Meet Izzy, one week before her wedding day: (an extract from my novel Izzy’s Cold Feet).
Tonight was my hen night and we were spending the day lounging around Greg’s living room, pampering ourselves and watching girly movies. Greg had left the night before for a weekend in Amsterdam. A dark, sick, hidden part of my mind was hoping he’d return with some weepy confession about a prostitute and I’d have a reason to call the whole thing off, but I knew that was a horrible thought and also slightly twisted wishful thinking; he was too nice to do something like that.
I watched Jade flicking through a pile of magazines she’d bought with her. She had long, chestnut hair, much like mine, except hers always hung nicely, with a few waves at the bottom, whereas mine always seemed to be a frizzy mess.
“So how’re you feeling today, you know, about the aristocrat?” Amber asked casually as she moved from painting one toe to the other. She had been referring to Greg as ‘the aristocrat’ ever since I’d met him.
“Fine. Great. I’m going to stop over-analysing,” I said, hoping I’d convince them. And myself.
“Do we need to go over the list again?”
“Nope.” I smiled but knew they’d see through me.
“If you’re not sure … maybe you should talk to Greg,” Jade said, without looking up from the magazines.
“I’m fine. Really.”
“I’d be nervous too,” she continued, “with all those rich people turning up to see you in your dress. But you’ll be stunning.”
I smiled again and nodded. I hadn’t even given that part much thought as I couldn’t really imagine the day happening, somehow. Yet here we were, preparing for my hen night.
Pamela, my mother-in-law-to-be, had organised most of the wedding, for which I was incredibly grateful. It was taking place in a big country hotel in Surrey, with over three hundred guests and all the usual big-wedding trimmings. I had no idea how much it was costing because she’d insisted on paying for everything, but I knew it was a lot. More money than I’d ever had in my life. My dad had bought my dress for me and he’d had to insist on doing even that. So I couldn’t back out now, not with other people’s money spent, could I?
I might as well drink plenty of champagne and enjoy the hen party.
The day passed by quite quickly. We watched some girly films, gave each other mini-facials and talked about old boyfriends.
Okay, I admit I deliberately swung the conversation that way, as we were right in the middle of a chick flick when I paused it and said:
“You never forget your first love, huh?”
And they fell right into my trap, the poor darlings.
“Your first love was Ewan, right?” Amber said, getting up to top up our bowl of snacks.
“Oh yes, Ewan!” Jade laughed. “I can’t picture him but he was gorgeous, wasn’t he?”
“He was sexy and sweet,” I reminded them, “and very… interesting. He gave me an adventure, remember.”
“That’s true,” Amber laughed, popping an olive in her mouth.
“How do you know that Greg’s the one?” Jade asked. She’d never been in a relationship that lasted more than a few months.
“I don’t know,” I hesitated. Amber glanced at me, ready for yet another pep talk if I needed it.
“I think that every time you fall in love, it’s different,” I told her. “And I’m just ready now, to settle down, you know?”
“I think I know what you mean. Like you’re at the right stage in your life right now?” Jade asked.
“Yes. And each person I’ve been in love with has led me to who I am today. They each make up a part of me.”
“So there was Ewan. Jason…”
“Dexter,” I said, too quickly. Amber glared at me again.
“Oh, yeah, how could I forget Dexter? And now Greg. The Aristocrat.”
“My point is that each one was different. I was in love with each of them. But now I’m older and wiser, and just … ready to get married.”
Is that really true? I wondered.
“I get it,” Jade said, “but I was hoping for something more romantic.”
I wanted to talk about them some more, to really delve into the complexities of each of those relationships, to analyse my compatibility which each of those men. Because I’d never felt as unsure about any of them as I felt about Greg now. Why was that? Had I loved them more than I loved Greg?
But there was no time for that now. It was gone six and we were meeting the rest of the party at seven thirty. So we got dressed up. I put on a little black dress I’d bought in the sale a week before; Jade did my make-up and I did Amber’s. Finally, when we all looked gorgeous, we headed out of Greg’s house and into a waiting taxi.
Half an hour later we were at my favourite restaurant, The Orchid, greeting a small group of my closest relatives and friends. There were fifteen of us all together and we bumbled into the restaurant and took our seats. They made me wear a sash to let everyone know I was the bride and hung a big plastic willy around my neck. We ate delicious food and drank plenty of wine and then we moved to the pub next door.
I was having a great time, talking and laughing, when I noticed Amber frown, then get up and walk through the crowd. I couldn’t see where she’d gone or why so I got up to follow her, wondering if she felt ill.
I pushed through the crowded bar to see Amber chatting to someone in the corner. I peered over someone’s shoulder, saw his face, and felt myself miss a heartbeat.
There before my very eyes was Jason.
Should I go over? Would he want to see me? Did he hate me?
If I’d been sober, I think I’d have avoided him. But I had that drunk, invincible feeling, which gave me a confidence boost. I went over, forgetting about the sash that was actually twisted, and the willy around my neck, and the fact that I would be married this time next week. I walked over, feeling bold.
He was wearing a blue shirt with a black v-neck jumper. I thought I recognised it, and stared at it for longer than necessary. Then I glanced up to his face and saw the two dark brown eyes I’d almost melted into when we first met, look at me again.
“Jason!” I said, almost too enthusiastically.
“Hello Izzy,” he said, smiling as if he was genuinely pleased to see me, and reminding me how much I loved his voice.
“Amber tells me you’re getting married. Congratulations! I’m very happy for you.” He leant forward and kissed me on the cheek. He smelt good. A little tingle ran through my chest.
“Thank you,” I said quietly. My mind went blank. I wanted to think of something to make him stay, to start a conversation.
“Nice necklace,” he said, gesturing at the willy.
A woman returned then. A tall, skinny, blonde thing with a perfect face, like she’d just stepped out of an advertisement for perfume or makeup or some such. I hadn’t realised people could look air-brushed in real life. To my annoyance, Jason put his arm around her.
“This is my girlfriend, Anna.”
“Hi,” I said, wondering if I’d ever hated someone so much on the first meeting before now.
“Hello,” said Amber, smiling at Anna. “I love your dress.”
Thanks Amber. You Traitor!
They began a conversation about where the above-mentioned dress was purchased. I smiled and nodded then glanced at Jason. He was staring at me. I looked back at Anna and Amber, but didn’t listen to their conversation. I just imagined pulling Jason into the bathroom, ripping his clothes off and letting him devour me. I was just at the delicious point of my fantasy where Jason had pushed me up against a cubicle door and whispered “I think of you whenever I make love to Anna”, when Amber said:
“We’d better get back to the others.”
“Well, it’s really nice to see you.” Jason smiled awkwardly. Our eyes locked for a second and my pulse quickened. I felt myself blush.
“You too. Of all the pubs in London, what were the chances?”
“Yes, what a jolly coincidence, huh?” he said with too much cheer.
“We’d better get back to the others,” Amber said again, pulling my arm.
Jason nodded and smiled. I loved his smile. He always looked cute yet nervous, in any given situation.
“Well, congratulations,” he said and kissed me again, just lightly on the cheek. Wow, he smelt divine.
“Thanks. Goodbye Jason.”
Amber pulled me away.
“You okay? It’s a bit weird isn’t it?”
“Not really,” I said. “He lives nearby.”
“Izzy,” she said, looking at me sternly, “do not tell me you suggested this place on purpose. Does he come here often?”
I ignored her question.
“He seems so … happy,” I said looking back at him. Amber smiled.
“Yes, bless him. I’m glad. I always liked Jason.”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know, I just … I guess … I miss him sometimes, you know?”
“You’re just feeling weird about getting married. Stop over-thinking.”
“Yes. You’re right. I’m going to the ladies.”
She nodded and walked off to join the others. The bathroom was very different, and much dirtier than in my Jason sex-fantasy, which was kind of disappointing. I did the necessary, washed my hands and as I was coming out I almost bumped into someone leaving the gents.
“Oh my god, Izzy!” he said, grinning from ear to ear. I thought I might pass out as I looked into two eyes I thought I’d never see again.
The first man I’d fallen in love with.
The man I’d once thought would be the love of my life.