I woke and looked up at the sky. I quite liked the way that the sunlight woke me in the mornings. I was becoming accustomed to the lifestyle on the island, especially shopping in the capital with Eve, and the days spent having fun on the tropical beaches. I was often lonely, but was used to that in my life, and wondered if it would ever change. I had received a memo from the administration centre a few days before giving me news of Terry: telling me he was in good health, where he worked, describing his flat, his family's emigration to Australia and about his social life with Brian. It also said that he was not married, but that did not surprise me, he is not thirty yet.
I put on my dressing gown and made my way to the living room. It surprised me that the old man was sitting with Eve and Roger. I sat at the table, while Eve poured me a cup of tea, and I knew that that the old man's visit was for my benefit. I looked at him, waiting for what he had to say.
"Jane, we kept our side of the bargain and gave you news of Terry. We must now ask you to keep your part. We have a partner for you and have arranged a wedding service for this afternoon."
A noticeable silence filled the room as I sat staring at the old man, my face expressionless.
Eve broke the silence. "Well," she said, "might get me dance now."
I started to laugh, but it was only brief. "You're having a laugh, aren't you? This is some kind of joke, isn't it?"
"I am quite serious, Jane. As I said, it is arranged for this afternoon."
I stared at him again for a few seconds before I spoke. "This afternoon, that can't happen. I need a bit of time to get to know him."
"You have many years to get to know him. I am afraid I must insist. The service has been arranged and preparation has already begun for the reception in The Red Lion. Your dress will be here in an hour for a fitting, and Roger has agreed to give you away, if that is all right by you."
"All right by me. All right by me. No, it bloody well isn't all right by me. You can forget it."
The man glanced at Eve and Roger. "Can you leave us for a while," he said.
The couple got up and left the room, closing the door behind them and returning the silence to the room.
"So, what is this where you threaten me?"
The man shook his head. "Trust me, Jane, this man is right for you. I've checked his pulses myself."
"Don't give me all that technical stuff. All my life, everybody I've ever cared about has shit on me."
"There is no need to swear, Jane."
"No need to swear. There was only one person who cared about me and look what a mess I made of that. So what makes you think that you can get the right one for me, with my track record?"
"It is done. He is the perfect match for you, and you will have some fine children between you."
"Don't you know? Don't you, who knows everything, know that I'm addled, I'm useless?"
"You are not infertile and even if you were we could soon put that right. You must put some trust in me. I would not do you wrong. This man is perfect for you and you are perfect for him. You will enjoy parenthood with him and I know you will be a very good mother."
I gave a large sigh. "Where is he then, where is this mister perfect? Can I see him?"
"Under your tradition that would be bad luck on your wedding day."
"Bad luck! What is there any other kind?"
"Please, Jane, just go to the church, and if you walk down the aisle and you do not like the look of him, just turn and walk back out. I promise no one will try to stop you."
"And what will happen to me then?"
"Nothing will happen to you. Some other selector will find you another partner."
"And what about you? What will happen to you?"
"That is not something for you to concern yourself with."
"You'll be in trouble, won't you?" I waited for a reply, but he just looked back at me. I smiled and shrugged my shoulders. "What the hell, maybe I will play along with your little game, but if I don't like what I see I can walk out, okay."
"Of course," he said. He radiated a warm glow as if a great weight had left him, and smiled as if he were human.
It was a hectic few hours. Eve and I laughed at the pure whiteness of the wedding dress. I put the veil on. "They like the full works, don't they? You know, Eve, I've always longed for a proper wedding. That registry office do that I had was over in no time. At the time, it didn't seem to matter, but when I looked back, I felt that I had lost something, as if I'd been swindled. All my life, even when I was a young girl, I used to sit and daydream, imagining the thrill of walking down the aisle of an old church in a beautiful gown, special. You know what I mean?"
"Oh yes, I know what you mean." Eve gave a contented smile. "Did you still get married in white though, at the registry?"
"No, we were both in uniform. It seemed a good idea at the time. You know his parents had plenty of money, but they said that it wasn't their place to interfere in Bob's arrangements. His arrangements, all my opinions and ideas were carefully listened to, and then ignored."
"Oh, that's just history anyway, we must look forward. You wait till you see the honeymoon suite. You'll love it, Jane. It's the sort of place that would only be used by multimillionaires back home."
I smiled, but only briefly. "I'm so frightened, Eve. I hope I don't end up with another nasty bastard. I don't think I could stand the beatings and abuse again. Why don't they let me get to know him first?"
"He won't be nasty, Jane, they wouldn't bring him here if he was." Eve looked up to the sky. "It'll be a big event for them as well you know."
"Yeah, like feeding the penguins, I suppose." I laughed, much to Eve's relief.
I was escorted by Roger as I walked out to the open-topped Bentley at five to two, not just nervous at being a bride, but extra nervous because I had no idea who I was about to marry. "This is some blind date," I said to Roger. I stopped just before we got in the car. "There's something I need to ask of you," I said.
* * * * *
The old man was waiting for us at the entrance to the church. I stopped and smiled at him. "You look beautiful," he said. Marvin would be proud.
"Marvin, there's that name again. Who is this Marvin?"
I dismissed the matter, I had other things on my mind. "I want you to do something for me. I want you to give me away. I want you to be my dad."
The old man looked at Roger and then back at me. "I do not know, it has not been done before, no one has ever asked that before."
"What about Roger? He was looking forward to…"
"I'm fine. I gave away my own daughter. This should be your day as well and I think it's a wonderful idea. You should be proud."
"I am more than proud, I am so joyous and I feel so honoured to do this. Thank you, thank you, Jane."
"Thank you," I said, and linked arms with him. "Come on then, come and walk with me."
The bridal march was playing as we walked into the small roofless church. I glanced at the neighbours from our street, all of whom had become my friends, every one of them immaculately dressed and smiling at me.
I felt like a princess, it all seemed so dreamy as if I were moving in slow motion. Then I noticed the groom standing with his hands clasped behind his back. I stopped walking and stared towards him. He stood just like Terry and looked just like him from the back. Terry had been almost continually in my mind ever since I had read his letters. Could it be him? I stood still, looking at him, wishing, hoping, praying, but not really believing.
I turned to look at the old man. "I don't think I can go through with this. Why did you bring someone who looks so much like him, why?"
"Sometimes, Jane, sometimes wishes do come true you know."
The music stopped and I stood in complete silence, the only sound I could hear was the sound of my own breathing. I looked over to the groom again and he turned around and smiled at me. I remembered my wish. That time with Terry outside the WRAF block. It was true, my wish really was coming true?
The bouquet fell from my hands. My mouth dropped open as I stared at him, hardly able to believe what I was seeing. My heart was pounding, my hands were shaking as tears of intense emotion began to form in my eyes. I pulled off my veil and dashed to him, throwing my arms around him as I reached him.
He kissed me, giving me tingling sensations through my whole body as I responded to the lips that I had badly missed for so many years. We lingered in our embrace for a few seconds before easing away and smiling at each other, both of us eager to continue with the ceremony, enjoying every second.
The congregation stood and clapped. The old man looked over at a special family, noticing their joy. They were Martha's descendants and they were looking forward to meeting Jane at the reception and welcoming her into the family. The old man smiled as he looked up at the sky, knowing his boss Jarlut, his friend Ekurb, and their companions Arnia and Axonia would be looking down at the ceremony, pleased with the show.
End of text.