This story is dedicated to my very good Internet friend LadyCibelle with whom I've had no communication for a worryingly long period of time now. Would anyone who has direct knowledge of her present situation please contact me?
I sincerely thank those folks from around the world, who have assisted in the preparation this text for posting.
The following is a work of fiction. Any similarity between characters within the story and any actual persons either living or dead is completely unintentional and purely coincidental.
It was big place and, I had to admit impressive. For some inexplicable reason the modern exterior hid an interior decked-out in the style of an ancient baronial castle, kind-a like the lavish film sets you sometimes see in films. Basically a Victorian interpretation of an ideal medieval castle: they actually didn't have the technology to build large or extravagantly as that in the real old days.
One thing I knew for sure, was that the wedding wouldn't have been located in such an establishment, had I'd been footing the bill. But hey, my ex-wife Shona had made damned sure that would never happen many years before.
I really thought I'd found myself a safe secluded spot, (tucked away in a pseudo-Minstrels Gallery that doubled-up as spot-lighting tower and projection room) from where I could watch the ceremony but not be seen by anyone on the floor of the main hall below.
I had been well aware that my presence – should it become known – would prove to be somewhat controversial to say the least, and would probably lead to an unfortunate confrontation between my one time in-laws and myself. I also had been pretty convinced that my daughter would not have best pleased should that happen. I even had it figured that Tamsin would have been even less pleased to learn of my presence than The Witch and George (her side-kick husband) would be.
Anyway, there I was, quietly tucked away in the back of the – usually ignored – minstrels' gallery, from where I could observe my estranged daughter's wedding, when suddenly a voice whispered right in my ear.
"Hi handsome! I figured you wouldn't pass-up on this little shindig!"
To say the sound of that voice gave me a start, would be putting it mildly. I quite literally leapt off the fishing stool I was perched upon and crashed to the floor. Yeah well, if I was low-down sitting on that little stool and observing the service through/between the balustrade's bars, I'd figured there'd be less chance of anyone spotting me.
The clatter that little aluminium stool had made as it tumbled to, and then skidded across, the stone floor of the minstrels' gallery had to be have been witnessed to be believed. I figured that all chance of my presence remaining clandestine had instantly evaporated.
From my new position – flat on my back on the floor – I looked up and saw 'Trouble' towering over me. My daughter's very embarrassed looking Aunt, was making frantic apologetic gestures with her hands towards the body of the hall below.
Megan – or "Trouble" as I'd humorously nicknamed her in our younger days – was, or rather had been, my ex-wife's mischievous younger sister. Megan had very often been the bane of our courting years.
A glance between the bars of the balustrade informed me that my hidey-hole had suddenly become the centre of attention for almost everybody in the building. Bride, groom, celebrant, photographer, choir, film-cameraman and most of the congregation were all staring up at Megan with annoyed and/or somewhat puzzled expressions on their faces.
So I flattened myself to the floor as best I could and prayed that no bugger had noticed me. Megan after, signalling that the service should proceed, picked-up my little stool and delicately plonked her own pert derriere upon it.
From my prone position I could no longer see the floor of the main hall, but I could just about hear what was going on below and I soon gathered that the wedding service had resumed. I kind-of hoped the incident had been put down as one of Megan's stunts. Megan's penchant for outlandish behaviour and the unexpected were legendary within the family, even when she had been a child.
"It's okay, you can watch now." Megan whispered. "Sorry, I didn't mean to make you jump, Billy."
"Make me jump woman. You damned near gave me a bleeding heart attack! Where did you learn to creep around like that, Megan?" I whispered, as I manoeuvred myself into a position from which I could observe what was happening below. Well, it was obvious to me that I'd lost the use of my little stool for the duration.
"Oh, I kind-a picked it up as a kid, sneaking up on a couple of lovers I used to know." She glanced down and winked at me.
"You cheeky little monkey!"
"I'm not so little now, Billy boy. You just watch your step or you might find yourself getting ravished later."
"Oh no I won't, Megan. I'm on the four-thirty train out of this bleeding hell hole!"
Megan glanced down at me again. Made a strange (but oddly familiar) gesture with her eyes – that I seemed to recall implied "That's what you think!" -- and then gestured towards the service below with her hand. Effectively informing me that the conversation was suspended until after the ceremony had run its course.
I'd always liked Shona's little sister. Yeah, sometimes she'd been a real pain in the ars ... backside while Shona and I had been courting. But Shona had ever been less tolerant of 'Trouble's' antics than I. Megan had always struck me as basically a good-hearted kid who wanted attention. There had been a good four years between the two sisters; a recipe for strife if ever I saw one. I'd always figured that Megan just hadn't understood that her elder sibling, and I of course, required a little privacy now and again.
The service over, I did my best to get a good look at the groom as he paraded Tamsin out of the hall. Not that the angle made that a simple task if I were going to remain out of sight. From what I could make of the lad, he looked a decent enough chap to me.
Luckily everyone appeared to be so focused on the bride and groom, that I don't think anyone even glanced up at the Minstrels Gallery again.
But, the moment the cortège had passed out of sight below us, Megan began attempting to drag me to my feet.
"Come-on Billy, we'd better get down to the dining room!"
I resisted Megan's frantic pulling at my arm, trying to stay safely out of sight until all of the guests had vacated the hall.
"Megan there's no way in hell I'm going to show my face at that reception. Jesus, I'd end up in the slammer!"
"Don't talk nonsense, Billy; it's your own daughter's wedding! Why would the police want to arrest you?"
"Well, there's that bleeding restraining order for starters!" I blustered.
"No Billy, Shona's dead now and she's the only person named on that restraining order. When he killed her, that order instantly became null and void."
"What do you mean, he killed her?" I demanded, almost leaping to my feet. "It was an accident ... wasn't it?"
"Billy, that bleeding tosser always drove like a bloody idiot ... still does come to that! That geezer was ... is a disaster waiting to happen every time he gets behind a damned steering wheel. Have you any idea how fast he was going that day?"
"I know very little about it, Megan!"
"I saw the skid-marks on the road, Billy. He was driving like a bleeding idiot that night, just like he always does. I just can't understand how he wasn't prosecuted for killing my sister. Even Tamsin knows who is to blame for her mother's death. You'll have noticed that he wasn't down there today; he wasn't invited!"
"Neither was I, Megan!"
"Yes you were ... in a round-about way. It was just that I couldn't find you to let you know. Look here, my invite says 'Ms Megan Stone and guest!' No provisos or anything. Guess who my guest is going to be?"
I laughed out loud.
"You've got to be joking Megan. Me, turn-up at a Stone wedding? Been there once remember my girl ... and you recall how that turned out in the long term!"
"The fact that my sister was a silly cow, has nothing to do with it, Billy. You are Tamsin's father and ... Jesus, you should have been down there today, giving her away - not her grandfather!
"Now you and I are going to attend the reception together and I don't want to hear any nonsense about restraining orders. My Uncle Albert assures me that there are no legal grounds for you not to attend as my guest. As a matter of fact, he thinks it's a damned good idea. He was always in your camp, you know; even when things got messy."
"I kind-a wondered why the old bugger didn't represent Shona." I commented.
"Look Billy, if my Uncle Albert had thought he could have got away with it, I'm damned sure he'd have represented you for free. He was singularly unimpressed with my sister's behaviour back then and really laid into her ... and my mum and dad over it. He blatantly refused to represent Shona. To the best of my knowledge, he and mother haven't spoken two civil words to each other since."
"The only time I've seen them in the same room together was at Shona's funeral. I think Uncle Albert was a little disappointed that you were a no-show that day."
.... There is more of this story ...