The engagement celebration was epic. Eighty of my dearest friends, clients and of course, my son. Paul’s whole family came. The Carter Clan. Both his parents, in their late 70‘s with their respective new partners. Jan, his mother, and Jim, and John, his father, with his new wife Grace. Uncles and Aunts. His brother and new wife, Anna. His friends.
His two boys, both in the bridal party, were missing. There had been a disaster occur on the football field that morning and both had been hurt. Paul didn’t want to worry me with details and was calm about it. He was very apologetic to me and the rest of the bridal party. Paul’s parents were disappointed and worried about their injured grandchildren, but everyone assured me, they would be fine.
“Nothing we can’t sort tomorrow, Princess. They will be all right. Boys bounce, you know. I don’t want to dwell on it. Shit happens. Tonight is our night.”
It was sad that they were missing out on the party, but at least they would be ok. Worse can happen. There were plenty more nights and obligations for them.
The evening was full of congratulations, kisses and hugs; Meetings and introductions. I had only met a few of his family previously, so this was a night of first impressions. They were so happy to meet me. Everyone was polite and light.
“Welcome to our family. Another Carter!”
Congratulations everywhere. Air kisses. Chatter. Clinking of champagne flutes. Polite giggles, small talk and large laughs. Excited plans for the future. Dancing, and escaping outside for cigarettes.
When will you get married? Have you set the date? You must come round for dinner. Everyone was happy. Some were pleasantly shocked that the wedding was so soon, but Paul happily explained how impatient he was to make me his. Small talk: His business. My business. The topic of the impending government acquisition of my shop for the new tunnel, was a huge conversation with his family, as it was all new news to them. I understood. It was a fascinating tale to be one of the very few, impacted by the upcoming development. Everyone wanted to know about our plans: My son, and his plans: My red engagement dress. I hoped his family knew him well enough, to know the dress was all him. Over The Top.
I think they approved of me.
Everyone met my son, Oliver, and his lovely, quiet girlfriend, Sarah. They all said he was beautiful and charming. Naturally I agreed. He is. I’d introduced Paul’s father John, and his new wife Grace to Ollie. We tried to talk about their wedding, the cruise they had just returned from, and Ollie joked about the influx of new Carters. They looked at us blankly. They were hard work, and I realised, I must have confused the parents, and this was infact Jan and Jim. Awkwardly Ollie and I retreated, laughing at my lack of facial recognition.
Ollie thought it was hysterical. “Mum, you’re meant to be making a good impression. Jeez. Fail!”
As I had predicted and catered for, most of Paul’s side, being elderly, sat together for the majority of the night and struggled to stay much longer than the speeches. Anticipating this, we had specifically order oversized, luxurious, wing back chairs and poofs so they would be comfortable when they spent time sitting. I hadn’t quite envisaged them making a bee line for them the moment they arrived and not getting back up all night. All I could do was try to encourage my bridal party to mingle with them, and Paul was by their side for most of the night. He literally seemed to be everywhere. Larger than life, as always, with that enormous loving smile. Whenever I was chatting with his family or meeting his friends, he stayed by my side and made me feel comfortable, then he would be off, host with the most. Between us, I hope we managed time with everyone.
Family, friends and clients celebrated with us. All of them over the moon with happiness for me, for Oliver, for Paul. I was aware that I held the fragile hearts of every single girl I knew. To them, I represented the idealistic fantasy that fairy tales do come true. The fact that I had been perused so relentlessly and wooed by the illusive Prince Charming now meant all eyes were on me. We would laugh at work about it. The clients in my beauty salon would tell me, that I had to have the happy ending so I could give them the hope that they could too. Prove that you can have everything!
The images caught by the photographers were magical and candid. Dancing, laughter, love. Everyone was genuinely thrilled. Love was literally in the air. It was a magical night.
It was just after the guests had finished arriving that he pulled me to the side of the reception area.
He produced a small delicate box and opened it to reveal large, heart shaped diamond earrings. He proceeded to put them gently on for me. I was shocked at their size. They were individually nearly as big as my solitaire engagement ring.
“Katherine when are you going to realise your value to me. You are worth this. In fact the truth is, you are worth so much more. Treat them as preciously as I do you. They will match your wedding ring. I love you. I can’t wait to be married and start our life.”
He escorted me back inside and proudly showed our guests the earrings, which emphasized my sparkling necklace and engagement ring. I was ridiculously spoilt.
“My Princess is worth it.”
Paul spent the evening, as with every other opportunity telling everyone how lucky he was.
“When you know, you know. It took a bit to convince her, you know what’s she’s like. I sometimes feel like I have had to drag her kicking and screaming into this relationship. Then she realized. But I knew from the moment I met her, that we are meant to be. She is so obviously part of my destiny. I have honestly never felt this way before. Knowing she wants me for me, not my money and loves me, and my faults, makes me love her even more. She makes me a better person.”
He made people tear up with his utter devotion and happiness. His love. His gratitude.
“My heart physically hurts when I am not near her. She is like a drug to me. My heroin. I want her that much.”
I glowed in the shadow of his attention and loved how he made me feel. How he made everyone feel.
He had made a speech, thanking our guests for sharing this special night with us: That we would see them all in November for our wedding, which would also be our goodbye as we were moving to New York to start a new adventure. His guests, family and mine stood around the dance floor. They all clapped. So many good wishes. Excitement. Yes, that is how some found out. A circle of well wishers. His dad, John, hugging me and wishing me well. His eyes sparkling like Paul’s. His mum, Jan, holding him by the elbows, leaning back and looking teary.
“You sure you know what you’re doing? That this will work out?”
I obviously wasn’t meant to hear, but it was a fair question from a concerned mother who had only just met her son’s fiance. Both his parents, and their new partners, had been away in Europe on a 2 month cruise together, and this was the first opportunity to meet, me, his girlfriend of only five months, now fiance. It wasn’t as though my friends hadn’t all asked the same thing. I had been standing behind her, with Louise, one of my dearest girlfriends and bridesmaid. She glanced at me questioningly, before we both heard Paul’s reassuring response.
“Of course mum, I have the right one this time.”
“You’ll be back though?”
“No, no mum. This is it. It’s my time to be happy. I want to start afresh. You can come visit my beautiful wife and I, but I won’t be back. I’m sorry. I have to look after number one. I deserve to be happy. I’ve done everything I can to set my life up. I don’t want to wait any longer. This is my final hoorah!”
His father, reaching around and hugging Paul tightly. “He knows what he’s doing, Jan. Have faith.” He turned to Paul. “I love you, son. I’m so proud of everything you have become.”
Dave, his brother grabbing him by the shoulders. “So you’re really doing this then? Going to leave us. Glad you found someone that can give you what you have been looking for. You’ve tried hard enough.” He laughed. “You and your wife better keep a room for us to visit then. You both owe me. You owe me big.”
“Sure, if we are ever home, you can visit.” They both laughed, standing shoulder to shoulder as brothers, lovingly teasing each other.
His family wished me well with the upcoming government acquisition of my shop.
“Hope you get a record price for your business. Paul loves a win.”
“Welcome to our family. Come have dinner next week.”
“You look stunning. It’s a shame more people won’t get to see you in this dress.”
“He has found what he is looking for. We are so happy for him. At last.”
Then, I saw Oliver’s face. My beautiful, angelic looking son. Even though he knew of our plans, perhaps suddenly it seemed real.
“No Ollie, no! It’s not forever. It’s a mere flight away. You and Sarah, are meant to be joining us for Christmas. I’m not leaving you. I’m just moving a bit further away. Both you and Sarah will be fine. If anything, anything at all, goes wrong, you can always just get on a plane. Paul has promised me that you will always be welcome and that he will pay for you. We still have the wedding in 3 months. It’s plenty of time. I’m not disappearing tomorrow.”
Ollie and his beautiful girlfriend Sarah were both in the bridal party and had been on host duty all night. Doing the work of six people. Sarah was one of my bridesmaids and Oliver was not only giving me away, but Paul had also asked him to be his best man. Paul had insisted because he wanted extra time to bond with his future son.
They both did me so proud. They brought their “A” game. A level, that one of my girl friends had literally said at the time, she didn’t know they had to bring. We laughed. I agreed. Those two had done such an amazing effort, I had no idea they were capable of it either. I couldn’t have been more proud of both of them. Felt the love. Oliver had greeted and chatted to absolutely everyone. Introduced himself and Sarah to Paul’s family. Sarah, who hardly says boo to anyone, was seen introducing groups of people to each other. Greeting some of my friends that she recognized, as long lost blessings. I was amazed. They had ensured our side, and Paul’s had mingled. Sarah looked gorgeous. We had brought her a baby blue chiffon Princess line evening dress. She worked the guests all night with him. Dancing, chatting, eating and drinking.
It was late. Some of the ladies’ shoes were coming off subtly, and so, at this point of the night, Ollie, very politely, said they were tired and asked if they could go home.
“Yes! Totally fair call. You arrived an hour early. You were amazing. I love you both.”
Kiss, kiss. I cherished every second of my son’s long tight hug.
“Thank you. Seriously, thank you, Ollie.”
At the end of the evening, with dancing still going on in the background, a group of us found our way onto the floor. In elegant ball gowns, we were now sitting on the carpet. Glorious happy night. I was exhausted, but happy. Content. In love. Loved.
Paul lent in towards me.
“Perfect. Tonight was perfect. You are perfect. We are perfect, and our lives will be perfect once we get to New York. Get ready, for now we have a wedding.
You make me so happy. I will love you forever, my future Queen.”
“I love you too Paul. You are my everything.”