Progress was painfully slow with my development plans. I knew what sort of thing I wanted but getting past that was proving difficult. It was Ruby who provided the solution to my blockage.
I had just finished cleaning out the Hens when she came walking up the drive carrying a large shopping bag.
“Hello Monica, do you have a minute? I need a favour from you.”
“Hi Ruby. Sure. Just let me put this lot of hen droppings into the compost heap and I’ll be with you. Why don’t you go into the kitchen and put the kettle on? I’ll only be a minute or two.”
“Thanks. I’ll do that.”
Five minutes later I entered the kitchen. Rudy was getting things organised so I washed my hands wondering what she wanted.
Over a cup of tea, she told me.
“It is my son’s birthday in a week. The problem is that I have his birthday present. Last year he found his present buried in my wardrobe the day after I’d bought it. I sort of wondered if you’d look after it until his birthday.”
“Sure. It will be my pleasure to do that for you.”
She visibly looked pleased.
“What about your mother? Is the little devil just as inquisitive there as well?”
“Yes, even more so I’m afraid,” she replied with sadness to her voice.
“What did you get him?”
“Some Lego, although I will probably regret it. My brothers had lots and it seemed to get everywhere. I seemed to tread on it almost every day.”
“Boys will be boys eh?” I said remembering my boyhood exploits with the multi-coloured bricks.
“I do love him but there are times when oooohhhhhh!”
“I know exactly what you mean.”
“Did you have brothers?”
I had to think fast.
“No but I was a bit of a tomboy. I was the first women mechanic apprentice at the Pit Garage. A lot of miners were really against it. A woman’s place is in the home and all that. But the law is clear, women can’t be employed underground so I looked after things on the surface. Not that I’d want to work down there. I saw my Da die of ‘Miners Lung’. But the pit has closed now so it does not really matter.”
“Ah, that explains a lot,” she replied.
Ruby went away happy that she had a ‘safe’ place to store the presents. I did feel a tinge of regret that I’d never be in her position but I had a pretty good life now despite the problems in my past.
That evening I went online and purchased a load of Lego. Thanks to Ruby I could work on my plans for the future.
My ‘Lego’ started arriving a few days later and I began to start constructing the building of my dreams. It didn’t take long before the memories of my childhood exploits with the devilish toy started to return. I’d even
won a prize at school for making a Lego model of a Pit Winding House.
My construction efforts were rudely interrupted by a text arriving. Feeling a bit peeved, I looked at it. My anger come frustration disappeared in a flash. The text was from Holly.
“Monica, William asked me to marry him. I said yes. We are off out to celebrate. I’ll call you tomorrow. H.”
I read it several times. A tear formed in my eye. I was happy yet sad. Happy that she’d found happiness but sad that my foster child wasn’t going to come home.
True to her promise, she called me the next evening.
“Hi Holly, how’s life as a Fiancée?”
“They are? That’s a bummer. What do you want to do then?”
“Really? That soon? But will that get them off your back?”
“Let’s hope that they do get the message.”
“Yes. What can I do to help? Well I am sort of the Mother of the Bride aren’t I?”
I giggled at that thought. If only those I once knew could see me now, they’d have a fit before they died laughing.
“I’m sure she’d love to make the cake and no, I’m no further on with my grand plan.”
“Email me the sort of thing you want and I’ll put it to her. What date have you set?”
“That soon? Ok. I’ll get onto it as soon as I get your email.”
Then I took a deep breath.
“As the erstwhile Mother of the Bride don’t forget that I’m paying for it all and I won’t take no for an answer.
Perhaps that will keep William’s Mother from meddling too much.”
“Yes, I am sure. I want it to go off well. Spend whatever you want. I’ll pick up the tab.”
“Yes. I will most certainly not be wearing a hat even if it is for you!”
We both laughed at the thought of me at a wedding in a ‘hat’. Not a pretty sight.
“Ok. Bye for now.”
I hung up the phone with a smile on my face.
William’s Mother and Sisters had been interfering and trying to get the engagement stopped. They considered Holly as not being good enough for their brother. To them she was a money grabbing tramp.
Little did they know eh!
I looked at my pile of Lego on the table and sighed. The design of my grand plan would have to wait for a while longer.
A couple of hours later I received an email from Holly detailing what she’d like for her Wedding Cake.
I read the email with a smile. The requirements were right up Ruby’s street. All I could hope for was that she was available to do the work.
I called Ruby to ask about her availability.
“Hi Ruby, it’s Monica.”
“Yes I’m fine.”
“I was wondering if you are available to make a wedding cake?”
“A couple of weeks. The wedding is in Gloucester. It is for Holly, she’s getting married.”
“Yes, I do approve.”
“Well, are you up for it?”
“Good. I have the design. Can I bring it round?”
“Sure. About an hour. See you soon.”
“Here’s what she sent me,” I said to Ruby as I showed her the email.
“That seems doable. “
“Good. How much is it going to cost me?”
She smiled and said,
“If I were to say nothing you’d say don’t be silly. So how about Fifty Pounds?”
“Let’s call it an even Two Hundred and we have a deal as long as I can be your assistant.”
Ruby shook her head.
“Why do you do this for me?”
“Why shouldn’t I?”
She shook her head.
“I should know by now that I can’t win an argument with you.”
“Argument? I thought we were having discussing the terms of a business deal?”
“Why can’t all my customers be like you?”
“Now that would be a boring place to live and work.”
Ruby shook her head.
“Ok. Deal. Can I come around the day after tomorrow to do the bake?”
“That will be great. That will give me a chance to go and try to find something to wear for the wedding.”
“Where are you going to go?”
“I think I’ll go over to Cardiff. There is not as much choice in Swansea. Why do you ask?”
“Can you get me some colouring for the icing. I’m nearly out of a couple of colours. I can give you a list and the address of my supplier in the City.”
“That will be my pleasure. I’ll probably be leaving early though.”
“Ok. I’ll look through my bits and give you a call later.”
The next morning, I left home bright and early. I wanted to get to Carmarthen so that I could get the train to Cardiff that left just after 08:00. This would get me into Cardiff around 09:30. I could have chosen to drive but the two lanes of the M4 east of Swansea is no fun in the morning rush hour even if I was on two wheels.
I really had no idea what sort of outfit would take my fancy. This was only the second wedding I’d been too since I’d become Monica. The previous one was in Devon and the couple there were well into retirement. This time I had to dress to impress at least a bit in the role of erstwhile ‘Mother of the Bride’.
I spent a good hour just wandering around looking at what sort of things ‘tickled my fancy’. At one point, I held a dress in front of me and looked at myself in the mirror. I couldn’t help smiling. It was times like these that made me realise that I had done the right thing in putting Daniel behind me. Not having to bother about the price of just about anything was starting to become almost second nature. That was a long, long way from my upbringing where every penny counted and often was but I still baulked at paying several hundred pounds for a dress that I’d probably only wear the once.
After what seemed a fruitless search I retired to a Coffee shop and considered my options. Some of the clothes were far too old for me and made me look decidedly frumpy. Others would look good on a twenty-year old but not me. There seemed to be a definite gap in the market for almost ‘thirty-something’ women.
After I’d finished my coffee I started my wandering again. Almost immediately, I had some success. I walked into a small shop that reeked of ‘joss’ sticks. There hanging up in front of me was a beautiful skirt. I knew in an instant, that it was the one for me.
“I’d like to look at that skirt please?” I said to the shop assistant.
She looked me up and down as if to say, ‘this isn’t for you’.
“Are you sure?” she replied.
“Yes I’m sure.”
With a sigh, she came out from behind the counter, took down the skirt and handed it to me.
When I say that it was multi-coloured and floor length you might get the idea. It was almost gypsy in style because of the beading around the hem.
I held it in front of me and could see that it was right for me.
“I’ll take it,” I said confidently.
“Are you sure? Don’t you want to try it on?”
“No, this is exactly what I’m looking for.”
“What is that?”
“Oh, to go to a wedding in. I really don’t like what most of the chains are selling.”
That bought a little smile to her face.
“You need a plain blouse and probably a coloured shawl or wrap for some upper colour.”
I thought for a second and then spied what she was hinting at.
“Like that one up there?” I said pointing at it.
“Yes,” came her reply.
“Then I’ll take the two. I saw some nice frilly white blouses in one of the department stores up the street.”
Back out in the street and carrying my purchases, there was a definite spring in my step. As I headed to the shop where I saw the blouses I wondered about what shoes I’d wear. This was a far cry from my first foray into the world of women’s clothes in Chester.
It was then I regretted not trying the skirt on in the shop. At least then I’d have a proper idea about its length with it on me and also if I’d have to wear heels or flats. Never mind I thought to myself. I have at least one pair of each at home and because of the length of the skirt most people wouldn’t notice what I was wearing one my feet.
I found a suitable blouse in one of the stores I’d visited earlier. This time, I tried it on and decided that I needed a size bigger.
Armed with my purchases, I made my way to the Station only to realise that I hadn’t bought the bits for Ruby. I backtracked to the shop where she said that I could buy the bits and finally headed to the Station in search of a train home.
When I arrived back at the Station I found to my chagrin, I found that I’d just missed a train, which meant that I had half an hour to wait so I went for another drink. This time, I had some tea and a sandwich. The sandwich was ok in that it filled a hole but the tea was quite refreshing.
I was sitting looking at nothing in particular when something caught my eye. It wasn’t something but someone. Someone I knew from Yorkshire. It was my old boss at the pit, George Mason. I froze for a second or so but then relaxed. He wouldn’t be on the lookout for me here let alone as how I looked now.
I sat back and relaxed as he looked around for somewhere to sit. Thankfully, my train west was pulling in so I got up and let him take my place. As I passed him, I gave him a little smile. He looked shocked but said nothing.
When I boarded the train, I relaxed. Overall, I felt quite pleased with myself. Not only had I achieved what I’d set out too for the day but I’d not been recognised by someone I’d worked closely with for the whole of my apprenticeship.
Ruby came over the next day and we got busy preparing to bake the cake.
With the cake in the oven, we had a chance to sit and relax for a while.
“I managed to get my outfit for the wedding yesterday,” I said as I poured us both a cup of tea.
“Oh. What’s it like?”
“Very Hippy. A long multi-coloured skirt with a matching wrap.”
“That’s very you if you don’t mind me saying so.”
“No I don’t mind but why do you say that?”
“You are a very unconventional woman. Very independent and forthright.”
“Us Yorkshire folk are a bit like that.”
“Yes but how many women ride Motorbikes?”
“That’s true but as you say, I’m a little bit different. Now if I were to wear one a pink dress, then that would be a bit odd don’t you think?”
Ruby almost fell on the floor laughing.
When she’d recovered she asked,
“Why is there no man in your life?”
This was a bit of a bolt out of the blue.
“I’ve had more than enough of men to last me a lifetime than you very much.”
After a moment hesitation she asked,
“Are you a Lesbian then?”
“To be honest, I’m not sure. Let me put it this way, no one male or female has rattled my cage since I came to live here. I guess that the jury is out on that one then?”
Ruby breathed a sigh of relief.
“Ruby, you are a friend. A really good friend. I’m sure that there is a decent man out there who would jump at the chance to be a father to Owen.”
“Show me one please?” she said smiling.
“It will happen I’m sure of it.”
“And pigs might fly….” was her downbeat response.
Over the next two days we baked, iced and decorated the cake for Holly’s wedding. When it was finished, I took a picture of it and sent it to Holly and William.
Ruby instructed me on how to put it all together at the Reception. There was a definite knack to it but I seemed to manage sufficiently well in the multiple practice runs that Ruby insisted that I carry out before she was satisfied that I wouldn’t mess up her work of art.
The day before the wedding, I loaded everything into a rental car and set off for Gloucestershire. I was driving a rental because I didn’t want to turn up at the wedding in a decidedly well used Land Rover that smelt of chicken shit.
It didn’t take long for me to find the Hotel where the reception was being held and offload the cake boxes into the capable hands of the Head Chef. He was most impressed by the quality of the decoration. I called Ruby to let her know that a ‘Michelin Starred’ Chef was impressed by her work. The yelp for joy that I heard down the phone made it all worthwhile.
With that done, I headed back to the Motorway and headed for Devon. I had a date in the pub that evening with my former mentor, Julia. She was also going to do my hair and makeup the following morning. I really wanted to look my best as the ‘pseudo’ mother of the bride at the ceremony and reception the next day.
When I arrived in Crediton, Julia was just finishing up with one of her regulars.
As I entered the Salon I spotted them both.
“Hi Julia. Hello Mrs Cartwright. Still having your bi-weekly perm then?”
Mrs Cartwright turned her head as much as she could do because she was under the dryer.
When she saw me, she smiled.
“Hello Monica. Coming back to work again? We all miss you down here.”
“Really? I would have thought that you would have been pleased to see the back of me after some of the mistakes I made during my time here?”
“You were learning my dear. We all make mistakes when we are learning. Besides we all miss your jokes about life in Yorkshire.”
We all laughed.
“Welcome back love,” said Julia. Do you want to go up and put the kettle on? I’ll be done down here in about ten minutes.”
“I’ll do that. I bought some cake for tea. I made it yesterday.”
“Spicy Ginger I hope?”
“Yes. Why would I bake anything else for you eh?”
Mrs Cartwright looked expectantly.
“I think there might be enough for your last customer of the day,” I said teasing her.
“I’m not a charity case young lady.”
“I know that but I love teasing you.”
“And from memory, I seem to recall that you rather liked my cake.”
Mrs Cartwright didn’t answer but from the look on her face, she was looking forward to a slice of my cake.
Bright and early the following morning, Julia started on my hair.
“When did you last have your roots done?” she asked as she looked at my mop of hair.
“Two weeks ago.”
“They didn’t do a very good job.”
“I went to the local college and let one of the students do it.”
“Ok, you are forgiven then. I’m going to do them again. But darling, I hate to say it, you are going a bit grey.”
If anyone other than her had said that then I’d probably have socked them one right there and then.
“I know. Comes to all of us eventually.”
“Speak for yourself. My mother hasn’t got even a strand of grey and she’s in her 60’s.”
“Ok but there isn’t much I can do about it is there? Or do you have some magical potion that cures baldness, grey hair and promotes world peace?”
‘World Peace’ was a standing joke between us. It was a line trotted out by Beauty Queens. As if a mostly dumb blonde would be able to solve the world’s problems.
“No I don’t but some of these new colours are a lot better at hiding it especially if you comb it right. But saying that is a waste of time isn’t it?”
“I know. I know. I should style my hair properly but wearing crash helmets is not the way to keep a style pretty for very long.”
Julia just glared at me as if to say, why do I bother eh?
“There, I’m done,” she announced almost two hours later.
I stood up and walked over to the full-length mirror and did a twirl.
“God, I look almost passable.”
“No darling, you look divine. I’ll wager that you have a queue of men wanting to dance with you.”
“Really?” I replied grinning.
“I was sort of hoping for a few women.”
“No change then?”
I shook my head.
“I’m certain now that I’m really not interested in men. Besides as soon as they find out how much money I have they forget about me and only want one thing.”
“On the subject of money. I’ve been meaning to have a row with you about that letter I got from the bank last week.”
“Oh, you mean the telling you that you don’t owe me any money?”
“Yes, that one!”
I got serious for a minute.
“Julia, I know that you would like to expand. Well now you can. You have a great business and now you don’t owe anyone any money. I think you have earned it. Just remember where you were when I turned up on your doorstep and look at you now? I see a very successful businesswoman. Anyway, think of that as payment in advance for what you have done today.”
She folder her arms and looked at me with a stern expression on her face.
“Sometimes I want to kill you; you know. I know I’ve said it before but thank you for everything you have done for me.”
“Julia, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, without you, I would not be the person I am today which is priceless so shut the hell up and accept that I will never stop wanting to help you out in any way I can. Ok?”
“Yes Boss,” she replied reluctantly and gave me a hug. I had to fight a tear from running down my cheek. I owed her so much that writing off her debt was the least I could do for her.
I arrived at the Registry Office some twenty minutes before the ceremony was due to begin. William was already there with his ‘Best Man’.
“I’m glad you are here. My Mother has been absolute hell since the crack of dawn,” he said.
“That’s what Mothers are for isn’t it?”
“I wish mine was more like you.”
I decided to change the subject.
“Who is this hunk of a Best Man?”
“Monica, meet James Alderton. James was my Captain from my Army days.”
“Pleased to meet you James.”
“Me too. I’ve heard so much about you. I hear that you ride Bikes?”
“Yes but I’m on four wheels today. I don't think I would be let within a mile of this place if I turned up in Leathers...”
“Same here. I have an old BMW R65 that I ride when the wife lets me.”
“Nice wheels in a classic flat twin sort of way,”
“What do you ride?”
“Oh, whatever I fancy,”
“Woman! Get to the point!”
I grinned. I was beginning to like him. The thought, ‘if he wasn’t married….’ Was quickly dismissed from my mind.
“Ok, I have a Triumph Trophy, a Manx Norton 500, a Rocket Gold Star, a Triumph X-75 and a Benelli Sei. I have a Norton Commando on the bench at the moment.”
“You have an X-75?”
“Yeah. I bought it at an auction last year.”
“Was it the one that was sold at the Goodwood Festival of Speed?”
I nodded my head.
He turned to William and said,
“This girl is cool. Seriously cool and she has money. Serious Money.”
“I take it that you are impressed?”
Then he turned to me.
“Tell William here how much you paid for the X-75.”
“I got into a bit of a bidding war with a fat American. He chickened out at Twenty Five.”
“Twenty Five Thousand? For a bike? That’s a lot of money,” exclaimed William.
“Yeah, but it is a really cool bike. Built in 1975 for the American Market with unique styling. Even today, it is a seriously cool bike,” said James.
Our little discussion was interrupted by what had to be William’s Mother. We'd never met but had spoken a few times on the phone. At the end of almost every call, I felt like getting on my bike, going to Lambourn and killing her on the spot.
“Ah there you are. She’s on her way. Are you sure you want to go through with this? Jocasta Hart-Baker has always had a soft spot for you. I’m sure she’d jump at the chance of getting married to you.”
“Mother, for the last time, Jocasta is a fat idle bitch who wouldn’t know one end of a sheep from the other.
She’s never had a job and in case you hadn’t noticed I run a farm where everyone is expected to pitch in.”
“You know there always a job with us. I’m sure that Jocasta’s father could get you a nice job at his firm in the City?”
“Mother, shut the hell up. I’m getting married to Holly and that’s all there is to it.”
A couple of minutes later a white Rolls Royce drew up outside the Registry Office. The driver got out and opened the door at the rear of the car.
Holly stepped out. She looked stunning.
Her white full-length silk dress seemed to shine in the sunlight. A client of Charlie's had made it for her.
Sometimes it is good to have a few contacts amongst the rich and famous. Even William's Mother could not complain when she was told who was making the dress. Her only comment was,
"I hope you aren't paying for it William!"
That one statement said everything you needed to know about her.
A grinning William stepped forward and took Holly’s arm in his. Together they walked into the building to get married.
The wedding was glorious and I even had to dab my eyes when the happy couple kissed at the end of the formalities.
The Reception was another thing entirely. I’d only been there half an hour when I began to feel the odd one out. I really didn’t know anyone apart from the Bride and Groom and I didn’t have a partner for the day.
William’s mother didn’t help by making sure that I was assigned a seat about as far away from the happy couple as I could be and still in the same room. This rather piqued me because I was paying for the whole thing.
I bit my lip and tried to make small talk with the people on my table. Thankfully, one of them was William’s Godmother. She turned out to be a rather feisty lady who like me, really despised William’s mother. We bonded together as ‘Exiles’ from the top table.
She made the meal rather enjoyable with some of her stories of then men in her life. She was a definite suck them in, use them and move onto the next one type of lady. She was in her early 60’s yet looked to be in her mid 40’s.
Once the meal was over and done with, it was time for the cake to be cut.
I was lurking at the back of the crowd when the ceremony began.
William and Holly stepped forward and stood by the cake. To my surprise Holly called out,
“Monica, can you come up here please?”
I felt a thousand eyes grilling me as I made my way through the throng of people.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” said William.
“Holly’s good friend Monica had a big part in making the cake which we see before us. I would like for everyone to put their hands together and show your appreciation to her. Getting a cake as beautiful as this made in just a few weeks is nothing short of marvellous. Thank you from the both of us.”
Then Holly added with a huge smile on her face,
“And if I know Monica she had more than a bit part in making the cake.”
There was a polite round of applause. I felt myself go red in the face. I felt a lot better when I saw the look of hatred from William’s mother. I knew that she’d wanted to have the cake made by a fashionable ‘cake maker’ and she was only stopped when her so called ‘cake designer’ told her what she could so with herself and her constant changes and criticism of his work.
Quite a few people came up to me and complimented me on the cake and how good it tasted. This attention only delayed my exit and my journey home. I was just happy that everything had gone off so well.
[To be continued]
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