It would be a time for love, celebration, tender remembering – and also trusting in the future
The first thing Margot thought when her youngest daughter Beth announced she was engaged was how unbelievably happy she was for her.
Both her girls had been through tough times over the years but it always comforted her that her eldest Sophia had her long-term boyfriend – now husband – Alfie by her side. He was a good egg, and so was Chris, Beth’s now fiancé. She couldn’t have chosen better partners for her beloved girls.
“It’s going to be a Valentine’s wedding,” Beth said happily. “The anniversary of when Chris and I met. We’re going all out – everything pink and red, just all-round romantic and lovely.”
The second thing Margot thought of was the dress. She pictured it folded neatly between layers of tissue paper in the box in the attic, carefully cleaned and put away after its own big day. Her big day. It had been so wonderful to wear, the material silky, the train elegant and glamorous, the bow at the back so sweet and cheerful.
Thinking of the dress brought back so many memories, all of them bittersweet given that her first husband and her daughters’ father, Henry, had died unexpectedly ten years ago. The girls were grown by then, Sophia living with Alfie and Beth at university, but losing their dad had still been a huge blow.
Margot thought that she would never love again. But then a few years later, and to her great surprise, she had met Paul.
He was completely different to Henry. Broad where Henry had been slim, loud and fun-loving where Henry had been more reserved. His unexpected love and laughter had brought her back to life. He was so understanding of her grief, never pushing her for more than she could give and being patient too about stepping into the lives of Sophia and Beth. But over time, they all couldn’t help but fall in love with him – Margot and the girls too.
Margot and Paul had married last year, a tiny registry office affair with Margot in a green suit and her daughters at her side in green jumpsuits. It had been so different from her first wedding – no big ivory dress or extravagant afterparty, but in its own way the ceremony had felt just as meaningful.
Somehow the family had found their way back to happiness. A different kind to what they had before, but happiness all the same. Which was one of the reason’s Beth’s news filled her mother with such joy. To see both her girls settled after all they’d been through and when she’d found her own second chance at love… Well, it’s all she could have hoped for.
“I know it’s very early,” Margot said once they’d all calmed down slightly after the initial excitement of Beth’s news, Paul digging a bottle of prosecco out from the wine rack and putting it in the fridge to cool. “But have you thought about what you might wear, Beth? Only, I had always hoped that one of you girls might wear my wedding dress one day. That’s only if you want to, though, of course.”
Sophia and Alfie had opted for a tiny beach wedding – barefoot, casual and very much them, and very much not suitable for a traditional wedding dress. But Margot had always thought that her dress would suit Beth beautifully, the cream satin perfectly offsetting her dark hair and the pale blue eyes she inherited from her father.
“Oh, I’d love that, Mum, thank you!”
However a few months before the big day, Margot came to wonder whether she had made a terrible mistake. “I”ve been thinking, Mum,” Beth said, the two of them sat in Beth’s living room with notepads and half-made decorations spread out on the coffee table. It was a DIY wedding and the whole family were chipping in, something Margot had been enjoying immensely. Recently retired from a career as a school art teacher, it was great to have a creative project to sink her teeth into again.
“I absolutely love your dress, Mum,” Beth continued, her voice somewhat nervous. “But I’d love to make a few tweaks to make it a bit more me.”
“What kind of tweaks?”
“Well, I was thinking of making it shorter, for one thing.”
A lightning bolt of shock flashed through Margot’s body as she imagined scissors slicing into the fabric of her wedding dress. The dress she had shared her first dance with Henry in. That he had undone so carefully later that night, the two of them collapsing exhausted into bed and falling straight asleep, cuddled up in each other’s arms.
She might wear a different wedding band on her left hand these days, but those memories of her and Henry were still incredibly precious to her – memories that were woven into every single thread of that dress.
She hadn’t wanted to upset her daughter, though, so said nothing.
“It’s your wedding, darling,” was all she could manage.
But she went home feeling dejected. “What’s wrong, my love?” Paul asked, always able to spot when Margot wasn’t feeling quite herself.
“Beth wants to cut up my wedding dress. And I know it was a long time ago now but… I just can’t bear it.”
Paul held her tightly, kissing her tenderly on her forehead.
“I understand why that must be hard for you. That dress means a lot to you, of course it does. All the memories.”
Margot nodded, grateful that he understood without ever feeling threatened. He knew she loved him too.
“But you know, you will always have your memories. Nothing will ever change that. And your dress has been sat in the
A lightning bolt of shock flashed through Margot as she imagined the scissors slicing
attic for years, in a box in the dark. Might it not be nicer to see your daughter wearing it, even if it’s a slightly different version of it? To see her dancing and laughing, happy in it?”
Margot’s eyes welled up again but this time they were happy tears because she knew her husband was absolutely right.
Eventually, after many hours of planning and anticipation, Valentine’s Day arrived. It was a crisp and clear February morning, and Margot arrived early at the stately home where
Beth and Chris were getting married, having been there late last night too, hanging dozens of pink and red heart-shaped balloons alongside her family.
Beth and Sophia were already there, getting ready with Beth’s bridesmaids in the beautiful bridal suite that looked out over the gardens, the trees bare but wrapped in lights that would twinkle invitingly as darkness fell.
A fire crackled in the grate, keeping everyone warm as they got ready in their matching dressing gowns.
“Mum!” exclaimed Beth as her mother arrived, flinging her arms around her in a tight hug that reminded Margot of when her grown-up daughter was a little girl.
“You look gorgeous,” Margot said. Beth didn’t have a spot of make-up on yet and her hair was piled loosely on the top of her head, but it was still true.
The women all got ready together, drinking fizz and hot chocolate, laughing and chatting as the bright winter sun shone in through the windows and the guests eventually began to arrive.
A buzz of excitement filled the room as Beth disappeared into the bathroom with Sophia to get into her dress, Beth’s hair now styled in loose but elegant waves, her make-up simple but striking.
A few minutes later the door opened and Margot drew in a sharp breath.
It was her first time seeing the dress since Beth had the alterations made. The train was gone, and the hemline now fell at Beth’s knees, the skirt held out with layers of pink and red petticoat. But somehow, despite being so different it was also still very much the same dress.
The buttons and bow at the back were still there. The cream satin still shone and moved exactly how Margot remembered when she wore it herself. It was her dress but it was also Beth’s dress.
“You look perfect, darling.”
“Are you sure? I was so worried you wouldn’t like it.”
“I love it. You look stunning. You’ve brought my old dress back to life. And here, I want you to have this.” She rummaged inside her bag to pull out the pouch she’d been saving for this moment.
“I gave Sophia the necklace I wore on my wedding day, but I’ve kept these for you.” She handed her daughter a pair of pearl and diamond earrings. “Your dad bought these for me for our wedding.”
“Oh, thank you, Mum! They”re perfect. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to wear your dress. So I’d feel like Dad is here with me today.”
“He is with you,” said Sophia, pulling her sister into a hug. “And so are we.”
Margot wrapped her own arms around her two daughters, the three of them held in a tight embrace. Her eyes might have been stinging but most of all Margot felt grateful, for everything that went before but everything that lay ahead of them all too. A happy future.
“Come on – let’s go and get you married, Beth.”
The ceremony ran smoothly, everyone laughing and crying in all the right places. Chris didn’t stop beaming. Everyone agreed the dress was a triumph – the perfect mix of traditional and quirky, like Beth.
Afterwards they all headed to the main reception area, guests drawing in their breath as they saw the room for the first time. Log fires burning, tables draped with pink and red linen, floral arrangements in crimson, blossom pink and white wrapped around the overhead beams. Candles glimmering and pink fizz sparkling in flutes.
The meal was warming and delicious and the wine flowed freely, meaning that by the time the band were setting up everyone was feeling very ready to get up and dance.
It turned out Beth and Chris had secretly been taking lessons, treating everyone to a routine that was equal parts impressive, hilarious and deeply romantic. After the first dance Beth peeled away from her new husband and headed towards her mum. But as she drew closer Margot realised that Beth wasn’t focused on her, but on Paul at her side.
“Will you dance with me?” Beth asked him, holding out her hand.
Margot heard the emotion in his voice. “It would be my absolute honour.”
And Margot watched as two of the people she loved most in the world took to the floor. In the rustle of her daughter’s dress as her stepfather twirled her, Margot heard the whisper of past memories, but also the promise of new ones still waiting to be made.
Author Libby Page weaves her love of vintage fashion into this uplifting tale of friendship and second chances. Set in
Somerset, the story follows Lou as she embarks on her dream of opening a vintage clothes shop, sparking some unexpected connections…
A feel-good novel brimming with hope and inspiration. TheVintageShopOfSecondChances by Libby Page. Orion, HB, £16.99.