Friday, 4 May 2012

Wake Up Call

 This was the story I wrote for TMA02.

Ailis, if you go ahead with this wedding, the tears I cry when you marry wont be

tears of joy.

‘Yes Mam, you said already. Now, are we going for these flowers or what? I’ll also need some round plates like they have those candles on in the Argos book,’ I’d blathered on until we reached the warehouse to fill silences that hadn’t happened, but were inevitable; I couldn’t, wouldn’t, go over it again. She hadn’t told me not to marry Adrian; just made it clear that she didn’t want me to. My parents had never forbade me to do anything since my age was a single digit; since then it had been reasoning, discussion, trust and belief that I’d do the right thing; and my knowledge that, if I did fuck up, their home would always be my home. Growing up, my biggest fear had been disappointing them. Losing the trust they had in me. It made me independent; strong; clever in a way they were proud of.
Adrian was at the pub again; I was glad. I stared in the full length bathroom mirror prodding at the purple-black disfigured shapes that adorned my ribs; swollen now, sorer than when they’d first happened. I’d lowered myself into a hot bath savouring the scalding of my skin and grabbed my wine.
I’d understood why, obviously, I’d never been a great housekeeper and Adrian demanded tidiness. I’d tried to keep on top of it, but I just hadn’t had time. I was glad he’d had the foresight to get my ribs. I’d have been really disappointed if they’d been visible in my dress; I wouldn’t have been able to hide that from my parents. I’d have to make sure I got my basque on before Mam came to help. Not that she’d be suspicious about that. I wasn’t particularly exhibitionistic when it came to flaunting my far from petite figure. Ade had encouraged me to go to the gym every night. It’d help get rid of the wibbly arse he’d teased me about.
Five days… How quickly it’d crept up! I’d made sure I’d been organised. Not like me really, but I didn’t want Adrian to have to deal with anything; couldn’t risk setting him off this close to the day.  Five years and it was still never easy to anticipate his reaction to things that didn’t go to plan. Sometimes he’d be so laidback he was horizontal; and yet more ofte, completely irrelevant things spun him into his crazy place. I was still trying to work out what I’d done, two weeks ago, when he’d beaten me with the polish tin and poured the hot water from the mop bucket over me. I’d probably answered him back. Silly really, I should just hush up and move things on, but sometimes… I just felt as though I should stand up for myself.
Occasionally he’d cry; tell me I should leave, that he wasn’t good enough for me; how much he loved me. Usually, he’d say I was out of order. I couldn’t bear to think about some of things he’d said to hurt me. Evil things about me, my family. I’d kept my cool last week. It wouldn’t do to piss him off this close to the day. He’d been as stressed as me. I’d closed my eyes, sank further down; the heat stung the contusions. A million black eyes, bruises and breaks wouldn’t come near to hurting me as much as his words did. Bruises and breaks healed.
I’d planned on being in bed before Adrian got home, but I’d become engrossed trying to arrange the flowers. I’d wanted them completed for Wednesday night, calla lilies; my favourites. Beautifully simple. I’d been stabbing them into oasis, trying to get them perfect and natural looking when I’d heard his key in the lock. I’d glanced at the clock; five to midnight. The shiver of uncertainty I’d got when he came in drunk ran through me.
‘Ade? That you?’
His smiling slur showed how drunk he was, that and his ungainly stagger into the room using the wall and the back of the couch in a pinball method to stay upright. Terri is his pet name for me. Short for Terrier; he says I’m snappy, like a little terrier dog.
‘I’ve brought you pizza babe. Kiev, that’s your favourite right? I love you, you know. More than anything’
I smiled, he sounded ridiculous; and completely wasted, but isn’t that what everyone wants to hear? That they’re loved? I’d walked over to him so that I could guide him to the dining table without seeming condescending. When I’d put my arm around him he’d leant his weight on me, he’s not a light bloke, but I‘d aimed him in the general direction of the table and got him sat.
‘Here babe,’ he’d tore the lid off the box and ripped a few slices of the pizza onto it for me.
‘I’ll just have one piece, you have the rest. Don’t want to struggle getting into my dress do I?’ Laughing, I reached for the pizza, but it was gone, hurtling towards the wall. The cream wall. Adrian’s face contorted. All I could think was, ‘Oh shit!’ Undecided whether the ‘Oh shit!’ was for the wall and that I‘d likely have to repaint, or for me; knowing what was coming.

There were wine glasses, shot glasses, pint glasses and tumblers, my house looked like a bar, some had drinks in them, most were empty. Ade’s mother was already hammered. His mum was great when she was drunk and happy. When she was drunk and unhappy; well it was easy to see where Ade came from.
He’d said she was like that when he’d been growing up, talked often about how embarrassing she was; how little his dad had loved him as a kid. Ade was constantly looking for approval from him; it was never forthcoming. His mum was… Unique. She was ferocious in fighting for her family. Just as ferocious in fighting with them. I’d been on the receiving end of it, usually in defence of Ade when she‘d been particularly awful about him. I didn’t take kindly to it; I could be ferocious too, in defending him and myself from her. I guess that Terrier nickname was justified. Ade hadn’t liked it when I’d stood up to his mum, but if I didn’t defend him he’d be apoplectic. I ached for how bad growing up must have been for him.
She’d been on top form though, loved us all; wanted nothing more than for us to be happy. She’d said it once, then again, and again… It was tedious after the fourth time, but it was nice to see this side of her; after all, the next day would be one of the biggest of my life. I would be Mrs. Draft. I’d hated the name, but Ade got really upset when I’d asked about keeping my own, even for work; so Mrs. Draft it’d be.
I’d been tired, awake on pure adrenaline, and a bit of Stella Artois. All day I’d been finalising details. The cake had been delivered to the reception venue. I’d taken the table decorations down. My dress was hung ready for the morning. The make up I needed was laid out on my dresser. I’d phoned Ade to confirm suits and boutonni√®res were where they should be. Now it was my wedding day. Wedding day. How surreal? It’d felt like I was heading off to be a grown up. I wasn’t excited, just with the organising and rushing around, I’d guessed.
I needed to be up at six and at the hairdressers for seven so when the final taxi left, I’d started to collect glasses and bottles. I’d needed to make sure everything was tidy. The photographer was coming to take some pictures at the house. It couldn’t be messy. It was getting close to three a.m. when I’d finally put the last glass away and threw the last bottle in the recycling. I’d gone round checking everything; total silence, clean home; I could settle enough to get to bed. Maybe even sleep.
I’d decided to do my own make up. At my dresser, the sun ploughed through the blinds so heavily it seemed to create a fog around the room, illuminating every fleck of dust in the air. Itd highlighted my black, pinned up hair with none existent flashes of platinum. Facing the window Id stared into the antique mirror. It was streaked where Id tried to clean it. The sunlight accentuated the streaks and had made the edges look like frosted glass. I rubbed at them ineffectually.  My foundation was as perfect as it could be. Id taken the eye shadow brush and swirled it across the cream shadow in the palette, smoothed it across my eyelids, remembering when I’d had to do the same thing in a mixture of mauve and indigo. A job interview and a black eye didn’t go well together; so I’d attempted to match the eye shadow to the bruise on the opposite eye.
Make up done I’d wrestled myself into my basque; difficult enough with help, almost impossible without. I’d had to twist and turn it over the bruises on my ribs, hurting them more each time. Through the week they’d been accompanied by some lumps on my back, along the base of my shoulder blades and a whip mark from a dog lead around my side where Ade had gotten angry with me for talking to his friend in the pub. The guy had  only said hello. Ade had apologised the next day. Cried again. I hated it when he did that; I’d feel so bad for him.
Id checked to make sure the marks were all covered and put my stockings on. Nearly there; Mam would have to lace my bodice up. Id fervently hoped that the gym had worked and the dress made me look good. The wedding was at half past eleven. Itd been ten a.m. when Id heard the front door open and Mel, my bridesmaid, shout up.
Oh god, yes please. Put enough in for Mam and Daddy. Theyre on their way.
As though shed heard the kettle go on, Id heard Mam bustle through the door.
Were here love; where you at?
Bedroom Mam, I need you to lace me up. Mels got the coffee on so shell bring them up. Photographer will be here in ten minutes so I need to get this on now.
Shed opened the bedroom door a bit further to see me as shed walked in to the bedroom.
You look beautiful, Ailis. Id waited for the conversation, but it didnt materialise,
Lets get you strapped in then. Her smile seemed like an attempt at a conciliation that wasnt necessary.
Id done photos. Id done waving at people in the street as Id climbed into my festooned VW Beetle car. Itd take ten minutes to get to the chapel; fifteen would make me traditionally late. Now for the daddy/daughter chat. This was the man Id developed a limp for in an attempt to emulate his walk; where Id got my sense of humour. He was where I got my looks from, not great on a girl but I was proud to look like my Daddy.
You look beautiful baby girl.
Thank you Daddy. You look particularly pretty yourself! I detected the tiniest bit of pride in his smile, I gave him a hug.
You know how much me and your Mam love you, dont you? Its not like I have to say it again, but we do. I know your Mams not really keen on this wedding chicken, but she said she was going to make a concerted effort not to go over it again with you today.
Yep, I felt her biting her tongue when she was helping me get ready.
She didnt say anything? Well, there you go; I didnt think shed manage to do it. Guess that shows me eh? The laugh in his voice and the tone in which he talked about Mam made it obvious how much he loved her. I still thought it was sweet at their age.
I didnt make that promise. Babe, you know I would never ask you to do anything you didnt want to and Id do anything to make you happy? Today, right now, this feels like as much as I can do…’ His voice tailed off and I could see him working words around his mouth, as if trying them out before he said them. He wasnt a great speech maker, preferred to make jokes than show emotion.
Ailis, I cant help but feel that you shouldn’t seem so unexcited on one of the most important days of your life. Youre so matter of fact about everything. This morning felt mechanical. That wasnt how it was for your Mam and me, so Im giving you a way out. Im asking you to think about how you feel right now and Im asking you to think properly. If you think that going ahead with this is the right decision then I will walk you down that aisle with the biggest, proudest smile. If not, tell me now and Ill take you away.
Think about it chicken. Just think…’
Nearly at the chapel. I catch my reflection in the rear-view mirror. No smile; the searing heat of years of uncried tears burn my eyes. I was happy wasn’t I?  I Wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t happy… Would I?
‘Mate, can you drive round the park again?’ He looked at me;