By Jo Dearden
a champagne cocktail
Wild flowers and tea light candles in jam jars decked the wooden trestle tables. A myriad of fairy lights lit up the roof of the giant tepee tent with pinpricks of coloured light. Outside some of the guests lounged on hay bales around low fire pits toasting marsh mallows. It had been a sweltering day, which had turned into a sultry evening. The wedding party was in full swing as inebriated revellers jostled for space on the dance floor. The bride and groom looked deliriously happy as they whirled and twirled, seemingly oblivious to their assembled friends and family.
She felt sad that couldn’t share in this frenzy of joyfulness. She knew she would find this day difficult. She should never have agreed to be a bridesmaid. It was too painful. Too soon after what had happened, but it had seemed churlish to refuse her best friend, Emma.
‘You’ll meet someone else very soon. I know you will,’ she had said as she tried on endless dresses for her big day. It had been fun, but now the reality of being the one without a partner was excruciatingly obvious.
She wandered out of the tent into the dark field. A few Chinese lanterns cast ghostly shadows across the scorched grass. She could feel the dryness crunching under her sandals. Her dress swished around her ankles. She could still hear the pulsating beat of music as she walked away from the melee. She wanted it to drown her sadness.
‘I will always love you. We’ll grow old together and never have a fight,’ he had laughed. The next day he was lying on a mortuary slab. He had missed a corner riding home in the sluicing rain on his too powerful bike. He didn’t stand a chance. His mother rang me, but she could barely speak. All our wedding plans had to be cancelled. My dress was returned to the bridal shop, who were very understanding and gave me a full refund. I didn’t want a refund. I wanted Tom.
‘Hello,’ she heard a deep male voice. She hadn’t heard him coming up behind her. As she turned to face him she tripped over the hem of her long bridesmaid’s dress. He grabbed her arm to stop her falling.
‘Sorry, I was miles away, ‘she said, pulling her arm away.
‘I was just wondering if you would like to dance?’
‘We haven’t met, have we?’ She turned away from him and started to walk back to the wedding party.
‘No,’ he said, running after her. He grasped her round he waist. ‘How about out here? We can hear the music.’
‘Are you always this forward?’
‘Not usually, but I think we should get to know each other. Sorry, I should have introduced myself. I’m David, a cousin of Emma’s.’
‘Sarah,’ she said. ‘Sorry, I’m not in a great place right now. My fiancé was killed in a road accident a few weeks ago.’
‘I know. Emma told me.’
‘Oh, so she’s set you up for this has she?’
‘No, well, she did tell me about you.’
‘Look, I don’t need pity. I will be fine. It’s just a bit raw right now.’
‘I know, I’m sorry.’
He took her hand. ‘Life has to go on and you are far too pretty to hide yourself away.’ He pushed a stray strand of her blonde hair behind one of her ears.
She looked at the tall slender dark-haired man standing before her. He was certainly attractive in a rugged sort of way. It was all beginning to feel a bit unreal. She shivered. ‘You’re cold,’ he said, taking off his jacket and putting it round her shoulders.
An explosion of fireworks erupted overhead. Trails of coloured light flashed in the sky and then rained down almost touching the ground. Sarah gazed at the flickering sky. Deafening sounds echoed around them. A lone rocket screeched high above their heads. It burst into a mass of coloured tentacles. Streamers of bright light almost enveloped them. She smiled at David. His kind grey blue eyes glittered in the darkness. He held her hand as they walked across the field towards the wedding party.
About the author
Jo Dearden trained as a journalist with the Oxford Mail and Times. She did a degree in English Literature with creative writing as a mature student. She co-edited her local village newsletter for about ten years. She also worked for a number of years for the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. She is currently attending a creative writing class, which is stimulating her writing again. Jo lives in Suffolk.