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The Wedding Date
I blame it entirely on the pressure of work, but for the next couple of weeks Dominic and I were still officially an item at the bottom of my in-tray. Every time it rose to the surface, saying, "Well?" I told it to bugger off, I was far too busy and important to deal with it just now.
It finally caught up with me on a Sunday morning, nineteen and a half days before the wedding. Having him dump me would obviously have been the simplest way out, but that wouldn't keep anybody's end up, least of all mine. I suppose I'd been hoping my imaginative autopilot would suddenly whack me on the head with a brilliant way out, but since "Abduction by Aliens" was all it had managed, I was still dithering over alternatives. These consisted of a) giving him the elbow, and b) plan B, which I still hadn't thought of.
Nobody was helping me think of it, either. Alix was still asleep, and although a vaguely human body was sprawled on the sofa, it was absorbed in the football pages and therefore suffering from TMD, aka Temporary Male Deafness. The headline said, USELESS TOSSERS or something equally rude. This was nothing to what Ace had said the previous evening, when his beloved Tossers United had been thrashed three-nil by Thessalonika Under-Thirteen Girls, or whoever it was they were supposed to have thrashed.
Ace was Alix's "little" brother, though at five foot eleven he'd overtaken her by five inches. He was twentysix, quite nice looking under the scruff, and his light brown ponytail was usually in vibrant condition, thanks to my Pantene 2-in-1, which he pinched constantly.With it he wore one gold earring and, except when Tossers had screwed up, a chilled-out air I defy anyone to beat.
"You might make some suggestion, even if it's completely brainless," I muttered. "You could at least show willing."
Not so much as a primeval grunt.
In the absence of even Ace's input, I looked out of the window for something to be irritated with besides myself, for having got into this mess in the first place. For once, there wasn't even a crisp packet dancing in the breeze. Just occasionally this corner of southwest London could look quite passable.
After a thirty-second time lapse, he uttered, "I'd make him a perv, if I were you.Tell your mum you went round one night and found him poncing around in high heels and one of your bras, all upset because he couldn't find enough socks to stuff it with."
"Dominic's not like you," I said testily. "He doesn't have to hunt under the bed every morning for any two putrid socks that haven't actually walked to the washing machine by themselves. He's got whole drawersful, all neatly rolled up and color-coded." In fact, he was such a perfect, tidy, organized pain, a knife in the guts would have been no more than he deserved.
"S&M, then." The little toad was grinning his face off. "What if he suddenly asked you to do the Miss Bumwhack bit?" He put on a lecherous, gasp-and-pant voice. " 'I've been a really, really bad boy -- I was playing with my winkle all night -- ' "
"For God's sake, he'd never call it a winkle. Anyway, I refuse to have a relationship with a perv."
"Suit yourself. Sling me a couple of those chocolate fingers, will you?"
I slung. There were four left in the packet on the coffee table. Four, and I'd bought them only an hour previously, while picking up the papers at the Pop-In News 'n' Grocery round the corner.
He bit half off both of them and continued with his mouth full. "Your mum was bound to resort to emotional blackmail in the end. It's a mum's favorite weapon, and if you haven't sussed that out by now, then quite frankly, I despair of you."
In fact, I could almost have written a learned paper on Emotional Blackmail, Maternal Variety of. Well before phoning home an hour and a half previously I'd been psyching myself up for a hefty dose of precisely that.
The conversation had gone roughly like this:
"I'm terribly sorry, Mum, but I don't think Dominic's going to be able to make it, after all."
"Oh, Sophy, really! I knew you'd let me down again, just when everybody's dying to meet him. I told wretched Maggie he was almost definitely coming and you know what that woman's like -- do please try to persuade him."
"I really can't promise. He's terribly busy."
"Nobody's that busy, dear." At this point her voice had taken on a plaintive note. "Sometimes I wonder whether you're ashamed of me and Daddy."
"Mum!" (I did my best to produce an appalled little laugh here.) "How can you say such a thing?"
"Well, I can't help wondering, dear. Every single time you've promised to bring him home, something's cropped up at the last minute. I'm sure you can persuade him if you try -- but I really can't talk now -- I've got a million things to do -- nobody has any idea how much organization goes into a wedding -- I'm worried sick about the seating plan for lunch -- Sue and George still aren't speaking and Granny hasn't a clue what's going on -- I hope to heaven they don't start rowing at the table -- you know what Sue's like after a few drinks -- and the florist I picked has changed hands and the new manager's lost the order -- I've had to go and see her twice -- still, must rush, and I'm sure you can talk him around if you put your mind to it. Bye-bye, dear."
I should have expected nothing else. My mother is nothing if not predictable ...The Wedding Date. Copyright © by Elizabeth Young. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.