Chapter 12: Penny – July 1974

The day of the wedding dawned with promise and by breakfast time the sun was shining brightly in a clear blue sky.  Jane breathed a sigh of relief that they would not have to enact Plan B or C.  Their guests would be able to stroll around the garden and enjoy a perfect summer’s day.   The morning passed by in a flurry of activity.

Caitlin had volunteered to do make-up for the bride and for Jo who was go to be a bridesmaid with her; Agnes was to be flower girl that just left Penny with three attendants as Daniel had joined the mutiny along with Rebecca and Suzanne.  Penny had chosen perfect Laura Ashley pink sprigged dresses in an empire line style with puff sleeves which looked cute on Agnes and fresh and pretty on Caitlin and Jo who with their blonde colouring looked as though they may be sisters.

Suzanne had chosen a simple linen shift dress in a striking hot pink colour accessorised with navy courts and bag, Rebecca thought that her friend had never looked so stylish.  Suzanne, she knew, usually wore dark colours and shapeless styles, as she was self conscious of her sturdy shape.

‘You look great Annie the colour really suits you.  You should wear bright striking colours more often’ endorsed Rebecca.

‘Thanks Becca, your seal of approval means a lot.  I would have asked you to help me but you’ve been so busy with the business plans that I didn’t want to distract.  You of course look stunning as you always do.’

Rebecca wrinkled her nose as she gazed at her reflection critically,

‘Thanks Annie, though I don’t really like myself in dresses, but I couldn’t really attend Penny’s wedding in my usual style!’ She was wearing a vintage tea dress in navy blue paisley printed silk, which she had chopped short.  She had on a pair of high-heeled suede sandals that added to the effect of endless long legs.  She had made a matching choker out of blue suede off-cuts, plaited and finished off with some small wooden beads that added the finishing touch to her outfit.

Penny, of course, was the real star of the show.  The girls all gasped with admiration when she was finally ready.  The ivory dress and bolero were perfect on her petite figure.  She had chosen to wear her hair natural, loose and wavy, with the simple addition of a floral circlet fashioned from anemones and lilies of the valley.  Her matching bouquet was made up of long trails of blooms tied with pink ribbon.

They all made their way in a small procession across the Close and through the cloisters to the side door of the cathedral all becoming aware of the solemnity of the occasion.  Penny gave Becca and Annie a hug and thanks before they walked together down to the front of the cathedral and positioned themselves next to Penny’s mother.  They both knelt for a moment and then sat and looked around at the many guests in all their finery and especially to note Charles in his morning coat.

The organ struck up playing Mendelssohn’s wedding march and the congregation stood craning their necks to see Penny walking down the aisle holding her father’s arm, Colonel Jonathon Morgan resplendent in his dress uniform guiding his beautiful daughter.  It was one of those exceptional weddings where everyone’s heart is gladdened by the sight of two well loved individuals being joined together in a marriage much more likely to be lasting than most.

Her three friends all had to stifle a tear as they watched Penny make her vows and receive his from a young man that none of them had yet met.  Although it was obvious from his expression as he gazed at Penny that he believed himself to be the luckiest man in the world.  Rebecca wondered if she would ever marry, probably not she decided.  Suzanne hoped that Penny would be as happy as she deserved to be; but felt no disquiet that she herself would always be single.  Caitlin inexplicably thought about Jean-Pierre with a catch in her throat.

The ceremony over, guests all spilled out of the shady cathedral into the hot sunny afternoon.  The cathedral bells pealed merrily and well-wishers crowded the Close to add their congratulations to the couple as the photographer herded the main protagonists into formal groups to record the event for posterity.  Guest stood chatting in the sunshine, greeting friends and family not encountered for a while, making introductions, admiring the bride and her entourage, and taking snaps with their own cameras.  Gradually people were cajoled or drifted of their own volition across the Close to the house where the marquee stood resplendent in the walled garden.

Decked with white flowers and pink ribbons, white table linen and pink seat covers the marquee looked a picture.  All the sides were lifted so that guests could amble inside and out, to admire the garden and exchanging news and views as they sipped champagne.  Penny and Charles circulated amongst their guests greeting everyone, both of them at ease and radiating happiness.

‘Isn’t he yummy’ smiled Caitlin to Rebecca, as they both observed the couple.  Charles looked very handsome in the dark formal morning coat, his blonde hair falling into his eyes as he bent forward to listen carefully to what was said.

‘Yes, and he obviously adores her’ replied Rebecca.  The friends felt confident that Penny had made the right choice and would be happy with Charles.

The afternoon drifted by, the buffet was perfect; lots of salads were served with cold meats, fresh salmon, and crusty bread followed by fresh strawberries and cream.  The speeches were kept to a minimum at the couple’s request; they had wanted the day to be as informal as possible.

As the day was drawing to a close and dusk was descending, washed with the reds and pinks that herald another hot day, Rebecca strolled from the marquee onto the garden to admire the sunset and inhale the scent of the garden in the evening warmth.

‘Great legs’ complimented a deep voice from the shadow of the wall, making Rebecca start.

‘You made me jump, I didn’t see you there’ she could see now that the voice had come from Charles’s childhood friend Dylan who was standing smoking a sneaky cigarette.

‘Sorry.  I’ve wanted to speak to you all day’ he continued, ‘you’re Penny’s friend Rebecca aren’t you?’ he asked and without pausing, ‘I’m Dylan’.  He stepped forward and held out his hand toward Rebecca.  She automatically extended her hand thinking he intended to shake it; instead he took her hand in his and held it for a second before lifting it to his lips and gently kissing the back.  He raised his head from her hand and looked closely into her face, ‘Delighted to meet you Rebecca’ he teased in a soft Irish drawl, his eyes dancing with suppressed amusement, ‘perhaps you’d honour me with a turn around this delightful garden.’ Dylan proffered his arm, which she took laughing at his formal mien, allowing him to lead her around the borders taking in the scent of the blooms and listening to the tinkling of glasses and voices raising and falling in conversations that they couldn’t hear.

Rebecca who had eyed him during the course of the day found him devastatingly attractive at close quarters.  She could feel her heart hammering and wondered if Dylan could hear it pounding away, the nearness of him made her feel weak at the knees.  She found the timbre of his voice and the mellifluous Irish lilt a complete turn-on.

‘Perhaps we should return to the party and I’ll get you a drink’ offered Dylan, ‘but before we do, if you’ll excuse me.’ He deftly drew Rebecca into his arms and lowered his mouth to hers languorously grazing his lips against hers, then releasing her just as suddenly. ‘I couldn’t resist doing that’ he apologised with a wicked grin, ‘shall we?’ he proffered his arm once more.  The two walked together back into the marquee and he escorted her back to the table where there were a few raised eyebrows.  Dylan, totally unabashed, held a chair for Rebecca to sit and asked, ‘Champagne, Madam?’

‘Thanks, that would be lovely’ responded Rebecca trying to keep her face straight and avoid the eyes of Caitlin, Jo and Suzanne, all levelled at her in lively curiosity.

Dylan shortly returned to the table armed with a bottle of champagne and glasses gallantly poured for all the girls.  He settled himself next to Rebecca and proceeded to regale them with stories of his and Charles’s childhood escapades making them all roar with laughter.  Rebecca watched him under lowered lashes as he held court.  Dylan wore his hair long, the dark glossy curls giving him a raffish air, his face was darkly handsome with chiselled cheekbones and a deep cleft in the centre of his chin.  The mouth that had brushed against hers was strongly defined with a full sensuous lower lip.  His eyes were almond in shape; she wasn’t sure how to describe the colour, possibly sea green, set under straight black brows.  He was gorgeous she decided.

Darkness descended around the marquee and guest drifted away from the party in dribs and drabs through the evening leaving just a few of the younger people grouped around the tables or standing at the ‘bar’.  Martin, who had dispatched his duties as Best Man sometime before, made his way over to join Dylan and the girls signalling the end of the evening.  Smilingly he apologised for breaking up the party for he was about to remove Dylan from their company.  Dylan, knowing that persuasion would be of no avail got to his feet.

‘My chauffeur awaits’ he declared with a mock bow, ‘Ladies I must bid you farewell.’  He bent forward and took each of the girls’ hands in his by turn saying his goodbyes.  Lastly he turned to Rebecca and holding out both of his hands for hers he pulled her to her feet.  With a smile and lingering eye contact he kissed her first on one check and then the other murmuring in her ear as he bent forward, ‘Adieu, until the next time, ma belle.’  Dropping her hands he turned and flung his arm across Martin’s shoulders, ‘Away, mon ami, away!’ he commanded as they turned and left.

Dylan’s departure seemed to put a full stop to the end of the wedding party.  The few revellers still remaining took their cue to depart, the girls yawning widely decided it was time for bed.  A combination of champagne and a felicitous day had made everyone pleasurably exhausted and ready to turn in.  As she was settling herself to sleep Suzanne remarked almost to herself,

‘I think that Penny just had the fairy tale wedding she always dreamed of.’  As the others murmured assent she thought to herself; I wonder if Rebecca will be the next?

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