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The Guest List by Lucy Foley Read Online (FREE)

If Aoife and Dad heard anything, their faces don’t belie it when I re-emerge. I nod to them both. ‘Ready to go.’ Then I yell for Olivia. She emerges, from that little room next to the dining room. She looks even paler than normal, if that’s possible. But miraculously she is ready – in her dress and shoes, holding her garland of flowers. I snatch my own bouquet from Aoife. Then I stride out of the door, leaving Olivia and Dad following in my wake. I feel like a warrior queen, walking into battle.

As I walk the length of the aisle my mood changes, my certainty ebbs. I see them all turn to look at me and they seem a blur of faces, each oddly featureless. The Irish folk singer’s voice eddies around me and for a moment I am struck by how mournful the notes sound, though it is meant to be a love song. The clouds scud overhead above the ruined spires – too fast, as in a nightmare. The wind has picked up and you can hear it whistling among the stones. For a strange moment I have the feeling that our guests are all strangers, that I’m being observed, silently, by a congregation of people I have never met before. I feel dread rise up through me, as though I’ve stepped into a tank of cold water. All of them are unknown to me, including the man waiting at the end, who turns his head as I approach. That excruciating conversation with Dad pinballs around in my brain – but loudest of all are the words he didn’t say. I loosen my grip on his arm, try to put some distance between the two of us, as though his thoughts might further infect me.

Then suddenly it is as though a mist clears and I can see them properly: friends and family, smiling and waving. None of them, thank God, pointing phones at us. We got round that with a stern note on the wedding invite telling them to refrain from pictures during the ceremony. I manage to unfreeze my face, smile back. And then beyond them all, standing there in the centre of the aisle, literally haloed in the light that has momentarily broken through the cloud: my husband-to-be. He looks immaculate in his suit. He is incandescent, as handsome as I have ever seen him. He smiles at me and it is like the sun, now warm upon my cheeks. Around him the ruined chapel rises, starkly beautiful, open to the sky.

It is perfect. It is absolutely as I had planned, better than I had planned. And best of all is my groom – beautiful, radiant – awaiting me at the altar. Looking at him, stepping towards him, it is impossible to believe that this man is anything other than the one I know him to be.

I smile.

 

HANNAH
The Plus-One
During the ceremony I’ve been sitting on my own, crammed on to a bench with some cousins of Jules’s – Charlie had a seat reserved at the front, as part of the wedding party. There was a weird moment, as Jules walked up the aisle. She wore an expression I’ve never seen on her before. She looked almost afraid: her eyes wide, her mouth set in a grim line. I wondered if anyone else noticed it, or even if I’d imagined it, because by the time she joined Will at the front she was smiling, the radiant bride everyone expects to see, greeting her groom. All around me there were sighs, whispers about how wonderful they both looked together.