The moment she’d dreaded had come, much perfected notes clasped in sticky palms, stomach churning she stepped onto the platform. Before her stood the microphone, focusing on it she approached, postponing the moment when she’d have to turn to the sea of faces she knew were watching her every move. Panic in her heart said run, but she couldn’t run, if she didn’t deliver the speech who would?
She remembered the sea of forgotten faces, eyes that looked at her in hope. She couldn’t do this alone, she needed help and to get it she must overcome her fears, her inner nature.
“Do it for them! Do it for them dam you!”
Placing her notes on the podium she looked up holding back the urge to vomit. Her knees faltered, her voice wouldn’t come, she stood mesmerized. The audience, already bored with morning speeches, looked on at her cynically as she stumbled through her greeting.
“Ladies and gentlemen…” her voice echoed out in the stillness alarming in its amplified pitch. She faltered. Someone in the front row sniggered, glances were exchanged.
From somewhere inside a surge of emotion engulfed her. The carefully worded notes cast aside she blurted out.
“They’ll die, the children will die without hope, without love. Damn it you’ve got to help me!” Tears burst forth like a flood but she couldn’t stop. Words tumbled out from the depths of her soul surging in unstoppable flows as she blurted out the situation, the need. The audience sat in shocked amazement their blasé exteriors shattered.
She paused, stunned at her out burst. Horrified at what she’d done, mumbling apologies, she stumbled off the platform in abject embarrassment. She’d wrecked everything. Why hadn’t she kept to the script, the safe, carefully worded script?
A shape loomed in her way.
“Just a minute young lady,” a voice boomed out, “you’re not finished yet.”
An arm swung around her shoulders forcing her back towards the mike. She could do nothing. Head down, face wet with tears she stood in total humiliation, but the voice boomed on.
“Now ladies and gentlemen, you heard what she said. Who’s willing to pledge! Raise your hands!” Her eyes flickered not daring to look. Other voices called out.
“Count me in on that!” a torrent of echoes added to the chorus.
Glancing up her eyes once more overflowed, instead of a sea of disdainful faces a sea of eager arms were waving.
Perhaps it was the setting, a castle dating back 2000 years, the 11th. century turrets with their hidden stories, gothic arches spanned by fresco, the Barouche décor of the chapel or perhaps the vista from a mountain’s edge overlooking miles of tiny salmon hued houses and church spires. There was the décor, pastel shades of white and pale pink roses, crystal chandeliers and lace, and the violinist’s mellow tunes against white stone and sky blue background. But all this I knew can be bought with a bank card.
Perhaps it was the guests in glimmering 20s attire, stunning make up and twining curls, handsome, dark Italians contrasting pale, blond English or the bride herself managing somehow to outshine the other beauties (of which there were a number).
Everywhere I looked all was perfect, choreographed by wedding planners and the bride herself. Yet I knew behind the scenes there had been chaos, incompetent make up artists and florists, hitches and problems that kept the bride and groom in a constant flurry till the moment they appeared seemingly calm and unruffled.
No, it is not these things that make a fairy tale, though it may appear so in pictures.
The real fairy story began with the chapel vows, a tiny jewel escaping the bride’s immaculate eye make up as pledges were exchanged. Gems followed gleaming among the congregation reflecting on their story. Two precious hearts spurned and abandoned finding each other and overcoming impossibilities to be together. Tiny gleaming diamonds were quenched by furtive thumbs and sweated by a groomsman, tattoos smothered in a stifling suit because “It was THEIR day”.
Gold had echoed first that day in the dust of slippered feet as a bridesmaid, clad in a dressing gown, ran the gauntlet of a staring foreign wedding party to escort a photographer when wi fi failed. Other toes, iron clad but smiling, stood firm all morning guarding the soft hearted bride from all but the most urgent requests. A final gleaming dust had sprinted to the chapel as the bride’s insistent stilettos delayed her triumphant entry for the friend who’d used her prep time to take over the make up.
These offerings were but the beginning. As crystals on a strand they began to form again at the dinner speeches as stories were recounted, gems of love and appreciation recalled and strung to the thread of their story. There was a gush of tender rubies as a young girl confessed, through garbled tears, her love for her new step mother, a flood echoed on the faces of her audience who understood why.
Such jewels have no price tags they cannot be bought or sold, each priceless in its sincerity. There was the beauty of a wedding that would rival a celebrity’s but in the end these things pale as paste settings beside the jewels I glimpsed in secret. These are what give the unreal fairy tale quality. I witnessed a true love story not manufactured by Hollywood or publicists but the genuine article, the reality of true and sacrificial love between bride and groom, echoed by family and friends. I feel honored and blessed to have partaken.