Mother of the Bride
Table of Contents
Mr G. Neilson
and Miss E. Palmer.
The engagement is joyfully announced between Gregory, son of Mr Z. Neilson, of Knightsbridge, London, and Emily, daughter of Mrs H. Palmer, of London, W14.
HELEN choked on a mouthful of orange juice as the announcement in The Times almost seemed to leap out of the page at her. Emily and Greg? What on earth—–? This had to be some sort of practical joke! There was no way—–
‘What is it, Helen?’ The man seated across the breakfast table frowned at her enquiringly.
She immediately folded the newspaper, announcement inwards, deliberately keeping her movements unhurried, mopping up the orange juice she had spilt in her initial reaction, with the snowy white napkin from her knee, smiling reassuringly at her father.
‘The juice went the wrong way,’ she dismissed lightly. Her father had a heart condition and she didn't want him upset by what was, after all, just a practical joke being carried out on Emily by one of her friends because it was her birthday today. Except that Helen's father would find it no funnier than Helen did herself.
‘It was very clumsy of you, Helen.’ He stood up to get a damp cloth.
She felt irritated at the rebuke. ‘It's only juice, and the tablecloth will wash,’ she snapped—and then wished she hadn't as her father looked at her with hurt reproach for her uncharacteristic sharpness.
But that announcement in the newspaper had shaken her, she had to admit, for all that she knew it was nonsense.
‘I'm sorry,’ she sighed, standing up too. ‘I'll have to go, I have three weddings on today.’ Nevertheless, she automatically began to clear the breakfast things from the table before she went, with the economy of movement that was typical of her.
‘Leave that, Helen,’ her father chided. ‘I can do it when you've gone.'
She smiled at him affectionately for the offer, completing the task, feeling slightly guilty for her earlier abruptness. ‘Don't forget we're meeting Emily for dinner tonight,’ she reminded him as she pulled on the jacket to her black tailored suit, the high-necked light blue blouse she wore beneath making the grey of her eyes look almost the same colour.
He looked offended at the implication that he was becoming absent-minded, loath to admit even to himself that he was seventy-eight. ‘As if I would forget my granddaughter's eighteenth birthday!'
As if any of them could, Helen smiled inwardly; Emily had been driving them all mad with it for weeks now!
Tonight they were having an intimate dinner for the three of them; tomorrow Emily was having a party at a local hotel for all her friends. It had been their way of including her grandfather in the celebrations without putting him through the ordeal of a large, noisy party.
Helen paused to look at her reflection in the hall mirror on her way to the front door, not with any feelings of vanity in mind; it was an everyday habit that she had to check her appearance before she left for the florist's shop she ran in town.
Short dark hair showed no signs of greying, wide grey eyes surrounded by long dark lashes, her nose small and slightly snub, adding to the impression of youth, her mouth wide and smiling, her complexion smooth and creamy. She had had more than her fair share of troubles over the years, and yet none of that showed in the gamine beauty of her face.
It didn't even occur to her that she didn't look old enough to be the mother of an eighteen-year-old daughter, that she had in fact been younger than Emily was today when she had given birth to her lovely scatter-brained daughter; at thirty-five she only looked old enough to be Emily's older sister.
‘See you this evening,’ she called out to her father as, neatness checked, she carried on to the door, her thoughts already turning to the floral displays and bouquets she had to get ready for the weddings today. Luckily they were all afternoon weddings, otherwise she would have had to be in to the shop at six this morning rather than eight-thirty. She would then have been like a wet rag for Emily's dinner party tonight!
It wasn't until she was unlocking her silver-coloured Metro, which helped her get through the London traffic so well, that she realised she had brought the folded newspaper out with her. It had been done subconsciously, but thank God she hadn't left it in the house for her father to find and read!
She waited until she had got in behind the wheel of the car before looking at the announcement once more herself.
There was no mistake, she realised heavily, as she read it carefully once again. It was Emily and Greg. And Greg meant Zack … She wondered if he had seen the announcement yet; The Times had always been his morning newspaper.
Well, practical joke or not, there would have to be a retraction put in as quickly as possible!
And she would have to ring Emily as soon as she got to the shop, warn her of what had happened. No doubt her bubbly daughter would find the whole thing hilarious. And if it had been anyone other than Greg Neilson perhaps Helen might have found it amusing too.
Her full-time assistant, Sonia, and the two young girls who usually helped out on a Saturday were already waiting outside the shop to be let in when Helen parked her car on the road opposite just before eight-thirty, getting out and taking the newspaper with her. Thank God none of the three girls waiting for her read The Times, although she realised there would probably be some explaining to do to some friends today who would wonder if the announcement was correct, and why they hadn't been told sooner.
As it very often was first thing in the morning, the telephone was ringing inside the shop as she unlocked the door for them all to enter, the two younger girls making a start on taking out the buckets of blooms and arranging them on the pavement outside; by nine o'clock the shop would be ready to open. Sonia went straight through to the back of the shop to make a start on making up the bouquets from the boxes of fresh flowers that had already been delivered.
Helen opened the order book that always lay beside the telephone, picking up the pen next to it before lifting the receiver, knowing it would probably be some poor man who had forgotten his wife's birthday or their wedding anniversary and wanted to know if it was too late to get flowers delivered today; these frantic early-morning calls were invariably from such worried men. Helen always felt sorry for them.