The chapel’s decked with balloons and flowers. Drenched with multi-coloured sunshine, pouring through the stained-glass windows as the people pour through the heavy, wooden doors. Cakes have been baked with love. Arranged with precision on pristine tablecloths. Now they’re being consumed by the chattering throng. With minimal attention. I’m released from the kitchen. The fruit juice cocktails. Mixing with the crowd. The sister of the groom. Smiles surface. Drift by. Greetings. Hugs. Laughter. Everyone’s happy. All’s as it should be.
I stand at the centre. In a well of sunshine. I have the sense of an ending. A circle complete. A job done. My pride is not wholly perverse. In another world, none of this is happening. In another world I made a sensible choice. One sweltering Tuesday five years ago.
There are two hundred people here today. Crazy how one decision can change so many lives. If I’d gone home that evening. Walked away from the Scene Of The Crime. That’s what he used to call it. If I’d been prudent. Cautious. Then I’d not have been to hell and back. I’d never have come here. All these people I love so much. Smiling. Hugging me. They’d be total strangers. I wouldn’t know know any of them. My brother and his soon-to-be-wife would be living in different towns..
That split second. I remember it down to the smell of the dusty pavement. I threw caution to the heavy city air. It hung there glowering. I ignored it. Walked into the pub. A choice that changed everything. And who knew so much good could come from all the heartbreak that followed? Who can know the mind of God?
The next person I speak to does.
“What a wonderful day. It’s God’s blessing on him of course. He’s such a good man.”
Who am I to argue?
Twenty minutes later everyone’s settling down. The ceremony’s starting. You and I are standing to one side. Eyes full of tears.
“My mascara’s going to run.”
“I never wear it on the bottom lashes at times like this.”
“Good thought. I’ll remember that next time.”
A niece-aunt moment. I’ve had an unexpected chance to get to know you these past five years. Another reason to be thankful for my foolishness. We’ve baked banana bread and brownies. Eaten together. Discussed your plans for the future. Discovered shared passions for writing. Creativity. I’ve learned to make tiramisu. Explored a castle. In the rain. You. The whole family. You’ve all been integral to the fabric of my recovery.
We cry with happiness today. Oblivious of what’s to come. We don’t know yet there isn’t going to be a next time. You’ll have no need to think about mascara soon. In ten days I’ll be hearing those words. The ones I can’t forget. The worst possible news. I’ll be shouting at the window. How can the people out there drink and laugh? Just as if the world hasn’t fallen apart? As the first storm subsides I’ll wonder what I might have said. If I’d known how short the time was. Would it have mattered more than the mascara? Maybe not.
This afternoon I made two unhappy people smile. In the drop-in at One25. I didn’t do dramatic. Life-changing. Or significant. For one I found a strawberry body spray. The other one I asked about her dog. I thought of you. I was thinking of you anyway today. You specialised in making people special. You noticed details. Remembered. Brought colour into everybody’s life. It’s taken almost three times as long as you were here. But I’m starting to get it now. The little things make up our daily lives. Fill them with colour and significance. That way we change the world.
I’m blogging to raise funds for a charity close to my heart. I’ve given up NOT being a writer for 125 days in support of One25’s work with vulnerable women in Bristol. If you’ve enjoyed reading this, you can find out more about what I’m doing by visiting One25’s website at http://www.one25.org.uk/. You can also support them by visiting my fund raising page at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=JeanMutch where you can make a donation and suggest an idea for a short story or a post on the blog. Thank you.