I’m hanging the wedding dress back in the spare room when Mum returns with two glasses of rosé. She makes some half-hearted attempt to compliment me on my choice, which I thank her for equally half-heartedly. I concentrate on the dress, sipping my wine and waiting for her to blame my silence on nerves about the wedding. She probably thinks I’m having second thoughts.
‘Are you okay, sweetheart,’ Mum says, ‘You seem very quiet.’
Her voice is full of that faux concern she does so well, as if she’s eagerly anticipating my calling off the wedding.
‘Is it Robert? Are you worrying about tomorrow? Are you having second thoughts?’
I remind her that Robert is amazing and we love each very much and that tomorrow is going to be the best day of my life.
‘Yes he is, yes you do and of course it will be’ Mum says matter-of-factly.
I have never wanted to slap her as hard as I do at this very moment but manage to restrain myself. I head downstairs, taking my wine for moral support. Mum follows and makes to sit beside me on the sofa, thinks better of it and sits in the arm chair instead. We look at each other in silence for a moment.
‘Cupcake, what is it?’
She keeps the questions coming, little waves designed to break down the sea wall that has built up between us over the years.
‘Honestly,’ I say, ‘it’s nothing.’
‘I know you better than that, my girl. Talk to me. I’m listening.’
‘That would be a first,’ I say before I can stop myself.
She shuts up and I feel guilty for a minute fearing I may have really hurt her. The stream of questions resumes and I kick myself for being so soft.
‘Are you sure you want to hear this, Mother. It may not be to your liking, what with it being a criticism of you.’
She pours us both more wine, smiling.
‘My dear, if I was so sensitive to criticism, I would have crumbled long ago from this family’s assault upon me.’
‘You see, Mother, how can I talk to you when you make every conversation about your feelings?’
‘Oh, stop being so contrary and tell me what is bothering you,’ Mum says sharply, before softening her tone. ‘Please.’
I say nothing for a moment, unsure of where to begin. Then, with a deep breath, I throw myself in the deep end.
‘It’s you, Mother, you have been wholly underwhelmed with my choice of husband specifically and my marriage in general, and I would like to know why you have failed totally to muster up any kind of enthusiasm for what is going to be the best day of my life. Always assuming you don’t ruin it completely.’
I know it’s useless when she smiles that awful smile.
‘Oh my darling. We have been through this three times already with your sisters. Weddings are hardly few and far between for this family. I’m sorry I can’t get whipped into an emotional frenzy over yet another wedding.’
Which is why I throw the remainder of my rosé into her face before marching out. I’ll ask Dad to fetch my dress once I get to his house.