Forsaking All Others
I watch, tears filling my eyes, as he takes the young lady’s hand from her father, a shy smile playing upon his lips. I am surprised to see no trace of the nerves he had tried so hard to control for most of the day. I am sure, had I been so fortunate enough to be in his shoes, I would not be so calm as he. With a gentle squeeze of each other’s hand the young Mr Wooster and dear Margaret turn to face the Reverend Pinker and the service begins.
Their engagement was sudden, a bolt from the blue as Mr Wooster would say, but I cannot deny how happy they make each other. Indeed they are a perfect match.
The autumn sunlight filters through the high church windows and casts a halo of golden light around his soft curls, curls I have often run my fingers through as he drifted off to sleep. It strikes me that it had been some years since I had done so and my heart lurches as I realise I will never again have the opportunity to do so.
He wore the grey suit I laid out for him this morning, not quite the modern style but still respectable for a gentleman such as he. It was his father’s suit once.
The congregation is small, unlike the society weddings of the past, yet those who matter to him are here; the Bride’s family, her sisters and mother, a couple of Aunts and Uncles along with s few friends. Behind me, on the Grooms side, sit the Glossops Hildebrand and Angela, the Littles, several old School friends and a few friends from his club. Even Mabel and Mr Biffen have managed to attend, although wisely leaving their increasing brood at home, save for little Emily their eldest and Mr Wooster’s god-daughter. Today she acts as Bridesmaid.
To my left is Mrs Travers. As I reach into my pocket for my handkerchief I feel her hand upon my knee, a comforting pat to let me know she is there. She has known of my feelings for her Nephew for many years and has been a rock to us both through triumph, trial and war. She knows I would be embarrassed if she saw my lack of emotional control so she does not look, nor say a word, but leaves her hand in place to ground me to this moment and I am eternally grateful to her.
We stand some minutes later to sing the hymn and I can barely force the words past my lips. I am not usually so emotionally ill-disciplined, have always prided myself on my ability to remain calm in the most trying of circumstances and yet, today, I can barely restrain my sobs. I am so proud of him it makes my chest tight and my skin prickle, this moment a culmination of the years of struggle he has overcome.
From the moment we first met I was captivated by his ready smile and bright inquisitive eyes. To have been orphaned so young and yet retain such a sunny, optimistic disposition is a testament to his courage and determination. We have taught each other a great deal over the years and I could not be happier to see him set off on this new chapter of his life with the woman he loves.
And yet a part of me is sad, mourning the loss of what has been, the chapter that has now ended for us. From this day forth things will change, as indeed they must but I am still sad for it. He no longer needs me, no longer needs me to iron his shorts, or fold his laundry, or cook his meals. It is someone else’s responsibility now and I feel a little lost.
Dear Margaret will be good for him, I know. She is such a sweet girl, possessed of a quick wit and broad intelligence. She charmed me the moment we met and I could only give their union my blessing. I am so pleased he has found someone to love him as I do and I know I can trust her with his heart.
I realise I have been lost in my thoughts for far too long when I am roused from them by a loud cheer and I look to the altar to see the happy couple exchange a most enthusiastic kiss. It is done. They are wed.
It is at that moment I feel the dam burst and the wave of relief, pride, happiness and an overwhelming fear that I had lost him forever hit me with such force that I reeled and could not choke back the sob that bursts from my chest, nor the tears stream down my cheeks in rivers. Only the Best man notices, catching my eye and giving me such a salacious wink I feel my face combust with embarrassment. We are in church for goodness sake!
But it has his desired effect; diverting my mind and helping me regain my composure. It takes me several minutes but soon we are alone in the pews, the other guests having followed the newly wed Mr and Mrs Wooster out into the afternoon sun. I feel blessed to have been seated so prominently in the front row, as well as grateful for its shielding my face from the other guests. To all appearances I am just a mere servant, albeit a loyal and long serving one. But the truth is I helped raise that young man, nursed him through illness, taught him right from wrong. Alongside the man he called his Father I nurtured his curiosity and compassion, helped mould him into the gentleman he is today.
He is as much my Son as any issue of my own might have been and I loved him twice as much. Despite the letter of the law.
A touch at my elbow jolts me from my thoughts again and I look up into the smiling blue eyes of the Best Man.
‘Are you ready old thing?’
I can only smile and nod, my voice not to be trusted just yet. His hair may be a little greyer, his eyes a little less bright, but my own dear Bertram is at my side and all is right in my world once more.
He steadies me as I stand, slipping my arm into the crook of his own. It a kind gesture of support to an old man with unsteady legs, yet we both know it is a far fonder embrace than that. It almost makes it worth losing my leg for that fact alone. Almost.
‘Our little boy is all grown up.’ I sigh as we stop at the church doors to replace our headwear.
In the churchyard the photographer is marshalling people into groups for his pictures, under the shade of the trees. Bertram squeezes my hand in his, turning to face me with his face so full of love and admiration it melts my heart all over again and I yearn to hang propriety and kiss him breathless right there on the church steps. But I force myself to resist. It will make the pleasure all the sweeter later on.
Bertram leans closer, his scent as intoxicating now as the day we met.
‘It’ll be our turn one day, Reggie, you’ll see. Someday soon I’ll make an honest man of you. I promise.’
He kisses my cheek as quick and light as a butterfly’s wingbeat but I felt it I am sure. I give him the smile I save just for him, the one he says ‘does strange things to his tum’, and I vow to myself that I will pray every night until his dreams come true.