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Drama Fiction Funny

This was supposed to be the happiest day of their lives. And it would have been, if Rose hadn’t told me to organise it all. Two things there – first, that she told me, as in, no please or would you mind. Secondly, organise it all. All. She could have hired a professional wedding planner, but I was free and I was always available. She loved saving money. She even got me to make the wedding cake, and that was my chance to take a little revenge. Any wedding guest who got stomach lurgy, sorry, but… you’re friends with Rose, right? Legitimate target.

Rose was my employer. It had looked like a decent salary when I took the job on, but when I added up all the hours I ended up working, the hourly rate was worse than cleaning toilets. So were the conditions. She had my mobile number and used it frequently. She rang me once at three in the morning, and rattled off a load of instructions about a project we were presenting to a client the following day. Later that same day.

‘Have you remembered to send out the invites?’ she demanded.

‘Yes,’ I said, on auto-pilot.

‘To everyone?’

‘Yes… Rose… it’s three fifteen!’

‘I couldn’t sleep,’ Rose said. ‘I was worried you hadn’t included the CEO in the list.’

‘Rose, you aren’t allowed to just ring me –‘

‘Meet me at the office at seven-thirty tomorrow,’ she commanded. ‘I need to go over the slides again.’

Clack of the phone being put down at her end. I turned up at the office at seven thirty the next day and she complained that I looked hung-over. I was so tired I snapped back that I’d been woken at three in the morning and she snapped back that she’d been awake then too, thanks, as if it were my fault.

That’s how Rose dealt with life – any problems she caused were either ignored or blamed on me. She rarely said thank you, and when she did it was with an air of surprise as if I was a hamster that had learned to type. God knows, most days I felt as if that’s all I was, a helpless little furry creature typing away like fury to keep the Monster from eating me.

Her wedding should have been simple. If there was a choice, it was pink or nothing. Her dress was to be in rose-coloured silk, which is a fair choice for a blondie like Rose. She paid for me to have a suit made in the same colour, so that I couldn’t be mistaken for anything other than administrative help when I turned up at the wedding. I’m a proper carrot-top, so I look like a prat in pink. The suit made Rose smile like a shark, so I knew I looked worse than a prat.

Pink roses for the bouquet, and pink flowers lining the aisle of the church; a pink bow tie for her beloved Mark (prop forward for the local rugby club; I didn’t dare laugh). Balloons in the net hanging from the ceiling in the reception hall, tablecloths, candles and serviettes on the dinner tables, covers of the guest books, going away outfit, shoes… all pink, pink, pink.

The day she sat me down to organise her wedding list, I had a bright idea.

‘The Irish have a tradition for their weddings,’ I said. ‘Instead of asking for presents, the bride parades among the guests at her reception and pauses at each group just long enough for the guest to pin a banknote or two to her dress. If you did that, you could stop worrying that the guests would buy the wrong thing off the list.’

‘They wouldn’t,’ Rose said, but her eyes said Maybe…

‘And other people are seeing what note they’re pinning,’ I continued. ‘They’d be more generous than if you gave them the option of buying a toaster or a set of champagne glasses.’

‘We’ve already got those,’ Rose said. ‘Okay, this is what I’ll do. Put a little explanation on the back of the invites, describing the tradition and asking them to help set us up for our married life. Tell them about Mark’s Irish grandparents, or something.’

‘His parents will know that already,’ I suggested.

Rose considered the implications of telling her new in-laws of their previously unknown Irish ancestors. ‘Okay, just explain the tradition.’

It was hard work, and in addition to my own professional work. There wasn’t any time to help my friend Lynn prepare for her appearance in the town carnival. It was the same day as Rose’s wedding, and I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to go. I was needed to clear the way for Rose and Mark to be married in the kind of splendour they required.

Lynn was philosophical.

‘A job’s a job,’ she said.

‘But that’s all it should be,’ I objected. ‘Not a vocation. I’m just – expected to be there. She was so irritated when I asked for the day off. It’s a Saturday! It’s not even a working day! She just said that I shouldn’t give up on a project halfway.’

‘There’ll be another carnival,’ Lynn consoled me. ‘I’d keep the outfit to show you, but we’re going to burn them at midnight. We’re making a point about capitalists burning the planet.’

‘Sounds like a fun float,’ I said.

‘Yeah,’ Lynn said. ‘I’ll be dressed in this outfit with leaves sewn all over it, so I look like a tree – and at the end, the tree gets burnt in the market square.’

‘I’d better say goodbye now,’ I said, and Lynn laughed.

‘The dress, twit,’ she said. ‘Not me. If you can get away by midnight, come down and watch the fun.’

‘No chance,’ I said. ‘I’m on duty till the bride and groom leave, and then I’ll have to supervise the clear up.’

‘That woman runs your life,’ Lynn said. ‘We don’t get to see you these days.’

‘I need the money,’ I said.

‘True,’ Lynn sighed. ‘Well, at least you’ll get the overtime for being Girl Friday all weekend.’ She grinned at me, then her face dropped and she straightened up. ‘You get paid for this, right?’

‘The subject never came up,’ I mumbled. I imagined asking Rose how much she would pay… Lynn reached for my hand.

‘You have to leave that job before it kills you,’ she said.

She wasn’t joking.

 Rose’s dress had a two metre long train, to give more room for banknotes. Rose had read that one Irish bride had left her reception with £35,000 pinned to her dress. I suggested she invite more guests, and she went for it. Forgetting that each additional guest meant another hundred quid’s worth of food and drink, but hey, she’d get the money back at the end. There’s only one pink banknote in England, and it’s the lesser spotted fifty - if any guest tried to pin a purple, brown or blue note to the dress they’d be spotted for a cheapskate from a hundred yards off, and I made sure I passed the word about Keeping It Pink among the guests.

I can’t be blamed for the weather adding its own comment on the day Rose got married. Drizzle and gusty winds are a horrible combination for a wedding dress with a long train, a flimsy veil and satin shoes with stiletto heels, all in a pale pink that shows every splotch of mud.

Once inside the church, Rose posed at the top of the aisle, gave a photogenic smile to her beloved Mark and took three steps before we realised that the verger had put the Funeral March on the music player. Rose stopped; her father tried to shuffle back to the door and the chief bridesmaid kept going and tripped over Rose’s dress. Someone down the front managed to shut off the Funeral March and they spent five minutes finding the right tape. Who knew, there’s a rugby song to the tune of the Funeral March, and with seventeen rugby players on the groom’s side of the church in the mood for a singsong to pass the time, we got all the verses. The congregation were all either laughing or shushing as the bride began her ceremonial walk for the second time. The small nephew carrying the cushion with the rings on it was still singing “Dan Dare’s Balls Bang Together as He Walks” very quietly as the vows were being read.

The rings went safely on fingers and the bride was kissed and walked back up the aisle without further incidents. While the photographer was organising the photos at the church door, Mark’s rugby pals formed an impromptu guard of honour along the path and serenaded the bride to her car with a loud rendition of ‘The Engineer’s Wife’, complete with gestures. They swore afterwards that they’d been oiled up on the hip flasks of brandy Mark had left on their pew in church. Rose scowled, and Mark claimed not to know anything about it.

When we got back to the reception hall, I found that I’d been taken off the table list and wasn’t going to be served a meal. The caterers called me into the kitchens to eat with them. They were decent people, and we had a good time before Rose sent me a petulant where R U? text. The chef was sympathetic.

‘She treats you like a pet spaniel,’ he said. ‘Get yourself another job.’

‘Not that easy,’ I said. ‘She’d write my reference. No-one would employ me.’

He made a noise halfway between spit and growl. ‘Catering firms would. Chefs always give a reference that would burn rocks. Nobody cares. We know who’s okay and who’s not.’

I gave him a grin. ‘Thanks. I’ll look into it.’

‘I’ll spit in her dessert,’ he said. ‘She won’t notice. She’ll eat it.’

‘She’ll eat some wedding cake as well,’ I said. ‘I made it – I put rabbit droppings in it instead of raisins. She’ll notice that.’

He laughed like a chainsaw hitting fence-wire. ‘Here,’ he said, fishing a card out of his inner pocket. ‘Our Dublin team needs an administrator. They’re tough, but nothing like that bitch. If you can handle her, you’ll mince them. Tell ‘em Jeff DeVito recommends you.’

I can take Rose’s bitchiness all day long, but Jeff’s kindness had me in tears as I hurried back to work.

I had time to check in with Lynn before Rose finished her dessert (and yes, she ate the lot, spit and all). Carnival had been brilliant apparently, and sorry I missed it. I asked Lynn to delay the Bonfire of the Leaves if she could, I would do my best to get there. Rose’s pink limo was going to arrive at the reception hall on the dot of eleven forty-five pm, to get them to Heathrow in time to catch their flight to the Maldives, and I’d be damned if I was going to waste one more minute on Rose Prittle. I phoned the limo company and asked whether the driver would do me a small favour, then went out to the hall to watch as the happy couple danced and mingled and smiled for photos and the guests obediently pinned banknotes to that fabulous dress. At quarter to eleven, Rose dashed into the bride’s room, I helped her to carefully strip off her wedding dress and she shimmied into her Chanel suit.

‘I’m going to say goodbye to everyone,’ Rose said. ‘We’ve got fifty minutes before we must leave, so you'll have to call me away. Make sure you do, Clare. You’ve been slacking off tonight. When I get back from the Maldives, you and I are going to have a talk about your attitude.’

She was gone in a flash of pink Chanel, leaving me to tuck the rose-silk dress and all its pins and banknotes into the zip bag. I was crying again when Lynn arrived to give me a lift to the carnival’s burning ceremony.

‘That’s enough,’ Lynn said. ‘Leave her damned dress. Let someone steal it.’

‘Nearly right,’ I said.

Rose’s limo driver picked her up at eleven forty-five sharp and did exactly what I’d asked him to do. He made a detour through the market square and slowed down as he passed the pole set up in the centre. I could see her yelling at the driver to get a move on. He gestured at the pole and said something to her that she clearly didn’t like. She looked at the pole with a face like Donald Trump being asked to kiss a Mexican grandmother. She saw the dress covered with paper rectangles hanging raggedly from the pole, shining rose coloured in the spotlight. Then she saw me and Lynn, standing up on the platform.

‘Smile, Rose!’ I bellowed. ‘Happiest day of your life, remember?’

‘Loved the dress, Rosie!’ Lynn yelled. ‘Ready, Clare?’

‘Five – four –‘ I began, and the carnival crowd took it up.

‘THREE! TWO! ONE!’

I had the gas lighter flicked to life by Two; at One I touched the flame lightly to the hem of the dress. The dress caught - rather, the petrol we’d poured onto it caught - the dress flared and threw the papers off itself, little burning rectangles flying up in brilliant lines of firelight and screwing themselves into blackened scraps that floated home to earth and melted into the rain on the cobbles of the market square.

Rose screamed. She beat on the window and I gave her the finger.

‘I resign, you capitalist arsehole!’ I screamed at her, and the carnival crowd cheered and showed Rose their own middle fingers. Carnival crowds are an easy sell. They didn’t know Rose from a minor jungle celebrity, but they loved to boo climate change villains in big swanky limos. I wasn’t going to point out to the crowd how much damage setting light to petrol-soaked dresses was causing to the environment. I was enjoying the light show.

The limo driver had locked the doors, bless him. I could see Rose and Mark struggling to get their doors open without success as the limo sped up and drove away from the square. The dress blazed into black rag, sending flecks edged with fire drifting up into the night sky.

‘What now?’ Lynn asked.

‘Sleep for a week,’ I replied. ‘Get my stuff from the flat and give notice to my landlord. Ring up a contact and sort a new job in Dublin, a long way away from Rose.’

‘I won’t tell her where you are,’ Lynn said. ‘Stay in touch, though. Maybe I can see more of you from now on. I’ve missed you.’

‘I missed you, too,’ I said. ‘Fancy a holiday to Dublin sometime?’

‘Yeah!’ Lynn said. ‘Come on, back to yours. I want to know how much.’

Lynn pulled the rose-coloured scarf out of the beam of the spotlight and the light shone white on the blackened remnants of the carnival dress.

It took us all night to unpin the notes from Rose’s wedding dress. There were times when the pins stabbed into my fingers and I wished I had burnt the bloody thing for real. The final total made it worthwhile, though.

‘Thirty-two thousand, eight hundred and sixty-five pounds,’ I said, stretching my back.

‘And five?’ Lynn queried.

I held up the stray fiver. ‘And a dozen twenties, handful of tenners and an Egyptian banknote - there are people who hate Rose as much as I do.’

‘That’s paid you for all the free overtime you’ve done for her,’ Lynn observed. ‘Do you think she might twig that you switched dresses?’

‘Nah,’ I said. ‘Rose thinks I’m too stupid to do something like that. I’m waiting for the day when she works out that I put hipflasks full of brandy out for Mark’s rugby thugs and switched the music tapes at the church.’

‘And realises that she shouldn’t upset the woman pulling the strings on the happiest day of her life.’

Maybe Rose did work it all out. Maybe she didn’t. No matter. By then, it was too late.

November 21, 2020 02:13

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4 comments

23:41 Nov 26, 2020

It was great! It was funny, and I liked the dress switch.

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Salom :)
02:54 Nov 27, 2020

This was an amazing revenge story!

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Julie Bissell
20:22 Nov 27, 2020

Too far fetched... Rose would have tracked her down. The original version was great fun to write, had everything in it that might go wrong for a wedding. Friend of mine read it and said tone it down... Loved the research for it, though.

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Salom :)
05:56 Nov 28, 2020

While it was far fetched, it was a load of fun to read. Why do we write if not to escape reality?

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