AN: Epigraph from 'First Time I Ever Saw Your Face' – originally written by Ewan MacColl.
Sonnet is 'Sonnet 18' - William Shakespeare.
'The first time I ever saw your face,
I thought the sun rose in your eyes,
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and empty skies, my love
To the dark and empty skies.'
Three And A Half Years Later.
"What if she's late? What if she doesn't turn up? I can't stand up by the altar by myself whilst everybody whispers about how I've been jilted!"
"David, calm down." Gareth said, composed as he brought out a pack of cigarettes and lit one up. Smoking had become a greater-growing habit of his over the past six months. "You've got to be mental if you think that Amber would ever back out of this. If I remember correctly, it's you that has been getting cold feet whilst she's been rabbiting on about caterers and floral designs."
"Cold toes, not cold feet." I corrected him, trying to breathe more evenly. "Anyway, I'm the one that's here, whilst she's… I have no idea, where is she?"
"We're not telling you that for your own safety." He flicked the end of his butt, sprinkling ash upon the concrete of the parking lot out the back of our chosen venue – the stately home from the night of How - I – Met – Your – Mother, which it was still referred to as. "Anyway, Charlotte's texted me and said that Amber's extremely excited and can't wait to get here. You're forgetting that you're not actually due to be married for another two hours."
"Right. Yes, of course." I slowly nodded, resisting the urge to grab the packet out of his hand and smoke the entire lot myself, despite how my views upon the disgustingness of it had not changed. "But what if – Duncan stay away from that car!"
There was a high-pitched squeal in return. "But Dad! She's gonna get me!"
Gareth smirked, raising a cocky eyebrow at me. "See, all those years ago, I told you that my kid was going to beat your kid at everything."
"She's not beating him. She's just cornered him with help."
There was a click and the door opened behind us, an amused looking Chris stepping out. "What's going on here?"
"Ash and Summer are totally thrashing Duncan at chase, and David's in denial over it."
"They are not beating him! It's unfair – two against one!"
"That's my boy!" Chris called over to where his annoying offspring was horribly bullying my own. "Anyway, it's not unfair, because Duncan's older than both of them."
"Pft, by a month. You just think it's more because his vocabulary extends over 'Ma', 'Da' and 'Teddy'."
He frowned at me. "Ash can say more than that!"
"Actually, now that that topic's been brought up, Summer leant a new favourite word last week." Gareth cut through before I could end up on the floor with a black eye. That would never have been good.
"What was it?"
"Bollocks." He miserably said at the two of us cracked up laughing, all earlier disagreements forgotten. "I was shouting it at the football results and she hadn't stopped saying it since. I swear that Charlotte is going to kill me if she carries on."
"Well, as long as she doesn't pass it on, I don't mind." I grinned at him. "I've had enough of that after the whole 'kiss my ass' palaver last month."
"That was brilliant." Gareth slowly shook his head, smiling. "I was proud to call him my guide-son."
"It was you who taught him it in the first place. His brain is like a sponge, you can't say anything in front of him anymore! The bad thing is that half the time I don't even realise he's in the room until he pipes up from behind 'Daddy, what does that mean?'. A couple of months ago, I was getting into a bit of dirty talk with Amber in the front room, revolving around what I would have liked to have done to her breasts, when I suddenly hear this little voice of confusion saying 'Why would you want to do that?'. Least to say, I didn't get to do it."
Before either of them could reply to me, a scream cut across the concrete and a tiny, brown-haired figure streaked his way over to me from behind a nearby silver Mazda, burying his face in my trouser leg and sobbing. He was shortly followed by his two 'friends', who stopped a couple of metres short of us, trying to look angelically innocent with the additional factors of blue eyes and blonde hair. Devil children, more like.
"What did you do to him?" I exclaimed, bending down to try and find out why Duncan was crying so hard.
"We didn't do nothing." The taller of the two, Summer, said with much indifference. "He was running away and fell over."
Finally managing to get him to stop burying his head in my shoulder, I was met with the horrific sight of blood covering the bottom half of his face. He seemed oblivious to this until then, where he touched his hands to his chin, pulling them back to find bright red spattered across them, thus bawling even harder.
Amber was going to fucking kill me if she found out.
Scooping him up and upon my hip, I was met with a shrugging Gareth. "I told you that dressing them before they went outside and played was a bad idea. His trouser legs are too long."
"Actually," I struggled to open the door whilst I was being practically strangled by a small pair of skinny arms. "I said that. You said that it would be better to do it earlier and not have to worry."
The six of us traipsed inside and through to a room which had been given to us specifically for dressing. Sitting him down on a table top, I grabbed a first-aid box and proceeded to wipe away the blood with an antiseptic wipe, quickly deducing that most of it had come from his nose and thankfully not cuts. The bleeding stopped after five minutes of me tilting his head back and pressing an ice-pack to the bridge in-between his eyes. He only had a small graze under his chin, which was barely noticeable but still, he insisted on wanting a plaster.
"It'll make me look tough!"
"You don't want to look tough." I said, ruffling his hair as I packed the kit away. I was not going to leave any obvious signs for Amber that he had been hurt whilst in my care. It had been hard enough to persuade her to look after him the past couple of days that our 'friends' had made us spend apart. Apparently, it made the wedding night so much better. What they didn't know was that she had been refusing to have sex with me for the past three months precisely for that reason. I hated getting married.
Duncan, however, was having none of it. "I do! I don't want to be a wimp because-" And then I shut him up by slotting a lollipop into his mouth from the pack of sweets that I had brought to keep the troublesome trio quiet throughout the ceremony. Ash and Summer immediately started clamouring for one as well, and whilst I thought that it was extremely wrong to reward them for being the cause of my son face-planting into tarmac, I wasn't in the mood for listening to whining.
As the three of them happily sucked away, the best of friends once more, I noticed with great panic the blood spattered down the front of his dress-shirt and the scuffs upon his formal trousers. "Please say that we brought spare clothes!"
"Of course." Gareth rolled his eyes. "If there is one thing that I have learnt as a father, it's to always bring a change of outfit. They're in the car – I'll go get some now."
As I began to unbutton his ruined shirt, Duncan tried to furiously bat me away. "I can dress myself."
"I don't care." I sternly told him, to which he instantly hushed. "We're getting this done quickly." Gareth thankfully returned quickly and we soon had him dressed neatly once more and then forbidded all three of them to get dirty once more – my heart couldn't take the stress.
"You should really think about getting dressed yourself." Chris told me, already decked out in his suit himself. "And take a shower whilst you're at it; you stink of smoke."
"That's your fault." I sternly told a chuckling Gareth, and then stormed off to try and get rid of the pungent smell which I hated so much.
An hour later, I returned, smelling of body wash and aftershave rather than sickly burnt chemicals, to find all five of them peacefully playing a game of snakes and ladders. It seemed to be going okay, other than the red and watery eye which Duncan had, Chris telling me that he had gained it from a peeved Summer, who'd poked him in it whilst being sure that he was cheating. For the record, he most definitely did notcheat.
Anyhow, Gareth looked up at me, from where they were sitting cross-legged on the floor dressed in a suit matching my own, smirking at I attempted to slot a cuff-link through my shirt sleeve. My younger self had been very naïve in thinking that my old tuxedo which Amber had ruined would be the worse suit that I had ever owned. My wedding one was so much worse – I swear that tailors just have an aim to cut the blood circulation off in every extremity of your body. This seemed to be at everyone's laughing expense, other than my own, and especially for Gareth. "David, I am disappointed in you!" He said, mockingly scowling. "I expected you to stay loyal to your home country and wear a kilt on your wedding day!"
"Yeah, well, I'm not a skirt man." I mumbled through one of the links which I was holding between my teeth to have both hands spare. "Plus, Amber says my ass looks nicer in trousers."
"Daddy, you just swore!" I was informed by a rather gleeful Duncan.
"No, I didn't. 'Ass' isn't swearing."
"You told me that it was."
"Not for grown-ups." I finally managed getting one of the links in, taking the other out from my mouth. "Grown-ups can say it, but not little boys."
With an exasperated groan, Gareth stood up and came over to help me. Took him long enough. "So, not even a bit of tartan?" He teased.
"Actually, yes." I brought out the two fly plaids from my jacket pocket which I had dumped over a chair back, motioning for a reluctant Duncan to come over. Bending down to his eye level, he let me pin it to his left shoulder with a silver broach and then ran back over to finish his game.
Gareth feigned being sad, shaking his head. "That is tragic."
"How? And help me put mine on, will you?"
He reluctantly did so, the pin being a lot more fiddly with mine – family heirloom. "I could understand you – you're a patriotic git. But making your son do so, who is actually English? It's wrong, mate."
"No, he's actually Scottish. He's got more highland blood him in him than the weak flatland stuff. Amber's actually half Scottish, unknowingly to a lot of people. Anyway, it's in the formal Grant tartan and not even a full-length sash. I'd just like to pay a little tribute to my heritage without having to wear a kilt and woollen socks." Glancing at the clock on the wall, my stomach gave a nervous squeeze as I realised that it was only half an hour until the ceremony was due to begin. "You do have the rings, don't you?"
"Of course." He huffily said, pushing one hand into his trouser pocket to take the box out. Why I had ever asked him to be my best man was beyond my current reasoning. With a jolt of pure terror as he pulled his hand back out, turning his empty pocket inside-out, I came to realise that my absolute motherfucker of a best friend did not have the wedding bands which I had entrusted him with.
"You've lost them?" I roared, grabbing hold of his lapels and getting ready to throttle him.
"No! They'll be in the car!" He exclaimed, trying to kicking me in the groin as Chris had to drag me off backwards.
"They better bloody well be!"
"I'll go get them." He stumbled backwards, huffily brushing down his jacket and darting out of the room before I was released. Heavily sitting down upon a plastic chair, I groaned, grabbing my hair in my hands and messing up the style that I had spent ten minutes perfecting.
"It'll be okay." Chris tried to reassure me. "If the worst comes to the worst, you can always use the Haribo rings from the sweet packet."
"Thanks, Chris. That makes me feel a lot better." I sarcastically muttered, continuing to pull at my hair. "This had to happen to me, didn't it? Not even my wedding day could go smoothly."
It was a couple of minutes later that a squeal of a car-alarm cut through my attempt at calming down. If there was something I knew about car-alarms and Gareth, it was that the two were usually coinciding and could never mean something good. Standing up, I somewhat angrily made my way back outside to the car park, Chris following me as a bodyguard for Gareth's sake. The man himself was standing next to his truck, desperately yanking at the door handle, without any success. "What is going on?"
He shrank against the bodywork, looking actually scared of me for the first time ever. "Ah, well… See, when I got Duncan's clothes earlier, I may have accidently locked my keys in the car, so I can't get in…"
"You did WHAT?" I furiously surged towards him, Chris barely able to hold me back this time. "How the hell can I get married if you've locked the fucking rings in the car? Do you have a spare key?"
"Um, yeah, at home." He sheepishly muttered, scuffing his foot on the ground. "But it would take an hour to get there and back."
"AN HOUR? I'M GETTING MARRIED IN TWENTY FUCKING MINUTES!"
"You'll have to hold it off until then, I guess?"
As I slowly managed to control my irregular breathing and livid temper, Chris gradually let go of me. "David, stop shouting… Guests are arriving and they can probably hear you."
"Yes, arriving for a wedding which can't happen because the best man has locked the bloody rings in his car!"
Gareth uncertainly frowned, ever trying to change the topic in typical Gareth-manner. "Wait. If the three of us are out here, who's watching the kids?"
"Oh shit." With those as his parting words, Chris proceeded to sprit back inside as fast as his attire would let him, which left me to deal with Gareth alone, without protection this time.
Much to his surprise, I did not attack him, but rather set to work to finding some sort of heavy object. I was rather pleased to find a stack of bricks under a tarpaulin cover on the far side of the car park. Returning with one of them in my hand, he gave me an apprehensive look. "What are you doing with that?"
Not giving him an answer, I simply walked up to the driver's side, raised my hand and then threw the brick full-force through the window. As it smashed with a loud cracking sound, accompanied by the sirens being set off once more, I pushed my hand through the hole the had been made and grabbed the keys which had been sitting on the seat, quickly silencing the alarm with the fob. Opening the door itself now that the car was unlocked, I motioned for him to get inside with one hand. "Get them, then."
All the time that I had been vandalising his baby, he'd simply stared, speechless and slack-jawed. However, it didn't last long. "What the fuck, David? What did you do that for?"
"Um, because you locked my wedding rings in there?"
"You're paying for the repairs." He pointed an angry finger at me, climbing in.
Happy that I was no longer ring-less, I walked around the bonnet to the other side and got into the passenger side. He was half over his own chair, rootling through the junk spread over the back seat. I sat there for a moment, relaxing until I recognised the faint sound of a song coming from inside his storage box. "Wait… Is that my phone?" He had taken it off of me the previous morning, so that I couldn't contract Amber. I presumed that her friends had done the same to her, but as I listened more intently, I recognised the tune. "That's Amber's ringtone!"
I quickly reached forwards, opening it and quickly spotting my phone. The caller ID did, in fact, prove that it was her. "Hey!"
"David? I –"
The rest of her sentence was cut off and Gareth jumped on top of me, wrenching the phone out of my hand. "Listen, Amber doll, you can't speak to him. Don't worry though; he's here, eager to marry the panties off of you and all is running smoothly! Ciao, babes." And with that, he hung up.
Pissed off, I shoved him off and back into his own seat and he turned my phone off, slotting it into his blazer pocket. "That could have been important!"
"Don't be stupid; she'd just be worried that you'd bolted. Now," He reached over me, pulling a navy blue velvet ring box out of his stack of CDs. "here we are! I told you that I had them." Opening it up, he showed me contents. "And see, they're both in here. Let's get you inside and dressed properly – you are getting married, you know!"
Acting as if I hadn't just smashed up his car, and he hadn't almost wrecked one of the most important days of my life, he slid out of his seat, shut the damaged door and walked nonchalantly back off inside. It took me a couple of minutes of just composing myself until I followed him inside. It was a bit of a havoc in there anyway – both Chris and Gareth frantically trying to clean the kids up. Chris looked up at me, from where he was scrubbing Duncan's face with a wet cloth. "They got at the chocolate supply… It could have been worse. Let's just hope that they're not sick during the ceremony."
Even that didn't faze me – I had suddenly become extremely calm. Everything was going to be okay. I was here, Gareth had the rings, the venue was quickly filling up and Amber was going to arrive soon. We were going to get married. Nothing else could go wrong – my karma had already levelled out. After pulling on my waistcoat and jacket, doing all the buttons up so that I was presentable, Gareth pinned my rose and lucky piece of heather to my lapel, and I turned my attentions to fixing my hair which had brutally been so messed up.
At the clock hands eventually turned to quarter to one, we all made our way through to the hall where the ceremony was due to begin at one o'clock. It was in the exact same room which Sheila had held her charity function five years before. The reception was to be held in a large, hired marquee on the outside lawn, just in-front of the lake. The room was already full; most people in their seats, talking away, with a few bustling about, making a final few tweaks to the décor – a colour scheme of red and white with Amber had chosen. Sheila herself was one of these people, and rushed up to me, giving me a heart hug. "I am so excited!"
"And you should be, Mother-of-the-bride." I teased as she finally let go of me. "I can say that I'm pretty excited as well, for some reason."
"Oh, stop." She laughed, taking Duncan's hand and speaking to him. "Now sweetheart, we're going outside, okay? To wait for Mummy." She led him, as well as Summer and Ash, down the aisle to the entrance down that end. Our two little page boys and quarrelsome bridesmaid – what a trio.
"Ready, David?" Gareth grinned, giving me a hearty pat on the back. "Not to scare you anything, but this is it."
"Nothing you could say would scare me. I'm ready for this – I want this more than anything"
"Tosser." He laughed, changing the topic to something revolving the latest football results, to which I didn't pay much attention. Instead, I simply scanned the seated crowd for familiar faces. Amber's side of the guest list had been about five times the length of mine, but that didn't matter. I had everyone who I wanted, seated in the first few rows on the right side of the room; my father, every one of my sisters, their partners and the gang of nephews and nieces that I was beginning to lose track of. Kidding there – although there were a lot of them. And despite everything, I had Gareth – the best mate that a guy could ever ask for.
As the hands on my watch slid towards one and smoothly past it, I began to grow tense. It wasn't until half past that anyone bothered to say anything about it to me, the person then being Gareth. He was, strangely, in his supporting persona at this point. "Don't worry about it – brides are always late. I've heard that the average amount is by half an hour."
But as the two tiny pieces of metal carried on moving, I still heard no word of her whereabouts. Twenty to, quarter to, ten to and the two o'clock came and passed without any commotion more than an uncomfortable shifting from the guests. By this point, I was sitting on the altar steps with Gareth beside me, trying not to rock back and forth. "Why isn't she here? I had a bad feeling that this would happen. Doesn't she love me? She doesn't want to marry me – it's obvious."
"Of course she wants to marry you." He firmly said. "She's just been held up."
"She's an hour late." I hissed. "If they'd been held up, they would have called or –" I stopped myself, remembering. "She did call and you hung up! That would have been her, telling me that she couldn't go through with it and so that I wouldn't make a fool of myself like this. Oh god, what have I done?"
"Nonsense, she'll be here. Trust me." He laid a comforting hand on my arm. "She will be here."
Another half-hour passed with no news. Duncan came running up the aisle at one point, climbing into my lap. "When's Mummy going to be here? I miss her."
"I don't know, Dunc. I really don't know." I murmured into his hair, trying not to start crying. I could hear the sympathetic whispers reverberating off the walls.
"But she is going to be here, right?" Before I could reply to him with an answer I didn't even know, he continued. "Grandma says that she's going to be here soon, and Grandma's always right."
"Yeah, she is." I whispered, kissing his forehead. "Mummy will be here soon. She's just… been held up." I was reassuring myself as well as him.
He eagerly nodded. "Yeah, that's what Grandma said, so it's gotta be right."
Another fifteen minutes came and went.
I was on the verge of running out when Sheila burst through the doors, hurrying up to me. "She's here!" She whispered happily, and with those two words, she released all of my doubts and worries to wash away. "She said something about cattle escaping from their field and blocking up the road. They had no phone signal there, so they couldn't call us and say so." With that, she ran back again, taking Duncan with her.
I stood up, relief overwhelming me as Gareth straightened out my collar and jacket so I looked immaculate. We took up our places on the steps, the registrar in front of us, whom I had to persuade to stay longer by promising to pay him triple. Finally, there was a hush and my three tiny musketeers made their way up the aisle, Summer in the middle with Duncan and Ash holding her hands on either side, all beaming their gorgeous little heads off. It was when they reached us, Duncan happily flinging his arms around one of my legs and fiercely hugging it before being quietly called away by Sheila, that the piano chords for the bridal march began.
Amber, with Tony by her side, turned into the aisle and began to make her way up it, to hushed sighs of delight. It was like seeing her for the first time again – I was consumed by a rush of love on a whole new level that I had never thought to be possible. I came to realise that I was easily the luckiest man alive then – to have her walking towards me, dressed in the most elegant gown, and about to make that final pledge of commitment. My life was prefect.
I could only grin as Tony passed her hand into mine, giving it a fierce squeeze which was quickly returned. "We are gathered here today…"
As the registrar began, I could only turn to look down at her by my side, whispering "You look so beautiful."
Her nervous smile greeted me in return as she replied in a hushed tone. "Are you okay? I'm so sorry that we were so late –"
"It's fine. I'm fine – now that you're here. I love you so much."
"I love you too."
The ceremony was short a simple – a couple of blessing, a few moralising words and it was not long until it began to end. "The step which you are about to take is the most important into which human beings can come. It is a union of two people founded upon mutual respect and affection. Your lives will change, your responsibilities will increase, but your joy will be multiplied if you are sincere and earnest with your pledge to one another."
Turning to look at me, he spoke directly. "David, will you have this woman to be your wedded wife, to love her, comfort her, honour and keep her, and forsaking all others, keep you only unto her, for so long as you both shall live?"
" Amber, will you have this man to be your wedded husband, to love him, comfort him, honour and keep him, and forsaking all others, keep you only unto him, so long as you both shall live?"
"I will." She said so quietly, that I thought it would only be the three of us who would have heard it – it was not quiet from fright, but rather joy.
I turned towards her, taking both of her hands in mine, repeating the registrar's words, despite already knowing them by heart. "I, David Grant, take you, Amber Reeve, to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, to love and to cherish, from this day forward."
"I, Amber Reeve, take you, David Grant, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, to love and to cherish, from this day forward."
Gareth stepped forwards at this point, passing us both our respective rings, not having lost them in the past couple of hours – it was miracle. As I slid it upon her small finger, her returning it to me a few moments later, I knew that this moment would only happen once, and I savoured it in every single way. "With these rings, I thee wed. Let them be given and received as a token of your affection, sincerity and fidelity to one another.
In as much as David and Amber have consented together in wedlock and have witnessed the same before this company, and pledged their vows to each other, by the authority vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride."
Now, this was the moment of which I had been completely unsure how to undertake. Previously, a great part of me had wanted to go completely overboard and sweep her off her feet, lay her backwards over my knee and really smack one on her lips, but as I cupped her cheek in my hand and bowed my head to hers, I knew exactly how it was supposed to be – short, simple and absolutely prefect.
It was many hours later, after photographs, the meal and a lewd speech from Gareth, that the customary first dance between husband and wife was to take place. I managed to climb upon the hired band's stage – a great feat considering the amount of champagne I had drunk and how giddy I was from excitement, and commandeered the microphone. Duncan scrambled up after me, tugging at my waistcoat until I picked him up and held him upon my hip. "Now, I'm not a great one for words," I began, grinning down at Amber below, who was looking absolutely mortified. "but I would just like to take another moment to appreciate my beautiful, intelligent, perfect, devine, sexy – heck, I'm running out of words to describe her, anyway, my amazingly gorgeous wife. Now, this song isn't exactly a conventional first marriage dance, but it was the song to which we danced our first ever dance to. Granted, Amber was petrified and had to stand on my feet for me to lead her, but it was the best moment of my life at that point and it's only got better since – Amber, darling, I love you so unbelievably much."
I had just finished off my rather corny words on a high note I thought, until Duncan piped up "Daddy, you smell funny."
There was a ripple of quite laughter as his voice was caught by the microphone and amplified. "No, I don't."
"Yes, you do." He insisted. "You smell like you do when you come home late after being with Uncle Gareth."
This time, the laughter was unrestrained, the two leading chuckles coming from Tony and Gareth himself. "Oh, be quiet." Tapping Duncan on the end of his nose, I attempted to jump down off the platform, staggering a bit, having to be caught by a grinning Chris. Duncan slid down from my side, running off to find Ash, as Amber stepped forwards and took my hand, giving me a joking eye-roll.
As she wrapped her arms around my neck, head against my shoulder, the song piano's chords starting up, she whispered "How much have you actually drunk?"
"Oh, not a huge amount. Most of this is just love-drunk. I'm so happy, Mrs Grant."
"So am I."
A couple of songs later, when many other people had joined in, I managed to lead her outside without anybody noticing. "Do you remember," I said, giggling and planting a kiss on her adorable nose. "all those years ago, when we stood in this exact spot? It was the first time that we hugged and I was extremely concerned that I was going to lose my sanity and just have kiss you."
Laughing, she nodded, placing her arms around my neck, my own tightly around my waist. "And we stood exactly like this. I believe you quoted Shakespeare to me."
"Of course; whilst nothing could ever describe how much I love you, he came pretty damn close. How about a reminiscence?" Before she could stop me, I started, letting the words come to my tongue which so accurately reached my feelings for her.
"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."
AN: So, here we are, a day and a year after I joined FP, seven and a half months after HDITA was started, and it's the end.
A massive thanks for every single person who had read, alerted, favourited and especially given me feedback for this! One last time, please, please, please leave a review! ~ Woodpecker Who.