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The wedding veil, p.1
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       The Wedding Veil, p.1

           LibO'Neill
 
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The Wedding Veil
The Wedding Veil

  A Short Fictional Story by Libby O’Neill

  Copyright 2015 Libby O’Neill

  It happened on an ordinary Monday in autumn while Janet was walking to her daughter’s house. She was on her way to feed her daughter’s cat, a favour performed many times before, but this time was special. Her daughter and son-in-law were away on their honeymoon. It was late autumn and it had been a spectacularly sunny day. She smiled as she walked, facing the bright sun head-on until her eyes watered a little and made her squint behind her sunglasses. The leaves of trees and shrubs were in various states of change and colour. A row of large plane trees had created a carpet of crunchy brown and yellow fallen leaves along the edge of the road.

  Janet was carrying a thin plastic shopping bag in one hand and she flipped the handles around her wrist to secure it and swung it gently as she walked. The contents of the bag were as light as a feather. Tucked up safely in the bottom of the bag was a puffy roll of tulle material with delicate beading on the edges. Janet was returning her daughter’s wedding veil which she had carefully laundered by hand the day before. The wedding dress was still at the dry-cleaners. They said it might take a few weeks. Janet had taken care of the dress as a surprise for her daughter, Kris. The kids were due back at the end of the week and Janet was hoping the cleaners would ring before they arrived home - she couldn’t wait to see her daughter’s face when she saw the dress in its special preservation box.

  Janet smiled when she thought again of the wedding and how wonderful the day had been. Everything had gone seamlessly and she treasured every little detail. She’d never forget the day. The whole extended family was still on a high. She thought about how beautiful Kris had looked and how calm and happy she and Matt had been on the day. It still brought a huge amount of emotion to Janet when she thought of them. It was wonderful that they had found each other. All those clichéd sayings sprang to mind ‘a perfect match’ ‘a match made in heaven’ ‘meant for each other’. All Janet knew was that she was glad for them both.

  Everyone had made a special effort on the wedding day. Even Janet’s scruffy, down-to-earth brother had come in from the farm for the happy event, shaved, trimmed, smelling heavenly and donning a dark shirt and a dinner jacket she never knew existed. Yes, that was nothing short of a miracle, Janet thought to herself, and he even got a few looks from some admiring women. Wonders will never cease.

  Janet couldn’t wait to see Kris and Matt’s photos from their holiday in New Zealand. She glanced across the road and suddenly decided to change her route, to take a longer walk, cutting through the centre of the park and looping back around before feeding the cat. As she stepped down the gutter and onto the road she looked to the right, then left and as she started to turn her head towards the right again she noticed a blur of white coming towards her in an awful hurry. Everything went black and all thoughts were lost until she woke up in hospital two days later.

  The young man jerked the steering wheel hard to swerve the vehicle. It was too late. He had already collided with the woman. He knew it was his fault. He’d just thrown his mobile down on the floor of the cabin in disgust. He’d been arguing on the phone with his girlfriend and she’d been nagging him, again, about not making an effort to help her enough at home. It was always something, nag, nag, nag. He’d been getting pretty pissed off and he hadn’t been paying attention to his driving. He’d cut the last corner too close, going too fast, then he’d swerved out and back in again to correct his trajectory, but by the time he’d thrown the mobile phone down he saw the woman too late. He heard the whack. She caught the side of his car and went down. He hadn’t run over her! No way...he wasn’t that much of a maniac! He stopped the car and checked his mirrors, the rear one and the sides as well. He could see her lying on the ground near the gutter and he saw her head move from one side and then to the other. She was off the main part of the road, she’d be safe there close to the gutter, he thought.

  He was sure she moved again. “She’s right!” he yelled out loud. “She’s all right!” he yelled again and slammed both palms down hard on the steering wheel. “She’s gotta be!” He was in an agony of confusion about what to do. He gripped the steering wheel so hard that his knuckles turned white. He glanced around and realised there was nobody about. He didn’t want the woman to sit up and see his car or look at his numberplate, so he dropped the ute into gear and took off.

  Three blocks away and out of sight he stopped the car, screeched to a halt and grabbed his phone from the floor. He realised he’d thrown the phone down without hanging up the call. He shut the call down properly and powered his phone off completely. Had Stacey heard anything? She couldn’t have, the woman hadn’t made any noise, had she? There was no scream or anything like that...was there? He was sweating profusely. “Shit! Shit! Shit!” he kept yelling at the top of his voice. He drove off again. No-one had seen him, he was pretty sure of that. Had the woman seen him? From his memory of things the woman wasn’t looking directly his way. No, he didn’t think she’d seen him. Shit, she better be all right, he thought.

  His mind was racing and as he drove he planned. He headed across town and as far away from that corner near the park as he could get. He was headed for the drive-through car wash place. He’d wash the car then go home and suggest they go to the pub bistro for dinner as a treat. He’d drive Stacey’s car and let her have a few drinks for once if she wanted. That would keep her sweet. He’d have a shower and a shave and put on some clean clothes and tell her she was right and that he’d make more of an effort. “Shit!” he said out loud, again. Had Stacey heard anything? Would she say anything? What else had he said? What had he yelled out after he’d stopped? Damn Stacey and her continual nagging, getting him riled up again. What else could he do? He couldn’t tell Stacey what had happened. He couldn’t get involved with any of that crap back there. He already had a string of traffic charges against him and was on a good behaviour bond. “Shit!”

  That Monday afternoon was unusually warm and perfect for a run. The jogger was fifteen minutes into his circuit at the park. Across the way he noticed a white vehicle speeding off in a hurry, which was what made him glance back at the spot where Janet lay. He was the first to see her. At first he thought it was a roll of carpet or building material that had fallen from a truck until he jogged further along the edge of the park and saw the woman’s head rolled to one side. She was very still. From where he stood he didn’t like the look of it and dashed out a side gate and rushed to her assistance. All he was thinking was, “I have no phone with me.”

  A young mother and her toddler, out for a walk, were the next on the scene, arriving just after the jogger.

  “What happened?” asked the young woman.

  “I don’t know...I saw her lying here and came over. I think I saw a car driving off down that way just before, but I’m not sure,” explained the jogger.

  The young woman looked from left to right as if searching for someone that might know the woman sprawled on the kerb. Thank god she wasn’t out on the main part of the road or they’d have to warn the oncoming traffic. She quickly retrieved her ipone from her large carry bag. “I’ll call an ambulance,” she said to the jogger.

  “Yeah, thanks...I came without mine. Should we move her?” asked the jogger, who was now kneeling beside the inert woman.

  “Better not, better wait until they get here.” She’d seen too many TV shows about how moving a patient can do more harm than good. Leave it to the experts. God, it’s awful, she thought, that could be my mum lying there helpless. “Is she breathing okay?”

  “Yes, breathing...it seems to be normal, but she’s out to it, unconscious,
said the jogger. He looked at the woman’s toddler, sitting patiently in his stroller and smiled an awkward smile. The child just stared at him, taking in the unusual sight before him.

  By the time the ambulance arrived several other on-lookers had gathered around and a few cars had stopped on the side of the road to take a peek at what all the fuss was about. The woman was still unconscious and the paramedics transferred her quickly onto a stretcher and into the back of the ambulance. They had found no obvious identification on her and no phone. They quickly took the names and contact numbers of the jogger and the young mother in case the police needed to speak
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