It was difficult not to envy the Fairy tale my best friend had found herself the centre of.
I did envy her, but not enough to call it full blown jealousy. I might have been jealous, if Claudine and Matthew weren’t so damn perfect for one another. I didn’t know any couple who deserved their fairy tale as much as those two.
I was the first to enter the room in which the wedding breakfast would be held. Dena had asked me to take her bouquet through and place it next to the cake. An important job apparently. One she couldn’t entrust to any of her six bridesmaids.
I had not made the cut.
I understood why. Claudine’s husband was the eldest of five children. He was the only boy. So, his four younger sisters and baby niece had to be asked. Claudine had a sister also. She’d felt terrible when she told me she just couldn’t have a seventh Bridesmaid it would be too much. It still felt like a kick in the teeth though.
Dena was one of my oldest friends. I could probably say my only true friend. Most definitely my best friend. We’d met twelve years ago, when we moved into the same student halls. We happened to be on the same course, and our rooms were right next door. We liked the same music, the same films, we even had the same taste in boys. We’d very quickly become inseparable, and it had been that way over since. I would say I was closer to Dena than I was my brother, or even my parents. I considered her family.
Upon entering the room, I had to take a moment, just to catch my breath. It was called The Conservatory. That’s just what it was, a large open plan room, with windows on every wall, bathing the whitewashed room in natural light. Ten round tables, each set up to seat eight guests complimented the room, with pristine white table cloths, white chairs, and in the centre of each table a tall candelabra, entwined with ivy.
It was so utterly perfect. Claudine had spent the last twelve months talking my ear off about the venue, the centrepieces, the favours (a little corked bottle filled with a blend of tea the couple had dried and blended themselves), but nothing had prepared me for the reality.
I placed the bouquet on the table, next to the beautiful three tier cake, admiring it for a second. Then I was quickly snapped out of my little moment of thought by the bustle of other wedding guests starting to enter the room. Murmurs of approval drifting through the air as they also took in how utterly magnificent the space was.
This was the bit I’d been dreading. Almost one hundred guests and I only knew a handful. The bride and groom and their respective parents and siblings. But Matt had a big family, and Claudine’s family was very traditional, even if she was not. They’d insisted on every last cousin, great aunt and even her uncle’s ex-wife and her new husband being invited. Although as Claudine pointed out, they were paying for it so, she had to allow her lovely, but slightly overbearing mother some say over the guestlist.
But I was alone and was about the spend the next few hours of my life, seated at a table of strangers, attempting to make polite conversation. Or the slightly worse alternative, nodding politely and forcing an optimistic giggle as Claudine’s Great Granny insisted it would me next, and the right man (Or woman ‘you youngsters are open to anything these days’) was right around the corner. As happy as I was for Claudine and Matt, and how, deep down, I knew their nuptials would not make any difference to the dynamic of our friendship, it was a stark reminder. My best friend was now married, and I wasn’t even close.
“Don’t worry,” Claudine had assured me numerous times in the weeks leading up to the big day, “I’ve got a surprise for you. He’s sitting next to you and he’s hot,”
That was all Claudine would give me on the subject. But it was always accompanied by a smug grin, and a reminder that they had gifted me with the honeymoon suite for the night, as they’d be leaving for their fortnight in Mexico before midnight. And she was fully expecting me to use it.
Dena tried not to make a big deal out of it, but she didn’t keep it a secret that she was desperate for me to meet someone. I’d become single not long after she and Matt had gotten engaged and I knew she was very aware that her getting married was a constant reminder that I was not. Although as I often reminded her, it had never been on the cards for me and my ex anyway. But I was still nursing somewhat of a broken heart.
It had been a year since my own happy ever after had come to an abrupt not so ever after. I’d handled the whole situation quite well, I thought. I’d moped and cried for an appropriate length of time. I’d spent a month in Dena and Matt’s guest room, at Dena’s insistence, allowing them both to spoil me with takeaways and ice cream to help ease the pain. Then I made the decision to move back to my Mum and Dad’s whilst I got myself fully back on my feet. I’d dived headfirst into my work, and been so busy that before I knew it, it was twelve months down the line and I was still there.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted another relationship. I absolutely was not ready for one. But these sorts of occasions were much easier to deal with when you had a plus one.
I’d checked the table plan before I’d entered the room and found my table quickly, locating my place card and setting my sparkly black clutch bag down next to the cutlery. I instantly regretted not taking note of who I’d be seated with. My hand curled around the back of the chair I still stood behind and I peered to the place setting to my left. The little card sitting next to the favour read ‘Thomas’ in beautifully twisted calligraphy.
Oh, well it sounded like a nice normal name at least. I’d never met any weird Thomas’. Although Dena was prolific for setting me up with creeps who she insisted were lovely people. She saw the good in everyone. I was a little more…guarded. But Dena would describe me as unfairly judgemental which was why she and Matt were my only friends. That wasn’t strictly true, I had lots of friends, but I just preferred their company above others.
Sighing I pulled out the chair and settled myself down. Stop being so morose this is your best friend’s wedding day. I told myself firmly.
With a new-found determination to at least try and enjoy what was bound to be a tedious couple of hours, I plastered a smile on and delved into my clutch bag for my lipstick and compact. I quickly reapplied my red lipstick and checked the rest of my make-up was still intact.
“Fuck!” The expletive slipped out, as I fiddled to put the lid back on the makeup and it slipped from my fingers, hit the floor and rolled under the table out of my sight. “Oh, bloody hell!” I muttered under my breath, scooting back and slipping from my chair, onto my knees and ducking beneath the table.
“Are you alright down there?” The sudden intrusion of a male voice and a pair of seemingly endless navy clad legs to my left, made me jump as I shuffled out. I straightened my back a little too quickly, managing to hit my head on the edge of the table.
“Ouch, yes, fuck,” I didn’t look in the direction of the voice, until I’d scrambled back up, and into a standing position next to my seat. Then I turned to the cause of the now throbbing spot on the top of my head, and waved my retrieved lid, “Dropped this,”
I took a second to drink in the very tall glass of water now standing before me. How had I missed this guy at the ceremony and drinks reception. Standing tall, at well over six foot, and kitted out in the most perfectly tailored navy suit, teamed with white shirt, and co-ordinated burgundy tie and pocket square. He stood out that was for sure. Looks wise, he just had to be one of Matt’s doctor friends, he had a professional air about him. Just the way he held himself. He reached up and pushed his thick rimmed glasses up his patrician nose, with his middle finger and his hand continued its journey up to ruffle through his slightly too long auburn curls. Wow.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you, I’m Tom,” The hand which was in his hair moments before was now stuck out before him, and I quickly accepted the gesture with the hand that was not occupied with the escapee lipstick lid. “I think this is me,” He let go and gestured to the chair to my left.
“Great!” Okay, calm down, “I’m Ada!” Really Ada, calm yourself. He wasn’t my usual type, and I most definitely did have a type. But there was something about this man, and his elegant poise, and charming gestures which had me practically swooning. Dena had done good!
“Nice to meet you Ada,” Tom smiled and we both sat at the table, just as another couple joined us along with two young girls. These people I recognised to be Dena’s Aunt and Uncle, and her much younger cousins, I’d met them at a handful of occasions. I waved across the table and said hello. Before Tom drew my attention back, “So how do you know Matt and Claudine?”
“Oh well I-,” But I was cut short by a thud on the table as a pint of beer was set down right by my place setting by a hand, joined to a heavily tattooed arm, with rolled up shirtsleeve… belonging to another man. My eyes widened, this guy was clearly the one Dena had in mind for me.
“Alright, I’m Dave, looks like I’m with you,” Dave was probably just above average height, but it was difficult to tell from my seated position and he was quite broad. But with his tattoos, thick dark beard, and quiffed hair, he was most definitely my type. Clearly, I was his as well, because he completely ignored Tom and as he dragged out his chair and sat down. I watched his eyes travel down from my face, linger my chest for longer than nessisary, then almost regrettably pull back up to my face. “Lucky me,”
This was the problem with ‘my type’ of man. They were usually arrogant sleazes and I could never learn to look past basic attraction and simply get to know someone first. Luckily this time, Tom was on my left to balance out the equation and remind me that there was a much better option.
Bless Tom, he must have sensed my awkwardness at our new tablemate’s approach, as he interrupted our exchange, by leaning across me and sticking out his hand.
“Dr Thomas Hiddleston, pleasure,” Dave accepted the handshake, whilst nodding and lifting his pint to his lips with his free hand.
“Doctor of what mate?” the question came, right before another slurp.
“Cardiology at Kings College,”
“You must have gone to Medical School with Matt?” I piped up, pleased my initial assumption of his occupation and relation to the couple was correct.
“Neat, I was in a band with Matty when we were at college, best mates since we were five,” Strange, Matt had never mentioned a best friend called Dave. No one called him Matty either, except Dena when she was drunk and feeling soppy. “What about you Sweets,” Oh me?
“I’m Ada, I went to Uni with Dena, we used to live together…” I was playing it down.
“I’ve heard about you,” it was Tom, and he was grinning. “By all accounts you two are mostly joined at the hip,” I smiled fondly.
“Oh shit, you’re that Ada…. Adelaide B… the DJ,” I inwardly groaned. Here we go.
“Sound engineer,” I corrected him.
“But you used to be a DJ?”
“A long time ago,” I didn’t want to have this conversation, not because I was embarrassed about my younger years on the decks, but more because it quite often overshadowed my current career, which I’d worked hard for. As if by some saving grace, someone new joined our table and Dave couldn’t get another word out.
“There you are Tom,” In a very swift but smooth action, Tom stood from his chair and had the chair next to him pulled out ready for the very beautiful, and very pregnant woman to sit down. “I’m sorry that took me so long, it’s a maze to find the bathroom in this place, I should have gone up to the room,”
“I should have gone with you love, I’m sorry,” I watched the exchange curiously. I should have known a man as seemingly nice as Tom, and attractive to boot couldn’t possibly be single.
“I’m pregnant Tom, not an invalid, I can manage going to the bathroom on my own,” She was American, but not loud or in your face, like I somehow assumed most American’s to be. She was softly spoken, and her lips formed a constant smile.
She was also really quite stunning, with blonde hair falling in waves to her shoulders, big brown eyes, and skin which glowed (although that could have just been the pregnancy). They made a striking couple.
“Sorry, this is Grace…Grace this is Dave another friend of Matt’s and Ada, Claudine’s best friend,” Tom quickly introduced his partner to us.
“Oh Ada, I’ve heard all about you,” Grace giggled, “Claudine was showing me photos of your little hen weekend in Prague, looks like you had a blast,”
“Oh,” I laughed a little. Dena hadn’t wanted a hen do; so instead she opted for a girly weekend in Prague, just the two of us. We had indeed had a blast, “Yeah that was great,” I couldn’t help peer over the table at her protruding stomach, giving her cause to sit further back from the table than must have been comfortable. “How far along are you?”
She rested a hand over the top of her bump, “Thirty-six weeks…and six days,”
“Oh god, you’re literally about to drop,” my eyes widened, and I chanced a look at Tom, his eyes were fixed firmly on his girlfriend’s face, complete with an utterly adoring gaze. “At least there are plenty of doctors on hand should you go into sudden labour,” I joked, and she laughed. Although I’m sure she was being polite, she must have heard that one before, being with a doctor and all.
“Shit, I knew I’d seen you before as well,” Both Tom and Grace shot surprised looks at Dave’s loud interruption, and it took me a second to realise he was talking to me again, “You’re Magnus Elliasson from Nuclear Choice’s girlfriend, I saw them live a few times on their last tour,”
“Mags and I haven’t been together for over a year.” My answer was automatic, but I heard my voice crack. Not because I was upset, but more that I was taken off guard. It had been so long since anyone had mentioned Mags to me. It was a reminder of how much my life had changed in the past twelve months. It was much quieter now.
“I’m sorry,” I didn’t expect the sincere sounding apology which fell from Dave’s mouth. “I had no idea, I feel like an idiot now,” He’d done a good job of sounding like an idiot before. But I laughed and shook my head.
“You weren’t to know… you’re a fan then? Of the band,” Clearly the guy did have some good taste. Magnus might be my ex-boyfriend, but I’d always be one of his biggest fans. It was as much my music as it was his.
“Yeah they’re decent,” Dave took another few gulps of his beer, and I watched the muscles in his throat move as he chugged the golden liquid. I really wasn’t so sure about this man. Looking back around our now full table I noticed Tom and
Grace talking quietly between themselves, they looked sweet, but not sickeningly so. I almost had to hold back a sigh as I watched Tom lean towards his girlfriend, tuck a stray strand of her blonde hair tenderly behind her ear and place a light kiss on her cheek, close to her lips.
Maybe it was a sign of my age, but suddenly the slightly drunk, tattooed hunk, with a cocky air, and great taste in music, to my right was not quite as appealing as he might have been to me ten years ago. What I wouldn’t give to have a man look at me with the respect and adoration with which Tom looked at Grace.
The afternoon wore on, and I couldn’t deny I was enjoying myself, although the wedding breakfast had continued to be a strained and awkward affair. Tom and Grace tried to make polite conversation. Tom seemed genuinely interested in my line of work and asked me a lot of questions. Grace asked of my friendship with Dena, and I was happy to talk about my friend. But it was all made very difficult by Dave butting in with his stupid, incessant statements, mostly about me, about my ex, and still annoyingly about me being a DJ. None of this was helped by his repeated trips to the bar for lager and getting steadily drunker and louder as the meal progressed. I’d given up correcting him, and the whole table could see it grating on my nerves. But I powered on nonetheless.