The final part of Perci’s story in which there is one morning after and one wedding day.
WARNING: Tissues at the ready.
In retrospect I was very glad we’d decided to have the hen and stag parties a week before the wedding. At three in the morning Dorian let himself into my house, our house, somehow remembered to remove his shoes and lock the door, stumbled into the wrong bedroom and passed out only half on the bed. I left a bowl by his head then went back to bed.
Wearily, not hung over because my friends and I had gone to the theatre to drool over the leading actor, I shook his shoulder at eleven o’clock in the morning. He had only one arm in his shirt and I wondered if I should take it off or put it on properly.
Part of the way through my wondering he groaned some incoherent burble of pain.
‘You’re not dead then?’
‘I wish I wassss.’ The s dragged out for an impressive distance before he remembered to stop. He rubbed his face into the stripy bedspread. ‘Hate ‘em all,’ his cracked voice slurred.
I combed his damp hair away from his acne-scarred cheek and he winced at the slight alternation in the light. ‘There, there.’ I patted his cheek sympathetically, trying not to giggle. It was, in part, his fault after all.
He pulled the loose half of his shirt over his head and groaned.
I tugged his belt gently. ‘Come on, we need to get some water down you.’
‘It’s either down you or on you.’
He slid slowly to the floor and looked up at me with bloodshot eyes. He’d given me the exact same look the morning after his graduation, the morning after his first publication, and pretty much every time there was an excuse to imbibe large amounts of alcohol. His father and brothers were just the same. My own parents abstained because Dad had been an ex-soak and Mum had a ‘strong moral objection’.
I relented and fetched a bottle of water from the kitchen. I even sat down on the floor beside him and opened the bottle. He poured half of it down his throat in three long gulps. In other circumstances it might have been impressive.
‘I thin’ I’m goin’ t’ be sick.’
I passed him the bowl and took the bottle from him. ‘Don’t expect me to clean up after you. Rule number one.’
‘Than’s,’ he said thickly and bowed his head over the bowl.
Just in case I shuffled sideways before I rubbed his back.
It was strange to think that we lived in the same house now. Even stranger that it hadn’t really been a definitive move with heaps of boxes and van full of furniture; it had been a seeping move. Gradually his things had migrated to my house; a toothbrush next to mine, his shampoo in my shower, some clothes in a drawer which had graduated to a shared wardrobe. Then books had appeared on my bookshelves, followed by new bookshelves appearing in the reception room. At some unspecified point Dorian’s computer, a desk and a chair had found their way into the smaller spare room which had then accrued the oddments and papers that made an office.
It was very different from The Ex. In that case it had been abrupt and big, we’d suddenly moved into a house together and then, at the end, he’d suddenly moved out. There was a clear line between living alone and co-habitation. But with Dorian it wouldn’t have seemed completely strange if we were still in limbo after the wedding.
I’m not a great believer in the idea of soul mates but the rightness of that toothbrush by the sink and his little cubbyhole of an office… Well, it might just make you wonder.
He groaned like a deflating tyre. ‘N’ver ‘gain.’
‘You said that at your twenty-first, and after my wedding, and when you got your PhD…’
I laughed and elbowed him lightly. He swayed and made a pained sound.
‘You’re not drinking that much on the day.’
‘Bloody hope not. Remember you’re Mum’ll be watching.’
It was impossible to tell if it had any effect because his hangover had already given his bronzed skin a sickly pallor. To amend my previous statement; they drank heavily when they thought Dorian’s Mum wasn’t looking.
I twist my engagement ring around my finger. ‘My Mum can’t come. She’s getting worse.’
He tilted his head back and rested it against the mattress so he could look at me without lolling. ‘Could pos’pone, ‘til she’s bet’er… or… do sumthin’.’
‘We’re not to change anything on her account, she says.’ I paused; the words were difficult to form. ‘I don’t think she’s going to get better.’
He put an arm heavily around me and drew my head down to his chest. He stank of stale alcohol and sweat, for once I didn’t mind.
‘Don’t puke in my hair.’
The sound he made might have been a laugh as he rested his cheek against the top of my head. Without speaking he held me tightly as I curled myself around him like a limpet.
Maybe Mum was right when she said told me ‘your spouse should be your best friend’.
‘Let’s elope,’ I said. Through the window I could see the silver Mercedes pulling up outside the house. ‘Just run off to Vegas and find an Elvis lookie-like to officiate.’
Dorian came up behind me and rested his hands on my hips. ‘Cold feet?’ He was actually wearing trousers, a button-down shirt and blazer, it suited him but looked odd at the same time. I almost missed the jeans, but the effort was appreciated.
‘No… it’s just…’ I sighed and leaned my head back against him. ‘Tessa has been married six times. It makes me wonder…’
‘Your parents were married for forty years.’ He kissed the top of my head, he smelt strongly of spicy aftershave and camomile shampoo.
He overrode me, ‘it doesn’t matter. The only reason you got divorced the first time is because we were stupid. We should have gotten married then.’
‘If I say yes will you elbow me?’
‘Not in this dress.’ But a few tactical adjustments had made it possible to breath. Just about. ‘You know, she asked me what I wanted from this marriage if it didn’t work out.’
‘What’d you say?’
‘Nothing. I was a little annoyed, I think.’ I paused and rested one hand over his. ‘But I think I’ll have your balls on a plate.’
He chuckled and rested his cheek against my head. ‘We’d better make it work then.’
I didn’t mention that Tessa had promised to be there and I hadn’t had so much as a text. I had no idea why it bothered me. She had missed the first thirty-odd years of my life so what difference did one wedding make? Maybe she was just running late, it probably took a long time to put her face on. Or perhaps she would go straight to the church. And why were we getting married in a church anyway? We’re both atheist.
‘The only alternative is that I carry you off and ravish you.’
‘What?’ I’d been watching the street outside; more specifically that silver Mercedes, the way it gleamed in the sun.
‘I was talking about ravishing.’
‘God no. You know how long it took to get everything in place?’
He chuckled. ‘The only alternative is the church then.’
Naturally he was right but I still grabbed my phone from the bedside table on the way out. I was going to call her from the car but the screen showed I already had a message:
‘Cnt mke it. Luv T x’
My phone dropped to the floor.
I wasn’t even worth proper spelling.