From time to time, I have been sharing excerpts from my forthcoming novella tentatively titled “A Story of Hope for your Marriage”. Today’s selection comes from chapter seven, and will hopefully prove to be self-explanatory. If you’d like to go back and reach chapter one online in its entirety, click here.
I had hoped to catch Johnny and Melanie at home, but it turned out that Mel was going over some final preparations for the reception and Johnny was out. I called his mobile to leave a message but he answered and before I could say a word, told me there was someone with him who wanted to talk with me.
Could it be…?
I crossed my fingers as I waited for Johnny’s mystery guest to reveal themselves. When it was my Mom’s voice that screamed “Jack, is that you?” in my ear, I was devastated. I had somehow completely forgotten that my parents were flying into London for the wedding, and it made what I was going to do all the more difficult.
Somehow I made it through Mom’s gushing and Dad’s questions and arranged to meet them at Johnny and Mel’s flat near St. James Park. In the cab on the way over, I alternated between rehearsing what I was going to say and anticipating the horror of their response. Despite my fears, I knew exactly what I had to do, and in a strange way it would be a kind of relief to do it. Johnny was still unloading Mom and Dad’s luggage when I arrived, and I gave him a hand with the familiar suitcases they had had since I was a child.
“Do you think it’s about time we got them some new luggage?” I asked Johnny.
“No,” he replied. “You know what Dad always says.”
Together, as we had so many times before, Johnny and I did our best Dad impression:
“If it ain’t broke… don’t give it any money!”
I don’t know if he ever quite realized we were laughing at him, not with him, but it still cracked us up after thirty plus years of listening to him say it.
When everyone had freshened up, Johnny poured out the drinks. Merlot for my mom, a gin and tonic for Mel, and three glasses of 18 year old Glenfiddich for the boys. After a brief toast (“To family!”), the question I had been waiting for came and with it my cue to finally tell my story.
“So, Jack,” my mother began, “we were so sorry to hear the kids wouldn’t be coming. When’s Jen getting in? Will she be here in time for the rehearsal dinner?”
In my head, I had gone over and over how I was going to do this. In one version, I would soften the blow, talking about how things had been a little rough lately and admitting that ‘we were going through a bad patch’. I would say how busy I’d been, and how little we’d been seeing of each other and how the kids really needed Jen to stay behind and look after them. In another scenario, Jen was cast as the villain and I took the part of the victim of her peri-menopausal moods.
But in the end, I just opted for the plain, unfettered truth. The only slight lie I told was to say that Jen was so sorry she wasn’t going make it to the wedding and that she wished Johnny and Mel all the luck in the world. This may, in fact, not have been a lie, but I realized that I’d been so busy arguing with Jen about why she should be at the wedding I had no idea whether or not she actually wanted to be.
There was the expected silence when I finished my story, but within moments things began departing from the script I’d made up in my head.
“No offense, bro, but I can’t tell you how relieved I am to hear that you and Jen have been struggling.”
“Do you know how much pressure I’ve been putting myself under to live up to you? I think I would have proposed to Mel years ago if I hadn’t thought I needed to be “Superhusband” to live up to you and Dad.”
Mel came over and gave me a big hug, and to my surprise so did my dad.
Mom’s reaction was so low-key it bordered on the spooky. She just smiled a knowing smile and said “You two will be fine. You’ve got good heads on your shoulders and plenty of love in your hearts. It will all work out – you’ll see.”
The whole thing was over so quickly I was almost disappointed. I had thought there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth, a bit of clothes rending by my mom, stony disapproving silence from my dad and some accusatory resentment from Johnny and Mel.
I’d even planned on offering to pay for them to bring in a ‘real’ minister, even if it meant postponing the wedding. Instead, thirty minutes later we were on our way to Claridges for a quick rehearsal of the ceremony and a leisurely dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant. I was a bit disoriented by everything that had happened in the past 48 hours, but the atmosphere was contagious and by the end of the evening I was having almost as good a time as everyone there.
On my way out of the restaurant, my Mom took me aside and looked me straight in the eyes.
“Jack, whatever happens, I want you to know that I love you. You’ve turned into a fine man and I couldn’t be more proud of you.”
I hid the tears until I was in the back of the cab, and then I began to sob. By the time I arrived at the hotel, I was feeling strangely calm and at peace. My ‘innate well-being’ had once again found its way back up to the surface…