Miss wrong and mr right, p.1
The M word
A lonely salmon
That Sunday feeling
The woman in black
To be, or not to be
It’s just PR, darling
The Big O
AA vs RAC
The epic trifle
A river runs through it
Sophia Loren's toe
Snakes on a plane
What’s my line?
Shine bright like a diamond
The wrap party
A note from Rob
Miss Wrong and Mr Right
By Robert Bryndza
Miss Wrong and Mr Right © Robert Bryndza 2015
All rights reserved in all media. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical (including but not limited to: the internet, photocopying, recoding or by any information storage and retrieval system), without prior permission in writing from the author and/or publisher.
The moral right of Robert Bryndza as the author of the work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.
This ebook is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely co-incidental.
Thanks to Araminta Whitley, Peta Nightingale, Jennifer Hunt and all at LAW. Thanks also to Stephanie Dagg and to Emma Gillett. To Ján – as ever, your advice, encouragement and support every step of the way are what keep me writing – and big hugs to Vierka, Ricky and Lola.
The biggest thanks go to all my amazing readers who give me so much love and encouragement. Word of mouth is an incredible thing. Thank you for telling people about my books.
This book is dedicated to all the people who dare to dream, and have the courage to make their dreams a reality.
My wedding dress burned easily.
I stood in the field behind the farmhouse on that summer afternoon, the afternoon of my wedding day, with my Mum, my Gran, and my best friend Sharon. It was almost two o’clock.
My wedding invitations stated that at two the reception would begin. I should have been sitting at the top table with my gorgeous new husband Jamie, listening to my Dad make the speech he’d stressed over for the past few weeks. Instead, I was peering into an old oil drum, and watching with morbid curiosity as the satin and lace of my dress puckered and curled, appearing for a moment like caramel, before crinkling, singeing, and then igniting with a whoomph.
The flames shot up high, and our view of the hills beyond rippled and distorted in the heat.
‘Natalie…What are you doing? This is madness!’ cried my Mum.
‘I didn’t even get a photo of you in it,’ said Sharon sadly, her camera hanging off her wrist. She was still wearing her peach-coloured bridesmaid dress.
‘It vas just a dress Natalie, and it made you look like a cream cake,’ said Gran lighting a cigarette. She snapped her gold lighter shut and stuffed it back in her fur coat. My Gran, Anouska, is Hungarian. She came to England as a young girl but has stubbornly held on to her accent.
‘I don’t know how you can say that. She looked beautiful!’ said Mum.
‘She did look beautiful, like a beautiful cream cake, offered up to be gobbled down,’ said Gran. ‘Is that how she vanted to begin her life as a married vooman, as a sugary insignificant object?’
‘Do you know how long it took old Mrs Garret to sew all that lace?’ asked Mum. ‘It cost a fortune! If I’d got here five minutes earlier, I’d never have let you do this.’
The breeze changed direction, blowing a toxic plume of smoke at us. We coughed and flapped for a moment.
‘Natalie didn’t vant to get married!’ snapped Gran. ‘And I paid for the dress…’
‘It doesn’t mean you can burn it. I would have liked to have kept it,’ said Mum.
‘Yes, only to remind the poor girl you think she should hev gone through vith it,’ said Gran. There was a fizzing popping noise as the flames worked their way down to the fake pearls on the bodice. I didn’t say anything; I was still numb with shock. Mum went on.
‘What were you thinking, Natalie? You walked down the aisle on your father’s arm, in front of half the village, and two minutes later you run back up it and out of the church.’
‘I thought you had a tummy upset, Nat,’ said Sharon.
‘How will I show my face in the village? And poor Jamie! That handsome lovely boy,’ cried Mum.
‘Annie, put things in perspective,’ said Gran, flicking the butt of her cigarette into the oil drum. ‘Didn’t I say Natalie vas too young to get married? She’s nineteen. She needs to get out into the vorld…’ She squinted at me against the sun. ‘You’ve got your whole life ahead of you my darlink. You need to try out some different men for size.’
‘She’s not trying any men out for size,’ hissed Mum. ‘She needs to…’
‘What about what I want to do?’ I shouted suddenly. ‘You’re all talking about me as if I’m not here! Can’t you ever be a normal family, and try to understand how I feel? All you’ve done is shout and persuade me to set fire to my dress!’
‘If you didn’t vant me to burn the dress, you should hev opened your mouth, Natalie,’ said Gran.
‘Like the poor girl had a choice. Once you’ve got a bee in your bonnet there’s no stopping you!’ countered Mum. There was an awkward silence. Sharon leant over and grabbed my hand.
My Dad approached us, picking his way across the muddy field. He still had on his morning suit and smart shoes. When he reached us, he peered into the oil drum in disbelief. My dress was now a blackened lump.
‘Bloody hell, is that…?’ he began, but Mum cut him off.
‘Martin, I thought you were going to get changed?’ She slapped at his lapels, brushing imaginary dirt off his suit.
‘I’ve been trying to sort out what to do with my parents,’ he said, fending her off. ‘I dropped them at the Travelodge, they want to know if we’re still having the sit down meal at the pub?’
‘Of course we’re not still having the sit down meal at the pub!’
‘I’m trying to get my head around this, Natalie, did Jamie do something?’ asked Dad. They all turned to look at me. I opened my mouth. Nothing came out for a few seconds.
‘I just, don’t feel ready…’
It sounded whiny and pathetic.
‘When would you feel ready?’ shrilled Mum. ‘Tomorrow? Next week? It would have been nice to know when we were booking the bloody wedding!’
‘I’ll pay you back, all the money,’ I said.
‘With what?’ asked Mum. ‘Money from the DSS? You’ve got no job. You failed all your exams because you were so in love with Jamie. Do you have any idea what you’ve done?’
‘Of course I know what I’ve done!’ I shouted. ‘You think I did it just to spite you?’
‘You need to calm down, Annie,’ said Dad putting a hand on my mother’s shoulder.
‘Don’t you dare tell me to calm down,’ said Mum shaking him off.
‘She vas always highly strung as a child,’ said Gran watching my mother impassively. ‘Some mornings I’d sprinkle a little of my Valium in her Ready Brek, just for some peace and quiet…’
Mum pulled away from Dad and marched off back towards the farmhouse.
‘I’m sorry I never got to hear your speech, Dad,’ I said.
He took one look at the charred dress, shook his head, and followed. Tears began to stream silently down my face. Gran pulled a lace hanky from her handbag and handed it to me.
‘Do you vant a moment, Natalie?’ she asked. I took the hanky, pressed it to my face and nodded.
‘Sharon, let’s go back,’ she said.
Sharon smiled and squeezed my hand. They followed after Mum and Dad, who were halfway across the field to the farmhouse in the distance. I grabbed a stick and poked at the now blackened lump in the oil drum. The tip of the stick caught, and as I pulled it away a string of melted material came too.
After running out of St Bathsheba’s church, I had found myself on a deserted country lane. The local bus had stopped, probably because they didn’t often see a bride in her wedding dress and veil, waving madly from the pavement. I didn’t have any money, so had to exchange my bouquet for a ticket (the driver was off to see a sick aunt when his shift ended, and needed some flowers to take to the hospital). As brides, we’re told it’s so important to have something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue… but what about a bit of cash – if we don’t go through with it?
When I walked into the kitchen, Mum was making a very angry cup of tea, furiously spooning leaves into the pot. Dad had changed out of his suit and was at the table with Sharon and Gran. They were sitting in silence, looking up at the three elaborate tiers of my wedding cake, which had been placed in the middle.
‘The lady from the pub just brought it over,’ said Sharon apologetically. I stared for a moment at the flawless royal icing, topped with a crown of delicate yellow sugar roses. Mum came up to me and held out a long knife.
‘You want me to cut it? Now?’ I asked.
‘Yes, it’ll have to be frozen. We won’t get through it all,’ said Mum.
‘Annie, she doesn’t have to do it right now,’ said Dad.
‘Well, when, Martin? She was happy to let her Gran chuck her wedding dress on the bonfire! When is an appropriate time to…?’ Mum was cut off by a knock at the back door. Through the frosted glass was a peach-coloured blur.
‘Micky! We forgot about Micky!’ cried Mum, running to the door and opening it. My fourteen-year-old sister Micky was standing outside in her bridesmaid dress. She had a pair of white shoes in her hand, having taken them off to wade through the mud up the driveway.
‘Micky, where did you go?’ asked Mum. She put down some newspaper by the door and Micky hopped onto it.
‘And she tells me I vas a bad mother,’ muttered Gran lighting another cigarette.
‘I had a wander through the graveyards, and then got a lift with the man who digs the graves. He had spades in his boot!’ said Micky excitedly.
‘You see Annie, Micky is just fourteen, and already she’s seeking out interesting men,’ said Gran.
‘Oh will you shut up!’ said Mum. She went to the sink, filled a bowl with warm water and set it down by the door. We watched Micky as she washed her feet.
‘What’s going on Nat?’ asked Micky looking up at me. ‘I thought you and Jamie were in love?’
There was a silence. I jumped as the phone rang. Dad went and answered then came back.
‘It’s for you, Natalie. It’s Jamie.’
I shook my head.
‘He’s at the end of the drive, on his mobile phone. He says he won’t leave until you talk to him,’ explained Dad.
‘That poor lad, you at least owe him the decency of an explanation,’ said Mum.
‘Okay… Tell him I’ll come outside,’ I said.
I pulled on some plastic wellies. Mum made a fuss about my hair. I batted her hand away and stepped outside.
Jamie was standing behind the gate at the end of the drive, tall, lean and heart-stoppingly handsome in his wedding suit. He was still wearing his rose buttonhole with a spray of gypsophila, and the sun glinted off his chestnut hair. I walked towards him, my wellies sloshing through the mud.
‘What the hell Nat?’ he said when I approached the gate.
‘I know. I’m so sorry.’
‘That’s it? You’re sorry?’ He opened the gate and went to come in. I put my hand up and went through it joining him on the other side. I closed the gate behind me.
‘I’m not ready…’ I said.
‘How aren’t you ready? You put the dress on, you got in the car… You walked up the aisle?’
I just stared at him.
‘Do you know how humiliating it was? They kept playing the Wedding March over and over again, expecting you to come back… I’ve got cousins who’ve come over from Canada. They’ve spent a fortune on their plane tickets!’
‘When I said I wasn’t ready, I meant…’ I tried to explain, but Jamie went on.
‘My cousins go back in a week. My aunt is already asking if we can do it on another day…’
‘Do what on another day?’
‘Get married. Auntie Jean said she had wedding jitters before she married my Uncle Paul. She said she nearly did what you did, and bolted for it, but they’re still happily married after thirty-five years.’
I looked up at his handsome face. He wanted me to tell him it was just wedding jitters.
‘This is different,’ I said softly.
‘It wasn’t just jitters. I don’t want to get married. Well, I don’t want to get married right now.’
‘When do you want to get married?’ he asked.
‘It could be tomorrow, it could be next week, next month… I could be thirty-five, Jamie. But right now, I don’t want to get married.’
His face clouded over.
‘I thought we were in love,’ he said in a matter-of-fact way.
‘We are, but don’t you think it feels different now we’re not going to university together? We planned to leave home, get away from here and start a new life.’
‘We can retake our exams,’ he said. ‘Try again for university next year.’
‘The college where they do retakes is miles away. We’ve got no car, no money. What if I fall pregnant by accident?’
‘Would that be a bad thing?’
‘So we’d be jobless, homeless, with a baby too?’
‘We could live with my parents.’
‘What? In your bedroom with the beanbag and the Star Wars posters?’
‘Or your parents.’
‘I wouldn’t expose a newborn child to those nutters…’ I said.
Despite himself, Jamie laughed. A lock of his hair fell over his forehead and I reached up and tucked it behind his ear.
‘I just feel that if we got married now, we’d miss out on life. We were so stupid. We did no work for our exams. We just spent all our time…’
‘Shagging?’ grinned Jamie weakly.
‘We did other things too, like, the cinema, and we went for walks,’ I added.
‘And we did shag on several of those walks, and in the cinema. You seemed pretty happy,’ he grinned. He leant in and went to kiss me.
‘Jamie, please can you be mature about this. I’m trying to be serious…’
‘I’m immature am I?’ he said pulling back. ‘Why didn’t you open your gob about this before our families booked a whole bloody wedding?’
‘Everyone got so excited and carried away, and there never seemed a right time… until…’
‘Until you got to the altar?’ he finished. I reached out and
‘Don’t you worry about the future? How your life is going to end up?’ I asked.
He looked nonplussed.
‘Dunno, I don’t really think about it…’
‘Well, I have been thinking about it. I want a decent life, with a career and prospects!’
‘Oh, nice. So life with me isn’t good enough?’
‘It’s not just about you. I don’t want to be stuck here in bloody Sowerton! I don’t want to just be your wife, and get trapped here!’ I shouted, making a grey-haired lady wobble on her bike as she passed us on the road.
‘Natalie. You agreed to marry me,’ said Jamie losing his temper and gripping my arm. ‘You can’t do this! You can’t back out!’
I pulled away, lost my balance and landed on my backside. I sat there for a moment, sinking into the mud and feeling the wet begin to seep through my trackies.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said, helping me up. I stood there for a moment. Jamie ran his finger round the collar of his shirt. He looked so good in his morning suit.
‘So, that’s your final answer. You won’t marry me?’
‘No,’ I said softly.
‘Fine,’ he said. ‘You’ll never have to see me again.’
‘That’s not what I want!’
‘It’s simple. Either you want me or you don’t,’ he said defiantly.
‘So you’re going to blackmail me? Wedding or nothing?’ I asked.
‘Yes, wedding or nothing,’ he said.
We stared at each other for a few moments. He was waiting for an answer, but I couldn’t give it. He turned suddenly and walked away, crossing the road to the green by the pub.
I should have gone after him. I should have gone after him and stopped him, but something held me back. I watched him cross the green, and vanish round the corner into the pub. I burst into tears and for a few minutes had to hold onto the gate until I had composed myself. Then I trudged my way back up the drive. When I reached the back door my mother pulled it open.
‘Well?’ she said grinning hopefully. She grabbed my arm so I could balance and pull off the wellies.