Being inspired, maybe – 58

A picture paints ... well, as many words as you like.  For instance:

And, then, the words:

Get me to the church on time.  It was a tune out of My Fair Lady and it was in my head the moment I woke up that morning. And this day was, to quote some immortals line, supposed to be the happiest day of my life.
But, somehow it didn't feel like that, and lying under the warm covers of my own bed, perhaps for the last time at my parent’s home, the last place I thought I'd find myself, I began to consider how it was I had ended up in this situation.
It was not a question of who the bride was, we had been friends from an early age and used to joke about getting married, but at the age of six or seven, that was a concept rather than something we might act on in the future.
Except that was how it panned out.
But not for the reasons one might think would lead to such an eventuality.
Yes, we were close friends till the early teens, then my family went in once direction, New York, and her family went in another, San Francisco, and in each place both families built successful businesses.
Josephine and I met off and on over the next fifteen years, some of that mutually when we were at university together, and, I might add, living together.  There was no suggestion of permanency because we each had to go home to eventually work in the family business.
In those few years it had been easy because there had been no expectations by either of us.  We simply came together, stayed together, and parted at the end both happy to have enjoyed the experience.
Then, several events changed the course of our lives.
My father died unexpectedly, and at a crucial point in the company’s expansion, and without his direction, it began to flounder.  Then, Josephine arrived in New York to open a branch of her family’s business, and just happened to arrive on the day of my father’s funeral.
I thought it a coincidence, and was grateful for her support at a time when I needed it.
A month after that, one of the lead investors in the new expansion plan pulled out, as was his right because the load had been contingent on my father overseeing the project.  It was the end of a very bad week, and instead of being the last to leave the office, I left early, called up an old friend, Rollo, who had followed us to New York, and we went to his favourite bar.
He suggested a night on the town was called for and I think by that time I’d had enough of the problems for a few days at least, and added that his sister was bringing a friend and I had to act happy even if I didn’t feel like it.
Another coincidence, the friend was Josephine.  Once maybe, twice, I didn’t think it was, but I let it pass.  And, I had to admit,. I was glad to see her because the last thing I wanted to do was entertain a woman I didn’t know.
Long story short, Josephine’s family business came aboard as the replacement investor, but not without some rather stringent requirements, and though no one on either side would admit it, it was suggested that perhaps Josephine and I would make an excellent match.  After all, we were childhood friends had lived together without the problems that sometimes came with it, and we would be working very closely together.
I proposed, she accepted, and everyone was happy.
Well, not everyone.

I was down in the dining room getting breakfast when Rollo arrived.  It went without saying that Rollo was going to be the best man at my wedding.
Curiously, he was neither surprised nor shocked to learn of my proposal, but that he wasn’t exactly happy for me.  It was not anything I could put my finger on, but more of a feeling I had.  And to be honest, before I had proposed to her, I was sure that Rollo was interested in her, and at times I thought how much more suitable they would be together.
I’d even asked him once or twice, and he just said they were friends.
The other side of that equation was his sister, Adrienne, who was I thought charming, funny, and sometimes a little offbeat, which is why I was drawn to her.  Over time I think I may have developed feelings for her, but by the time those feelings were rising to the surface, I was advised that a woman of Josephine’s standing was more my type.
My mother could be very annoying at times, and whilst she might be looking after her son’s interests, she was also looking after the company’s interests as best she could.  I suspect Josephine’s parents were the same, hoping their daughter would marry advantageously.
Rollo, being on the outside, had summed it up perfectly, ‘if this had been the eighteenth century there’s no doubt you two would be the perfect match’.
“You look as happy as I feel,” I said when I saw him.
“It’s going to be a big day, church wedding, in Latin of all languages, then the society event of the year.  What’s not to be happy about?”
Put like that.  I shrugged.  “A registry office, burger and chips at the local diner, then a few days in the Catskills would have sufficed.”
“And on what planet do you think you are right now?”
I didn’t answer.  I simply poured another cup of black coffee and sat down.  It was a large room, with seats for a dozen, and I was the only one.  I had expected a room full of family members, of which at least twenty were upstairs right now.
Rollo poured some tea into a cup and sat opposite.  “OK.  What’s wrong?  Wedding day jitters?”
Could he read my mind?
“It just doesn’t seem right.  I mean, it seems we have been on this track forever, but you know, there’s something missing.”
Exactly.  It was another of those thoughts I had just before I got out of bed.  I liked her, maybe I loved her once, when I didn’t really know what love was, but now?  I don’t know what it was I felt about her.  I had been expecting those mythical thunderbolts to strike, but as the days, weeks, and months wore on, it just didn’t happen.
It was almost if we were going through the motions.
“It feels like it’s going to be a marriage of convenience.”  There, I said it.
And I expected Rollo to start having a fit.  Instead, he concentrated on putting three spoonfuls of sugar into his tea and stirring.  And stirring.  And stirring.
“Say something,” I said.  “Anything.  Tell me I’m being stupid, to get out of my funk and screw my courage to the sticking place, or whatever it is you say in times like this.”
“It’s not like you to drop a bomb like this at a time like this...”
I felt he had more to say, the good part where he’d call me an ass, and then tell me to get my shit together.  It wouldn’t be the first time.
“But I rather get the impression this wedding might not be going ahead.”
“It has to.  God knows how many people have put themselves out to be here.  It was, my mother said, a logistical nightmare.”
“It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened.”
“You’re supposed to be arguing for the wedding, not against it.”
“I would if I knew your heart was in it.  But it isn’t is it?  I think you’ve3 spent so much time trying to please everyone else, that you forgot about yourself.  I know you’re not happy.  I also happen to know that Jo isn’t either.”
“You’ve spoken to her?”
“Just before I got here.  Call her.  You two need to talk.  In the meantime, you’re going to have to repay a huge debt after I somehow manage to sort this mess out.  My car’s outside.  Leave now, and I’ll let you know when it’s safe to return.”
“Where will I go?”
He smiled.  “I’m sure you’ll know by the time you get in the car.”
It was reckless, and would cause a lot of pain and anguish for my mother, but I considered how much more pain it would cause to Josephine if I didn’t call it off.
I made the call on the way upstairs to finish dressing.
“I’m assuming you’ve spoken to Rollo?”  She didn’t wait for me to speak.
“You feel the same way?”
“It started out with the best of intentions, but I can’t help thinking if we were right for each other we would have married after university.  We are best friends, Alan, and I don’t think it’s going to progress from there.  I know you feel that too, it’s just the pressure from our families has managed to mask our true feelings.”
“Do you have any idea what sort of storm is about to erupt?”
“Everyone will get over it.  There’s too much at stake on both sides for there to be any ramifications.  I guess Rollo is going to have his work cut out for him.  I’ll see you on the other side.”
She didn’t say what other side, but I suspect it meant when the dust had settled.
I literally ran downstairs,, mainly because I heard movement and didn’t want to run into anyone, and out the door towards Rollo’s car.
He had exquisite taste in cars, and the one he’d brought was no exception, a Lamborghini, yellow, fast, and he knew I wanted to drive it.
What I didn’t expect. His sister, Phoebe, sitting in the passenger seat.

© Charles Heath 2019


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