“I’d like to make a toast…Eh-hem..I’d like to make a toast to the most incredible man in the world..” he said gazing into Adam’s eyes, “-and oh yeah his woman..I mean wife.”
God now I remember why I named him Andrew-the-Arsehole (as if I needed reminding.)
“We’ve known each other twenty-four long years. I always looked up to you. ‘Adam-brother-from-another-mother’ we use to say.”
Oh dear this was painful indeed but he continued nonetheless.
“You’d always bag the best girl, score that goal right at the back of the net, win that trophy so to speak,” he said glancing at cousin Anna.
“Well you won today Adam, you won today. Anna, he’s a good guy- one of the few- salt of the earth. Ok he might have ballsed it up a couple of times but don’t we all? He messed up. You forgave him. You both moved on. That’s love. I applaud you. We all make mistakes. I wouldn’t have him any other way,” he slurred now gazing at him in what one could only describe as an uncomfortable homo-erotic way.
Has this man no shame? How’s his face not as crimson as the blood I could see visibly coarsing through Anna’s furious veins?
“My brother-from-another-mother you have scored. You have scored big time. You can now officially scrub off those notches from your bed posts and hand them over to me: your honourable best man. You’re a great dude..dude and I’ll be sad to lose ya.”
Was that a tear running down his cheek?
I glanced over at Stephen and caught him looking at me. “Tosser” he mouthed.
A singular clap infiltrated the air then a deathly silence.
“I’m done,” Andrew coughed.
The solitary clapper stood up a bit too eagerly (for my liking) and continued his succession of overenthusiastic claps that sounded to me like claps of thunder before a storm.
“Go on son,” he said patting Arsehole on the back before the storm was joined by a random chorus of dry and awkward claps from various guests scattered around the hall.
I felt compelled to take a sneaky glimpse at Stephen but my lids somehow could not prize themselves away from the desperate doilies on the table. How isolated and out of place they looked plonked under oversized plates serving no purpose whatsoever: stained and crushed under the weight. God I had to get out of there!
“What? “ I said somewhat taken aback.
“Tearing or fiddling with drink labels or doilies-a sign of sexual frustration,” laughed the scarlet woman at the table.
“I’m Jill. Andrew’s mum. The best man,” she winked arms outstretched.
Oh God no. This can’t be happening. I go to a wedding with over 500 people attending and I wind up sitting on a table with Andrew’s mum. She was the colour of a pumpkin- all spray tanned sunset orange and a face full of makeup. Her reddy auburn hair extensions sat piled high upon her head, black roots proudly on show. When she blinked I feared her eyelashes would stick together in a gooey mush of thick, black mascara.
“Vanessa,” I smiled timidly, “I’m Anna’s cousin.”
“Oh Anna’s cousin. She looks gorgeous dun she? Little darlin’ Wish my Andrew would find a woman. Single?”
She raised her eyebrows suggestively.
“So what do you do Vanessa?”
“I’m a Science teacher.”
“A Science teacher. Oh..we got a clever one here.”
She nudged the man silently sitting next to her- presumably her partner.
“Oh I betcha could teach Andrew a thing or two,” he said huskily followed by what could only be described as a dirty smoker’s cough.
“Do you mind heaving your lungs up somewhere else?” I so desperately wanted to say. Instead I giggled at his pathetically demeaning joke.
“A catch,” Jill said tipping her head to the side and nodding as if in some sort of collusion.
“I better get another drink,” I said standing up to head to the bar.
Tragically, a waiter beat me to it as he appeared as if by magic topping me up to the hilt. I swigged it back gratefully.
“He’s the best man here y’know..Andrew.”
“Get it? Best-man,” she laughed at her own joke nudging her silent partner into a reaction. He tittered as if on cue but truth be told he was far too engrossed in staring at the pretty waitresses backside-a placid smile spread across his face like a Henry Hoover.
“So what do you do Jill?”
“Oh why was I carrying this on?!”
“Vagazzles,” she giggled.
I felt like this needed further explanation.
“I design Vagazzles,” she said slowly as if I was stupid.
“Of course yeah,” I mumbled to the designer.
A sharp cough entered our sphere. It was Aunty Mildred.
“Sit up straight Vanessa. You’ll never get a man with posture like that,” she said knocking back her glass of wine.
My instinct was to protest and defend: to explain that my Singledom was not down to my lack of ‘posture’ but because quite simply men were pricks with problems with misplaced eyes, misplaced truths, misplaced decency and misplaced penises but instead of weighing up the choice between Vagazzles or the lack of my posture I gladly embraced the latter.
“Yeah, I’ve been meaning to go to the chiropractor,” I said.
“Chiro-what?” she said signalling for the waiter to top her up once more.
“You’re better off walking from one end of the hall to the other with a n Oxford dictionary on your head. I didn’t get poor Peter by slouching. Hard graft equals pay off. You reap what you sow.”
I felt a longing to speak about Vagazzles again. I kept quiet.
“Are you ‘Ness’ mum?”
‘Ness? Since when did I give Ms Scarlett permission to call me ‘Ness?
“No her mother’s dead. I’m her Aunty.”
“Oh sorry, I’m Jill. Andrew’s mum.”
“Yes,” retorted Aunty Mildred somewhat disdainfully.
“..and this is my partner John.”
“Alright,” he coughed not a hand in sight.
He chugged back his beer.
Hold on.. No he wasn’t! My gosh he was staring right at Aunty Mildred’s gazunkas!
The waiter came round to top me up just in time. I necked it back gratefully.
“Vanessa, you’re drinking too much”
That’s rich coming from Aunty Mildred currently necking her sixth large glass of red.
“You won’t get a man like that Vanessa. Men don’t like women who drink so much. It makes them seems easy.”
‘Ms Scarlett’ laughed. John continued to stare. Were they oblivious or was it just me that could see?
“And we all know men don’t like easy girls. Not really. Have you read The Rules?”
“You have to be sophisticated Nessy.” Scarlett chimed in.
“What and Vaggazles are, are they?”
“VANESSA!” boomed a hoarse and familiar voice.
“Long time!” he said leaning in for a close and slobbery kiss on my cheek.
It was Uncle Vince.
“You next in line are you Vanessa? Who’s the lucky fellow?”
“There isn’t one,” said Aunty Mildred sharply.
“Mildred. Still on the wine I see. Boozing it up as always,” he chuckled.
Aunty Mildred turned a shade of crimson.
“So what..when you gonna make me a Great Uncle eh? How long does a man have to wait”
He paused a second as if in thought.
“Ah wait… ya ain’t a lesbian are you? You know one of them muff divers? Please don’t break your Uncle’s heart.”
It was my turn to glow a shade of crimson.
“Well she has got this friend called Tabitha. She always talks about,” said Aunty Mildred.
Did she actually signal quotation marks at the mention of “friend?”
“Tabitha is my work colleague. She’s Head of Science.”
Jill raised her eyebrows.
Screw it. Why was I explaining myself.
“Head of Science eh? What’s wrong? Men ain’t good enough for you then? Fancy a bit of the X chromosome?” laughed Uncle Vince.
“I feel sorry for those lesbians. Too up themselves to experience the real thing.”
I suddenly remembered why I disliked Uncle Vince so much.
“Vanessa why didn’t you say?” said Aunty Mildred.
“I can get you a free lesbian Vaggazle if you want. I ain’t got a problem with it.”
“Will you all just SHUT UP!”
I was on my feet now.
“For the love of God I am not a lesbian. I like men ok. I like men. It just so happens that I am the stupid sad case who falls for Mr Wrong. Time and time again. If they aren’t Mr Loose Eye-can’t keep my revolving eye in my socket or penis in my pants, they’re Mr Dreamer-‘I’ll give you everything you want and more baby’ bullshitting bastards who wouldn’t know the meaning of ‘reality’ if it stood up and punched them on the face. If I’m not dating a cheater or a dreamer, I’m dating Mr I’m-Still-In-Love-With-My-Ex or Mr Can’t-Commit-Won’t-Commit- failing that it’s Mr Serial Liar, Mr Drifter, or Mr- Skate-all-over-your-feelings-Skater. Oh and did I miss Mr Parasite who drains you of every last inch of your energy, draining your happiness away like a dying Dementor? So yes I’d rather be single than in an unhappy marriage wishing and praying for Mr Wrong to finally love me and see me for who I am. I’d rather be alone and single than lonely in an unfulfilled, miserable, vampirising marriage like you Aunty Mildred! Look at you- on your millionth bottle of wine, criticising my every move, every word pretending like everything’s ok in your miserable cat stroking, wine drinking widower’s world. Don’t you dare criticise me!”
The silence that ensued was excruciating. You could hear a pin drop. For moment I swear the music had stopped. All eyes were on me. I was shaking with anger. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Andrew. Was he smiling?
Aunty Mildred looked fit to burst.
“Let’s all just calm down Nessy,” said a sweet and sugary voice.
It was the Vaggazle-designing trollop.
“Sorry. Do you mind terribly?” I said pointedly to John.
“Terribly what?” John asked snapping out of his stupor.
“I’m sorry to interrupt but do you mind not staring at my Aunty’s tits you filthy fucker and by the way Jill, you Vaggazle Designer, my name is Vanessa. Vanessa-single and happy-Vanessa. Thank you.”
And with that I gathered my clutch and swept out of the hall, the sound of silence and daggers digging into my back.
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