The wedding party piled off the bus, a rowdy giggling crowd, leaving it almost empty.
‘That bus driver had a shock seeing us lot,’ Patrick laughed.
‘The conductor sent his best wishes,’ Mrs Winterbottom said to Jean, peering from under the brim of her hat which had been knocked crooked in the crush. She straightened it and followed at a sedate pace as they crowded into The Crown. The groom’s father was already there. He sat in his usual place in the corner of the room by the large stone fireplace, pint pot in hand. There was no fire in the hearth; instead a large aspidistra filled the space, Betty Green’s contribution to the celebrations.
It was a gloriously sunny day. Some of the guests, mostly Patrick’s workmates and a few off duty nurses from the hospital, collected their drinks from the bar and made their way outside to sit on the benches. Except for Ellen the family stayed inside.
‘I don’t know why you couldn’t have come to the Registry Office,’ Winifred stood over her husband, brave enough to challenge him in a roomful of people.
He didn’t answer. Instead he raised his glass. ‘Cheers, you two,’ he shouted across the room, ‘mine’s a pint.’
Mrs Winterbottom, resplendent in her matching floral hat and dress, once the curtains in the back bedroom of her house, looked at him with distaste and turned her back.
Mary watched Patrick carry the foamless beer over to her father. Wedding or no wedding Stan Green wasn’t going to let sentiment get in the way of business; if anything the ale looked more watered down than ever.
‘You’re feeling generous,’ she said to her brother as he passed her.
‘I told you, nowt’s going to spoil today. Master of my own house now, our kid.’ He winked at her. She supposed he was right, Jean’s home was his now, though it didn’t seem quite right. She hoped when her friend realised that it wasn’t too much of a shock
‘What’re you having Mam? Stout, sherry?’ Mary said, pulling out one of the chairs at her father’s table. ‘Sit down, it’ll be a crush once they bring the food out, so you’ll be better off over here.’ She put a hand on her father’s shoulder. ‘You’re ok with that aren’t you Dad?’ She made the warning clear. ‘You’ll make sure there’ll be nothing that spoils the day for Patrick and Jean, won’t you?’
He waved his hand, refusing to meet her eye. ‘Just keep the drinks coming,’ he said.
‘I wish out Tom could be here, Mary.’
‘And me, Mam.’
Bill glowered into his glass.
At the bar Mary stood next to Jean and her new husband.
Although Jean was paler than usual the weight Mary’s friend had lost suited her and she looked lovely in the fitted powder blue silk and wool crepe mix two – piece that she’d bought from the Co-op for eleven coupons; six of which were Mary’s, her wedding gift. She still gripped the prayer book that she’d carried for the ceremony and every now and then touched the artificial spray of white carnations on her lapel. Her dark curls escaped from the short lace veil and the swathe of pale blue net across her forehead accentuated her eyes. Mary grinned, Mrs Winterbottom could certainly work wonders with curtains and Dolly Blue.
She’d also made Mary and Ellen’s dresses.
‘Could have been a bit fancier,’ Ellen grumbled, the first time they tried them on, ‘she just doesn’t want us take any attention away from Jean.’
The girls were both standing on kitchen chairs in the front room of Moss Terrace.
‘Sshhhh, stop whinging and stand still,’ Winifred hissed through a mouthful of pins. ‘I might not like the woman but she’s done you both proud. Now let me finish this hem or we’ll be here all day.’
Elsie Winterbottom came through from the kitchen holding a large tray with a pot of tea, a plate of biscuits and four china cups and saucers that Mary had never seen before.
‘Patrick,’ Ellen mouthed, pointing at the biscuits.
Mary shrugged and frowned.
‘Your Patrick got the parachute silk for us,’ Mrs Winterbottom said, ‘I cut it on the bias across the weave of the fabric so that it fits nicely’.
It did; it clung closely to their slender figures and now Mary pulled self – consciously at the waist, smoothing it down over her hips and watching Ellen blatantly playing to the admiring glances of Patrick’s friends.
‘Look at that lot gawking at her,’ Jean nudged Mary who turned her back to the group of men following her sister to the bar.
‘Silly devils! I hope the wedding photographs turn out ok,’ Mary said deliberately. It would be a good day to remember out of all the dark times they’d had.
‘I could have killed you lot for watching us through the window when we went into the studio for that photo.’
‘Well, you have to admit it was a scream,’ Mary grinned.
‘We were supposed to be driving away on our honeymoon,’ Jean said, ‘that’s why we had the country scene in the background.’
‘Sitting on two chairs behind a cardboard car?’
Jean giggled. ‘I’ll have you know that was a Lanchester Convertible.’
‘Best bit was when Patrick fell off his chair and knocked the whole thing over,’ Mary laughed.
‘Oi, watch it,’ Patrick punched her lightly on the arm. ‘It was a bloody silly idea anyway.’
‘He bent one of the headlamps, the photographer was furious.’ Jean joined in the laughter. ‘It was good of Tom to send money to Patrick to pay for the photographs out of his prison wages.’
A shadow crossed Mary’s face; whatever Patrick thought about him, she knew Tom loved his brother. It had probably taken months for him to save the six shillings they cost. She just hoped Patrick appreciated it.
‘Hope you remember to write and thank Tom, Patrick,’ Mary said.
The laughter faded. ‘I will,’ he said, ‘don’t worry, our Mary, I will.’
‘Grub’s up.’ Stan Green carried in long wooden tray filled with salad, potatoes and bread and put it on the line of tables covered with blue and white checked tablecloths, alongside the elaborate wedding cake.
‘Cake’s lovely,’ Winifred called to Mrs Winterbottom. Jean’s mother sniffed and pushed the cake to one side to make room for the plates of food Stan was unloading.
‘Hey up, you’ll have it over.’ Winifred shouted again, finishing her third sherry. The cake tilted to reveal a small sponge underneath.
‘I thought you’d splashed out,’ Mary whispered to Jean, who giggled and clutched hold of Patrick’s arm, pulling him closer to her.
‘It’s a model, isn’t it Patrick?’
‘No!’ Mary said in mocked surprise.
‘We hired it from Hirst’s bakery.’
Patrick waggled his eyebrows. ‘Only the best cardboard for us today.’
‘Ice cream for afters,’ Stan called.
‘You really pushed the boat out today for us, Mr Green,’ Mary said.
‘Got an allowance for extra food,’ he said. ‘You know, dried egg, margarine, cheese and a few other bits and bobs.’ He gathered up the long strand of greasy hair that had fallen over his ear and stroked it back across his head. ‘And your Patrick got us some stuff as well.’
Mary blocked her immediate response; if her brother couldn’t use his black market connections today when could he? Holding her plate aloft, she pushed her way through the groups of people, smiling and adding to the babble of conversations. ‘You had enough to eat, Mam.’
‘I have, love, I’ve had your dad’s as well; he didn’t want any,’ Winifred said. ‘It was a lovely spread.’ She smiled and patted her navy handbag that matched her dress. ‘I’ve put some by for tomorrow.’ Then she lifted her chin. ‘What’s Ellen doing?’
Mary looked over to where Ellen swayed around in front of Jean. ‘Show me your wedding ring then,’ her voice was shrill, ‘God, I bet that cost a fortune,’
Mary could tell she was being sarcastic; she hoped Jean couldn’t.
‘Twenty five shilling and ninepence from Wright’s in Bradlow,’ Jean twirled the ring round her finger with the pad of her thumb, ‘it’s a bit big at the moment but Patrick says when I get a bit of meat on my bones it’ll be just right.’
His smile softened the angular lines of his face.
‘Al says he’ll give me his grandmother’s wedding ring,’ Ellen boasted. ‘It’s twenty four carat. He inherited it.’ She smoothed her hands over her blonde hair that, like Mary’s, had been carefully rolled to frame her face. ‘He says when we get home to Philadelphia.’ She obviously liked the sound of that as she repeated it. ‘When we get home to Philadelphia, we’ll have the biggest, fanciest wedding, one that will beat any over here into a cocked hat. He says when he takes me to America we’ll have servants. He says all American wives have servants.’
He says a lot of things from the sound of it, Mary thought, edging past the scrum of people at the food table. Her sister was heading for a fall with that American, she was sure of it. She touched Ellen’s elbow. ‘Come and have something to eat.’
‘Not hungry. ‘Ellen was surly; she stood with one hand on her hip, head poked forward, ‘and I still don’t know why Al wasn’t allowed to come to the wedding; since we’re as good as engaged, he’s almost my fiancé.’
‘We don’t know him; none of us do. And how would you have explained him to Dad?’
‘Oh, bugger off, Mary.’
‘The ‘appy couple are leaving now,’ Stan Green bellowed. Everyone cheered and swarmed outside. The brightness of the sun caused the sky to shimmer, the tar between the cobbles glistened and heat radiated from the walls of the pub.
‘Couldn’t have been a lovelier day,’ Jean’s mother linked arms with Winifred who was fanning her face with the woman’s hat.
‘By it’s a warm one alright.’ Four sweet Sherries each and they were best friends, at least for the day, as Winifred confided to her eldest daughter later.
Jean clasped Mary to her. ‘Thanks for everything.’ Tears threatened to spill over.
‘You are very welcome … sister-in-law,’ Mary beamed. ‘And I’ll take your wedding presents back to our house and look after them until you can pick them up.’
They giggled; the couple had been given seven hand knitted tea cosies and two lots of egg cosies.
‘You guard them with your life,’ Jean warned. ‘I’m expecting them to last until our Silver Wedding Anniversary.’ She grabbed hold of her husband’s hand.
Some of the nurses had been collecting bits of paper from the office paper punch at the hospital for the last month and now they scattered them like confetti over Patrick and Jean as they ran up the street, Jean’s hand flat on top of her head to hold on her veil.
‘Don’t forget, I’ll be back from Aunty Florrie’s on Friday,’ Jean’s mother called.
‘Thanks for reminding us,’ Patrick shouted. ‘I’ll be sure to lock the door.
Even as Mary joined in the laughter a cold sadness filled her.
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Pattern of Shadows:
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Living in the Shadows:
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