‘Everyone knows his sort,’ the Paisley frock snorted across the linen napkins.
‘Feckless,that’s what he is.’ All eyes turned as a twitch of her head identified the culprit. The guests on table three watched the unsuspecting groom shoehorn Aunt Hattie into a plush, cream chair beneath a floral bower.
‘Oh yes,’ Florence confirmed, ‘Tom Bailey’s shenanigans are legendary.’ She made a small adjustment to her flower and tulle fascinator as her left eye was disappearing under floral wilt.
‘Are you sure about that, Florence?’ asked Uncle Harold. ‘Good for him, I say! Tell us more,’ he twinkled.
‘You mean you don’t know? ’ asked Florence, warming to the moment. ‘Tom’s worked his way around all the village floosies.’ She lifted a glass of bubbly to her mouth and drank deeply. Someone stifled a nervous cough.
For one so black and white on morals, Florence’s dress sense was neither; she could wither a peacock in her home-sewn couture. Poppy reds, purple Paisley and deepest, periwinkle blue. And when the mood took her, a sherbet lemon frock with jasmine lace could dazzle the greyest day. Never one to disappoint, today her lapel boasted a sparkling, crocodile brooch. Sadly, its languorous ascent had yet to reach her acid tongue.
Squeezed between the garrulous Florence and portly Uncle Harold sat Becki Harper; long time, (close) friend of the groom. Red-haired and plumptious, she cast a concerned glance in the groom’s direction.
The frosty silence prompted Florence to shred what remained of the groom’s integrity. Her puce, manicured talons claimed the champagne flute. ‘And as far afield as Gossington,’ she added with authority. ‘He puts it about, you know.’
There was a faint gasp from a woman in a deep aquamarine two-piece holding someone’s newborn baby wrapped in a cream, crocheted shawl. All eyes turned to her.
‘I think one needs to be a bit careful….’ she attempted just as the baby sprayed cretaceous sick into her hand.
Unabashed, Florence placed her glass on the pristine table cloth. She turned her attention to Becki and pounced like a cat on a mouse. ‘I don’t think I’ve seen you around these parts. Are you with the Bride or the Groom?’
A blush crept up Becki’s pale, swan neck. She flicked her titian hair into a protective curtain and clamped her eyes on a dessert that miraculously appeared before her. A strawberry slid down a mountain of meringue and plopped delicately into the cream below.
‘Such a lovely girl,’ Florence continued. ‘The perfect bride, don’t you think?’ Another adjustment to the topknot authorised an intake of breath. ‘But why she’s tied up with the likes of him, I’ll never understand.’ A crumple of sallow skin lifted under her nose.
Florence daintily guided a chocolate éclair to her lips. She dabbed t a chip of chocolate which had attached itself to a sprouting, facial hair. Chewing delicately, she perused her silent audience.
‘I love a good wedding…….,’ tried a tentative Uncle Harold. He studied his profiteroles.
No takers, but Florence grasped the moment.
‘Where did you say you come from dear?’ She fixed Becki with her button- black eyes. ‘I must have missed it.’
‘Gossington.’ Becki lowered her eyes. Suddenly, the gargantuan Eton Mess held a riveting fascination.
‘Gossington,’ sniffed Florence. ‘You girls aren’t known as marriage material, are you?’
‘Well….really,’ said a strange lady with a grey plume on her head. ‘How rude!’
‘And the lads are rough as rats,’ added Florence. Judging the offspring of others slipped off her tongue like an oiled sardine.
Dessert was consumed.
Florence sensed rather than saw the Vicar behind her. His hand appeared on her shoulder and the degree of intimacy rendered her, momentarily speechless. She inhaled deeply on the aroma of incense and candle wax wafting from his surplice.
‘Vicar,’ she breathed. A girly tone squeaked from her magenta Cupid’s bow. ‘Such a lovely service.’
‘And divine floral arrangements. Thankyou Florence.’
Florence simpered. A glance around the table assured her the accolade was noted. Her hand lifted to check the fascinator. Hair was patted and smoothed. She lifted a pair of sparkling eyes to the man of God, as he added,
‘You’ve surpassed yourself today’.
Florence sighed with happiness. Her eyes drifted over the ebb and flow of his cassock and she breathed him in deeply. Aromatic yet sadly unavailable. What a privilege it would be to hang this man’s undergarments on her washing line.