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Chances Are - Three

This, was Morvan’s absolute nightmare.

She’d done her bit. She’d agreed to being bridesmaid when her cousin Isla asked, because Isla had taken Morvan to get her ears pierced when she was thirteen and her mum said no, so Morvan figured she owed her. She’d sat through the hen do as grown women giggled about willies and insisted on calling Isla by her fiancé’s surname even though Morvan knew she had zero intention of taking it. She’d held Isla’s dress while she peed twice today, she’d danced with all the groomsmen and hadn’t even nutted the one that squeezed her bum and sniggered in her ear that it was tradition for the best man to pull the bridesmaid of his choice.

But now the bloody bouquet was coming sailing through the air at her, and it was just a step too far.

She shouldn’t have been surprised at Isla continuing this particularly obnoxious tradition, despite swearing blind she wouldn’t. Morvan had seen it all too many times before. Friend after friend, getting engaged, insisting they were going to do things differently, break the mould, be unique — then one by one, the cool purple dress was replaced by a white frothy monstrosity, the mixed pre-wedding piss up became a standard hen do with Bride Squad sashes and Mr & Mrs games, and finally quietly deciding to take his name after all, because “it’s nicer than mine, anyway.”

Which was all fine. If you were going to get married at all, why not go in for a penny in for a pound? Morvan firmly believed in the principle of you do you. Want to retreat from civilisation and live on a mountain top with no running water and a pet squirrel named Dave for company? Fabulous. Enter into polyamorous bliss with triplets twenty years your junior? Knock yourself out. Do the full traditional wedding complete with cake smashing and drunken Auld Lang Syne at the end of the night? Fan-dabby-dozy.

Just leave Morvan out of it.

Or at the very least, avoid knocking her out with the bouquet.

But it was too late. It was coming right for her. She was going to have to catch it.

No. She would not catch it. She would do anything for Isla, but she would not do that.

She’d had every intention of being strategically in the toilet when the bouquet throw was announced. And she had very nearly made it, before being accosted by a wizened great aunt who had clutched at her arm with trembling hands, called her Morna and promised it would be her turn soon.

‘Not if I can help it,’ Morvan grinned, trying to escape without actually knocking the old lady over. She had a surprisingly strong grip for someone who looked like a strong wind would carry her away.

‘What’s that dear?’

‘Not if I can — YOU’RE LOOKING WELL, AUNT AGNES,’ Morvan bellowed.

‘Och, I do what I can.’

‘All the single ladies to the dancefloor!’ The DJ announced.

He played the beginning of that dreaded song that was as obnoxious as it was catchy — nobody who thought of their partner as an it had any business putting a ring on anything, as far as Morvan was concerned — and it was too late. Morvan was practically crowdsurfed against her will by a sea of elderly relatives until she was deposited unceremoniously in the gaggle of single women crowding the dancefloor, most of whom where a good decade younger than her.

Fine, she thought, determinedly slinking to the edge of the crowd. She’d stand here at the back to be polite. She surreptitiously glanced at her watch. The last train for Glasgow would leave the tiny wee country station in just over half an hour. With a bit of luck she could slip away after this and be in her fluffy jammies eating a mountain toast in front of crap telly before midnight. Just a few more minutes. She could do it.

She felt rather than heard the gasp of disappointment that reverberated around the room. The bouquet thwacked her forehead then tumbled miserably to the floor. Well, that was less than ideal, she thought forlornly, looking around at what suddenly felt like thousands of horrified faces.

The other girls on the dancefloor. The elderly relatives. The sniggering groomsmen — she knew for a fact that none of them were married, but nobody singled them out for ritual humiliation, did they?

With absolutely no idea what else to do, Morvan — curtsied. She had no idea why. They were all staring and she felt she had to do something and —

She felt the bouquet roll under her foot just before she trod on it.

‘Sorry folks,’ she muttered, feeling a hysterical impulse to dance a jig or something. She belatedly realised she was actually doing an approximation of jazz hands. ‘Not exactly the marrying kind. But very happy for you,’ she added quickly, turning to Isla and giving her a round of applause. ‘Err — to the bride and groom!’

Isla burst into tears. As Morvan watched helplessly, the other bridesmaids — the ones who hadn’t ruined the wedding — rushed to comfort her. The DJ struck up a seventies disco hit and everyone ignored it in favour of staring daggers at Morvan.

Morvan decided it was a good time to try to catch that train.

‘How bad?’ Fern asked.

‘The worst. No, worse than that.’

Morvan leaned back in the seat as the minicab swung around sharp bends on the narrow country lane. It had taken her forever to get a taxi. It turned out there was a second wedding in another part of the venue, and they all seemed to be leaving at the same time. Morvan had fought her way through hordes of grannies in lethal-looking fascinators and all but wrestled a drunken uncle to the ground for this one.

She had taken off the tortuous strappy sandals the instant she made it into the cab. Isla had promised she had chosen low heels designed for wearing all day long, but this had turned out to be another lie. The spiky bastards were now careening back and forth across the floor as the driver set out to give Lewis Hamilton a run for his money.

‘It can’t have been that bad.’

‘I got nutted by the bouquet, made the bride cry and curtsied to everyone.’

‘Oh, Morv.’

‘Isla will forgive me,’ Morvan shrugged with a bit more confidence than she felt. ‘Whether I'll forgive her for chucking it right at me is another matter. I mean, she knows me — what would possess her to think I wanted to catch a bloody bouquet?’

‘Misery loves company,’ Fern grinned. ‘I think most people mean well. They just buy into the idea that there is only one version happiness in life and they don't give it any more thought.’

‘Well they should. I don't go around picking holes in their relationships. Isla’s husband is okay, he's one of the good guys. But I still remember her ringing me in tears during lockdown because he was spending every night locked in his study playing videogames to “decompress” while she was going nuts on her own. I would choose literal solitude over someone who didn't want to spend time with me any day of the week.’

‘Lockdown wasn't exactly a barrel of laughs for anyone no matter their lifestyle,’ Fern said.

‘Hell no,’ Morvan laughed. ‘I broke three vibrators for the NHS.’

‘Sometimes I forget how noble you are.’

‘So many people do. It's a mystery. Listen, are you doing okay? Do you want to talk about —‘

‘Nope. All good.’

‘Are you seeing that sexy brother of yours tonight?’

‘He's working and please stop calling him sexy.’

‘It's hardly my fault you shared a womb with a rugged mountain man who could get it any day of the week and twice on Sundays.’

‘Morvan. Stop it, Fern said sternly, but she was laughing. ‘He is a nightmare with woman anyway.’

‘See that's why we belong together. I'm a nightmare with men. Shit – I can see the train, I have to go —‘

Shoving a handful of crumpled notes at the driver, Morvan belted across the car park and took the stairs two at a time. It wasn't until she felt the splash of a puddle on the railway bridge that she realised —

‘Shit — my shoes!’

The brake lights of the taxi were already disappearing into the distance — and the second's hesitation cost her. But the time she clattered down the stairs to the platform, the train was pulling away.

‘No no no no no —‘ she screamed pointlessly.

The train ignored her, merrily making its way to Glasgow.

What, exactly, was she going to do now?

The countryside beyond the lights of the station was shrouded in complete darkness, the sky above a deep velvety purple. What the hell had Isla been thinking holding her wedding in the arse end of nowhere? Morvan wasn’t even entirely sure where she was.

Morvan was a city girl through and through. She was not one of these keen hearty people who spent every weekend tearing up hills with sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof proof paper. She was born in Townhead in the centre of Glasgow, and had nearly had a hairy canary the first time she saw a Highland Coo in Pollok Park.

She had no patience with the tartan shortbread hiddly-deedly idea of Scotland. The Highlands were all fine and good, she supposed, but castles and kilts were just a tiny sliver of Scottish culture. It irritated the fuck out of her when folk from Glasgow got misty eyed over bagpipes and Braveheart. Morvan got misty eyed over the Sub Club and Burniston.

Her general irritation over the dominance of Highland culture was broken by the sound of heavy footsteps thundering over the footbridge. Morvan watched as a man in full kilt and dicky bow flew around the corner. He came down the stairs with such force that his kilt flew up, treating her to a promising new of the fact that he was a true Scotsman.

Maybe all that Highland shite wasn't so bad after all.

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