Geraldine tooted her horn and stayed in the car, the engine still running.
“You’d better hurry up love. You know she’ll drive off without you if you make her wait.”
Christine hurried past her mum, buttoning up her cardigan and shaking back her still wet hair,
“You sure you don’t want to come too?”
Patricia shook her head,
“Things never end well for me in that place. I’m happy staying here. Say hello to your sister, if she lets you get a word in.”
Christine kissed her on the cheek, took a deep breath and left. Patricia turned her rollator and peered out the window. Was it sunny enough to sit out? She grabbed a blanket and opened the patio doors, humming all the while.
Christine slid in beside her sister who kept looking straight ahead,
“Did you sleep in?”
That didn’t merit an answer.
“How are the wedding plans going this week?”
“You would think that having a small ceremony would be easy to organise but there’s still booking the venue, invitations, licenses, rings, outfits. And cake. Of course I’m doing it all.”
“Does James not want to help?”
“No no. I told him to leave it to me.”
Christine started twisting her eternity ring,
“Would you like me to?”
“I’m fine. Really.”
Christine didn’t address the elephant in the room. As the only sister, surely…
“Mum not want to come? Now you have her walking with that thing, it would be easier as well.”
Christine ignored the tone and looked out the window. The sun was brighter now. Tea on their little patio would be preferable to this frosty car.
They arrived and Geraldine tried three different parking spaces before she stopped and got out. Christine was glad she had ditched all her heels and lived in sneakers now as they walked from the far end into the shop.
Geraldine knew exactly where she wanted to go. Christine followed, wrinkling her nose at the heavy floral scents rising from open jars of pot pourri. She hadn’t been inside here for years, but she still remembered the smells. Geraldine had stopped in front of a counter and had already briskly rung the bell for attention. Twice. She sighed,
“Where are they?”
She started to march away, heels clicking the tiles, sensible skirt swishing, head going to and fro, looking for a member of staff. Christine leant against the counter and waited. After a moment a flustered young woman with a badge on her navy blouse saying, ‘My name is Julie, happy to help’ on it arrived. Christine stepped back and frowned, why did she feel she knew this girl?
“I’m sorry, I was busy with another customer. How can I help you?”
“You’re fine. It’s actually my sister who called you and dear knows where she’s busied herself off to! An older version of bridezilla. Oh, here she comes now with…”
Time froze, then rushed back to memories that had been revisited countless times.
When they said his first name at the same time after that they knew;
They had both seen him and each other before.
Geraldine had clearly not recognised the homeless person she had tried to avoid as the sharply dressed man walking beside her today. Christine felt the heat rising up her face as she sensed him getting closer.
“You see? Always best to go straight to the top.”
Geraldine looked around the little group, oblivious to Julie’s pale face, Christine’s red one and Tony’s open mouth. Then she jerked her head back towards Julie,
“Do I know you? Wait! Let me think…”
She stared at her again and started clicking her fingers in the air. Julie squirmed.
“I’ve got it! You were the girl staring at the toys last year.”
She blundered on,
“You must be glad of the staff discount now!”
Now it was Julie’s turn to blush.
Geraldine had already moved on,
“I’m here to ask about your wedding cakes. Yes, that’s right, I am going to be married!”
She tittered. Christine contemplated turning on her heel and running out the door. Tony was still looking at her. When Geraldine spoke again, he pulled his attention away and forced a professional smile,
“Yes. We do order in cakes here. It’s quite a new service. You should take a look at the brochure and see which one you’d like.” He passed the magazine over and Geraldine started looking through it.
Tony’s eyes went back to Christine. He whispered,
“It’s been a while.”
He gave a shaky sigh,
Christine nodded dumbly. She met his eyes, looked beyond the smart suit and found the man who had seen her trouble and done his best to help.
“Christine! What about this one covered in fresh flowers?”
Tony remembered all those times when he had searched for flowers to give to Christine. He wondered if she had ever realised.
He cleared his throat,
“An excellent choice. If you’re happy, I can put the order down for you today.”
Geraldine was looking strangely at him and shaking her head,
“There’s something eery about this shop today. I feel like I have seen people before when I’m sure I don’t know them.”
She shrugged and laughed a little,
“Anyways! Christine, what do you think?”
She met Tony’s eyes again and smiled. They both remembered, even if her sister did not.
Geraldine clapped her hands,
“Good answer! Maybe you can be my maid of honour after all!”