Edinburgh, part one
DAVIDGOT TO MINE on Thursday night, bearing my Suzannah outfit of pink lace dress, pink coat and a hat. ‘I have bad news,’ he said. ‘What?’ ‘I have forgotten to bring my shirt and a tie. Oh, and dress socks.’
I almost said, ‘Well, why then do you roll your eyes every time I ask if you have done this or remembered that,’ but I kept quiet. The next morning, we set off for Edinburgh. I’d packed a hamper of food for the Airbnb apartment, but he’d drunk the gin and tonic the night before, so we stopped so I could buy some more, plus petrol. When we got to the flat, we found it was residents’ parking only. ‘I’ll move the car later,’ he said, when we both knew he wouldn’t bother. The flat was lovely, with huge Georgian windows. He turned on the TV and looked thrilled that it had Virgin cable. ‘It’s just like being at yours,’ I said, and he missed the irony, saying, ‘Yes, only with more space.’
I paid for a takeaway curry then sat down to file two pieces of copy. We went to bed and he attempted to have sex with me. ‘Why don’t you try other parts of my body – you know, do it holistically for a change?’ I said. The next morning he looked exhausted. ‘I didn’t get to sleep until 5am,’ he said.
I spent four hours getting ready: Hourglass primer, false lashes; I even ironed my hair. David, who doesn’t seem to own a comb, was dispatched to get a haircut. I told him short and choppy, and he returned with his head shaved on the sides, long on top. Oh, and a pink shirt and pink tie. ‘Your hair looks terrible,’ I told him. ‘I think it’s me you don’t like,’ he said sadly. I wriggled into the dress: perfect. I was actually happy with how I looked for a change. I booked a cab to the Botanic Garden, and then we walked slowly to the venue, following all the other women in difficult shoes. When I saw my niece’s beautiful face, green eyes shining with happiness, her lovely gown, my brother on her arm, I started sobbing. I wished her mum could have been alive to see her.
After the ceremony, set in woodland, in glorious autumn sunshine, we walked to the reception. David was drinking prosecco, and whisky. I felt happy, briefly. To be doing something normal that wasn’t about work. I’d brought the bride a gift and as we sat drinking at a table, I removed it from my bag. It was my maternal grandmother’s platinum and diamond engagement ring from the very early 1920s. I wanted my niece to have something from her great-grandmother. ‘Let me photograph it first, before you give it to her,’ David said cryptically.
We were called in to dinner. We got through the first course fine, and then David started: ‘I couldn’t sleep because I’m so worried about the sheep.’ (The ones he rescued from halal slaughter in France.) I had asked him just for one weekend not to mention them. ‘Don’t you think the email from your friend Ed, whose field they are in, was s***ty? Telling me that other issues such as climate change and refugees are more important? I’m entitled to my views. How many refugees does he have living in one of his houses? None. Anyway, animal and human welfare are inextricably linked.
‘The rescue was not ill thought through,’ David continued. ‘It was not thought through at all. You should be grateful.’
And so it went on. He kept saying the f*** word. ‘Don’t swear in front of my dress,’ I told him, suggesting maybe he should go. He threw his napkin on the table and walked out. A few minutes later, he returned (I later found out he’d phoned one of my friends; ‘He sounded drunk,’ she said). ‘No, I won’t leave.’ And he continued to rant, shouting something about his high IQ. ‘I’d have thought you’d appreciate doing a good deed for a change,’ I told him, ‘ rather than lying on your bed smoking, watching Corrie and playing computer games.’
I couldn’t touch either of the next two courses. The party was moved outside so the room could be readied for dancing. David started sobbing, turning his face away, leaning over, his head in his hands. My brother, the father of the bride, looked on, shocked. I decided the only recourse was to leave, so I staggered to the gate of the park, phoning for a taxi on the way. Thank God that in my bag I had a set of keys to the apartment.
I had left the wedding, an occasion I had looked forward to for nearly two years, had planned for and borrowed the perfect outfit for, and given the bride the perfect gift. As I sped away, I looked at my phone. It was a quarter to six in the evening. For me, the wedding had lasted just three hours.
‘‘ DAVID STARTED SOBBING, LEANING OVER, HIS HEAD IN HIS HANDS’’