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Wedding Day II

by McAllerton 

Posted: 25 April 2011
Word Count: 1669
Summary: I've changed the ending in this version - but can't decide if it's better - help! I've left the original in the archive to compare.

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We were in a hotel room the night before Abby’s wedding. I knew something was wrong with him. We’d been married for twenty five years; I could tell.

He was standing at the end of the bed. I walked past looking for my new shoes. There was a large mirror facing him and he was looking at his reflection. As I walked by he reached out and took my hand. I thought he was going to pull me near for a kiss but he just held my hand and looked at me.

I glanced at our reflection, two people holding hands in a hotel room. He was turned to me, reaching.

“What are you doing?” I said. “Don’t look at me like that.”

I took my hand away.

“Is there something on your mind? What’s wrong? Have you seen my shoes?”

“Wrong? Nothing’s wrong. Nothing’s wrong.”

So why say it twice? I thought.

“Come on. What’s up? You were looking in the mirror like you were about to come out with something deep and meaningful. Are you having one of your ‘what’s the meaning of life’ moments?”

“Just thinking, that’s all.”

“Yes, well we haven’t got time to think. There’s a wedding going on here, your daughter’s getting married tomorrow. We have to check arrangements. Greet guests. Find my shoes. A wedding doesn’t just happen on its own you know.”

Then I saw them, the shoes, I could have sworn I left them in the suitcase, but I must have taken them out after all. They were on the chair by the door. I sat down on the bed with the shoes on my lap.

“This bloody wedding, I bet our parents didn’t get this stressed when we got married.”

“Ruth,” he said, still standing there looking in the mirror. “I have to tell you something. I’ve had an affair.”

“It’s OK, I’ve found them.”

“I’ve had an affair.”

“What was that?”

“I can’t live with myself so I have to tell you. It’s over, it was stupid. I’m sorry.”

They were new black court shoes, with a little heel. I’d bought specially for the wedding weekend. I ran my fingers over the heels. They were shiny black, smooth in my hand. The edges felt sharp against my fingertips.

“Did you hear me? I said I’ve had an affair. I’m so sorry.”

A sickly wave broke in my chest and spread down my arms. I held the shoes on my lap, staring at them and stroking their smooth blackness. He walked around the bed and looked down at me.

With one shoe in each hand, I rose with my arms at my side. I was level with his chest when I stood in front of him. There was a stray grey hair on the lapel of his navy blazer. I reached up and hit him on each side of his head, once with the heel of each shoe.

He flinched, holding his head. When he looked at his hands, there was blood on each palm.

I dropped the shoes.

“Why the hell did you tell me that?”

“I’m sorry. I had to.”

“I don’t want to know.”

I held my hands to my ears and walked round him towards the bathroom.

“I don’t want to lose you Ruth.”

“You should have thought about that, shouldn’t you? I’m so angry with you. I hate you right now. If we talk about this now I’ll break down, I’ll scream. And I can’t, can I? Not tonight.”

“I’m so sorry. I don’t want to hurt you. It didn’t mean anything.”

We didn’t go down to dinner that night. Later, as I tried to sleep, I pictured the reflection in the mirror as he held my hand and the disbelief on his face as he looked at the blood on his palms and I kept thinking about the shoes. Their shiny smoothness. Their weight in my hand as I swung them at his head. The fleshy crack as they connected with his face.

I’ve never hit him before. I’ve wanted to, believe me, God knows he’s pushed me over the years. I didn’t sleep well.

When I woke he was dressed and sitting in an armchair at the window. I went over and stood behind him. There was a cut near his ear where one of the shoes had hit him. He looked old and grey in the weak morning light.

Below us on the lawn workmen were calling to each other while erecting the marquee. I watched them as they slotted together the metal poles and struggled to control the sections of canvas, which were catching in the breeze and flying up into the air. Each time one was captured and lashed to the frame, they moved on and the next piece tried to escape.

“They seem happy in their work,” he said without looking up. I pulled my dressing gown cord tight.

“I don’t know if I can get through today. I think I can make it if I don’t have to look at you. God knows what I’ll look like in the photos. You shouldn’t have told me.”

“I had to. I couldn’t live with myself. We’ll get through this.”

“You seem very sure. I don’t even know how long it went on or who it was. No. Don’t tell me.”

He stared out of the window.

“You think I’ll get angry, forgive you and we’ll get on with our lives? What makes you so sure?”

“Because I love you,” he spoke slowly. “I know you love me too. And I don’t think we can get by without each other. You’re angry right now but you’ll see. It meant nothing.”

I took a step towards him and leant on the arm of his chair.

“You’re talking about this like it’s some minor domestic problem, like it’s the boiler that’s broken down.”

I took hold of his chin and turned his face towards me.

“You’ve thought it all out haven’t you? This version of what’s going to happen now. It goes like this: you confess, apologise, I get angry, maybe I even hit you, we can’t live without each other, I forgive you, I get over it.”

My nails, specially manicured and painted vermilion for the day, were digging into his face.

“Well that’s not how I see it. Yes you hear about people who get over these things. They carry on with brave faces because they’re so scared of life on their own. Well don’t assume that’s what I’ll do. I’ve got a choice here. God, I hope Abby’s luckier than me. I wouldn’t wish my life on anyone right now.”

Outside on the lawn the workmen had moved on to the roof sections of the marquee which flapped frantically like huge white birds in a trap, straining to fly away.

He reached up and pulled my hand down. I snatched it back. He took a breath to speak, but I walked away. It would soon be time.

We ate breakfast in the room without speaking. I looked at him eating toast and marmalade. The stray hair was still on his lapel and my hand went to reach it but I checked myself. I thought about how to get through the day without ruining the wedding. I thought that if I made a dead space deep inside myself and crept in I’d be OK. Then I took a shower, put on my make-up, my outfit and my new shoes.

Later I looked, but did not see, as he walked Abby down the aisle. I heard the service and the speeches without listening. Compliments were paid to my outfit and someone said my shoes were a good choice. Abby looked me in the eye, full of her own joy, not seeing my pain. During the photographs I allowed myself to be told where to stand while my thoughts floated away and looked down on the scene.

It was late when we got back to the hotel room and started getting ready for bed. He stood with his back to the mirror and unbuttoned his shirt cuffs.

He rambled away, half drunk. “Abby looked so happy. I think the whole day was a great success.”

I joined in. I’d been pretending all day after all. “Yes, a great success.”

“Did you see cousin Christine’s hat? It looked like a flying saucer, I thought aliens were going to jump out. Ha. Imagine a close encounter with her.”

I just looked at him.

“Is that what you do? Imagine that kind of thing. Is that how it starts?”

“I was just joking. We were talking about Christine’s hat.”

“I’m not laughing.”

“Sorry. No. I see what you mean.”

He was lying on the bed now with his eyes closed.

He must have really meant what he’d said, that it meant nothing. He was just waiting for me to catch up and for life to return to normal. As I took off the shoes, I held them tight in my hands, remembering the pleasure of that blow. I turned to look at him.

“Don’t fall asleep on me. What you’ve done has changed everything. You can’t close your eyes and expect everything to be all right in the morning.”

We checked out early, wheeling our cases across the car park, past the workmen taking down the marquee. The wind had died down and the canvas sections were being calmly folded away.

He stowed the suitcases in the boot. He did his stupid chauffeur routine, saluting while opening the passenger door for me. I did not look at him. The car door closed with the reassuring clump of expensive German engineering. Then it was just us in the car, driving along the motorway like we’d done a thousand times. I started to feel comfortable and safe in the warmth and quiet. Black clouds massed on the horizon. The cars coming towards us on the other carriageway had their headlights on, there was trouble ahead.

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Comments by other Members

euclid at 10:50 on 25 April 2011  Report this post
It's better, but it probably needs something more to round it off. Something needs to happen, or maybe you need to hint at what might happen as a result of his infidelity.

A couple of clunky bits:

We’d been married for twenty five years; I could tell.

Needs a slight adjustment.

With one shoe in each hand, I rose with my arms at my side

Too many "with"s

Becca at 09:44 on 29 April 2011  Report this post
Not sure I understand the meaning of the last sentence, does it mean there is trouble ahead for them, or is it just an observation about the road? In other words is it a metaphor as I took the struggling canvas to be?
At the beginning, him taking her hand on the day before their daughter was to be married, doesn't seem to be an odd act, it seems quite natural, so perhaps you need to show why it's a strange thing for him to have done. The other slightly worrying thing is that the main character comes over as someone it's hard to empathise with. I don't feel that just because the husband had an affair within a twenty five year marriage, that that's enough to automatically win the reader over to her. It might be better if she doesn't hit him and draw blood, I mean she does that and seems to have no problem with it later, but I'm sure that if you committed your first act of physical violence on someone you loved, it would haunt you horribly and for a long time.

Gerry at 15:08 on 29 April 2011  Report this post

Dear Mark,

I'd go along with all the above. As JB says, a hint at what may happen, in the right, place could be enough. I took 'trouble ahead' as meaning that there's trouble ahead for their relationship, but if they've already had a relatively serious domestic, then the trouble seems to be here already. Maybe she could just want to hit him - I'm not sure. But for the reasons given above, striking him seems a bit too much and, as Becca says, would be both too traumatic for her and too alienating for the reader. That she might be tempted to do it is another matter ...

Also, I think he's standing up when he tells her: I felt that if someone has something quite so unpleasant to reveal, then they might sit first, and want the other person to sit, too, softening the blow ...


bjlangley at 14:27 on 02 May 2011  Report this post
Hi Mark,

I think we need to get in her head a bit more after she's hit him with the shoes. I liked the shoes. And I liked the attachment she formed with them as way of distraction. The scenario, having to play it straight at such a big event after such a revelation, I felt could have been played out a bit more. How does she feel about Abby's husband-to-be?

As a couple I felt they worked - they had that kind of telepathy long-married couples get - it came across that they knew each other well - even as far as his panning out what her reaction would be.

As for the ending I think you can make more of a metaphor of checking out early and end it before they get in the car?

All the ebst,


BifferSpice at 15:35 on 17 May 2011  Report this post
i liked it more as it went along. i had to reread the beginning a couple of times, because i assumed the narrator was part of the wedding, so was confused. it was obviously clear when i thought about it, but the opening should draw you in, and i felt i had to clear it up before i could move on.

his confession was well handled, and her thinking about the shoes and all. effective stuff. i liked the blow too. i couldn't get over how cruel he was to unburden himself and ruin her big day. wow! i didn't feel much sympathy for her, but boy, i did want him to end up on his own. i'm on my own for my 2nd review in a row on the ending. i thought it was a really good line. i'm a sucker for a poetic last line in a short story, and i thought that was a good one. i'd keep it it's slightly mysterious.

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