings out the predictability of human reactions.
“Oh, I can’t wait to hear this...” Shell again. She had a point, I mean, there was nothing innocent about the semi-naked position we were in on the sofa. At least underwear had yet to be removed and nothing had been, erm...inserted.
“I know how this must look,” Matt.
“It’s exactly how it looks!” Mark. No kidding. If my face wasn’t already scarlet then it soon flushed when Shell began to sob and fled from the room.
“How could you Calister?” nice use of my full name from Mark. He’d learned that trick from my mother, ‘formalities only to be used when seriously pissed off.’ “Shell knew there was something going on and I assured her you would never do such a thing.”
“But you and Shell...I...I thought...”
Matt was tugging on his shorts and practically tripping over his own feet to follow Shell up the stairs. Shit, I’ve really screwed up this time.
“Are you crazy? How could you think that? We” serious emphatic tones, “would never do that...to either of you.”
I began a fumbling stutter of apologies and pathetic excuses. Mark just stood there glowering. I paused as he sank down onto the sofa with an exhausted expression. By now I could hear Matt apologizing profusely to Shell through the bathroom door. But to my great surprise, he wasn’t trying to save the relationship, only begging her forgiveness for our actions. When I heard the words, 'We just couldn’t help it, honey, I think I’m in love with her, I gained confidence and stopped pretending, to myself, as much as to poor Mark.
“I’m so sorry, but I think perhaps we both know that this marriage would never have worked out in the end.”
The relief on Mark’s face, once the shock had worn off, said it all really. We even managed to part with some semblance of a friendship. My father on the other hand was furious. My mother just sobbed. All she could say was “I told you it was bad luck to put new shoes on the table.” Perhaps she was right, perhaps not, either way, I think it worked out for the best. Mark eventually admitted his attraction to Shell, they married eighteen months later. And Matt and I, well that didn’t last but it was fun for a while.
Mark and I lost a few deposits on the wedding, but in the end, the only things I got stuck with were those damn shoes. They’re still there, at the bottom of my wardrobe, I haven’t the heart to throw them out.
(C) 2003 Liah S Thorley, all rights reserved