Pimlico House – Chapter 2

Ariel – April 1978
Caitlin was completely taken up in the whirlwind that was Mario. Their wedding day was set for Saturday May 28th. They were to be married in the cathedral in the centre of Sorrento and the wedding feast would be in the Palazzo set in the hills above the city that had once been the summer home of her Grandparents. Caitlin remembered the place with nostalgia for the happy time she had spent there with her mother and grandparents in the summer of the year before her mother had been so tragically killed.
Mario had detailed a member of his staff to organise everything that Caitlin wanted. Juliette was a model of organised efficiency Caitlin found. She only had to utter what she would like and the thing was accomplished. In this way the marriage service, the caterers, the florists, awnings, music, transport, flights and hotels for guests, in fact every major and minor detail was organised. Caitlin was able to concentrate on her dress and her bridesmaids. Of course Penny must be Matron of Honour; she would also ask if young Simon could be a pageboy, he would be adorable.
Caitlin thought that she would ask Charles’s sister Jo. She hadn’t seen her for a while but knew from Penny that Jo was engaged to be married herself in the fairly near future. She had liked Jo and they had made a great bridesmaid team for Penny at her wedding. She knew that Suzanne and Rebecca were unlikely to agree to the role so decided to skip the invitation and go straight to cutting the same deal, as she knew Penny had. They would all four spend two days before the wedding at the Palazzo.
Caitlin put in the calls to her best friends as soon as the date had been arranged. She would be so upset if they couldn’t be all together this one last time before she married and committed to living with Mario in New York. Assured that they would be with her, Juliette was asked to book the flights and make all the other necessary arrangements for her friends.
Caitlin and Ariel were becoming firm friends spending a lot of time together while Caitlin was living back at home for the couple of months before her nuptials. Ariel had quizzed Juan about Mario the day after the dinner party. Juan had apologised for his behaviour but rolled his eyes at Ariel who he knew he could always cajole and amuse.
‘Such a waste’ he had lisped, even more camp than usual, ‘so gorgeous!’ He knew not to push the boundaries of good taste with Ariel so declined to add what he was really thinking about Mario.
‘But you don’t think he’s gay do you?’ asked Ariel, still concerned. She understood that gay men usually recognised kindred spirits.
‘Oh yes!’ responded Juan without a hint of doubt, ‘But I don’t think he knows it himself yet.’
Ariel was seriously worried about this declaration and decided at last to mention it to Frank if rather obliquely. Frank’s reaction had been unlike him. He had scoffed at the very idea deeming Juan fanciful and Ariel unwise for gossiping with the servants. Ariel was hurt by his reaction but decided that he was probably right. That Mario was not the ‘Italian Stallion’ of mythology was indisputable but nothing pointed to the idea that he was homosexually inclined. Why would he want to marry and have children with Caitlin if this were so?
Caitlin had considered mentioning her worries about Mario’s hands off policy to Ariel. She would have liked to ensure that they were sexually compatible before they married particularly as she had experiences of both good and bad. Mario always shied away from any intimacy but it was always accompanied with such tenderness for her that she thought he must really believe that she was a virgin and that he didn’t want to press himself on her before they were married. Everything about his demeanour was protective and loving. She was his princess standing far above the world on her own pedestal. Caitlin had no idea how or if she could disabuse him. She also felt disloyal talking about him with anyone so she kept her counsel.
In all other preparations for the wedding Ariel played an active part much to Caitlin’s relief. Choosing a dress for herself and bridesmaid dresses for Penny and Jo as well as two other London society friends was a difficult task. She also needed to choose suitable pageboy outfits for Simon and another little boy about the same age, son of an old friend from her Easthampton circle. Ariel and Caitlin hit Bergdorf’s with a list of sizes obtained methodically by the indispensible Juliette. Caitlin wanted her outfit to be natural looking to suit the garden and terraces of the Palazzo. Something fresh and simple a bit Botticelli’s Primavera Goddess of Spring she had envisioned.
The two women trailed around the shops unable to find anything that fitted the brief. Ariel seeing the tiredness and disappointment on Caitlin’s face suggested that they should visit a designer that she had heard of through her model friends. Word was that she made ravishing bridal wear to order.
The next day Caitlin and Ariel attended a small atelier by appointment. They were not disappointed. Madeleine had listened to Caitlin’s description of her dream wedding dress and immediately sketched the perfect outfit. She pulled out bolts of materials to show Caitlin how the dress would drape in the right fabric. She showed tiny pearls and ribbons for trimming the gown; all exactly as Caitlin would have designed it for herself if she had had the talent she reflected, ecstatic and relieved.
The time scale would be impossible for Madeleine to make more than the bridal outfit however. Once she had measured Caitlin and made an appointment to fit the toile Caitlin and Ariel set off back to the shops to source dresses and suits for the attendants. Finally they struck lucky back in Barney’s. Caitlin picked out long empire line gowns in pale yellow muslin. She proposed to Ariel that they might beg Madeleine to add some pearls and ribbon details to the neckline and under-bust to customise the outfits. The pageboy suits were finally found on a return visit to Bergdorf’s. The two celebrated success, and rested their weary feet, over lunch with a glass of champagne. Raising her glass in a salute to Ariel Caitlin had said,
‘Thank you so much Ariel. I couldn’t have managed all this without your help. I really appreciate it and,’ she smiled tearfully, ‘I feel that I have made a real friend in you and hope that you feel the same?’ Caitlin asked hesitantly.
‘Oh yes I do too,’ Ariel answered unhesitating; ‘I always said to Frank that this is what I wanted. We’re far too near in age for me to be a stepmother to you but I was always desperately keen that you’d like me and that we’d get on well. I couldn’t have wished for a better outcome.’ She finished, beaming at Caitlin.
Ariel made a call to Madeleine’s atelier and magically she had the additional time to customise the bridesmaid dresses and had a contact that would dye the ballet flats to exactly the right shade to go with the dresses. At the next fitting Caitlin was treated like royalty and realised that a bit of name-dropping could go a long way. Unusually, in this case, it was not her father’s name or indeed Mario’s. It was down to Ariel’s ability to conjure up first name relationships with the editors of American Vogue and Harpers and Queen magazines.
The fitting satisfactorily accomplished, the question of Ariel’s outfit was raised. Ariel wanted to know if Caitlin had any ideas about what she should wear.
‘God no!’ Caitlin answered aghast at the prospect, ‘you have such great taste that I couldn’t possibly presume to advise you on what to wear. You’re like my friend Rebecca. You both know instinctively what suits you and you both have that sort of amazing ability to look like you just threw something on that just happens to look perfect and cool!’
‘Well come with me anyway’ Ariel said, smiling at Caitlin’s flattery, ‘we can have lunch after. The Nanny will take care of Sebastian.’ Ariel was enjoying the time she was spending with Caitlin alone as well as the family times that she and Frank were spending in the evenings when Caitlin was home. She knew it meant a lot to Frank that they got along well and it was a real bonus that the relationship between them had blossomed naturally. She was glad that Caitlin was going to settle in New York; she would get to know her half brother and the next baby. When she had her own the children they would grow up to be more like cousins than the actual uncle relationship that her baby would formally have with any child of Caitlin’s.
Ariel chose a typically different outfit. It would be warm weather in Southern Italy at the end of May she surmised. She decided on a divine silk tunic and wide leg pants by Pucci in his distinctive signature print paired with espadrilles in hot pink. Much as Rebecca would have chosen to do, Ariel elected to wear the tunic over Capri pants in aqua linen that toned perfectly for the daytime. In the evening she would wear the wide palazzo pants with a simple white silk blouse. She looked absolutely stunning and perfect for a Sorrento wedding Caitlin thought and expressed that opinion in a genuine compliment. Ariel explained that she would be comfortable and the tunic would disguise the baby bump nicely.
‘Now let’s do lunch.’ She said, slipping her arm through Caitlin’s, ‘Where do you fancy?’ Caitlin hesitated not really up-to-date with the best restaurants. ‘How about Lutece? Ariel asked ‘It’s one of my favourites for a blow-out!’
‘Oh perfect’ answered Caitlin with a grin. ‘A blow-out; just what we need and fortunately our wedding outfits won’t show off the excesses!’ Ariel hailed a cab and weaving through the traffic the cabby got them to their destination in no time.
‘Have a good day!’ He smiled appreciatively at the two great looking broads.
Although the restaurant was busy they managed to secure a good table immediately. Ariel often lunched there with Frank.
Ariel ordered for them both having extolled the virtues of the famed onion tart to which they added side salad and a glass of wine. They chatted easily together through the meal mostly about the wedding arrangements. As they ordered coffees Ariel felt compelled to ask,
‘Are you sure about Mario Caitlin? I mean no last minute nerves or anything? It’s a big step to take getting married.’ She finished, unsure as to whether she should have spoken or not. Caitlin looked up at Ariel and immediately said,
‘Yes, of course I am!’ But as the words left her mouth she questioned herself. Was she sure? Didn’t she lay awake at night wondering if Mario really fancied her? Could she confide her fears in Ariel or would this be a betrayal of her promise to Mario. If her father knew she had doubts she was sure that he would scotch the wedding plans immediately. No she thought she didn’t want that. She loved Mario and he loved her.
Ariel caught the shadow that passed over Caitlin’s face as she struggled with her innermost fears. Should she interfere Ariel wondered. She didn’t want Caitlin to be hurt and she still hadn’t completely exorcised her doubts about Mario’s sexuality.


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