‘Then what happened?’ The young woman sitting opposite Sarah Vernon leaned further towards her as she listened to her tale of woe. She was holding her wine glass daintily between well-manicured fingers and gently swirling the pale liquid around the bowl. ‘He didn’t’ she said, ‘what a hoot, do tell me more?’ she entreated eagerly with a mischievous smile.
Sarah was not quite sure whether she was doing the right thing by confiding in her new-found friend Rachael, because she seemed to be hanging on her every word. But on the other hand, she thought, they’d only just met and as Rachael didn’t know the people involved, where was the harm? ‘Yes,’ she found herself replying. ‘Can you believe it?’
‘Yes…well weddings can be unpredictable things at the best of times,’ Rachel replied, placing her glass neatly and precisely in the centre of a beer mat.
‘You can say that again. I can laugh about it now, but then it was awful.’ Sarah’s sweet laughter rang out like a bell and was quickly joined by the ancient church in the distance as it struck 2 o’clock.
It was a beautifully sunny day and the slight breeze ruffled the flowers in the vase in the centre of the table, thereby disturbing a rather persistent bee. The Blue Boar Inn’s colourful garden was filled with people all enjoying the warm summer sunshine. The sound of happy voices and the clink of glasses floated and wafted around in the balmy breeze.
‘And I’m not at all sorry,’ Sarah continued. Her large hazel eyes suddenly flashed in anger. ‘As far as I’m concerned, my friend Claire’s intended, Charles, was a
dishonest, egotistical, disingenuous male chauvinist, who would think nothing of…’
‘Can I take it that you didn’t like this…this Charles character very much then?’ Rachel quickly intervened.
‘No I most certainly didn’t.’ Sarah was silent for a moment, as the memory of that disastrous day circled round and round in her mind.
‘Penny for them?’
‘Oh sorry. Do you know, it’s the strangest thing, but I would never have put my brother Mark down as a go-getter! He was always rather shy.’
‘Wow, I can just picture it: the handsome knight riding his white charger and turning up outside the church, just in the nick of time to save his lady-love from a fate worse than death. It sounds so deliciously romantic.’
‘I couldn’t believe what was happening,’ Sarah continued. She was now beginning to enjoy herself. ‘You should have seen Charles’ face. He was absolutely furious. He must have seen his meal-ticket gradually disappearing into the sunset.’
‘From that, can I assume that Claire’s parents are wealthy?’
‘Not so as you’d notice. The whole wedding thing must have cost an absolute fortune: it was five-star everything. Claire’s father is a group chairman of a huge multi-national corporation somewhere in the City. He’s the sort of person that the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer is always moaning about. When he receives a salary rise, everyone else goes without.’
Rachel picked up her glass and drained the contents. ‘Would you like another drink and then perhaps you can tell me all the gory details? I really can’t wait.’
‘Good. I won’t be a minute.’ She winked at Sarah as she stood up. ‘I also want to have another look at that rather dishy man behind the bar. He looks a bit like Colin Firth and as for his eyes…’ Sarah watched her as she walked back into the old building. Rachel was slim and attractive, impeccably dressed, friendly and fun to be with. Sarah was impressed by her ability to listen and to take an interest in what she was saying. So many people nowadays were superficial and only interested in their own lives.
When she walked back to the table a few minutes later, Rachel wore a quizzical expression on her face. ‘I’ll put him on hold for later.’
‘There’s a pond across the road, perhaps you should ask him to take a dip?’
Rachael giggled as she placed two glasses of Pinot Grigio on the table. ‘We obviously watch the same TV programmes.’
‘Obviously. Anyway thank you for the drink.’
‘Now Sarah, I was just wondering how long Mark and Claire had known one another? It must have come as a tremendous shock to you all when…this Charles appeared on the scene.’
‘Mark and Claire had been seeing one another ever since they were at Sixth Form College. They’d been living together for nearly two years and everyone said that they were made for one another,’ Sarah replied with a smile. ‘Unfortunately, Mark had to go to New York on business for two or three months. Claire was at a bit of a loose end and agreed to go to her firm’s Christmas party. Of course, the inevitable happened. She was introduced to Charles and found him irresistible: he was tall, dark and extremely handsome and simply swept her off her feet. We didn’t know anything about it, until the wedding was announced. Mark was devastated and the whole family was extremely hurt and angry. But Claire and I were life-long friends and even though she’d dumped Mark for Charles, I felt duty bound to go to the wedding. I didn’t really want to go at all.’
‘The bastard,’ Rachel said vehemently. Sarah blinked at her in surprise. ‘Oh, I…I’m dreadfully sorry, Sarah. I didn’t mean…and it’s none of my business. I just feel so sorry for all of you.’
‘You needn’t feel sorry for us. Claire had a lucky escape under the circumstances.’ Sarah was feeling hot in the strong sunshine and took off her pale blue jacket, thus revealing a pretty strapless floral cotton dress. She tucked her long auburn hair behind her ears and removed her sun-glasses. ‘Right you wanted to know exactly what happened. I’ll set the scene for you, so here goes.’
‘Yes please. It’s such an intriguing story.’
‘The church was simply bulging with people all dressed in their expensive finery. There were so many beautifully arranged flowers – all colour co-ordinated of course – and the perfume was quite intoxicating.’ Sarah stopped speaking and sipped her drink.
‘Yes,’ Rachel said eagerly leaning towards her once again.
‘Well, you can picture it can’t you? The elderly organist had finally got her teeth into the first chords of ‘Here Comes the Bride’ and Charles and the best man were waiting nervously at the altar.’ She hesitated and took a deep breath.
‘Don’t stop now? Go on?’
‘When Claire walked into the church with her father, there was an audible gasp from the congregation. She looked absolutely beautiful. Eventually everyone settled down and the ceremony began. Everything went well, until the vicar asked if anyone knew of any just impediment why these two people here present, should not be joined in holy matrimony, etc., when the door suddenly burst open and my brother Mark raced in. He was waving his arms around and shouting something about stopping the ceremony and…’
‘Claire immediately burst into tears. As you can imagine, everyone was too shocked and stunned to do or say anything at first. I remember that there was an eerie silence and then suddenly everyone started to speak at once. There was absolute mayhem for a while until the vicar eventually managed to create some sort of order.’
Rachel lifted a beautifully curved eyebrow. ‘Mmm…, and…?’
‘Well,’ Sarah continued, ‘you don’t expect that sort of thing to happen in real life, do you? It only seems to happen in films or on T.V.’
‘Come on don’t keep me in suspense, what happened?’
‘I noticed that Mark was out of breath and sweating as he ran up the aisle. Claire’s father tried to grab hold of him, but he turned towards Charles and without any warning, punched him on the nose and he fell to the floor.’
‘Didn’t Mark try to explain why he was so upset?’
‘Well yes. He shouted for everyone to be quiet. I could see that his whole body was shaking with anger as he at last managed to speak. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but I couldn’t allow this…this mockery of a ceremony to continue.” There was another stunned silence. I tell you Rachel, my heart was pumping away like a piston engine. By this time, of course, Charles had managed to struggle to his feet and was staggering towards my brother with blood pouring from his nose. Mark immediately turned on him again saying, “What’s the matter man, have we spoiled your fun? I should have thought that you’d have been extremely grateful to me for stopping this…so called Wedding.”
At this stage, Charles looked as if he was about to commit murder and the best man had to fight hard to restrain, him which is not normally listed among his wedding duties, is it? Nevertheless, he stood his ground and shouted at Mark. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? You have no right.”
Mark laughed in his face, saying, “I…I have no right? For goodness sake man, you’re already married. What about your wife?” he retorted. I remember hearing a loud scream, which I can only assume came from Claire and another huge gasp from the congregation. It was all such a shock. Poor Claire, she was completely inconsolable.’
‘What was Charles Currie’s answer, Sarah?’ Rachel’s smile had now disappeared. ‘What did he say in his defence? I expect he grovelled and whined as usual. I…’ She looked embarrassed and covered her mouth with her hand.
Sarah frowned. ‘What do you mean? Do you know Charles?’
‘Yes, Sarah, I do. In fact…’
Sarah couldn’t quite believe what she was hearing. ‘Do you mean to say that…’
‘Yes, I know Charles extremely well. You see, I found out through a mutual friend what he was intending to do and I telephoned Mark, just in the nick of time.’
‘So it was you who was responsible for…’
‘Yes, and I’m sorry for keeping my identity secret. You see my name is Rachel Currie. Charles is my husband, but not for much longer I might add, because the divorce becomes final next week. Would you like another drink?’