tagNon-EroticWhite Road to a White Wedding

White Road to a White Wedding

bySpencerfiction©

"Not a soul was visible on the hedgeless highway, or on either side of it, and the white road seemed to ascend and diminish till it joined the sky." [from Thomas Hardy "Jude the Obscure", Book 1, opening chapter 3]

The white cement dust rose in clouds behind the classic MG as Lizzy headed homewards. This was her first visit in three years and she wasn't looking forward to it. When she left she swore it was the last time she would see the place. But her half-sister Molly was getting married at noon today and she was almost the only family Lizzy had. She'd only opened the posted invitation the day before yesterday.

The ancient parish church of St Martins, atop a low hill, had a single rather beat-up car parked outside, gleaming clean in the bright sunshine. At ten minutes to twelve noon, Church Lane should have been packed with guests attending the wedding. Lizzy slammed her car door and determinedly marched up to the lych gate. There in the shade stood the Vicar, dressed in his best vestments.

"Where's my sister and ... Stephen!?" she screamed at him.

"The cottage hospital," the priest responded gently.

"But the hospital has been closed for years!"

"It's open now, Elizabeth," the Vicar replied, "And has been for some months." As Lizzy spun around angrily, the priest smiled, taking his car keys from a pocket below his cassock.

Lizzy jumped back into her car and drove down the hill, through the chocolate box village of her childhood, and past the old cement works. There were wisps of smoke coming from some of the old kilns, she noticed. The cement dust on the road was thicker than she remembered; they must have restarted the works that "Daddy" once owned, she thought.

She sobbed at the single recollection that was brought to mind, the one that wrecked everything for her.

"Adopted?!" she had screamed three years earlier. That's what "Daddy's" last will and testament said clearly, drily emphatic in its declaration. The solicitor had read out the words, "my adopted daughter, Elizabeth", in that deadpan voice that lawyers have.

Lizzy couldn't believe what she had heard. It sank in for barely a moment before she jumped up and shouted, "No!"

But around the room everybody nodded; they all knew, without exception. Her fiancé Stephen was clearly aware, her step-mother and baby sister Molly, dressed in their widow's weeds knew. Nor were the aunts, uncles and cousins present shocked by what had been a devastating revelation for Lizzy. Even "Daddy's" closest friends and trusted retainers seemed not in the least bit surprised. Finally, Nurse Cloë, who had looked after both girls for as long as Lizzy could remember, nodded her awareness of Lizzy's adoption, with tears running down her own cheeks. Everybody knew that Lizzy was adopted, that her "Daddy" was not her natural father. Everybody knew, that is, everyone except her.

Lizzy had long ago accepted that Molly was only her half-sister. "Daddy" married his second wife, Molly's Mummy Mavis, when Lizzy was about five. Lizzy called her Mummy immediately, not knowing her by any other name. Molly came along to complete their happy family about five years later.

Lizzy had always assumed that her own mother was "Daddy's" first wife, whose marriage broke up in an unceremonious manner, shortly after Lizzy was born. The divorce was acrimonious apparently, and "Daddy" lost the London house and there was no longer enough control or capital left in the family to keep the cement works open. As a consequence, Lady Lesley was never to be mentioned in the house.

Lizzy gained what little she knew of Lady Lesley by questioning Nanny Chloë. Lizzy had never had contact with her natural mother and learnt early on not to expect anything from that direction. Her step-mother, Mavis, on the other hand, had made it perfectly clear from Lizzy's earliest memories of her, that she would love Lizzy as much as any real mother could. And as for the love of her father, Lizzy had never been in any doubt. From that moment on she was secure in the sanctity of her family.

That dry as dust lawyer had stopped reading the Will at Lizzy's outburst. Before he could continue reading out the details, Lizzy stormed out of the room in tears, brushing off all protests, ignoring all calls and messages. Back at her London flat, she packed lightly and jetted off to the south of France. From there she lived a nomadic existence, trying to "find" herself. As an experienced investment banker, she set herself up in business, using her trust fund as capital, and worked from abroad.

Lizzy tried to contact her mother, Sir Malcolm's first wife, Lady Lesley, but was continually rebuffed. By shutting off all contact with her family and filling her time with work, she built herself a life of sorts. A life devoid of love and companionship.

Eventually her snail mail caught up with her habitual global travelling. The wedding invitation came a week ago, along with a sackful of other communiques, so she only got around to opening it the day before yesterday.

The invitation, which shook Lizzy out of her self-imposed exile, was to attend and celebrate the marriage of her kid sister Molly to Lizzy's ex-fiancé, Stephen. Did they both disrespect her so much to add this insult to her tragic tale? She caught the first flight back to London and extracted her classic sports car from the garage which regularly maintained it.

She pulled up outside the old hospital in a cloud of choking cement dust. The hospital had been spruced up since she had last seen it, the tarmac surface of the car park recently renewed and chock full of vehicles.

Lizzy stormed through the entrance into the waiting room, where many of the guests stood around drinking sherry or fruit juice, dressed in their finery. She recognised most of them as local villagers.

"Where's Molly and Stephen?" she screamed. All fingers pointed to a set of doors leading into the heart of the hospital. She followed their direction and threw open the doors to a tiny ward, decked out in flowers, a table in the middle of the room covered with a white cloth, apparently ready for a civil ceremony. There was Molly and Stephen standing near the table, either side of the nurse Chloë, who sat in a chair. By Stephen's side was Mavis, Molly's mother. Alongside Molly stood a tall young man that Lizzy didn't recognise.

"What's going on, Molly?" Lizzy spat, "How could you and Stephen go behind my back?"

Molly smiled, "Hi, Sis. You look fit and tanned; you're just in time for the wedding, although ..." she looked her sister over, "Your dress could have been a tad more appropriate than jeans and tee. Good job we planned to have a change of clothing for you behind that screen."

"No, I mean, you and my ... er ... this ... man ..." Lizzy spat, pointing at Stephen, still as annoyingly handsome as he ever was, in fact, she could help notice, even more so in his smart light grey morning suit with a white carnation pinned in his lapel, "... Getting married while I'm conveniently out of the way."

"Oh, Sis, does this outburst mean that you still have deep feelings for your old fiancé Stephen?" Molly asked, with an infuriating smile on her face, inflaming Lizzy's mounting rage even more.

"Of course!" Lizzy snapped, "I can't just turn my emotions on and off like ... like you obviously can. I had been able to keep them in check until recently, but your invitation...." Lizzy bit her lip, and dropped her voice to a whisper, the disappointment in her life driving a blade deep into her heart. "I don't know if I could live with you both being..."

"Oh, that's good, Sis," Molly's smile was, if anything, broader than ever, "Because today, in about half an hour, in fact, I'm actually marrying Jeremy here." She indicated the tall sparely-built man standing by her side. Only now did Lizzy notice that Molly's arm had been tucked into that particular young man's arm all the time.

Lizzy looked bewildered, "But my invitation-"

Molly interrupted, "...says 'Lady Mavis Lamb requests the company of Miss Elizabeth Elouise Lamb at the wedding of Miss Margaret Ann Lamb to Mr Stephen Joseph Luxton', but every other guest has 'Mr Jeremy Lawrence Bacon' on their invitations instead."

The young man in question then stepped forward with hand outstretched, a handsome smile on his face. Lizzy automatically reached out and took his hand.

"Pleasure to meet you, Lizzy, from what everyone has said about you, I feel I know you well already. Please call me Jezza, everyone else does."

Molly held up two other wedding invitations, one in each hand.

"You can swap your invitation, Lizzy, for one exactly like the rest, or ..." Molly held up another invitation in her right hand, "This one, which is the one that I prefer." She held up the second in her left hand and stretched it out towards her half-sister.

Lizzy took the preferred invitation with trembling hands, then opened it up to reveal the inner page, and read to herself,

"Lady Mavis Lamb and Miss Chloë McLennon, request the company of All our Family & Friends To celebrate the double wedding of their daughters Miss Margaret Ann Lamb to Mr Jeremy Lawrence Bacon, & Miss Elizabeth Elouise Lamb to Mr Stephen Joseph Luxton."

Lizzy turned to Nanny Chloë, "You ... you are my mother?"

"Yes, sweetheart, I am-"

"-And my father?" asked Lizzy, with a hitch in her voice.

"Your biological father was Bob Challenor, your Daddy's chauffeur," Chloé admitted, as she got up from her chair, "He was a charming and smooth talker but when he found I was pregnant, he was angry, panicked and drove away in Sir Malcolm's big Rover. I hoped he was only going away to think about it and then come back to me. He ... he couldn't have been in his right mind, as he ran a red light and was taken out by a truck which hit the driver's side. Bob was killed instantly."

"So why did Daddy-?"

"Your Daddy and Lady Lesley had tried for years to have a baby, Lizzy, and were both in their early forties by the time you were born. I was quite depressed and borderline suicidal by both my loss and my circumstances after Bob's accident, so Sir Malcolm moved me down to the Manor House here, even though I was only a housemaid and not even in service for very long."

"I thought you were a nurse as well as a nanny?"

"Your Daddy wanted me to train as a first-aider at the cement works, but it was closed down during my training. So, for your first five years I nursed you. Sir Malcolm loved you from the moment you were born and was prepared to adopt you as their own but Lady Lesley refused to be involved. I think she suspected that Sir Malcolm was your father, despite everyone who knew us were acknowledging that the only man I loved was Bob."

"So she thought that you loved Daddy?"

"I think she thought so." Chloë paused, before continuing, "I did, of course, anyone would, faced with such kindness, but your Daddy was perpetually the perfect gentleman, he would never dream of acting inappropriately."

"So what happened between the Lambs to break them up?" Lizzy asked.

"Lady Lesley reacted by having affairs, to the extent that Sir Malcolm eventually couldn't ignore," Chloë replied, "He tried to settle the divorce in a civilised manner but Lady Lesley was vindictive, taking the London house and half your Daddy's 70% stake in the business as part of the settlement."

Molly chipped in, "That's why the cement works closed down and put all our friends and neighbours out of work. Lady Lesley, or Mrs Worsley, as she became, sold her shares to her new husband's company, Worsley Industries, who took over the business. They really only wanted to secure Daddy's customer base before closing down the plant."

"Malcolm was powerless to stop them," Mavis added, "He was already exhausted by the courtroom fights and even though he bought the site for a song, found he was banned from re-opening the business for ten years. Unfortunately, his health failed him about the time we had all the finances lined up ready to reopen the gates."

"I didn't know any of this, I was too tied up in my investment banking career and my London flat."

"Malcolm raised the finance through your bank, using the system of Chinese Walls to prevent you having any conflict of interest," Mavis explained. "I think maybe he carried on keeping secrets too long. We all assumed he had told you of your adoption long ago. Poor Chloë here thought you didn't want to know her."

"It was all such a shock," Lizzy said, looking at Stephen, who was looking at her expectantly, "I thought you were all laughing at me."

Stephen stepped forward and took her left hand in his right hand and walked her over to a quiet corner of the room. Lizzy was still wearing the engagement ring he'd given her almost four years ago. He got down on one knee.

"I'll always love you, Lizzy," Stephen said quietly, privately to her. "I know you love me. Can't you just set this aside? I really don't care whose daughter you are so long as you're my wife and the mother of our children. I have plighted my troth to you already, and our banns have been read out these past three weeks, in hope that love would triumph. Will you try life with me again, starting with our marriage today?"

" 'I'll try it!' she whispered; but not to them." [from Thomas Hardy "Jude the Obscure", Book 1, last line, chapter 7.]

The End.

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