Home > The Wedding Season

The Wedding Season
Author: Katy Birchall

 


PROLOGUE


“Has anyone seen the peacocks?”

I look up from examining a selection of napkins. “Excuse me?”

“Have you seen the peacocks?” my brother repeats.

“What peacocks?”

“The peacocks I hired. I’ve lost them.”

“Adrian, what are you talking about?”

“I hired some peacocks to roam about the lawn. It was meant to be a surprise for the wedding tomorrow. It’s your wedding gift from me.” He grins proudly. “Guessing you didn’t put that on your gift list. Talk about an original idea.”

I narrow my eyes at him. “You hired peacocks to roam the lawn at my wedding—”

“Cool, right?”

“—as a surprise present.”

“You are welcome.”

“And they’ve gone … missing.”

“I wouldn’t say missing exactly, more like they’ve roamed a bit further than expected.”

I purse my lips. My best friend, Ruby, standing next to me, clears her throat and tries to look busy with the napkins.

“So,” Adrian prompts, “have you seen them?”

“No, we haven’t seen any peacocks here in the marquee,” I hiss through gritted teeth. “Adrian, are you kidding me?”

He looks confused. “About the peacocks? No. They’re genuinely around here somewhere. Also, get this. Did you know that they’re actually called peafowl? The guy I hired them from told me this. Peacocks are the male ones, and the females are called peahens. Peahens! Who knew?!” His face suddenly lights up. “Hey, do you think they might be in the house? People have been leaving that door open all day.”

Ruby glances at my expression and quickly jumps in. “Good idea, best to check inside the house. And … uh … maybe while you’re in there, you might want to check that all the bedroom doors are closed, so that if the peacocks do somehow get in, they don’t go near Freya’s dress or anything like that.”

I think my eyes must be bulging unnaturally out of my head as I try not to explode at my idiot younger brother, because Ruby takes another look at me and suddenly adds, “Go now, Adrian,” in a very urgent tone.

Adrian swans out of the marquee toward the house, swiping one of the favor bags from the wicker basket by the exit on his way out. Ruby immediately turns to face me, putting her hands on my shoulders and looking me in the eye.

“Breathe with me,” she instructs, inhaling and exhaling deeply.

“The day before my wedding, he sets peacocks loose in the house?”

“Technically he set them loose in the garden,” Ruby corrects, trying her best to make it seem less of a big deal. “They won’t get in anybody’s way. And I’m sure he’ll find them before tomorrow. You have to give it to him, it is an original gift.”

I shake my head in disbelief.

“I think we should put the peacocks out of your mind and focus on what’s really important,” Ruby declares. “Like which napkin you’re going to use. White or almost-white or cream.”

I sigh and turn my attention back to the napkins. “It has to be … the almost-white napkin.”

“If you’d chosen the white, we wouldn’t have been able to stay friends.” She grins at me and gestures around the marquee. “Look at this, Freya. Everything is perfect. Surely we can go relax with a glass of champagne now?”

I turn to admire the setup as dozens of people busily put the finishing touches to it all. It’s mad to think how my dad’s garden has been transformed in just a few hours ready for tomorrow. I’ve always thought that the lawn here was the perfect open space for a marquee, and since we’re in the middle of the tranquil Berkshire countryside, it’s an idyllic setting for a country garden wedding. When Matthew proposed, we didn’t even bother considering any other venues. And looking round at everything now, I’m confident we made the right decision. It’s really starting to come together. All the effort and time I’ve put into this wedding, all those tiny, teeny, ridiculous details—who knew how many different types of paper stock an invitation could be printed on?—have all been worth it.

The marquee is beautiful, the fairy-light canopy overhead is magical, and even though the flowers won’t be arriving until first thing tomorrow, I already know they’re going to be spectacular because the florist, Lucy, is a genius and I completely trust her. She insisted on being here today with her colleagues to map everything out and make sure her vision was going to come to life as she’d planned it. (A woman after my own heart.)

The table settings look great and, now that the napkins have been chosen, are almost completed. The stage is ready for the band, the photo booth set up exactly where it should be in the corner, the favors sorted in the basket by the exit—one down, thanks to Adrian, but that’s okay because I intentionally ordered spares, just in case—and the table plan, beautifully illustrated by this local artist I tracked down on Instagram, is propped up neatly on the easel. There’s also a large rustic crate just inside the door with a pile of cream knitted throws in case it’s a little chilly tomorrow, while in the house are forty giant umbrellas I ordered for the guests on the off chance that it rains when we’re doing the photographs outside (though when I last checked the weather forecast, ten minutes ago, it was still saying it will be mild and sunny). But you can’t be too careful—and I’ve really tried to think of everything.

“Don’t worry, everyone, I am here and ready to help,” announces Leo, Ruby’s boyfriend, as he enters the marquee, rubbing his hands together.

“You’re a few hours late,” Ruby complains, watching him saunter toward us. “Everything is done!”

He gives her a mischievous grin. “Then I’m right on time, if you ask me. Sorry, the train was delayed this morning and it was a little tricky getting a taxi from the station. You were right, Rubes, I should have got yesterday off work too and driven down with you Wednesday night. But, I’m here now!”

“When will you learn I’m always right?” Ruby sighs as he throws his arm round her waist and gives her a kiss on the cheek. “Make yourself useful and get us hard workers a drink, will you? Really the least you could do.”

“Not for me quite yet,” I remark, focusing my attention back to the table settings and nervously checking them over once again. “There’s still a few things I need to cross off the list.”

“She’s joking, right?” Leo asks Ruby, before turning back to me. “Freya, it’s the day before your wedding. Aren’t you supposed to be relaxing?”

“I don’t think there are many brides who spend the day before their wedding relaxing, Leo,” I point out, getting my phone from my pocket to run through my checklist. “I’m almost certain that, traditionally, the day before is reserved for freaking out.”

He snorts. “I don’t think you’ve ever freaked out in your life, Freya. What could you be worried about right now?”

“Well, my brother has lost the peacocks—”

“The what?”

“—and I need Matthew to run through some things with the catering manager, because we have to confirm timings.”

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