Sisters 42

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Now, that was a wedding. The only tradition not observed seemed to be that of a fight among the guests, but I could most definitely live without that. My Uncle Arwel and his Boy had even had their hair cut! The girls looked gorgeous, and so did my wife, Steve was both touching and funny in his best man’s speech, and whoever came up with the idea of putting him in a kilt was inspired. The vicar, oddly, in an Anglican church, was a Roman Catholic, but he was sharp, and funny, and his own humour meshed well with that of Steve.

Speeches, nosh, booze, and time for the wedding dress to disappear. My little sister obviously intended to get deep down and seriously dirty, and the dancing began as she intended it to carry on.

She had done the polite thing, and actually spoken to my mother-in-law, who was staying in a guest house on the Folkestone Road, as far away from the pubs as we could find one, the miserable hypocrite. Sarah had insisted she be invited, but thank god she wasn’t hanging around for the Satanic Rock Rituals and alcoholic over-indulgence the rest of us were so eager to start. Of course, in her case ‘over-indulgence’ meant any consumption at all. Dim ots, and good riddance for a few hours at least. The disco was not too bad, the priest dancing in a bloody proper waltz with little Jim’s head teacher, and even the men were up. What exactly Dad and Uncle Arwel thought they were doing I don’t know, but it looked almost painful.

Arwel ended up sending a lot of time chatting with Alice, of all people, which pleased me, as she was one of my main worries. I had to drive the newly-weds to the airport the next day, so I was counting units to stay under the limit, and that in turn meant I had most of my work head on. It didn’t stop me from taking a little walk outside as my sister danced with her husband; there was a little recess away from the street lights where I could let the tears out.

Sam had never, ever been real. I had known that for years, but Sar had almost slipped away from me just as she showed how much a fiction my ‘brother’ had been. I watched them now, eyes only for each other, and it was so right it hurt. There were other couples in there just as close and clear in their affection and love, but this was my sister and my new brother. Sar had done the impossible, in taking away Mam and Dad’s son and handing them back a daughter and a new son, not to mention a grandson as a bonus.

Siân found me, as always, and held me close. I was supposed to be the strong one, but it was ever the other way with her, my love, my bedrock. She wiped my face before kissing me.

“Come on, cariad. That priest, Pat, he’s seeing the kids away, eh? Band’s about to start, so we need to have a bit of a bop and put the smiley face on. Sarah’s day”

She was right, of course. I stole another kiss and she drew me back into the sports club.

I forgot my worries when I saw what was happening on the little stage, where Sarah’s ginger friend was standing holding a violin, nodding as the band cranked out the intro to a track from one of my sister’s favourite albums, till she tore into a truly superb lead break, bouncing off the guitarist. Absolute class! It was a rocky enough tune to get most folk onto the floor, apart from Hywel, who seemed to have gone missing, and Steph was tearing up the track as if she was on serious drugs. Bugger me, she was good, but there was something in her face that scared me, a palpable, almost violent, hunger.

When she did Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ I just HAD to get up and get into the music. I mean, I’d paid good money for worse gigs! I looked for Sarah a few times, and she was gone, gone, gone, head back, eyes closed, and rocking out. I was surprised to see her husband sitting it out, just watching her with the softest, dampest smile on his face, but most definitely with his eyes on her arse.

Steph finished her little set, bowed to the applause and then earned another round with a public display of affection with her husband that was utterly immodest, and I got a nudge in the ribs from my sister.

“Hywel’s pulled”


“Didn’t realise Suzy was so loud. They’re getting to know each other in the ladies’. Siân, you have a filthy mind and you are absolutely correct”

All traditions observed indeed! I had a quick look round for any issues as the band finished, and---Arwel? Kissing Alice’s cheek? Oh shit. I mean, he had to know, but, bugger.

“Siân, you OK for a bit?”

“Aye, Problem?”

“Don’t know yet. Be back in a minute, aye?”

I collared him over by the bar, as ever, even if it was now closed.

“And? You know about her”

“Eh? Who?”

“Don’t be an arsehole. Alice. You kissed her”

He gave me a Look that knocked my own into a dark corner, shaking in its inadequacy.

“Aye, I did. And? I had a good night tonight, and she is an easy one to talk to, especially when the Boy is off with some tart or other”

“You know what she is. You trying to piss her about?”

He sighed, and shook his head. “Lainey, come and sit down. Still got a pint to finish, aye? Sar’s day, no spoiling it, innit?”

I followed him to his table, where he pushed a stool over to me before settling down onto another and picking up his drink. As he sipped, he gave me a sideways look over the rim of his glass, conversation halted for the beer.

“Elaine, what is Alice? Man or woman?”

“You know the answer to that one”

“Man or woman?”

“Bloody woman, all right?”

He took another sip. “Aye. Looks like a man in a dress, wir, but talks like a woman. Whose day is this, if not Sarah’s? Do you see me wanting to spoil it all for her?”

“No, but—“

“Remember what I said back at the Oak, aye? Can’t be doing with nancy boys. Can’t deal with that silliness, and I look at Sarah and she is so right in her skin, true to herself and that man of hers, he is a good man, and I am proud to count him nephew. This Alice, she looks like shit, doesn’t she? No, just nod”

I did, and he smiled. “Sar’s day it is, and a friend of my girl she is, this Alice. So I will deal with her as I find her, and there’s no nancy there, no man, so forget your work for tonight and trust your family. Aye? AYE?”

Defeated, I nodded, and he took another sip.

“Still wouldn’t give her one, though. The Boy finished, you think?”

I gave up. He lived in his own world of skewed morality and byzantine logic, but if it kept Alice safe, fine. I got back into my best smiling mode for my sister’s sake, and helped her sort out the taxis and other transport for our very extended list of family and friends, before we set off on the short walk back to the marital home.

Big men can sometimes be so tender, and as I watched Steve and Tony it was as if the world had decided to remind me that just because I didn’t fancy them, men weren’t something to be despised or hated, and that brought thoughts of how impossible it could ever be to hate Dad, and once more I looked at Arwel’s behaviour, and wondered.

I got a shock when we arrived, because the babysitter seemed to have had other ideas on his mind, rather frowned on in a priest, but we covered him with a blanket, him and the head teacher wrapped round his sleeping body, and took ourselves off to bed after a quick check on the children. I don’t know what exactly was niggling me, but my dreams were clear and memorable, and involved Uncle Arwel and Alice, the latter in a full-steam meringue of a wedding dress, and I resolved to drink more next time and leave someone else to do the taxi service. Breakfast was a busy time, but we had thoughtfully invited Mam to the do, so everything was done with speed and efficiency, as well as in some considerable quantity. Janet, Jim’s head, seemed a little embarrassed, and there was obviously a lot unspoken between the priest and my sister, but it was their business. We got through the morning, the newlyweds said their farewells, and I got us out of the town. Once I was on the A2, I couldn’t hold it any more.

“Fuck me, chwaer, what the hell was going on there with the priest?”

“Two lonely people getting some warmth, was all”

Her husband nodded. “I can see now where I was getting the ‘bollocks’ signals from. I think she was about to have a breakdown, that’s why I was thinking there was a lie in there. Poor girl”

‘Bollocks signals’? Sarah sighed. “What to do, love? I think we have no choice but to keep quiet and let them sort it out”

He was nodding again, and Siân slipped her own oar in. “I don’t know them any better than you, but they obviously care for each other. Nothing we can do but step away a little and watch their backs for them”

I looked over at Tony, sat in front with me for the legroom, and raised an eyebrow before turning my attention back to the road.

“Bollocks, big man?”

“Yeah. She was very quick to tell all to my lovely wife here, and it didn’t sit right with me. Why was she opening up so quickly after so many years living in stealth? I didn’t trust her, that’s all”

My own wife squeezed his shoulder. “Not everyone’s as lucky as Sar, aye? Not too many men around with the depth of soul you have—no, take a bloody compliment, aye? I mean, apart from Dad, and that Geoff…”

And could that include my uncle? Watch and wait, Lainey, as ever.

I got us to the airport without too much time sitting in motorway queues, and found the short-term car park, which would be fine as long as neither of us wanted to eat for the next month, the charges being what they were. Couple checked in, bags dropped off, a hug before security, and my wife had the tissues.

Bring her back safe, Tone.

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