“Are you sure you want to do this?” asked Trish, as the hairdresser sized up Pam’s hair.
“Course I do,” laughed Pam. “It’s a mess.”
“No, silly – I mean getting married.”
“Lighten up, Trish. You’re my bridesmaid, remember. You’re supposed to be making me feel like a princess today.”
Pam preened and pouted at herself in the mirror as the hairdresser snipped away at her peroxide blonde curls.
Trish frowned at her. “But you’ve only known Hassan a few weeks.”
“Long enough to know he’s gorgeous.”
Hassan was Pam’s new teacher at her dance class. Turkish, blue-eyed and dark-skinned, he moved like a cat. And he was rich. Life-changingly rich. Within weeks of their first twirl, he had proposed to her.
At least that’s what Pam had said. Trish had never met the man. The whole thing sounded a bit dodgy to her, like some cheesy fantasy. It was all too good to be true.
“He’s taking you for a ride,” said Trish. “He’s only interested in getting British citizenship. He doesn’t really want you.”
Pam just giggled. “Don’t be a party-pooper, Trish.”
“But what about Nigel? Remember him? Not so long ago you two were going to get married.”
Pam winked at her best friend in the mirror. “Nigel understands.”
“Well, I don’t. He must be feeling gutted.”
“Poor little Nigel,” giggled Pam.
“Is it because he can’t dance?” asked Trish, picturing the geeky Englishman at a recent 70s night. He had a good heart, bless him, but he also had two left feet. He danced like he was being attacked by a swarm of wasps.
“Put it this way,” said Pam, “when Hassan takes his shirt off, he looks like a Greek god. Nigel looks like a bottle of milk.”
The black hairdressing gown billowed as Pam wobbled with laughter.
Trish shook her head and stood up. “I know you’re a party girl, Pam, and you like to have a good time. But I never thought you were cruel.”
“Come on, babe,” gasped Pam, when she could get the words out, “Don’t go spoiling my big day.”
But Trish didn’t hear her. The bell above the salon door jangled violently as she stormed out.
Half an hour later, back at Pam’s flat, they continued to argue as they got dressed for the wedding.
“You just don’t understand,” sighed Pam. “I owe Hassan, big time. Without him, I wouldn’t be able to get into this size 16 dress. When I first went to his dance classes I was a joke – a big clumsy joke. But Hassan was like a therapist. He told me nice things about myself until I began to believe them.”
She imitated his voice: “When you dance, your eyes, they shine. Now let me see your body shine too. Then you are the dancing queen.”
“Hassan made me feel like a new woman,” said Pam. “I can do things now that would have made the old Pam gasp.”
* * *
The vintage coffee coloured Rolls Royce drew up outside the church. Trish helped the bride squeeze out onto the pavement as elegantly as possible
“You look great,” she told her friend, “but it’s still not too late to do the right thing.”
“No regrets,” smiled Pam.
The organist played Mendelsohn’s Wedding March as they made their stately way down the aisle. Trish took in Hassan’s relatives in their bright dresses, chic suits and elegant hats. Pam’s family and friends looked frumpy in comparison.
Then she saw Nigel. He was wearing a beige safari suit he’d probably brought that morning from Oxfam and his eyes looked bloodshot. Maybe he’d been crying, thought Trish, or he’d come straight from the pub. At least he hadn’t brought his dreaded video camera.
Trish suddenly felt much better. Maybe Nigel was going to do the right thing and put a stop to this ridiculous wedding. She glanced at Pam, who seemed to be thinking the same thing. She was frowning and muttering under her breath.
“Are you okay?” asked Trish.
“The prize prune,” hissed Pam. “He’s going to ruin everything.”
During the first part of the service Trish cast a critical eye over Hassan. She hated to admit it, but he looked exactly as Pam had described him: gorgeous. But the couple’s body language wasn’t convincing and Pam seemed suddenly nervous. She fidgeted and wiped her palms down the side of her wedding dress.
“If anyone here knows of any just impediment …”
Trish looked at Nigel, then at Pam, who glanced back at him.
“…speak now …”
Nigel coughed and looked down.
“… or forever hold your peace.”
“Go on,” thought Trish, “one of you. You don’t have to do this, if you know it’s wrong.”
But there was only the sound of rustling clothes as people shifted in their seats.
“ … I now pronounce you Man and Wife.”
Afterwards there was a buffet at the Grand hotel, with a string quartet to welcome the guests. There were no long speeches or photo sessions, just a quick toast. It seemed to Trish that the newlyweds were in a hurry.
Soon Pam and Hassan hit the dance floor to a mixture of Turkish folk songs and Saturday Night Fever. From her corner table, Trish had to admire their style.
Nigel sat down next to her and swigged champagne as if it was beer. He couldn’t take his eyes off Pam, who was now smiling blissfully.
“What are you doing here, Nigel?” asked Trish, giving him a sympathetic look. “You’re not going to do anything stupid, are you?”
In response Nigel took her hand and pulled her onto the dance floor as I Feel Love throbbed from the speakers. He jerked around like a malfunctioning robot.
Trish rolled her eyes. “I guess that’s a ‘yes,’ then.”
She took it upon herself to be Nigel’s minder for the rest of the evening.
“Haven’t you had enough yet,” she asked him when he started to sway. “Don’t you think you should go home?” But Nigel just shook his head.
At midnight they were the last guests left. Hassan and Pam said their goodbyes and moved towards the hotel lift.
“I’ll get you a taxi,” said Trish to Nigel, but he broke away from her and lurched into the lift after the bride and groom. The lift doors slid shut before Trish could get in with them.
“You idiot!” she snapped, taking the stairs two at a time.
The bridal suite was on the top floor. By the time Trish reached it she was out of breath. The door was wide open. But there were no raised voices or scuffling sounds coming from the room.
Instead, Nigel, Pam and Hassan sat peacefully together on the double bed. Hassan was handing over a large manila envelope to Pam.
“Thank you,” he said, “for being wife. Now I can stay in England and make my dream come true. When I finish my teaching work, all you English will be dancers.”
He winked at Nigel. “Even you, my flat-footed friend.”
Trish glared at her best friend. “Explain,” she panted.
“Sorry, babes,” giggled Pam. “I was going to tell you – honest! But things got a bit complicated. We didn’t want everyone to know.”
Trish shook her head.
“We’re doing a swap,” said Nigel. “Pam and me are using Hassan’s money to set up shop in Istanbul.”
Hassan grinned at Trish. “They go crazy for English belly dancers in Turkey,” he explained.
Pam smiled. “And thanks to Nigel putting me on YouTube, I’m already a big hit over there.”
© Nick Walker 2010