I was tired the next day, but that’s what all the short day shit was about, so that I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn and struggle through a whole day of concentrating.
I ordered some flowers from the local florist, which I was going to pick up on Friday morning, and I had a text from Beth to say that she had talked Jay into the kilt. I bet she had, I bet she hadn’t stopped bloody talking him into it since yesterday, and I expect he gave in just to shut her the fuck up. I loved it when it wasn’t me on the end of a Beth nag session; didn’t happen often, and I suspect Jay had been getting an easier life than usual with me being a fucking cripple again, so I didn’t feel bad about it in the slightest. I’d been confident she would do the business, and had forged ahead with the kilts without her say so.
The next week passed in a rush. I worked on Monday and Tuesday, but took the rest of the week off, and went shopping with Amy on Wednesday. Beth was originally going to come, but was too busy, so Amy and I spent the day looking at the dresses we’d picked out online, and sitting in cafés so Amy could rest her swollen ankles. I got a perfect dress, made even better by it being half price in the sale, which saved me enough for the perfect pair of shoes, so everything matched.
Amy insisted I let her buy a wrap to go with it, as a wedding present, and she found a dress for herself which was comfortable, stylish and would be wearable after she’d had the baby. We were both tired by the end of the day, but we’d had a real laugh. By the time I dropped Amy home, we were both dead on our feet, and I was glad I was going home to Matt and a cooked tea, rather than a one-year old who needed lots of attention from her Mummy and Daddy, neither of whom were likely to be eating until after she was in bed.
I was determined I would make the most of the few months I had remaining of not being a mum, but most of me was so looking forward to having a child that I couldn’t wait. I’d made an appointment with my GP for Thursday, and was due to have lunch afterwards with Beth, Lis and Amy. It was likely to be a long lunch, with lots of laughter, chatter, cake and coffee.
And so that just left two days to keep myself busy enough that I didn’t dwell on how mad this whole thing was, how absolutely off the planet bat-shit crazy my life had become in the last few days, how unprepared I was, how little I knew about a) being married, b) having a baby and c) both of those together. It really was best not to think about it, because it was so far from the way I usually liked to do things, with having all the information at my disposal, having researched it thoroughly and thought all the pros and cons to death.
Yeah I could do spontaneous, but not with the big stuff. I could go and fetch Cal on a whim and take him surfing, or I could drive Lau a hundred miles to watch a meteor shower, or whoa, steady on, change my brand of shampoo, without blinking an eye. But big life events, like buying a car, going on holiday, having a baby with the woman you want to marry, well all of those things would normally have required a lot of mental to-ing and fro-ing, Googling, lists and lengthy weighing up of the pros and cons before any decisions were finalised.
However, now here I was, in the middle of a rather big life event, and I had hardly given myself time to think. I couldn’t, because there was no option to change my mind, back out, be fucking terrified. And if I thought, terrified is what I would be.
So I just did stuff, organised stuff, went to work, brought work home so I’d be busy, and generally conserved my energy for my stag-night. I was going to have to be awake on Thursday until at least midnight, and if I didn’t get some good rests in beforehand, I was going to be collapsing in an inappropriately fucking cripple way.
And through all of it, I didn’t think, not properly, about any of it.
That sounds like I thought it was a mistake. Oh, no, getting married to Lau, having a baby, they were the best things ever. I just knew that if I thought about it, all the shit that had propelled me into being Matt the Lad would surface and I’d start to question myself. I didn’t want to give myself that opportunity, didn’t have time, and the end result would be the same, I’d just be freaking more.
So for those two days, I sorted my outfit and accessories, I delivered Jay’s outfit and accessories to him and laughed at the indignant look on his face when he realised I actually was serious, I went and helped Mum with the cooking, and I … oh, I sorted some of the entertainment.
Beth was arranging everything, and that was fine, but it niggled me just a little bit that she had complete control. Even though that was what I’d wanted and what I’d given her. Hey, never said I wasn’t a fuck-up, alright?
I was walking down the High Street on the Wednesday evening, on my way back from a trip to the corner shop for shoe polish, when I heard a song floating out of a hall. It was one of Lau’s favourites, some sentimental boy-band shit, and I wouldn’t have normally paid any attention to it except she’d been singing along to it in the car a few days before and I’d been teasing her, so when I heard it, it pinged into my consciousness. And it sounded surprisingly good, mainly because it wasn’t the boy-band who were singing it, but a choir, without accompaniment.
I turned towards the music, opened the door to the hall and wandered inside, to stand, captivated, as the choir sang another couple of songs. There was a bit of stopping and starting, as they were obviously learning the songs, but they sounded awesome, and seemed to have a fairly varied repertoire. The man at the front who was waving his arms around, conducting I assumed, called a break, so I wandered up to talk to him.
‘Yuh sound awesome.’
‘Thank you. Are you interested in singing?’
‘Fuck noh, buh I lohv wha I’ve heard. Yuh don’t do weddings by any chance?’
‘It has been known. What did you have in mind?’
‘I’m getting married on Friday afternohn.’
I saw the ‘fuck off’ on the tip of his tongue, then he swallowed it and looked thoughtful.
‘Well it might be a bit short notice for the choir, and if I can’t get enough people to do it, it would have to be a ‘no’. But how about I ask after the break, see who could come, I could give you an answer then?’
‘Feel free to have a chat while you’re waiting, we’ll be about ten minutes. I’m Al, by the way.’
‘Have your band let you down?’
‘For your wedding.’
‘Oh, noh, ih’s all a bih last minute. Only popped the question on Friday. Still making arrangements.’
Al’s eyebrows jumped up into his hairline.
‘Hell’s teeth, you live on the edge, don’t you.’
I nodded, ruefully. ‘Ih’s felt like ih the last few days.’
‘I’ll bet. I’ll see what I can do, then, put my best persuading voice on.’
He left me, to sort out some music, and I quickly texted Beth.
‘Might need to factor a choir into reception plans.’
‘What are u up 2 Matty?’
Al had sent a couple of people over to talk to me while everyone was having a break, presumably to rest their vocal cords although everyone was talking nineteen to the dozen. I had a pleasant chat with Sylvia and Gerry, who apparently sang alto and tenor, whatever the fuck that meant.
Looking around the hall, most of the choir members were older people, although there were a few people who could be my age or younger (maybe they would still count as older in some circles).
After a few more minutes of chatting, during which I learned that Sylvia looked after her elderly mum, but had carers in on Wednesdays so she could come to choir, and Gerry was a financial advisor looking forward to retirement, and they learned that I was a tone-deaf IT consultant with a penchant for impetuous decisions, Al called everyone back together.
He beckoned me over to him.
‘This is Matt. Matt’s getting married on Friday, to … er …’
‘He only proposed to Laura last Friday –’
There were a few ‘aahs’ and a few more gasps,
‘– and is still sorting his wedding out. He just heard us before the break, and thinks we sound awesome, which of course we do, and he wondered if we could sing at his reception, which is on Friday afternoon. I haven’t said yes, because it’s very short notice, but I’m going to ask for a show of hands, and if we have enough people who would be prepared to do it, we can say yes, and discuss our fee!’
‘Absolutely not. Only put your hand up if you are one hundred per cent able to do it. Go.’
At a rough count, about twenty-five people put their hands up, out of the possibly fifty who were there. Someone asked what time, and put their hand up when I told them, along with a couple more. I was incredibly moved, that a bunch of complete strangers would be prepared to put themselves out for me at a moment’s notice. People weren’t so bad after all.
‘OK, looks like we’ve got ourselves a gig. You won’t have to be too fussy what we sing.’
‘Seriously? Yuh’ll do ih?’
‘Whoa, awesome. Thank yuh all. Made my day. Sing anything. Tha one yuh were doin when I came in – boy-band shit – tha’s Lau’s favourite.’
‘It’s on the list. Matt, I will need to contact you about the finer details.’
‘Oh, yuh need to talk to my sister-in-law, she’s doin all the organising. I’ll give yuh her number.’
We exchanged details, and I walked home with a spring in my step, after texting Beth to warn her to expect a call from Al and to make room in whatever she had planned, for the choir.
Something must have shown on my face when I got in; Lau could always tell when I was hiding something, whether it was a surprise for her, or some kind of bastard MS type thing I was trying to ignore.
‘What have you been up to? You’ve been gone ages.’
‘Jus getting polish, I tol yuh.’
‘Had to go to Scotland to get it, did you?’
‘Hey, I’m a fucking cripple. Tahks meh ages to walk places. Did yuh offer tuh go for meh? Noh. Selfish cow.’
Lau got that look on her face, the one she always got when I called myself a fucking cripple, then I saw her realise it was a diversion – she was learning fast – and her expression changed to penetrating inquirer.
‘You hardly even limp these days. It does not take you an hour to walk down to the corner shop and back.’
‘How do yuh know I went tuh the corner shop? They migh not have had polish, next nearest shop, miles away.’
Not exactly fibbing. More like supposing.
‘Didn’t they, then?’
‘Have any polish at the corner shop?’
Jeremy Paxman had nothing on Lau. And I couldn’t lie to her, the cow. And she knew it, the cow. Half-truths necessary.
‘I got side-tracked. All will behcome clear. Noh further questions will beh answered at this tihm.’
Lau tried wheedling.
‘Are we going to start our married life keeping secrets from each other?’
‘Fuck yeh. An we’re not married yet. Yuh can’t use tha for another two days. Beh patient.’
‘So were you doing something to do with Friday, then?’
‘Noh more questions.’
‘I plehd the fifth.’
‘The baby would like to know.’
‘Ha ha, Lau, Philpotts dohnt give a toss as long as he’s warm and inside yuh – he takes after meh.’
Which gave me a better idea for a distraction, and Lau was amenable, and that was the end of that discussion.
Anna, Kate and Rachel wanted to take me out for a hen night on Thursday evening, and Matt was having a stag do the same night. I had no idea what he had planned; there was likely to be a lot of drinking involved for Matt, and I hoped he would be in a fit state for Friday afternoon. Mine was going to have to be a sedate affair, at least as far as my personal alcohol consumption was concerned, with just the work girls and a few other friends, and we chose Mean Bean as our starting venue.
Sometime soon I was going to have to write my wedding vows. I liked how vague that sounded, as if I shouldn’t have already damn well finished it. We’d gone for that option, writing our own rather than any particularly religious or formal service, as everything else had been done so quickly; we wanted this part of the day to be something we had put some thought into, but now I was proper panicking, and I just hoped I was going to have enough time to put my feelings down coherently. Or even in a hasty muddly emotional splurge.
I got up early to start writing some of the thoughts I’d had about my vows. Matt slept in, feeling a need to conserve his energy for his stag night, so for a while I had the place to myself, and sat with a blank piece of paper in front of me, trying to think of a way to write it, what I felt, what Matt meant to me. Eventually, before I’d written a single word, apart from a few rather juvenile attempts at writing my signature with the name ‘Scott’ at the end instead of ‘Shoeman’, and ‘Matt’ in a heart at the top of the page like I was a teenager, it was time to go to my GP appointment. I screwed up the paper and put it in the bin. I still had time later, between lunch and going out with the girls, and then when I got back.
The next day, the day before my wedding, shall I say it again, the day before my sodding, fucking, bloody huge deal of a wedding, I was trying to get as much rest as possible. All the Scottish kit was going to be delivered, along with Jay, by Beth on Friday morning, to make sure both arrived unimpaired and without mishap to either. My father’s wedding ring had been altered, and Beth was collecting that for me later as well.
One of the last things I had to do was think about my vows. Lau and I wanted to say our own vows, rather than just repeat something out of a book. It seemed like there was going to be little enough of us in the short ceremony, so we wanted to put something in there that said what we meant to each other, but now I needed to think about what I was going to say. I was used to doing presentations and speaking to people off the cuff at work, and I didn’t usually stick to a script, but this time I thought I should at least have a vague plan of things I wanted to say.
It wasn’t just for Lau, although she was the main one it was for; enough people had implied it was very quick, very sudden, did I really know what I was doing, that I wanted to tell everyone, yes, this woman is the other half of my soul, the one person who makes my life worth living, and fuck you if you can’t see that or believe it.
So in-between the long lie-in and all the power naps of Thursday afternoon, I made a mental list of everything I wanted to say. That was kind of how I always did things. I never needed to write things down, I had some pretty good memory strategies, and after a bit of thought, it was all in there, waiting for tomorrow. Now I just had to not get so pissed on my stag that I forgot it all.
Oh, and Lau had an appointment with her doctor, and we were hoping we were going to get a due date so we could stop all the ‘when’s it due’ ‘don’t know’ ‘how can you not know’ ‘well we’ve had a lot of sex and could be any time in the last three months really’ type conversations.
It was never going to be as simple as that. Much as I expected, my GP needed to use the date of my last period to estimate my due date. I couldn’t remember when that was, only that I had missed two. A digital test would only be able to tell me how many weeks up to three or more; I already knew I was more than three weeks. So although I’d been hoping for more information, I was none the wiser.
My GP booked a scan for me, based on the assumption that I was at least eight weeks, probably more, and they would be able to tell more then. She booked it for next week.
Lau called me half way through the morning.
‘Hi flower. I feel like a complete idiot.’
My heart did a little flip-flop as I thought she meant she wasn’t pregnant after all, and disappointment followed a weird combo of relief and irritation. The relief was only because it would slow things down a bit, and the irritation was because things were now unstoppable.
‘Why? They handin ouh IQ tests at the surgery now?’
‘Ha ha. No, but I still haven’t got a date. I need to know the date of my last period, and I can’t remember. I’ve got to have a scan, I’m booked in for next week.’
This time it was definitely relief I felt. If there hadn’t been a baby, it would have been like something real had been taken away, there would have been mourning and sorrow. And I would have felt like a complete dick for talking into Lau’s belly for a whole week.
‘Oh, cool, scans are cool.’
This was the geeky tech nerd in me, who was fascinated by all the machines. ‘Buh why do yuh feel like an idiot?’
‘I should know all that, shouldn’t I? The doctor implied as much.’
‘Blame ih on baby brain?’
‘Ha ha, yeah, good plan. I’m going to lunch with Beth, bit of a girls thing, might last all afternoon. I’ll see you later, before we go out.’
‘See yuh. Have a good time.’
It was becoming a bit unsettling, not knowing when the baby was due. Until we had a date, he continued to feel a bit nebulous, less real, and although I talked to him all the time, I really wanted to be able to think of him as he was, how big, what features would have developed, and at the moment he could be anything from tadpole to baby shaped, tiny or just quite small. I needed something to pin my imaginings on. But we were both going to have to wait a bit, and it wasn’t like we didn’t have anything else to occupy our thoughts, so I shrugged and put it to one side.
Then it was time for lunch, before I’d had time to even think about my vows, and I drove to Lis’s house. Amy and Beth were there, as well as Carol, Rose and my mum. It was a riotous occasion, wine was flowing, although not for me or Amy, and we all laughed and talked, even Mum, who wasn’t a great drinker and didn’t really approve of drunkenness in any form. She was really trying hard not to judge, and it was great to see her laughing and chatting with my friends and family.
Lau got home later, full of the afternoon she’d had with Beth, Mum, Rose, Lis, Amy and her mum. I gathered there had been wine, although not for Lau or Amy, and much shrieking and saying bad things about the menfolk had taken place, but Lau still wanted to marry me, so I let them off.
Lau had managed to take the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday off that week, but I’d hardly seen her during the day, as she’d been dress shopping with Amy yesterday, and had a full day today, and was now going to desert me again to go on her hen night with her work friends, although I would be out later too.
I’d made a salad for tea, something quick and light so it didn’t slow either of us down for the evening, although Lau was eating out too, later, and then we cuddled up on the sofa, reconnecting after a day apart. I loved this time of day, when we just relaxed into each other, chatting or not, touching, kissing. Since we’d found out about Philpotts, it meant even more, and I’d spend a lot of time with my hand on Lau’s belly, or my head bent close, talking nonsense.
Eventually, though, she had to get ready. Lau was going out before me, as she was going to Mean Bean to eat, and then on somewhere else when it closed. So she went to get changed while I cleared the dinner things away. As I put things in the bin, I caught sight of my name on a piece of screwed up paper, and retrieved it. The paper had tea stains on it, and was a bit wrinkled, but in Lau’s handwriting was
Laura Louise Scott
Mrs L L Scott
Mrs Laura Scott
I smoothed the paper out, smiling to myself, and as Lau came out of the bedroom, I held it up.
‘Been practising yuhr signature?’
I tried a shrug. I knew he was trying to embarrass me – Matt found it fascinating that I didn’t blush or get flustered about much, at least not outwardly, and he never stopped trying to bring a glow of awkwardness to my face. It still wasn’t working.
‘I need all the practice I can get, I haven’t had a lot of time. I’m going to have to get new bank cards and everything.’
Matt wasn’t fooled by my fib.
She was trying hard not be embarrassed, and doing a pretty good job, so of course I had to try and push it. Lau was proud of the fact that she didn’t fluster easily, and I still hadn’t made her blush, so it was one of my life’s missions, of course, to see those creamy cheeks go red with something other than physical exertion.
‘No one has tuh sign things any more, ih’s all pin numbers an shit.’
‘I don’t want to get caught out.’
Yeah right, Lau, and what were you really doing?
‘Thanks fuh putting me in a little heart. Bored were yuh?’
I gave in, being nowhere near as good at telling porkies as Matt was.
‘No. I was trying to write my vows. I didn’t get very far.’
We hadn’t talked about our vows, except to decide that we would write our own. I didn’t want to find out what she’d said, or for us to have any influence over each other. I was surprised to hear she might not have done hers; Lau usually liked to get things out of the way early so she didn’t have to worry about them.
‘Yuh have done them, though?’
‘Er, it’s a work in progress.’
‘Tick, tock, Lau.’
I didn’t want to stress her out before her big night, but we really didn’t have long. I smiled to let her know it didn’t matter. I’d be happy if she just said ‘I promise to snog you every day’. More than happy. In fact, I almost suggested it.
‘OK, don’t remind me. When are you off out?’
‘An hour or so. Don’t wait up.’
Although I knew I wasn’t going to be late.
‘Don’t be loud when you get back. See you later, beach boy.’
She walked over to give me a ‘see you later’ kiss, and I pulled her to me and folded her up in my arms. She looked and felt and smelled awesome, and I just wanted to carry on holding her.
‘God, Lau, yuh look gorgeous. Leh’s not go out, leh’s stay in an jus, oh, I don’t know, take this off …’
I pushed the strap of her dress down and kissed the side of her neck.
‘… an see what happens.’
I could feel her melting into me, but stopping herself and pulling away slightly.
A very large part of me would have liked nothing more than to stay at home with Matt, rather than the evening the girls had in store for me.
‘Nice try, flower. But the girls would kill me, literally kill me, if I don’t go out tonight. They’ve got all sorts of things planned that they don’t think I know about, and they’ll come gunning for you if they don’t get to do them.’
I hadn’t considered that Lau’s hen night might have an equal risk of untoward goings on. They wouldn’t have a stripper, would they? Surely Lau wouldn’t go along with that … oh what was I thinking. Lau would do whatever she wanted to, and if it involved some bloke getting his kit off, and it made her happy, then I suppose I could just about cope with it as long as I didn’t hear too many details.
‘Oh, a big ‘L’ plate for the back of my dress, a large purple tiara, they’re going to tie cans to the back of my car, they’ve got some special songs for Bridget to play. It will be hilarious.’
She air-quoted the last word, smiling.
No stripper then, at least that they’d told her about. Just ridiculous cheesy shenanigans. Relieved much Matt? I was still great at deluding myself.
‘How do yuh know?’
‘They told Patrick. Patrick told his wife. His wife knows someone in Mum’s gardening club, who told Mum, who couldn’t keep a secret if her life depended on it.’
‘Really? I’d think yuhr mum would be pretty reliable.’
‘No chance. Don’t ever tell her your deepest and darkest, it’ll be all over the Herald before you’ve got half way up the road.’
‘Noted. Enjoy being dressed up, then. Hope I don’t get tied tuh a lamp post or something.’
I was pretty sure I was going to be alright, the worst that would happen to me would be getting arrested by the good taste police, but I wasn’t so sure about some of Matt’s work colleagues, who seemed a bit OTT sometimes.
‘Oh they won’t do anything daft, will they?’
They weren’t going to get the chance. I was going to be the soberest one of all of them, which should help me to keep one step ahead.
‘Hope not. Maybe yuh’d better wait up after all. If I’m not home by midnight, I migh have turned into a pumpkin. Or be asleep in a police cell.’
‘I’m nervous now.’
‘Lau, I’ve been nervous all week, but not about what’s going to happen tonight. It’s tomorrow that’s scaring the living shit of meh, but as long as we’re there together, I know it’s all gona be fine.’
‘I know. I love you, Matt. Have a great time tonight. See you – well, probably tomorrow.’
Once I was sure she’d gone, I got my iPad out and called up Cal on FaceTime.
‘I need a favohr mate.’
Cal had turned monosyllabic a while ago, but I always just chuntered on at him as if we were having the merriest of chats.
‘You know meh an Lau are getting married on Friday?’
Oh, also, eye rolling a speciality, just to let you know how stupid you were, without the bother of actually saying ‘dur’.
‘Great, glad tuh see you’re paying attention. I need someone tuh beh in charge of the CD player. There’ll beh a secret signal and everything.’
There was a tiny flicker of interest.
‘I’ll get your dad to collect the player so you can take ih with you, and we can cue ih up when we get there tomorrow. Wha’s a good signal?’
Cal shrugged. ‘Dunno.’
‘How abou I point at you an say ‘now’?’
‘Not very secret.’
‘Oh. Good point.’
I’d got him interested now, and could see him thinking.
‘You could wink with both eyes.’
‘Er, isn’t tha called blinking? Might get a bit confusing with all the other blinking I’ll be doing.’
‘Not both at the same time.’
He still didn’t say ‘dur’, but it was in the air between us.
‘One eye then the other. Maybe twice to make sure.’
‘Genius! You’ll have to watch out for ih though, I’m not sure when I’ll be doing the signal. Cheers Cal, couldn’t do it without you. Quick practice?’
‘Here we go then.’
I winked twice with each eye.
‘Great. Thanks Cal.’
There was the ghost of a smile on his face as we disconnected.
And so it was my turn to tart myself up a bit, although not a lot, and set off for the pub we were meeting in. The measure of how much I’d changed in the last couple of years was that I really would prefer be home with Lau, doing anything and nothing, just being together, rather than spending a night on the booze, being rowdy, talking about tits and football and anticipating the naked girl.
I loved that the guys wanted to take me out, but I so wasn’t the man they wanted to take out. I’d changed, and I really was going to be spending a large part of the evening pretending – pretending to enjoy myself, pretending to be drunk, pretending to be dreading tomorrow.
I can’t say I had a crap time, because I did have a bit to drink, and it made me merry, and we had a laugh. Dec, Jay and Nico joined us early on, but wimped out after a couple of pubs. There was a Raiders game on Saturday, and boozy late nights were not permitted. Things got more raucous as the evening progressed, I stuck to one beer in each location, but managed to make it seem like I’d had more, and I slipped out just after the stripper arrived. I got a taxi home, texting a couple of people to thank them and say goodnight; there were going to be some sore heads tomorrow, but mine wasn’t going to be one of them.
The hen night with the girls would have been a bit more hilarious from my point of view if I’d had as much to drink as they did, or even if I’d had anything. I loved a messy girls’ night, but no drinkies for me really sucked, and although I did appreciate their attempts to give me a ‘normal’ hen do, I was really just playing along so as not to disappoint them. This involved being dressed up in all sorts of ‘hen night’ kit: a tiara complete with veil, a sash announcing ‘Bride to Be’, a big ‘L’, a wand, a feather boa and a huge bra they’d decorated with all sorts of sequins and ribbons that they insisted I wore over the top of my dress. Oh, and lots of penis shaped things. Chocolates, balloons, shot glasses, the whole tasteless and hilarious-when-drunk carnival. They’d bought me a surprisingly tasteful wedding present, too, which was really great, considering the short notice, and the fact that Matt and I had specifically told people that presents weren’t expected. They made me open it there at the table, and I was really moved to unwrap a picture of Matt and me in a silver frame. The picture was one of my favourites, in fact I used it as the wallpaper on my phone.
‘How on earth did you get this photo?’
‘Kate knows the code to your phone. She sent it to her email when you were in the loo. You nearly caught her.’
‘Kate! I’m changing my code now. You could have read my private texts and everything.’
‘I did. You saucy cow. I sent them to my email as well. Don’t make your code your birthday next time.’
And then, finally, the noise of the tin cans on the back of the car ringing in my ears, the comedy veil, ‘L’ plate, tiara and ‘Bride to Be’ banner draped over the sofa, an array of penis paraphernalia lined up on the kitchen counter, I was home, in the quiet, a blank piece of paper on the table in front of me, back to where I’d started this morning. I decided to approach it from a different angle.
Rather than worrying about saying things a certain way, I should just use it like a conversation. Think what I would say first, then what Matt would say, then what I would reply, and go on from there. It helped, and before long, although it wasn’t particularly inspiring yet, I had made a pretty decent attempt at putting down everything I wanted to say, not only to Matt, but to everyone who was coming. I sat back and re-read it. There was something missing, it just looked like something I could have downloaded from ‘WeddingVows.com’, and I wanted to say more to everyone who would be there tomorrow.
Tomorrow. I was getting married tomorrow. This time last week, I didn’t even know I was pregnant. It sparked off a train of thought, and I picked up the pen, and started scribbling furiously.
A while later, I’d finished. I had switched to the laptop when I realised it was going to be easier than a pen, and quicker, and I would get a nice neat print out at the end.
With a satisfied sigh I printed the sheet off and sat back, looking at the time. It was nearly midnight. I hadn’t heard from Matt, but hadn’t expected to, and didn’t really think he would be back before the early hours. He hadn’t been sure where he was going, but suspected it included pubs and clubs, and maybe some revisiting of old haunts. I was apprehensive about what he might be being encouraged to get up to, but I put it to the back of my mind. I trusted him.
Lau’s car was in the car park when I got back, and I was amused to see cans tied to it – surely she hadn’t driven back with them attached? She would have woken up the entire neighbourhood. I looked up at our window, but it was dark. She must have been home long enough to have gone to bed.
I had just flopped into bed, mind whirling, wondering if I was going to get any sleep at all tonight, when I heard the key in the door.
‘Hey Lau. You beat meh home. Disappointing.’
He wandered into the bedroom, appearing remarkably sober, holding a tiny chocolate penis, which he popped into his mouth while raising his eyebrow.
I wandered into the bedroom, where she was lying in bed, having put the lamp on. My Lau, old faded sleeping shirt with a puppy on it, her face scrubbed clean of make up, hair rumpled from lying on it. She was so fucking hot.
‘You’re not drunk.’
She almost sounded disappointed.
‘Ha ha, aren’t you supposed to accuse me of the opposite?’
‘Didn’t you have anything to drink?’
‘Couple of beers, early on.’
‘Really, that’s all?’
Now she sounded impressed.
‘Yeah. Wanted tuh have a clear head tomorrow. Wana remember every second of marrying you, Lau.’
I sat down on the edge of the bed, reached over and stroked her cheek.
I was astounded. Matt loved his beer, and hadn’t had a night out with his mates for a long time. That, and it being his stag night, should have ensured a high level of intoxication and a huge hangover, but he hadn’t got drunk, and he hadn’t done it for me, for us.
‘You must have iron willpower. I thought they had all sorts planned for you.’
‘I’m pretty good at playing drunker than I am. They didn’t guess. Slipped out while they were all cheering the stripper.’
‘There was a stripper?’
She tried to look outraged, but failed.
‘Course, ih was my stag night, couldn’t deprive them. Didn’t stay for ih myself though. Got my own hot girl righ here.’
I pulled the duvet back and lay down next to Lau, nuzzling her neck.
‘I love you, Lau. Will yuh marry me?’
I know, it was what Dec did all the time with Amy, ask her even though she’d already said yes. I guess I got it now. It wasn’t just cute, it was a need for confirmation.
‘Well, as you asked so nicely, I suppose so. I can only do it tomorrow, though. Offer expires at three o’clock.’
‘Better get my skates on, then.’
I kissed her tenderly, then deeply, then wrapped her up in my arms and pulled her tightly against me.
‘Oh God, I want you so much. Don’t suppose we should, the nigh before.’
Wasn’t there some kind of pre-wedding ‘no hanky-panky’ edict? Not that I was particularly keen on edicts of any sort, but I didn’t know Lau’s feelings on the matter.
‘Why ever not?’
Oh, well, cool. Obviously not a pre-wedding edict fan either.
‘Really? I fucking love yuh, Laura Shoeman. Hey, that’s nearly the last time I can call yuh that. Yuh’ll be Mrs Scott tomorrow. Shit, that sounds so old.’
As I was speaking, my hands were roaming under Lau’s puppy t-shirt, and I gave her a lingering kiss. This was our last night as single people, and I wanted it to be memorable. As I was on my way down to Lau’s pleasure zone, I got distracted by the soft swell of her belly, and held my mouth close to speak to the tiny person inside.
‘Hey Philpotts, how yuh doing in there? I hope you don’t mind if me an your mum have a bit of a … well, maybe yuh should avert your eyes for a bih. Ih’s our last fling as single people, yuh’ll understand one day. Night, son. Behave yuhself.’
‘You are going to be so disappointed when she’s a girl.’
‘No I’m not, because he isn’t. And if by some accidental oversight he is, tha will be just absolutely bloody fine and awesome.’
I grinned up at Lau, who tilted her head and made a shooing motion with her hand.
‘Er, weren’t you in the middle of something?’
‘Oh yeh, where was I?’
‘Just about here.’
Lau took my hand and guided it to where I’d left off, and things went swimmingly thereafter.
Then we wrapped each other up in our last sleepy embrace as unmarried people and fell asleep.
I had set my alarm for pretty early the next morning, with no expectation that it would actually wake me up, but I thought if the tone annoyed Lau enough she might turn it off and then try her own tactics, which were preferable but not programmable. However, I was awake before my phone sounded, almost as if there was something important happening today, and I gave myself a mental pat on the back for not having got completely rat-arsed the previous day, and having lots of rests.
I felt … lots of things. There were several thousand butterflies turning my insides into a fluttering wreck; I looked at Lau and felt overwhelmingly happy that today was the day we promised to be together for the foreseeable; I felt the urgency of things I needed to sort, check, double check; I felt no fatigue; everything seemed to be in working order.
I had things to do, mostly on the phone, but I couldn’t do them with Lau around, so I headed out, not before making her breakfast and leaving a note, explaining my absence, and then talking myself out of waking her up and ravishing her.
The click of the front door woke me up the next day. Matt wasn’t there, but he had made me breakfast, and left it on a tray by the bed. There were croissants, orange juice and a vase of flowers, with a note.
Hey Lau, got a few things to sort, had to pop out. See you later.
Love you so much, soon-to-be-Mrs Scott (you old bag, you!)
I smiled and stretched, then sat up and ate my breakfast. I found myself stroking my belly and thinking about the baby that was there, only a few centimetres long at the moment. Today was going to be busy and mad and tiring, but at the end of it Matt and I would have joined together to be mum and dad to this little one.
In some ways it was the most natural and normal thing in the world, and in others it was the most terrifying adventure anyone had ever undertaken. Laura Shoeman, you’re going to be married. To Matt Scott. It didn’t seem as unbelievable as it used to that Matt and I were going to be together forever; it never stopped being amazing, but it stopped being something I had to keep reminding myself of. We were right together. This would have happened, sooner or later, and why wait? Ha ha, Laura, nice try at convincing yourself this isn’t complete madness.
I took my phone and went to have breakfast in a coffee shop along the High Street. First call was Beth.
‘Matty, you’re up early. Nervous?’
Today, I was letting Beth off all the smart mouth replies, at least until later, or until she really annoyed me, whichever happened first. She had been so focussed on planning the party that she hadn’t had the time, energy or seemingly the inclination to bother me endlessly about anything, and I was feeling charitable. I’m just an old softy, really, aren’t I.
‘Still aslehp. I’m having a latte in Cafe 369 so I dohnt disturb her. Jus checking Jay hasn’t torched the kilts overnigh.’
‘Ha ha, no, I managed to keep him away from the scissors, too. He thinks I’m bringing a change of clothes for him to the reception.’
‘No. I think he looks lovely in the kilt, I want him to stay in it.’
Well wasn’t that just devious as fuck. I loved it.
‘Hope yuh know wha yuhr doin.’
‘James is no match for me.’
‘See you later, Matty. I’ll walk James up the stairs to make sure he doesn’t escape.’
‘Ha ha. See yuh.’
Next on the list was the Ivy Leaf, to add a few extras I’d thought of to our hotel booking.
‘Ih’s Matt Scott. I’ve booked the honeymoon suite fuh tonight.’
A pause, possibly tapping on a computer.
‘Yes sir, how can I help.’
‘I’d like tuh order a bottle of champagne an a bottle of sparkling elderflower fuh when we arrive.’
Another pause, while they typed it somewhere. I could hear voices as well.
‘An a spa trehtment tomorrow morning, massage an facial, whaever.’
‘Certainly sir. The price list will be available when you arrive, and you can choose then.’
‘Dohnt I have tuh book ih now?’
‘That won’t be necessary.’
‘Awesome. See yuh later then.’
‘Thank you, sir.’
I disconnected, surprised. I’d been told about the spa treatments, but been warned they got really busy at weekends, and I’d have to book. Maybe they kept slots especially for the suite. Whatever.
A text to Lau.
My phone pinged with a text from Matt.
‘Make sure u pack an overnite bag.’
‘Just do it :)’
‘Nothing fancy, wash bag, jeans, top. Crotchless knickers, obvs.’
‘What have u done?’
It was a lot easier to be sneaky when she wasn’t looking me in the eye, although I would be surprised if she hadn’t guessed some of it. We hadn’t even talked about staying away for the night, and I’d steered away from the subject whenever it had been brought up. Beth knew, because she needed to know how long the festivities could go on for, but she knew it was a surprise for Lau. Time would tell how good the Shoeman radar was.
As I sat drinking my coffee, my phone began to ping with texts from all sorts of people. Several people from work were starting to arrive at the office and felt the need to humorously double check ‘it’s still on‘; Dec wanted to wish me ‘luck 4 yr fucking enormous big day, no pressure‘; Jay wanted to check what time he was due, although why he couldn’t just ask Beth I had no idea. And I had a call from Andrew. I’d missed a couple of calls during the week, and he’d texted a couple of times as well, so I was pleased when I saw his name pop up on my phone’s screen.
‘Matt, I was beginning to wonder if you’d decided to elope.’
‘Ha, I was seriously considering ih earlier in the week. Ih’s been fucking mad. Thanks fuh ringing again.’
‘So, what’s this all about, then, shotgun wedding or something?’
He was joking. I hadn’t had a chance to fill him in on all the details.
There was a stunned silence.
‘What? You’re fucking kidding me.’
‘Nope. Well, maybe a bih. No shotguns involved, but Lau is having a baby. Weh are. Weh’re having a fucking baby.’
‘Jesus Christ, Matt. I mean, that’s awesome, it’s what you wanted, isn’t it, but Christ, no one has to get married these days. Oh – are her parents a bit … you know?’
‘Noh, noh, nothing like tha, Lau’s mum’s great’
OK, maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but I felt kindly towards April.
‘Ih’s jus the right thing to do. We would have got married one day anyway, so why wait?’
‘Ha ha, well I suppose. Hard work doing it all in a few days, though.’
‘Beth’s done most of ih.’
‘Oh, Jay’s wife?’
‘Yeh. She’s been great. Sorry you can’t make ih down, I know ih’s really short notice.’
‘I’m kind of getting used to you giving me a five minute warning before a major event – come on holiday with me, come to my wedding, it’ll be come to my world domination launch party next.’
‘Ha ha, fuck noh, I’ve had tuh put world domination on hold until next year, bloody kids ruin everything.’
‘Tell me about it. I’d be Tottenham’s top goal scorer if it wasn’t for Rebecca.’
I heard the grin in his voice, and suspected Rebecca was nearby, listening.
‘How’s ih all going? Are yuh still at your parents?’
‘No, we just moved last week. We got this two bedroom house near the school, just about to paint Bec’s bedroom the obligatory pink.’
‘Sounds great, mate. All working out for yuh, then?’
‘Yeah, we’re getting there. Anyway, I won’t keep you, mate, you’ve got a bit of a busy day ahead.’
‘Meh? Nah. Lazy brekkie, flowers fuh the missis, don a kilt –’
‘What? You are fucking kidding me this time.’
‘Nope, still not kidding. I’ve made Jay wehr one too.’
‘Now I’m really sorry I’m missing it. Send me some pictures, yeah?’
‘Do my best. I’ll ring fuh a proper chat soon, mate.’
We disconnected and I quickly rang Mum.
‘Hello Matthew. How are you this morning?’
‘Great, thanks. Are yuh all set?’
‘Yes, dear. Beth’s dropping Isobel off to me on her way to you, and Rose is coming over in a while too, and we’re going to fetch Calum from school later.’
Mum always called everyone she knew by their full name. She was the only person I knew who called Iz Isobel or Cal Calum or, for that matter, me Matthew.
‘Got yuhr hat out?’
‘You’ll have to wait and see, dear. I’m not giving anything away until you see me. You’re not the only one who can keep their outfit a secret.’
Only Mum and Beth knew about the kilts, although I suspected Beth would spill a few beans to one or two select co-conspirators.
‘Fair enough. See yuh soon, then.’
‘Have a good morning, Matthew.’
And so, texts and calls fielded for now, the next item to tick off was the florist. I’d ordered a bouquet for Lau, and needed to pick it up. I didn’t buy her flowers very often, but then I didn’t marry her very often, either, and this seemed like an appropriate occasion. I drained my coffee cup and set off for the flower shop.
The bouquet was bloody enormous. I could hardly see round it. I knew Lau loved gerberas, and bright colours, and this was a mixture of both of those things, with enough foliage to start my own garden in the Chelsea Flower Show. I staggered a little as I carried it along the High Street, into Avondale and up the stairs.
As I eventually finished the last crumbs of breakfast and decided to get up and have a shower, I heard the key in the front door, which opened to reveal a walking bouquet of flowers.
‘Matt, is that you?’
‘Either me, or the most brazen flower delivery boy in the city. These are fuh you.’
He brought the flowers into the bedroom and put them down by the bed.
‘Oh! They’re gorgeous. Is that why you went out?’
‘Among other things. Are yuh still in bed, you lazy cow? We’re getting married in,’ he checked his watch, ‘five hours time, don’t you need to be trowelling on the make-up or something?’
‘Cheeky sod, it won’t take that long.’
‘Oh, well, if you’ve got time, then I can think of things tuh do while you’re lying there.’
He leaned over for a kiss, and ran his hands across my breasts, making me peak against his fingers.
She pretended not to be interested, but her nips were telling tales on her.
‘I was just going to go and have a shower.’
‘Even better. Clean an dirty at the same time. Come on.’
She gave in, laughing, as I pulled her out of bed and pushed her into the bathroom where we made the most of the pulsating shower head and the general wetness and soapiness to make sure we were both thoroughly, er, clean. All over.
Once Lau had packed her overnight bag, as instructed, we said goodbye. It felt bloody weird, like we were going to be apart for a long time. I suppose, in a way, we were never going to see each other again like this, two single people who merely co-habited. I didn’t dwell on that one, as it might make me freak out and begin to wonder if we were doing the right thing; I had been so pleased with myself for not consciously freaking, and being certain we were doing the right thing, that I didn’t want to start now, with only hours to go. Instead, I held Lau tightly, kissed her deeply and looked into her sea eyes for a long time. She clung on to me, as well.
Neither of us had said ‘I’m scared’ or ‘what the fuck are we doing’, but we’d both thought it to ourselves I suppose, and now it was washing like a tide between us. I tried to send her strong and manly ‘it’ll be OK’ vibes, and holding her made me calmer, as it always did. Lau was my safe place; whatever happened, if I was with her I would be OK. I hoped I could make her feel even a small part as safe, although I doubted it, fuck-up that I was.
‘I love yuh, Laura Louise Shoeman.’
‘I love you, Matthew Robert Scott.’
‘Let’s elope, forget all this palaver.’
I wasn’t serious, but Andrew had put the idea in my head, and if Lau had said ‘yes, let’s’, then I would have grabbed her by the hand and we’d have been gone.
I would have, too, if there was just us to think about. Damn my annoying conscience.
‘Fine by me.’
Oh you’re bloody kidding me, seriously?
‘Bagsy you call Beth and tell her.’
Oh there was always some bloody reason, wasn’t there?
‘Oh fuck, yeah, she would hunt me down and kill meh.’
‘Yeah, she would, and then there would be a queue behind her of people who would be stabbing you extra hard just to make sure. My mum and your mum would be joint second.’
Bloody families, always wanting you to do shit for them, shit you’d dropped on them at short notice and made them run about all week helping you with, selfish bastards.
‘I know ih’s what we wanted, buh it does all seem a bit mad an unnecessary.’
This was the closest I’d come to backing out. I wasn’t backing out, but shit had just got real for Matthew Robert Scott – it was going to happen in just a few hours, and despite the fact that I wanted to be with Lau forever, I was actually going to my own wedding. My own fucking wedding.
‘It’s very necessary. We need to be married. Not for any legal or religious reason, I just feel it, in my heart, we need it. And Philpotts needs it.’
That brought me back to the nitty-gritty with some suddenness. The whole reason we were doing this now, rather than waiting a sensible amount of time and giving people more than a few days’ notice or some such shit: there was another person to consider. He might not be born yet, but he was a-coming, and he was already changing our lives.
‘You never called him Philpotts before.’
‘I’ve given in. Make the most of it, doesn’t happen very often.’
And that was very true. Lau never gave in about anything she believed in. I’d thought I was the stubbornest fucker I knew, but Lau could stand her ground with the best of them when she believed she was right. I dug my heels in for the sake of it, and that was the difference between us. Lau stood up for what she believed, and I stood up for making a stand. I knew that if Lau believed it was right, not just calling Philpotts Philpotts, but this whole mad scheme of a day, then we were going to do it, and it was going to be alright. It calmed some of my freaking.
‘You’re right, tho. We all need it. It is right, isn’t it. Thanks, Lau, tha makes meh feel better. I was getting a bih, like, ‘everyone’s taking over’, but that doesn’t matter, it’s what we’ve got at the end of it tha’s important. An I’m looking forward to what Beth’s organised in this barn thing. Have you got any idea?’
‘Not a single one. Not even Cal’s given anything away.’
‘Bloody hell, they must have threatened him wih death. He usually spills in seconds.’
Lau nodded, smiling, as aware of Cal’s inability to keep a secret as I was. Then she looked regretful and pulled out of my embrace.
‘I’ve got to go, Amy and Beth are waiting to make me look beautiful.’
‘Not possible tuh look more beautiful.’
‘You are a charmer.’
‘Jus sayin the truth. Yuh could say ‘oh Matt, you’re so handsome too an I love your bum’, buh no, can’t bring yourself to. Evil cow.’
‘Let me show you how much I love your bum, before I go.’
Oh she was a divine temptress. She pulled me close and slid her hands all the way down my back to my arse, where she gripped tightly and pulled me towards her. I kissed her and wrapped my arms round her, pulling her in tighter to me, not wanting to let her go. Finally, we both had to acknowledge that we had things to do, and we were trying to put off the inevitable. We released each other, stood back, one last gentle kiss.
Then I picked up my bags and hangers and walked away, for the last time as a single girl.