I sat down, feeling suddenly alone, as if Lau had disappeared, and wasn’t a ten minute drive away, or on the other end of her phone if I needed to talk to her. All this not seeing the bride before the wedding bollocks seemed ridiculous to me, but I guess I could appreciate Lau wanting to be made a fuss of and pampered by the other women without a sarcastic bastard hanging around making witty/infantile comments every other minute.
And it would have been hard to keep the kilt as a surprise if she’d seen me change into it. Plus, Jay certainly wouldn’t have agreed to getting changed in the presence of anyone else, which is why he was being delivered here by Beth before too long, so she could head off to Amy’s and join in the girls’ session.
Part of me wished I’d had the kilts here, so I could lay them out where Jay would see them as he came in. I would have loved to have seen the look on his face; I didn’t often ask my brother to do anything for me, although I knew, deep down, there was a lot he would do if I asked him, but this was more than just asking him to wear something weird at my wedding. I was asking him to acknowledge our dad too.
Maybe it was a big ask, and while part of me recognised this, another part wanted to revel in the discomfort he was going to feel for the rest of the day, like the annoying little brother I was always, but always, going to be.
Not long after Lau left, the door buzzer went.
‘Matty, it’s us.’
I pressed the button to open the door, and waited in the doorway as they came up the stairs. As I could have predicted, Jay looked pretty mardy about the whole thing, and Beth was carrying most of the hangers and bags. I took everything from her and put it over the back of the sofa. She gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek and I graciously allowed her to twitter over me.
‘Oh Matty, this is so lovely, it’s such a lovely day for it, everything’s going to be so lovely.’
Jay, however, showed a not unexpected level of anti-twittering.
‘Yeah, Beth, bloody lovely, except I get to wear a bloody girl’s costume.’
‘Stop it, James. It’s not going to be for long. You look –’
‘Yeah, lovely, I know. Don’t forget my trousers.’
Beth flicked me the briefest of glances and I knew that the trousers were duly forgotten.
‘Don’t be silly. Have a good time, boys, see you at the ceremony. Don’t be late.’
‘Fat bloody chance. We’ve got hours yet.’
‘Oh just cheer up, James. This is one day. Your brother’s wedding. It’s only going to happen once, just be nice.’
Jay and Beth were always having little bickers. They didn’t mean anything, just highlighted the differences between the highly organised, constantly positive Beth and the eternally mardy, lazy sod that was my brother. I couldn’t have lived with either of them (although, yeah, I had, of course, but I’d been a fucking cripple, and obviously not in my right mind), but then I didn’t have to now, and I suppose they complemented each other in a way. It seemed to work for them, and they never had serious arguments. I guess Beth’s need to run people’s lives was fulfilled by being married to someone whose need to be organised was equally great.
Jay walked past Beth and sat on the sofa, ran his hands through his hair, then looked up at me.
‘I don’t suppose there’s anything, anything at all, that will talk you out of all this?’
He gestured to the hangers and bags containing our outfits. I shook my head.
‘Oh well, it was worth a try.’
He put on his best hangdog expression, the one he used when he was trying to get Beth to feel sorry for him and let him off whatever it was she’d told him to do. It hardly ever worked on her; not a chance in hell it was going to work on me. I ignored it all and talked to Beth.
‘Thanks fuh all this. Say hi tuh Lau.’
‘Hasn’t she only just gone?’
‘Yeh. I miss her.’
‘Oh Matty, you are so sweet.’
Jay muttered something under his breath that could have been ‘big girls blouse’, but I chose not to explore it with him, and Beth left to get back to the pamper party that was going on at Amy’s.
When I got to Amy’s, Lis was already there, and Beth arrived soon after, having dropped Jay at the flat to get ready with Matt. Everyone was in a state of high excitement. They were being very secretive about what was going on after the wedding, but were proudly displaying, in the middle of the dining room table, a beautiful bouquet of wild flowers.
‘My friend Saffy made it, she’s so good at things like that. Do you like it?’
‘Oh Lis, I love it, it’s perfect. It goes with my dress, look.’
I unwrapped the dress, and Beth, Lis and Amy exclaimed at how perfectly the colours toned, although as Amy was with me when I bought the dress, I suspected some details may have been leaked to Lis’s friend.
We had some lunch, then Amy did my make-up and Beth did my hair, and we all got dressed together.
‘Lau, you’re really starting to show. Have you got your scan booked?’
I put my hand on the bump of my tummy as Amy mentioned it. It hadn’t grown much in the last seven days, but it was a definite bump, and I wondered again how I hadn’t noticed. And how no one else had noticed, most of all Beth, who noticed everything before anyone else.
‘Yeah, next week. Matt’s coming too. I’ll be glad to put a date on it, it all feels a bit unreal at the moment.’
‘Oh, Laura, I gave James your grandmother’s wedding ring just before I dropped him off today. The later I left it, the less chance of anything going wrong. I don’t know what Matty’s doing, is he having a ring?’
‘He wouldn’t say. There’s a lot he hasn’t told me, I don’t mind surprises, but I’ve been getting a bit nervous.’
‘Oh, I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about. And most of the surprises you’ll love.’
‘All, I meant all.’
As we dressed, Beth and Lis told me the transport arrangements. Matt and Jay were going together, and this caused some hilarity and comments about windy conditions that I didn’t understand. There was some complicated to-ing and fro-ing that I didn’t completely get, where Beth was going to fetch my mum, bring her to Amy’s, then take Lis and Amy in Jay’s car, then Nico was coming to fetch Mum and me. It all seemed a bit unnecessary, but it wasn’t my plan, so I let them get on with it.
‘It’s a bit of a risk putting Nico in charge of getting the bride to the wedding on time, he’s always late, but he is on pain of death to be on time, if not early. And just in case, I told him twenty minutes earlier than he needs to be.’
‘What about getting to the barn afterwards?’
‘Don’t worry about that, Lau, just do as you’re told and you’ll be fine.’
So I did. I relaxed into it, let them do everything, tell me what to do, sat where I was told to, moved when I was told to, and remembered the three things I needed to remember, which were my bouquet and the sheet of paper my vows were written on, and to give Beth my overnight bag.
‘Thanks so much, you guys, I don’t know what to say. You’ve put so much work into this, with so little notice.’
This caused a competition to see who could most modestly deny any real part in planning what was likely to be a major event.
‘It was mostly Beth and Lis, I just sat with them drinking water and going ‘yum’ at the food.’
‘It was mostly Beth. I just did a car schedule and provided some handy friends.’
‘Oh come on, you two, don’t leave it all on my shoulders. You both helped loads.’
‘Well, whoever did what, it’s just great. Thank you.’
‘Well, you do look gorgeous, Lau. Good job us.’
So that just left Jay and me. We hardly ever spent time together, just the two of us. Beth was nearly always there, a buffer, and now it was just me and Jay, there was no Beth to fill the silence or get conversations started, and there was a big ‘thing’ going on. It felt slightly awkward. Jay looked at the clothes again as if they were going to bite him.
‘We don’t have to put it all on yet, though, do we?’
‘Noh. I though weh could have a beer. An I just put a pizza in the oven.’
‘Cool. Can I put your telly on?’
He reached for the remote and turned it on without waiting for me to answer.
‘Did yuh remember the rings?’
‘Yeah. Beth practically sewed them into my pocket so I didn’t lose them.’
‘Did yuh look at it?’
‘What? No. It’s yours.’
‘Ih’s Dad’s. Not mine till later, like the kilt. Jus wondered if you remember ih, or saw ih before or anything.’
I don’t know why I suddenly felt the need to share memories of my father, when Jay and I had never talked about him before, not in any detail.
‘No, I don’t remember.’
Jay was staring hard at the TV, determined not to get sucked into the conversation.
‘Do yuh mind meh having ih?’
‘What, the ring?’
He looked up, then, surprised.
‘No, course not.’
‘Cos, yuh know, maybe ih should have been yours.’
‘Don’t be daft, Matty, I never even thought about it when I got married.’
His puzzled frown told me he was being up front.
‘Wha, not even the kilt?’
‘Especially not the fucking kilt. You know he never even wore the bloody thing, right?’
‘Yeh, I know. Mum said. Sohm family thing he never went to.’
As I was talking, I was getting the pizza out of the oven and opening bottles of beer, so we didn’t have to look at each other. It might make it easier to talk, and I really wanted to talk about my dad, who I never knew, because it was my wedding day, and I missed him. Or not him, but the idea of him, of having someone I could lean on, who could lend me cufflinks, who could give me advice about married life, who could buy me a drink, who could just be my dad. I thought I’d done pretty well in life so far without a father figure – Mum had filled many gaps in her own way, she even taught me to shave – but there are some things that only your father can do, can be.
‘Jay, wha do yuh remember abou him?’
Jay blew his cheeks out and ran his hand through his hair again.
‘Jesus, Matty. I was only seven. Not much. He was big and had a bushy red beard and a booming voice, and we used to go to the park and throw rugby balls about when you were born, because you were always bloody crying and we needed a bit of peace.’
‘I miss him.’
‘How can you miss him? You don’t even remember him.’
‘Tha’s wha I miss. He’s like a ghost, I haven’t even got any memories, I haven’t got a pictuhr in my head, jus some old pictuhrs in Mum’s photo albuhms. All I’ve got is wha other people have told meh, you an Mum, an it jus all sehms fuzzy an ouh of focus an a long tihm ago. Today, I miss my dad.’
Jay just looked at his hands. I didn’t expect anything else, he didn’t really do sharing. Fuck it, I didn’t really do sharing. So I put the pizza on plates and carried it over with the beer and put it on the coffee table.
‘Taxi’s ordered fuh half two.’
‘He loved you.’
Jay picked up a slice of pizza and took a large bite.
I waited as he chewed.
‘Dad. He called you ‘my little matey Matty’, and he’d lift you up and throw you and catch you, and you’d laugh, and I’d sulk because I was too big for him to do that with me.’
This sudden gush of information took me by surprise, and I didn’t quite know what to say.
‘Yeah. Then he’d put you down and he’d grab me and turn me upside down, holding me by my ankles, and we’d all just laugh like … I’d forgotten. I guess I don’t think about him much.’
Jay looked up at me, guiltily.
‘Meh neither, not till recently.’
‘I’m sorry, Matty.’
‘Wha the fuck foh?’
‘For not being a very good replacement.’
Whoa, the things that went on in people’s heads, unbeknownst to all.
‘Wha the fuck? You didn’t have tuh replace him. We jus had tuh get on with ih, the threh of us.’
‘But Mum always used to say I had to look after you, now you didn’t have a daddy, and I used to get so mad, thinking ‘I haven’t got a daddy either, but who’s going to look after me?’, and maybe I could have been … a better brother.’
This was getting weird. It was almost like something had flicked a switch, and now Jay had started talking, he didn’t know how to stop. I know I was the one who had wanted to talk, but I wasn’t sure I could cope with it, all the information, all the emotion that was going to be pouring out if we weren’t careful, and I needed to put a stop to it, which was a shame because Jay and I never really talked, and on another day, it would have been great. But on another day, I guess it wouldn’t have happened. Still, before I got to my wedding a blarting wreck, some fucking about was in order.
‘Well maybe ih’s time tuh mahk amends. I’m going commando. Join meh.’
I had not intended to eschew undergarments, before this very minute. But now it seemed an appropriate thing to do. Or rather, not do.
‘What? You’re … no. Matty, you are not wearing a kilt without underwear. Have you looked out of the window today? It’s blowing a bloody gale.’
I shrugged. ‘Going commando. I’ve got the balls. Have yuh?’
‘Nope. No fucking way on this earth. I’ve got a sturdy pair of boxers that will do me nicely. I suggest you do the same, or you’ll get arrested for indecent exposure before you even get to the car.’
I laughed at his wide eyes and indignant expression, and we ate pizza and drank beer, watching nothing on the TV and talking about nothing, until it was at last time to get into the clothes that meant I was going to leave this flat for the last time as a single man. And that sobered me, not that I was drunk, I’d only had one beer, but it was a big thing, getting married, and today it just kept on hitting me, just how big it was. A week isn’t really that long to get used to the idea, and I’d managed to stave off the ‘ohshitohshitohshit’ until now, when it could be staved no longer.
Jay, possibly still in the midst of a sensitive moment after his childhood memories sharing event earlier, was perceptive enough to notice that I’d gone quiet, and that the fucking about department had put up a ‘back in five mins’ sign. He put his hand on my shoulder.
‘Feels a bit huge, doesn’t it.’
I nodded, casting aside several innuendoes that sprang to mind.
‘I remember when I got married, I didn’t really think about it, Beth did all the arranging, even ordered my suit, and laid it all out for me before she went off to get ready, I hadn’t had to do anything for the whole event, apart from nod and agree with everything – yes, Beth, the flowers look lovely, yes, Beth, that’s the cake we should have, yes, Beth, the bridesmaid dresses will go with the décor in the venue, you know what she’s like. And what I’m like, I suppose. But anyway, she went off, and it was just me and Darren, and all of a sudden, that year when it had been coming but I’d not really had to do anything, it all crashed on top of me and I suddenly realised, Jesus, I was going to have to stand up there and say shit and remember words and smile and talk to people, all bloody day, and then, afterwards, I was going to be bloody married. And it felt like the most fucking enormous thing anyone had ever done. I was half expecting a film crew to turn up so it could go on the news, it felt so big. I nearly bottled it, Darren had to make me drink a lot of scotch before I could even put my suit on.’
This was a big speech for Jay, and I just looked at him, blinking, when he’d finished, absorbing the information.
‘So what I’m saying is, yeah it feels huge, but just enjoy it. I love being married, love the kids, love Beth. Best thing I ever did.’
‘Better than playing fuh England?’
Jay winced. ‘Ooh, it’s close, but yeah, better than that.’
‘Well I’m gona have a blast, then. Nearest I got was county chess competition, ih’s got to beh better than that.’
‘I dunno, Matty, I heard those county chess types were party animals. Hand me that kilt, I’m feeling the need to wear a fucking skirt to my little brother’s wedding.’
And so, bedecked in Scottish garb, the Scott boys caught a taxi to the registry office where the youngest Scott boy was getting married and the oldest Scott boy was going to be his best man.
I’d meant to say something to Jay about what he’d done for me all those years ago when I nearly died, and how much it meant to me. I’d never really said it, I’d always meant to, but it had never seemed like the right time, and I hadn’t. Maybe I’d get an opportunity later. I rather doubted it, though. If I didn’t do it when I was on my own with him, I wasn’t going to be doing it in a roomful of people where anyone could overhear me being serious and heartfelt. But, weird sharing moments of today aside, he really was my best man. I wouldn’t be here without him, whether literally or metaphorically. He’d given up a lot to come and rescue me, and he’d brought me down here with him afterwards, and he and Beth had made a place for me with them that, yeah, I often railed and fought against, but it had underpinned me since I got ill the first time. Maybe Jay and I would just go on as we were, that was pretty likely, but maybe one day I’d just say it, ‘thanks for saving me’.
Beth went to fetch Mum, they all kissed and hugged me as they left, and Mum came in, looking a little bewildered to start with, but when she saw me, her eyes widened and filled with tears.
‘Oh LauraLou, you look beautiful. I thought you’d be – oh I don’t know – in jeans or something.’
‘Just because it’s quick and in a registry office doesn’t mean it’s not important.’
‘No, my love, I see that. What a lovely dress. And – is that your bouquet? It matches so well.’
‘I know. I’ve been so lucky with what everyone’s done for me. You look great, too. Is that new?’
‘Yes, I managed to get into town with Margaret yesterday, I wasn’t sure if I’d find anything, but this just jumped out at me. I couldn’t find a hat, though.’
‘Who needs a hat? They just flatten your hair down.’
‘You’re right, who needs it?’
This was Mum being carefree – she always had a hat for a wedding.
‘Did you have your appointment at the doctor’s?’
‘Yeah, no more news, I’ve got a scan booked for next week, they’ll be able to tell me how many weeks then. So a bit longer to wait.’
‘It must be very frustrating for you, not knowing.’
‘I wish I did know, it would give me something to imagine. I know the baby’s only a blob at the moment, but I’d like to know what shape and size it is. Did I tell you Matt’s given it – him, according to Matt – a name? Philpotts.’
‘Really? We did that with you. We called you Taters, because you made me look like I’d been eating a few too many spuds. Your father was quite keen to have it as your middle name.’
‘I think I prefer Louise.’
‘I wish he was here to see you today, LauraLou. He’d be so proud of you.’
I’d been thinking about my dad a lot over the last few days. It was one thing that would have made today perfect, and I knew that even though Matt didn’t remember his dad, he felt the same. There was such a family feel about this day, even though it was hastily thrown together, that it just felt slightly incomplete without our dads.
‘I know. I miss him. I thought about asking someone else to give me away, but it’s not really that sort of thing, and there isn’t anyone else I’d want to ask, anyway. I’m glad you’re here, Mum.’
‘I wouldn’t be anywhere else, my love.’
She took my hand, and fished a tissue out of a pocket to wipe my eyes without spoiling my make-up.
‘Your hair looks lovely. Who did it?’
‘Beth. She’s very clever. She’s organised everything for today, in, like, days, and as well as my hair, she did her own, and Amy’s and Lis’s. I think she cuts Jay’s and Dec’s hair all the time, and Cal and Iz’s. I’m not sure if she’s ever done Matt’s, he’d think she was fussing or something.’
‘He doesn’t like being taken care of, really, does he.’
‘You have to be careful how you do it. If he thinks you think he’s too weak to do something, he hates it, but if he thinks you’ve just suggested something, but don’t push it, and then maybe just mention it later, he’ll be fine.’
‘It sounds like you’ve got to know him pretty well.’
‘You know what, Mum, I feel like I’ve known him all my life. I can hardly remember not knowing him. It’s like we were always going to be together forever, we just hadn’t met each other yet. I love him so much.’
‘I’m glad for you. That’s what it was like with me and your Dad. Forty years, and I still woke up every morning and thought how lucky I was. I hope you feel the same in forty years.’
‘Thanks, Mum. I do too.’
Before long, Nico knocked at the door, and we were on our way to the registry office, to my wedding with Matthew Robert Scott.
And there we were, outside the registry office. We were a bit early, the traffic hadn’t been too bad, but there were a few people waiting outside who I recognised as we pulled up.
None of Lau’s preparation contingent seemed to have arrived yet, but there were one or two people from work, and I recognised Anna from Lau’s work, and as I opened the door to get out, Mum and Rose walked up the street with Iz and Cal to join the gathering throng.
Jay started grumbling immediately, both at the amount of people watching us get out of the taxi, and at the strong wind that made its presence known through the open door of the cab.
‘Jesus, Matty, we’re not going to get inside with our dignity intact.’
‘Who gives a fuck? Let people know wha a Scott keeps under his kilt. Here weh goh.’
The taxi had stopped right outside the door, and it was only a short hop to get inside. The wind dropped just as we got out, and the secret remained hidden for a while longer, although Jay ran inside with a hand clamped to the fore and to the rear, to prevent anyone seeing his boring black undies.
I sauntered after him, saying hi to people, trying to appear more relaxed and nonchalant that I was feeling. We had got there with about ten minutes to spare, and the people who had gathered outside followed us up the stairs to the waiting room, where there were more people and a lot of chatter.
Jay and I got cheers and cat-calls when we appeared, and, I like to think, some appreciative looks from the ladies. Dec was already there, with Charlie, and he laughed when he saw us. Beth had seemingly managed to keep the costume choice a secret, and Jay was hardly likely to have to have told anyone. Dec came over to us, grinning.
‘Fucking hell, Matt, now I’m doubly glad you didn’t ask me to be best man. Where would I have kept my speech?’
‘Tha’s wha the sporran’s for.’
‘Yours in there is it?’
I unclipped the pouch and showed him the miniature bottle of scotch.
‘Ah, Dutch courage.’
‘Ha ha. You won’t need it, mate.’
He patted my shoulder, and I realised just how long it had been since I’d needed him to talk me down from some freak-out or another.
‘Hope not. Heh, beautiful. Come an give yuhr Unca Matty a good luck cuddle.’
I took Charlie from Dec and heard a few people go ‘aw’, but ignored them as I gave her a soft kiss on the cheek. She clung on to my neck and babbled at me.
‘I know, beautiful. Yuh look gorgeous today. Did Daddy dress yuh?’
‘Cool. He did a surprisingly good job, dihnt he. All the buttons done up righ an everything. Shoes on the righ feet. Bloody miracle.’
‘How abou ‘Matty’?’
‘Dada ih is then. Yuh wana go back tuh him?’
I handed her back to Dec as Beth, Lis and Amy came up the stairs. They stopped and looked at me and Jay, Lis whistling, Beth’s eyes filling with tears and Amy with her hand over her mouth. They knew about the kilts, but only Beth had had a preview, of Jay’s.
‘Oh Matty, it’s just perfect.’
Beth came over and hugged me.
‘Gently, Beth, I’m not wehring pants.’
Her eyes widened. ‘Is James?’
‘Yeh, bloody wimp.’
She looked relieved. ‘You might regret it later.’
I shrugged, having no idea what she had planned, but willing to go with the flow.
While more people were arriving, and the waiting room was filling with our nearest and dearest, chattering and laughing, I went through the CD plan with Cal, double checking our signal and his actions. Then I spoke to a few people, but mainly hung around with Jay, both of us quiet, while I got steadily more nervous. Mum came over with Iz, who stared openly at what her dad and I were wearing.
‘Matty, you’re wearing a skirt. So is Daddy.’
‘Yeh, well spotted, Iz. Actually, ih’s not a skirt, ih’s a kilt. Ih’s like trousers fuh men who live in Scotland.’
‘But we’re not in Scotland.’
‘Noh, buh ih’s a special occasion, an I wanted to wear something special, so me an yuhr dad thought weh’d do this.’
‘It’s not trousers. It’s a girl’s skirt.’
‘Fair enough. I like ih. Maybe weh can get one fuh Cal?’
I winked conspiratorially at her, and she giggled at the thought of her brother in Scottish men’s trousers.
‘I have to say, dear, you and Jameson look very nice.’
‘Thanks, Mum. Jay ihnt so sure.’
‘Feel like a bloody prize pillock, actually, Matty. I can’t wait till this is all over and I can put my trousers on.’
‘Oh that would be a shame, Jameson. You look so handsome. Your father would have been proud.’
‘It’s not like he ever wore it, did he. Jesus, how do women wear this shit all the time? I’ve got a constant draught round my –’ he stopped as he remembered Iz ‘– undercarriage.’
‘Ha ha. Not as draughty as meh.’
Mum looked puzzled.
‘Really, Matthew? That will be interesting later on.’
Another hint. I wondered just what we were going to be doing, but was interrupted in my ponderings by Nico’s voice floating up the stairs. Nico was bringing Lau and her mum, and it meant she was here, and this was going to happen. Game on.
Pulling up in the car park, in the space reserved for ‘Bride’, my heart was beating so fast that I wasn’t sure I was capable of walking. I sat for a while, trying to get up the courage to move. Mum took my hand and gave it a squeeze.
‘Of getting married?’
I shook my head.
‘Of looking like an idiot, forgetting something, stumbling over my words, crying stupidly, you name it, everything that can go wrong.’
‘LauraLou, remember why you’re doing this. You love this man, he loves you, and you’re having a child together. That’s all that matters. You can’t possibly look like an idiot, someone as beautiful as you, in that dress, with that hairdo, you could fall over in a puddle and you’d look just as beautiful. But you won’t, it will all go fine. Come on, my love, people are waiting.’
I wouldn’t say Mum’s words calmed me down, but they reassured me.
Nico opened the door for me, and I took his hand and got out. The swirling wind threatened to blow me about, but Beth had emptied several cans of hairspray onto me, and my hair held firm.
‘Laura, I say this before, but you are beautiful. Today, for Matty, you are more beautiful. He is beautiful too, wait and see.’
Before I could ask him what he meant, he turned and led the way up the path to the door, holding it open for me and Mum. Then he trotted past and ran up the stairs in front of us, announcing our arrival. I heard a babble of chatter, which stilled as Nico shouted out, then music. Bagpipes. Dear Lord.
As Nico announced ‘Laura she is here’, I double winked at Cal, who had been watching me like a hawk, and he pressed play on the CD player he’d brought. Skirling bagpipes filled the room as Lau came up the stairs, but I hardly heard them. Fuck, she looked, well, beautiful is the only word I can access to describe her, but she was beyond beautiful, so so far beyond it, that I was transfixed.
Clutching my bouquet and checking for the fiftieth or fifty-first time that I had my little bag over my arm with my vows in it, I walked slowly up the stairs, which twisted round a corner, so it wasn’t until the last minute that I could see into the waiting room where everyone was, well, waiting.
I quickly scanned the faces there, a mixture of people Matt and I loved, and suddenly caught sight of two men – no, not just any two men, Matt and Jay – in kilts. Actually, in full Scottish get-up, sporrans, frilly shirts, dark jackets, the lot. Jay looked a bit embarrassed, but Matt had the biggest smile on his face, looked totally relaxed, as if he wore such a thing every day, and when he saw me, his expression melted tenderly, and he walked over and kissed me.
She was wearing a strappy velvety dress that hugged her figure and dropped to the floor, with a matching wrap, and carrying a bouquet of wild flowers that looked like they had been spun from the same fabric, but all of that was just accessories to her face, her smile, her eyes, which wandered over the people there until they lit on me, and then her smile widened and it was just me and her, just me and Lau, everyone else could have disappeared, as I walked over, kissed her, and whispered in her ear.
‘Lau, you look … soh fucking amazing.’
‘You’ve upstaged me, I think.’
Never, Lau. No one was looking at me any more, they were all looking at you and thinking what a lucky bastard I was.
I gave her a wink.
‘I’ve gone commando.’
I was loving the effect that piece of information was having on people. Lau’s eyes went wide.
It was so unusual for Lau to swear, I realised how surprised and maybe nervous she was.
‘Lau! Think of Philpotts.’
Then I hugged her tightly, needing to feel her in my arms, but had to let go before I got carried away. Instead, I took her hand, and we waited nervously for the registrar to call us in. The bagpipe music stopped and we both looked round at everyone, feeling conspicuous. There was an awkward silence, then Phil shouted out.
‘Give us a Highland Fling then, Matt.’
‘Maybe later, Phil, don’t want to risk giving away the secret of wha’s under my skirt before then.’
People laughed, and chatter broke out as I spoke into Lau’s ear again.
‘This is liberating. Might never wear trousers again.’
‘Really? Outside, in winter? Good luck with that.’
‘True. You look awesome, Lau. Beth and Amy did a great job. Buh they had good materials to work with. Are yuh OK?’
She nodded, but looked apprehensive, much as I expect I did.
‘If I was wearing pants I’d be shitting them, buh luckily I’m not.’
‘Good strategy. Oh – here we go!’
The registrar came out and announced ‘Laura Shoeman and Matthew Scott’ and we went through the door, squeezing each other’s hands tightly. Music started up – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, the Muse cover. We both loved it, had smooched and rocked out to it many times, and I’d managed to sort the going in and coming out music with the clerk earlier in the week. As the chorus faded away, a hush fell over the room, and we faced each other.
I was suddenly calm. This should have been the bit where my heart was beating itself out of my chest, but something just switched off the nerves. It was as if, here I was, doing what this last crazy week had been all about, and nothing was going to stop it now. There was no more thinking, there was no more worrying, it was happening and it was just cool.
The first part of the ceremony was the legal bit, the ‘no lawful impediment’ and the ‘I take you’ bit. Then we exchanged rings. The registrar told everyone that my ring was my grandmother’s and Matt’s was his fathers. I hadn’t known that, and looked up at him, to see his eyes sparkling with what could be tears. He’d often told me that as he’d been two when his dad died, he didn’t remember him and wasn’t affected by it, but his face now told a different story.
I felt tears prickle at the corners of my eyes. It was like he was here, in a way, and I was glad I’d thought of wearing his ring. My dad could be here even in that small way, and it mattered, I felt validated.
I hadn’t told anyone, but there was an inscription inside the plain gold band, and they’d asked me if I wanted to keep it, and I did. It was perfect. I hadn’t said anything to Mum yet; I didn’t know if she’d remembered, or how she would react when I reminded her. It said ‘Forever yours’ and there was the date of their wedding, and I’d had the date of ours added. I bent down to Lau’s ear.
‘The kilt’s his as well.’
She nodded and I could see she knew what it meant to me.
And now it was time for the vows. Me first. I got my piece of paper out and started to read.
‘Matt. Matthew Robert Scott. I love you. This time thirty odd years ago, I was planning a fairytale princess wedding. There was going to be a castle, a slain dragon, lots of pink, and a handsome prince. In my teens, I was going to marry Johnny Depp in a huge Hollywood extravaganza. I’d downsized my ambitions by the time I reached my twenties, and saw myself having a classy yet enormous event in some stately home somewhere. Maybe still Johnny if he behaved himself. Then reality and my thirties hit, and I stopped dreaming about my wedding, because it felt like it might never happen. This time last year, I didn’t even know you. then – tada – just six months ago, I met you, and I fell in love with you, madly and badly. This time three months ago, we’d just moved in together. This time – well – a few weeks later, we were parents, although we didn’t know it. This time last week I’d just found out I was going to be a mother and a wife. And now here we are, and it’s back to the fairytale. No castle or dragon, or, thankfully, acres of pink, and although it looks like Johnny’s stood me up, the handsome prince and the happily ever after are sorted. Time’s a bit weird, things can seem like they last forever and pass in a flash all at once. I feel like I’ve known you and loved you all my life, and at the same time I feel like it’s all happened so quickly, sometimes my head literally spins with it.’
I opened my mouth to complain about the misuse of ‘literally’, but Lau pre-empted me.
‘And don’t say ‘it doesn’t literally spin, Lau, otherwise your head would fall off’. I know what I mean. This is the bit where I promise you something. When we first met, six months or a lifetime ago, depending on how time is passing when I think about it, we agreed to hold hands, wherever we were, however far apart we were, and see how it went. Well I don’t ever want to let go. I promise that through anything, everything, sickness and health, richer or poorer, all that, I will be holding your hand, loving and supporting you, connected to you.’
I just couldn’t help myself. ‘Even –’
She rolled her eyes, but she’d left a tiny pause, as if she knew I was going to say it.
‘Yes, even there. Matt, you are my world. I don’t know how it happened, I just know I never want it to end. I love you. Forever.’
I put my paper down and looked into his eyes, which were sparkling with tears again, above a wide smile.
She put her paper down and looked into my eyes, which were swimming wetly again, although I was smiling too. Fuck, it was just about the most perfect thing she could have said, and it echoed what I was going to say. It was what today had been about, sod the clothes, the party, the other people. Today was about me and Lau promising shit to each other, and what she had just promised me was fucking mind-blowing
‘Lau, I soh want to kiss you.’ I turned to the Registrar. ‘Can I kiss her yet?’
The Registrar looked surprised at the question.
‘Well, technically, I can’t actually stop you. It’s not the usual place though, people usually wait until after both sets of vows.’
No, I wasn’t going to wait.
‘Oh fuck it, we’ve never done anything the righ way round, or how people usually do it. Come here.’
I pulled Lau into my arms and we kissed, deeply, tongues and everything, forgetting for a second or two that people were watching. We pulled apart, caught our breath and looked at each other.
The Registrar made a ‘carry on’ movement with her hands.
‘Oh, shit, my bih. Sorry. I will be kissing you again, righ after, Lau. Get ready. You’re virtually irresistible in that dress. OK, here’s my vows, promises, whatever.’
I took a breath, did a quick mental review of what I was going to say, and began.
‘Lau, Laura Louise Shoeman, on the first day I saw you, I knew. It was like I recognised you from somewhere. It might have been your bloody hot nurse’s uniform addling my brain, buh I just thought to myself ‘fucking hell, that’s her‘.’
From behind me I heard a tut and a sotto voce ‘honestly Matty’. I had obviously just breached Beth Scott’s personal swear threshold, and I didn’t give a shit.
‘Oh, sorry Beth, buh this is my wedding, an I’m saying things my way. Fingers in ears, kids.’
Matt wasn’t even reading his words, he’d either memorised them, or he was making it up as he went along. Either was possible, and it was probably a bit of both.
‘Anyway, I nearly fucked ih up, firstly collapsing on you, an then having a bloody hissy fit when yuh looked after meh. But somehow I ended up spending the night with you – don’t worry folks, it was all above board, tha night anyway – an even more incredibly you’re still here. I still wake up wih you next to meh an think I’m dreaming. I’ve found you, an you’re soh, soh amazing Lau, an I’m never letting you go. So this is my promise. I don’t need tuh say for better or for worse, because with you it’ll always beh better. I don’t need to say in sickness and in health, because with you I feel great whatever’s wrong with meh. I don’t need tuh say richer or poorer, because I’m richer wih you and poorer without you, who gives a fuck about money. I don’t need to say till death duh us part, because I’m gona be holding your hand forever, whatever happens to either of us. I love you, Lau. You complete me, you’re what I’ve been waiting and fucking about for all my life. Thank God I found yuh. Sorry I fall short in the loaded movie star department, I’ll make it up tuh yuh with a chocolate lava cake.’
‘Lau, I’m forever yours.’
I turned to the Registrar, wanting to give her fair warning.
‘I’m gona kiss her again now.’
‘Oh, er, you may kiss the – oh, too late.’
Matt caught me up in a passionate kiss, hands in my hair, pulling out pins and undoing carefully sprayed curls. His mouth was on mine, lips and tongues tangling, bodies pressed against each other.
We were just us, until everyone started clapping and whistling, and we pulled apart and turned to them, smiling the widest smiles of our lives.
The Registrar attracted our attention again, to ask us to sign the register, which we did with our mums as witnesses. Then the music started once more, this time Stevie Wonder sang ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ as we clung to each other again, and then everyone gathered round and talked to us, and I suppose I answered, but all I could think was ‘I’m married to Lau’ and only her hand holding mine stopped me floating up into the clouds.
I hugged Matt, and then everyone gathered round and said things to me and hugged me, and I couldn’t take any of it in, only the fact that I was holding Matt’s hand and I was never going to let it go.
People say ‘it was the happiest day of my life’, and now I knew what they meant. Jay was right; this had been, without a doubt or a second thought, the best thing I had ever, ever done.
And that was it. I was married. If I’d let myself think about this moment at all, I would have imagined myself having some sense of foreboding, of being tied, trapped, or some such shit. But I was married to Lau. We’d just promised to be together forever, we were never going to let each other go. Instead of imprisoning me, it liberated me. Matt the Lad was well and truly gone.
I felt hands in my hair; Beth had picked up the stray pins and was rearranging me. She whispered in my ear,
‘Oh that was so lovely, Laura. I can’t believe it’s all done so quickly.’
I turned and looked at her.
‘Thank you for everything.’
‘It’s not over yet, sweetheart …’
I was vaguely aware of Beth re-pinning Lau’s hair, and talking to her, and then she came round to me.
‘Matty, that was so lovely. I never knew you had it in you.’
‘Wha? Being a sentimental old bastard?’
‘Being totally real for once, no messing about.’
I shrugged, about to give her some of the fucking about she was obviously missing, then there was a big shout as Jay raised his voice above the chatter.
‘Alright everyone, I hope you’ve all got the message about the reception. Cal is handing out cards with the address in case you haven’t. If any of you need a lift, please talk to Lis – Lis give us a wave – but otherwise, stick to the plan, and see you there in a few minutes. There’s plenty of parking.’
Jay lowered his voice and spoke to me and Lau.
‘Matty and Laura, you’re with me. I’m your official driver for the rest of the day. Jesus, I need a beer and to get out of this bloody skirt.’
‘Noh, noh, noh, you’re wearing the kilt for the rest of the evening.’
Whether he liked it or not.
‘I’m bloody not, Matty. I feel like a prize knob.’
‘Oh Jay, you look great, it was such a surprise seeing you and Matt when I came up the stairs.’
Lau thought she was helping, trying to persuade him. She had no idea that Beth had been plotting.
‘I bet it was. You can keep yours on if you want, Matty, but mine’s coming off when we get there. Beth’s got my trousers.’
I shrugged, he’d find out soon enough, and then it would be too late. As Jay turned away to lead us down the stairs, I whispered to Lau.
‘I think he’ll find she hasn’t.’
And then I kissed her as she started laughing, both to stop her giving the game away, and because, well, I just wanted to kiss her. A lot. For the rest of the day and night, if at all possible.
We followed Jay to the car, the last to leave the building, and ran into a snowdrift of confetti as we walked into the car park, where everybody had waited for us. Out of all the things I’d ever wanted for my wedding, this was the one thing that was in all my daydreams: confetti. Little pastel hearts, horseshoes and bells floating down on me and my new husband, tiny signs blown about after we’d gone – ‘Lau and Matt: just married’. It was perfect, although it stuck in our hair, got in our mouths and up our noses, and a fair amount of it attached itself to Jay as well, much to his annoyance.
‘It’s going to take me bloody ages to get this lot out of my car.’
‘Nice little Sunday morning job for yuh then.’
‘Yeah, thanks. Here, Laura, let me help you in.’
Lau and I sat on the back seat of Jay’s four wheel drive and kissed all the way to the barn. Neither of us paid any attention to where we were going, we were totally wrapped up in each other, much to Jay’s amusement.
‘Jesus, Matty, get a room or something.’
‘Stop watchin if we’re offending yuh, yuh should be looking where you’re bloody well goin anyway.’
I stopped long enough to berate him, then dived back in for some more lip action. Lau tasted so good, it was as if being married to her had changed her saliva or something.
‘We’re nearly there. Stop it now, make yourself presentable before you get out. You’ve got lipstick all over your bloody face.’
‘Don’t give a fuck. If I can’t kiss my wife … fucking hell, Lau. Yuhr my bloody wife. I’m your bloody husband. Shit. We’re Mr and Mrs bloody domesticated.’
I looked at her, mouth gaping, as using the words sent a whole new flood of real through me.
Matt looked as if he’d truly only just realised, and could possibly be on the verge of freaking about it.
‘Is that Bloody-Domesticated with a hyphen, flower?’
It made him laugh, and his face cleared.
Trust Lau to not let me dwell. I touched my mouth, and saw red lipstick on my fingers.
‘Have yuh got a tissue? Probably should wipe this off my face.’
‘Haven’t you got one in your sporran?’
‘Noh. Got a tot of whisky. No room for anything else.’
‘Here you are then, but I warn you, in being the tissue dispenser, I am turning into my mother before your eyes.’
‘Noh chance, your scones aren’t nearly good enough.’
‘Well, that’s it. You criticise my cooking, you constantly demand tissues, I want a divorce.’
I knew she was kidding, but it pierced my soul, and instantly sobered me.
‘Fuck, Lau, sorry, I can’t even joke about tha. Not gona happen, ever.’
‘No, I agree. Sorry, shouldn’t have said it.’
She looked guilty, and I shouldn’t have made her feel guilty, not today, so I gave her an alternative, as I wiped my mouth with the tissue.
‘Hey, make meh feel better, have an explore under my kilt.’
‘Oh for fuck’s sake, Matty, I’m right here. At least wait until you’re on your own before you start your honeymoon. We’re here now, please keep your hands to yourself, Laura, and both of you remember there are children present.’
We had indeed pulled up outside a barn, where there were loads of other cars haphazardly parked. While Jay got out of the car, I leaned in for another kiss, but it was just a quick one, as he opened the door for Lau, who quickly wiped her smudged lipstick, and I scooted out after her. As I got out, the wind caught us, threatening to mess Lau’s hair up, and catching the back of my kilt with an icy blast that nearly froze my bollocks off.
As we got out, a gust of wind caught us, dislodging a few of Beth’s carefully reinstated curls, and whipping the back of both kilts up above waist height briefly, revealing Matt’s perfectly naked buttocks, and Jay’s sensible, sturdy pair of shorts. There were whoops and shouts while I tried to catch the back of the kilt and cover Matt’s modesty. He didn’t seem to care, Jay was the one glowering and swearing and beating a hasty retreat to the barn, locking his car over his shoulder as he ran.
Everyone was waiting outside, so they all saw my arse, and Jay’s underwear, and there was a fair amount of hollering from the gathered throng. I suppose it was good to get it out of the way, and at least it was only the back view; the sporran was heavy enough to hold the front down through a fairly hefty breeze.
Lau whispered in my ear as we followed Jay to the barn. She meant mine, not Jay’s, and she gave it a squeeze as we walked through the door, and then let go, as she needed both hands to cover her mouth in surprise and awe at the inside of the barn.