‘Which pair do you like?’
‘The white ones.’
‘Katie. They’re all white.’
‘The high heels?’
‘That’s narrowed it down to three.’
‘Do you still have the ones with the little bows on?’
‘They don’t fit anymore.’
Allison held the phone between her cheek and shoulder to pick up the remaining pairs of shoes Kate suggested and looked at them; ‘One has a bow stitched into it.’
‘Alli, no one’s going to see them under the dress anyway.’
‘What kind of help are you?’ Allison looked at the shoes again. ‘Okay, I’m going for the plain white ones.’
‘Good choice … So have you seen Cat recently?’
‘Not since last week. She’s insane. Keeps insisting I have some “great destiny”. The day after band practice, she said to ask my dad and he’ll confirm it.’
‘And have you?’
Allison began to put her shoes on. ‘No! Of course not. I’m not going to repeat the rantings of a nutjob to him. What’ll be the point anyway?’
‘You could give him a good laugh.’
Allison chuckled. ‘That’s true.’
‘So, has she caused you to dream of any more giant Angels?’
‘No. I just think the shock of hearing it for the first time made my mind go into overdrive.’ She heard a shout come from downstairs. ‘Anyway, I better go. Dad’s shouting at me for wasting the phone bill. It’s not like America’s that far away, is it?’
‘Nah, he’s over-reacting.’
‘So I’ll see you next week, yeah? Have a lovely holiday.’ After Kate said goodbye, she hung up and looked at herself in the mirror. Kate was right, she couldn’t see her shoes under the long dress she wore. Allison liked the cut. She had no sleeves to speak of, but a light-blue knitted shawl made by her grandmother would keep her warm if needed. Her locket, laying against her chest just above the neckline, and a pair of navy blue studs in her ears, were all the jewellery she wore. She just needed her hair sorted out and she was set.
She left her room, and her mother came out of the bathroom wearing a towel and using another one to dry her hair. ‘Bathroom’s free,’ she shouted down to Daniel. Allison got to the foot of the stairs just as her dad did. He rushed past her, and she heard the bathroom door close and his shaver start up. She put the kettle on and prepared three cups before the doorbell rang. ‘Come in,’ she shouted preparing another cup.
The door opened and Lizzie walked in, her arms held out. ‘And how’s my baby sister?’ Allison grinned and leant in for a hug. Lizzie had the same blonde hair Allison did, but it stopped short just before her ears. She stood a little taller than Allison and had brown eyes, but other than that, they were almost identical.
‘Oh, not too bad,’ Allison said, ‘Just need my hair done is all.’
‘Well, I’m sure we can do something,’ She picked up some of Allison’s hair, looking at it with a professional eye. ‘There sure is enough of it. Though first, I think a cuppa is in order?’ The kettle clicked off, and Allison made the tea.
In the living room, Allison sat in the armchair and frowned at Lizzie’s dress, a short, light pink garment, ‘Do you actually own any other dresses?’ she said, half jokingly.
Lizzie placed her cup on a coaster and sat down too. ‘Yes. I just really like this one.’
‘Well, you are getting a lot of mileage out of it.’ Allison looked up in thought. ‘So now that’s two christenings, a birthday party, and three weddings, including this one. And you call yourself a woman?’
Lizzie gasped, smiling. ‘Look who’s talking.’
‘Hey. You can call yourself a girl if you like other girls, but you can’t be a girl and wear a dress twice. Fact.’
After a moment of keeping it in, they both ended up giggling.
‘Anyway, speaking of that,’ Lizzie said, when the laughter had subsided, ‘How’s dad with the whole thing?’
‘Yeah, he’s cool with it. Mum still doesn’t know though. And I’d rather keep it that way.’
Lizzie nodded in sombre agreement.
They sat talking for another fifteen minutes, and once they finished their tea Lizzie began to do Allison’s hair. She crimped it and held it back in a high pony tail with a hairband decorated with a large white butterfly.
After an hour, and many mad rushes to get everything sorted, they drove off in the car to the church.
The church was beautiful; a large stone building decorated with carvings of saints and stained glass windows depicting scenes from the Bible. While waiting for the service to begin, Allison picked up a blue plastic bound Bible from the shelf in front of her and began to read. It was something she had never done before, despite going to a church wedding a few times already. She skimmed the first chapter (‘In the beginning…’) and flicked through to something else. A few pages later, and she came across the story of God commanding Abraham to kill his son. ‘Blimey,’ she said under her breath, ‘that’s really in there?’ Further along and she came across the tale of Moses and how, with God’s help, they destroyed nations, ‘How can people worship a guy like this?’
She closed it and looked at the title on the front cover: The Good News Bible. She vaguely remembered a King version; King George, King James, or something. She began to wonder what the difference was when the organ started up and the bride came in dressed in a long flowing traditional dress. And she didn’t get the chance to read any more before the service was over.
Afterwards they all went to a hotel for the reception. The hotel held a large garden, full of flowers and water features, where the photographer spent an hour taking pictures. It was there, by a large fountain, she noticed a girl with long, wavy, copper hair hanging with green ribbons down her back. She wore a long green dress with short sleeves and a dangerously low neckline. The girl held a flute of champagne and sipped it, looking bored. She seemed to be checking out the guests. One by one, she looked at them. Sometimes she shrugged, sometimes she curled her lips in disgust, sometimes she nodded in approval. She turned her head towards Allison and looked; her eyes widened, moving up and down, checking her out. She smiled and raised her glass to her mouth. She suddenly looked more relaxed, less bored, and didn’t look at any more guests. After a few seconds, Allison decided to go to her, but Daniel called her over. ‘We’re about ready to sit down now,’ he said.
Allison looked back at the redhead who gave her a smile. Allison awkwardly returned it and followed her father inside.
They arrived at a large restaurant populated by six or seven long tables that could seat about ten people. Another table, laid only on one side, faced the room. She presumed this was the bride and groom’s table. At the entrance to the restaurant was a table plan on a stand. Allison looked at it and found her family was at a table with the Prices, a family she didn’t know.
She sat down and looked at the table. A dozen pieces of cutlery (probably silver, she thought), two glasses and a napkin roll for each setting. In the middle lay a long basket filled with different types of bread bookended by two bottles of red wine. Each place had a name card and hers was on a side, between two empty chairs yet to be filled by Linda and Carl Price. Her father sat in the chair directly opposite her, next to Emma, and Lizzie occupied the end chair with a floor to ceiling window behind her.
‘Well,’ Lizzie said, admiring the quality of the restaurant, ‘that four year engagement definitely mounted up to something.’
Soon, the Prices came and organised themselves. Among them was the girl she saw in the garden. She stood staring down at Allison, a predatory grin on her face. Up close, Allison could make out her green eyes, topped with copper brows. Freckles dotted her face and ran down her neck and arms. Her lips shone with glittery gloss exaggerated by the shining piercing above her left lip. Her dress hugged her perfect figure showing curves in all the right places and, if it was possible, her neckline seemed even lower than it looked in the garden, showing ample amount of cleavage.
Allison started at the movement of a hand waving across her face. She blinked and saw the girl again. ‘Ah, you are awake,’ the girl said, sitting down. She held out her hand. ‘I’m Linda.’ Her voice came out with a slight Scottish accent.
Allison took the hand. ‘Allison,’ she said. Linda held her hand, caressing it for a second before Allison pulled away. ‘Don’t do that,’ she said, a little more harshly than she wanted.
‘Oh, don’t try to hide it,’ Linda said as if trying to get an obvious truth out of her, ‘You fancy me.’
‘No, I don’t!’ Again, her defensiveness sounded rude to her, but Linda seemed to brush it off.
‘Of course you do. You just don’t want to admit it. I’m afraid to tell you sweetie, but you’re in the closet.’
Allison gathered herself and leant in to whisper, ‘A few people know about me, but I would rather my mother didn’t. She’s the grumpy one in the corner.’
Linda looked over Allison’s shoulder, moving only her eyes, an action Allison soon realised was a common feature of hers. She seemed to move her head as little as possible. Linda raised her eyebrows and said, ‘Hmm, a ‘phobe if ever I saw one.’ She moved her eyes from stern disapproval back to lustful desire towards Allison. She picked up the smaller of the two glasses on her setting, passed it to her other hand and held it out, saying, ‘White.’ Allison only then noticed a waiter had turned up to the table and was pouring wine. Linda’s eyes remained fixed on Allison throughout this. The waiter asked if Allison would like any and she declined, ‘Oh, come on, sweetie. You gotta have wine with your dinner.’ She paused and Allison thought about it. Linda mouthed a tight, ‘Go on,’ and a few seconds later, Allison agreed.
‘Great.’ Linda sounded satisfied, ‘I hate drinking alone.’
They both drank their wine in silence for a few minutes, and Linda’s eyes remained fixed on Allison. She tried to avoid her gaze, but now and then, their eyes would meet, and she got sucked back in.
‘So,’ Linda said, ‘how long have you known?’
‘Known what?’ said Allison, genuinely confused.
‘About being the thing you don’t want to talk about?’
‘Oh, I dunno,’ she said, in her defensive voice again, ‘couple years I s’pose.’
‘I dunno how! I just … knew.’ Her voice began to sound more civilised.
‘Well, I knew ‘bout five years ago. Saw a Buffy episode, fell hopelessly in love with Amy. I am soooo, totally over her now though. I guess you could say I’m bi. I’ve had two boyfriends and three girlfriends. Shagged all but one of the girls who, it turns out, was actually het’ro … she was weird … The only reason I liked any of them was because they were pretty. They all turned out to be bastards at some point. Everyone knows about me and no one cares … ‘cept that one girl … Although the boys quite liked it; I suppose that’s caring one way or the other. You seem different to them. Lovely as well as pretty.’
‘Look, can we chose a different subject to talk about?’
‘Sure, okay.’ Linda sipped her drink and Allison was about to open her mouth, when Linda started again, ‘So. You seeing anyone?’
Allison swallowed her drink, almost choking on it. ‘Yes. And that’s why you must stop this now.’
‘Oh, okay.’ Linda paused again, and before Allison could think about another subject, she continued, ‘What’s her name?’
Allison widened her eyes at the nerve of this girl. ‘Kate. Now, end of subject.’
‘Right. Okay.’ Again, a slight pause before, ‘Do you love her?’
‘Yes,’ Allison whispered loudly, ‘No more questions.’
‘Yeah. Okay.’ Pause, ‘So have you had sex yet?’
Allison did choke at this. After she controlled her coughing, she said, louder than she intended, ‘Bloody hell!’ which prompted Emma to scold her for swearing. Allison apologised and continued in an irate whisper, ‘Yes. Twice. First time, we almost got caught. I’ve known her for four years now. No, I’m not interested in anyone else. No, I haven’t had anyone else. Yes, she’s gorgeous. No, I’m not going to tell you how big her tits are. Now. Drop it!’
‘Okay, okay, I can understand when a subject makes someone feel uncomfortable.’ Allison doubted that. ‘So. What kind of music do you like?’
The sudden change of attitude shocked Allison to the point that she couldn’t understand the question. After a moment, it came to her and she answered, ‘Most things. Rock, mainly though. At least that’s what I play.’
‘Oh really.’ Linda seemed genuinely interested, ‘What, are you in a band or something?’
Allison nodded and sipped her wine. ‘Play guitar.’
‘Meh, I tried once, but the strings are so fiddly.’
The soup appeared just then, and they chatted away like old friends for the rest of the meal.
When they’d finished dessert—a trio of chocolate mousse, crème caramel, and some form of fruit jelly type pyramid—the celebrations moved to a hall next to the restaurant. At the end stood a stage where a live band started to play as soon as the doors opened. A small buffet was laid out to one side—‘As if we haven’t eaten enough already,’ Allison whispered in Linda’s ear—and a bar set in the wall of the other. Chairs and tables dotted the room, leaving half the hall free for a dance floor.
‘Would you like a drink?’ Linda asked Allison.
‘Sure. Thanks.’ Allison sat down at a table and waited, listening to the band. They were adequate at best. The guitar work sounded sloppy, almost as if he hadn’t got the hang of it. A few times a note fell flat, not due to compositional issues, but because his finger work wasn’t quick enough. And the drummer bashed out a generic beat. Though Allison noted few of the band members looked interested. Either that or they took the performance way too seriously. The only saving grace was the singer. He was as much of a performer as Allison was and could sing with energy and emotion.
Linda came back with half a glass of coke and Allison took it, ‘Thanks.’
‘The band are crap aren’t they,’ Linda said, sitting down. Allison nodded in agreement. ‘Apparently they write their own songs.’
Allison laughed. ‘Piss off, this one’s “Kashmir”.’ She took a sip of her coke. ‘This tastes strange.’
‘Yup,’ Linda said, ‘I got the bartender to put a drop of Bacardi in it.’
‘He thought you were eighteen?’
‘I am eighteen! But he didn’t believe me so I fluttered my eyes, pushed my chest up and spoke to him sweetly. You can get anything you want by doing that; you should try it some time.’
‘Okay,’ Allison said, thinking she would never do that. Ever.
A little later Allison finished her drink and Linda stood up taking her hand, ‘Care to dance?’
‘I told you—’
‘Yeah, yeah, I know. You have a girlfriend, you don’t want people to find out, yadda, yadda. A dance means nothing.’
‘Fine. Just the one though.’
Linda led her onto the dance floor and began to gyrate. She said a dance meant nothing, but the way she held Allison’s waist and brushed her body up against hers suggested something more. Allison enjoyed the dance and even joined in. She couldn’t deny she liked Linda; if pressed, she would have said the girl was the most gorgeous person alive. She had always considered Kate to be perfect, but she had no basis for comparison. Linda was not as slender as Kate, and Allison liked running her hands over her hips, something Kate lacked. Having more meat on her made her softer and less boney than Kate was. But above all, Linda’s hair kept drawing her gaze; Kate’s could never compare to this perfection; the colour, the style, the length. She adored it all. But she loved Kate and would not let Linda seduce her.
The dance finished and they sat down to drink a little more. Occasionally getting up to dance or talk to a few guests. After another dance, they staggered to a table and Linda sat down. Allison remained standing, holding onto the table for support. ‘How much did you … bat your eyes? I’ve only had a couple of glasses and feel like I’ve drunk fi-fivvv … ffff … two bottles of wine.’
‘Yup, me too,’ Linda replied without the slightest hint of slurring her words.
Allison let go of the table and stumbled a bit before regaining her balance, ‘So. Sexy voice, flutter eyes, flick hair, push out boobs? That sort of thing?’
‘That’ll do it.’
Allison walked over to the bar and waited to be served. The bartender didn’t ask any questions and she got a hefty dose of Malibu in the cokes. Allison turned and saw Linda at the buffet table. She picked out a mini sausage roll and popped it into her mouth; she made even that look good. After brushing her hands together to get rid of the crumbs, she spotted Allison and walked over to her.
Linda took her drink and held Allison’s waist, taking a sip. She led Allison back to the table and sat her down. They drank their drinks to the beat of what was obviously a thinly veiled cover of “Don’t Stop Me Now”. Once they finished their drinks, Linda stood and took Allison’s hand. Allison began to walk over to the dance floor, but Linda steered her towards the exit. They stumbled through the double doors, across the lobby and outside into the gravel car park. A few outside lights shone over the hotel and illuminated the park. Linda took Allison around the side of the building where it was much darker, lit only by the residual light from the front lamps. Linda pushed Allison up against the wall of the hotel and pressed her lips and body on hers. Allison, powerless to resist, joined in, wrapping her arms around Linda and enjoying the coconut taste of Malibu in Linda’s mouth. Linda moved her kisses lower down her neck. Her hands groped Allison’s chest and then reached down to the bottom of her dress. She slowly moved her hand up Allison’s leg.