I Do – Excerpt

February 14th, 1963

Carolina Haines had been waiting for her wedding day for months and had made sure everything was perfect before she took those steps down the aisle. She was thirty years old and she was finally ready to settle down and start a family. And the day was finally here, after months of preparation she was getting the chance to marry the guy she loved.

As she walked slowly down the aisle her heart began to feel faster and her body heat was rapidly increasing. This was the day that she had waited for since she was a child, the day that she had been planning for as long as she could remember. This was the day in which she was the centre of attention, hearing the gasps and whispers from her friends and family as they looked at her walking down the aisle towards Ronald Haroldson, her true love.

They had been together three years and now she was finally getting the chance to show the world their love. She had spent months preparing for the day, ensuring that the venue was correct and that flowers and the cake was ordered. The dress had taken her a while to find but once she had she knew it was the dress. After a few alterations she was wearing the dress of her dreams, about to marry the man of her dreams.

She looked around the room slowly as she made her way to the altar and smiled, it was more than she could imagine. Better than she had hoped it would be. There was a large canopy that was the main attraction and which was covered in white and peach roses. White material was draped around the room and white and peach covers adorned the chairs. A red runner ran from the door to the altar and was dressed with rose petals. She was approaching the altar when she felt herself becoming weaker and light headed.

Her body was shivering and she had chills but she was sweating at the same time. Her stomach knotted and she struggled to keep herself from being sick, she had only eaten a salad a few hours before the wedding. The lights started to become bright and she could feel herself getting dizzy. She tried to shake the feeling off, putting it down to nerves. She suddenly became weak and had to hold on to one of the chairs for support.

“Baby, are you alright?” she heard the panic as her fiancée rushed to her side and pulled her close to him, holding her as her body shook. In the background the guests were panicking and trying to find a telephone in order to call an ambulance. Her body started to convulse violently and she started to foam at the mouth. She tried to speak but she couldn’t get any words out, foam just appeared more. Her stomach became tighter and the shooting pain was becoming unbearable. She was slipping away from the world; she could feel the darkness consuming her.

She wouldn’t survive to be able to get married; she was going to be leaving Ronald by himself, she wished she could tell him that she was sorry. Sorry for not being able to become his wife. She looked over at him but her vision was becoming blurred.

As her body began to shut down she heard a silent whisper in her ear as she felt arms wrapped around her tightly “I knew I’d get you” the voice was familiar but cruel. She could just make out Ronald’s image. “That money is mine”. Ronald had done this to her, he had taken her life…so he could get the money from her life insurance.

January 14th, 2013

 “Right” said Woody “Jagger is standing by the vending machine. Will we finally have a winner? It’s been a week since the thousand pounds was last found. We have Alison Donalds on the line. Hello Alison” Bryony listened as Jagger and Woody spent the next few minutes talking to Alison. When asked what number she was choosing she choose seven and said that it was because her daughter was seven. Jagger informed her that there was a song to sing before they could vend and Bryony got ready to sing along.

“It’s the 8.15 vending machine, vending machine, vending machine, what could be in the vending machine on real radio?” Alison’s voice was a little behind and finished just after Jagger and Woody had.

“Alison” Jagger’s voiced boomed through the speakers “You chose number seven which is lucky for some. Will it be lucky for you? What would you spend the thousand pounds on?”

“We haven’t had a holiday for the past three years so we will be using the money to book a holiday for the summer” A few seconds passed as the vending was undertaken.

“The vend has been completed. Alison you have vended” Jagger was silent for a couple of seconds “One….Mars Bar. Sorry Alison”

“That’s OK. Thank you”

“We need to hear those real winning words”

“I’m a real winner” Alison shouted loudly down the line.

“Thanks for playing Alison” The stations jingle sounded ‘Another winner on your real good feel good station, Real Radio’.

Jagger continued “Well that’s it – we haven’t had a winner for a week now. Our boss is happy. We will tell you which compartment the thousand pounds was in after this song”

Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses came on and both Bryony and Jackson sang along loudly – it was one of their favourite songs. When the song ended Woody could be heard singing the last few words loudly; as he often was.

“I thought we talked about you singing when we’re on the air”

“We did. But it’s a good song. You have to admit that”

“I’m not denying that, it’s a fantastic song, but you’re scaring the listeners. Sorry to all the listeners out there. We have to tried to stop him”

“So where was the £1000?” Woody asked trying to change the subject quickly.

“Oh right. You made me forget about that. It was in box 11 today”

“I would’ve chosen that”

Jagger chuckled “You wouldn’t”

“How do you know” Bryony couldn’t help but laugh, there was something about the two of them that made you love them. The banter they had was one of them. And they were definitely not causing any disappointments that morning.

“‘Cos you always pick box nine”

“Today I would’ve picked eleven”

“No you wouldn’t” Jagger laughed. “I just had a text off Emma telling me to leave you alone. Thanks for being on my side love”

“Thanks Emma. Anyway its 8:25 so it’s over to Gareth for the latest on the roads”

“Thank you Woody.” Gareth’s voice faded as Jackson turned the radio down and sent a smile towards Bryony.

“What?” she smiled back.

“Just thinking how I cannot wait to make you my wife”

Bryony blushed “I can’t wait to become your wife either” she squeezed his hand quickly and thought about their wedding that was set for Valentine’s Day – four weeks. There was still a lot of work to be done and the next few weeks were going to be filled with visiting venues, looking at decorations and creating the seating plans. She and Jackson had been going out for three years; they had met back in 2009 and had instantly hit it off. After a few months they had moved in together and their relationship had only grown stronger. On their three year anniversary of their first date Jackson had proposed to her and she had no hesitations in saying yes. So now five months later she was preparing herself to become Mrs Jackson Regan.

She smiled at the memory of that evening; it was if it had been the night before, not five months ago. She had come home from a long and difficult day at work, not sure what to expect when she got him. She held tightly onto the bag that contained Jackson’s present and let herself into the house. An aroma wafted through the hallway and made her senses dance. She kicked her shoes off at the door and made her way into the living room. As she did she noticed the table in the dining room had been decorated with rose petals and candles.

Jackson entered the room carrying a bouquet of flowers. “Happy anniversary babe” he walked over to her and kissed her. She kissed back and let out a soft moan as he pulled back.

“These are for you” he held out the flowers to her.

“Thank you, they’re lovely” She sniffed them softly and laid them gently on the table “Happy anniversary to you, too. What smells so good?”

“Rosemary chicken, garlic potatoes, carrots and green beans”

“Hmm that sounds so good” she removed her jacket and hung it up; she placed the bag with Jackson’s gift inside down beside the table and hoped he wouldn’t take a peek before she gave it to him. She entered the kitchen and looked for a vase to keep the roses in. Placing them on the table she turned and wrapped her arms around her boyfriend. They both smiled.

“Why don’t you go have a long bubble bath whilst I finish preparing the dinner?”

Bryony moaned a little “That sounds good. I do ache a little from work actually”

Jackson kissed her “I’ll shout you when it’s done” Bryony nodded and made her way upstairs. Running the bath she removed her work clothes and climbed into the water. Her body moaned from the heat and she let out a sigh. She laid there for about fifteen minutes as the bubbles slowly melted and allowed her body to relax. It took her a while to dry her hair and find something to wear but after an hour she made her way downstairs wearing a low cut slit black dress that she knew Jackson enjoyed and her hair ran in ringlets over her shoulders. Jackson was seated at the table and served them their meal.

They spent the meal giving passing glances, smiling and discussing their day. Once the main meal was finished, Jackson informed her that there was pear tartan for desert but they should wait at least thirty minutes before eating. She helped him with the dishes and went back to the living room to exchange gifts. They sat down and she reached for her bag and took the box from within it.

“Bryony” Jackson took a deep breath “These past three years have been the best of my life. I never knew what I was missing until you came along and showed me. You have been my strength, my best friend, and my lover” he got down on one knee and pulled a box from his pocket. Bryony felt a flutter inside her stomach and her heart skipped a beat “I want to spend the rest of my life with you Bryony; I am nothing when I am not with you. So Bryony, my love, my life, will you marry me?”

Bryony felt as if her heart stopped. She couldn’t find a voice to say the words, so she nodded. She hugged Jackson and cried as he placed the ring on her finger.

“I love you”

“God Jackson, I love you too, so much”.

 

January 15th

 Bryony Carlson held her breath as she walked through the great hall and Goosebumps began to appear as she felt a small shiver through her spine. Her eyes roamed the room and took in the beauty of it. The ceiling depicted Aesop’s Fables on the walls and there were bird and animal mouldings around the doors and large fireplaces. Also wooden carvings that covered the interior were regularly decorated with gold leaf. The place seemed unrealistic to her and was something out of a fairytale. They were currently looking around Castell Coch in Cardiff as a possible venue to get married.

She immediately knew that this was the place where she was to get married. There was some force that was holding her and telling her that she must be married there. She let go of her fiancées hand and walked over to one of the long wooden tables that were placed carefully in the centre of the room. Running her fingers over them she imagined sitting at one with her newly wed husband and their best man and maid of honour, watching the guests as they laughed and talked over their meal and celebrating the couple. Another shiver ran through her body but she shook it off. It was an old castle, it was cold but she would need to make sure that she would be warm during the ceremony and the reception. Maybe there was a way that they could have some heaters placed around the room.

“This is perfect. Jackson this is the place” Bryony was excited as she turned to face her fiancée and was pleased when she saw he was smiling also.

“It really is” he approached her, his eyes also wide with excitement. It really was a beautiful place that would truly host a great wedding. Bryony nodded.

“Would you be okay with this as the venue?” Jackson pulled her close and wrapped his arms around her.

“Bry, I would be happy getting married in a sewer if it meant that I could get to spend the rest of my life with you” he kissed the top of her head and stroked her hair. Bryony sighed and lifted her head to meet his. She ran her fingers down his cheek and moved his hand to the back of his neck and played with the strands of dirty blond hair that fell from the mess of shaggy hair.

She leaned up and placed a soft kiss on his lips “I love you”

“I love you too” he returned the kiss and pulled back gently and looked around the room. Bryony turned around and leant against him as his arms went around her waist protectively.

“It really is impressive isn’t it?” he rested his head on her shoulder and closed his eyes.

“Yeah it is. There’s something magical here. I can’t describe it, but I know that we are destined to get married here” Jackson smiled. Bryony was a big believer in destiny and fate and always held the belief that events happened because they were meant to – whether they were good or bad. She believed that their meeting, although not great, was predetermined by the fates.

His mind went back to the day that they met, and smiled. He had just left the office to go to the bakery and café for lunch. He took out his cell phone and started to reply to a message when he suddenly experienced a hot feeling around his crotch area. He looked up to find a young dark-haired woman holding what was an empty coffee cup with a look of panic on her face. “I am so sorry. I was rushing and I didn’t see you. Oh God, I burnt you. Let me buy you some new trousers”.

She was rambling terribly but he found himself being attracted to her. He put his hand up to stop her “It’s not your fault I should have been watching where I was going”.

“No, I was not paying attention” They both laughed

“How about we make it both our faults?” she suggested

“Okay” Jackson smiled

“Bryony” she held out her hand and he took it “Jackson”

“How about I take you for coffee? Possibly a muffin to make up for the trouble I’ve caused? I mean unless you have plans that is?” she started to ramble again and her speech was rushed at the last part. She hated that was how she would talk when she was nervous.

Jackson shook his head “I have just gone on lunch actually” he was lucky that he had otherwise he would be returning late to work just so she could take him for a drink.

The two had coffee and had become an item soon after. Bryony had told him that it was meant to happen. That he was meant to be looking at his phone at that time whilst she was rushing down the street after coming back from the doctors. She was meant to have spilt the coffee over him so that they would have to talk. He thought that it was ridiculous and that it was just an accident, but Bryony was adamant that it was destined, and that she had waited a long time to meet him. Although Jackson didn’t believe it, he knew that Bryony did and so he supported her. It was definitely not a day that he would forget; it brought him his true love, and was also a painful experience.

“What are you thinking about?” she faces him and stroked his cheek

“The day we met” he smiled and walked around the hall with her, their hands linked together.

Bryony laughed “Remembering the pain I caused you?” she took in the images that were on the wall. One was a large tapestry depicting a battle that had occurred many hundreds of years ago. It was slightly faded and was torn at the edges but it was still a magnificent sight. She would have to try and incorporate that into the wedding some how.

“And the love that you gave me”

“It really was an interesting day wasn’t it?” she ran her hand over the tapestry and felt the thin nylon through her fingers.

“Yeah, besides the pain it was one of the best days of my life”

“Oh you hopeless romantic” Bryony giggled and stared out of the window. It was a beautiful day out and she imagined standing outside the castle, her newly wed husband by her side, smiling and ready to spend the rest of their lives together.

They heard footsteps behind them and turned to find the manager, Barry, coming towards them. “How are you finding the place?”

Bryony was the first to answer “It’s fantastic. I mean it’s better than I could have imagined. I mean to actually be married here it’s like something out of a fairytale”

Barry nodded and smiled “Yes, a lot of people wish for this to be a setting. The women say that there is something magical about it” Bryony nodded in agreement “What kind of package are you interested in?”

“Do you do any that include catering?” Jackson asked.

“We can offer a three course meal for each guest, as well as a glass of champagne for a cost of £35 per head. There will be an option available on the night of what each guest would like and we aim to serve each course within 30 minutes of each other”

Bryony looked at Jackson “That’s cheaper than I would have expected” she turned to face Barry “We will take that. We read that you do the decorations, place settings etc.?”

Barry nodded “I can get you some booklets that have a collection of the decorations and settings that we have, but we are able to cater to your needs if there is something you wish to have that we don’t offer. I will be back in a minute” Barry nodded to them and walked off to his office. Bryony couldn’t help but squeal.

She had loved coming to Tongwynlais since she was a child and to be able to get married in Castell Coch meant a lot to her. She thought back to the days when she and her family would go there with a picnic and a football and spend summer days on the beach then having a picnic outside the castle. One day she hoped to do the same with her family.

“This is turning out to be perfect. Can you believe that in four weeks we are going to be standing in here declaring ourselves to each other?”

Jackson kissed her “I can’t wait to make you my wife” Bryony returned the kiss but was soon interrupted after a short while by Barry nearing them carrying a large amount of brochures and leaflets.

Bryony pulled back embarrassed “Sorry” she blushed.

“There is nothing to worry about when it comes to love Miss Carlson. Here is your information. Feel free to take them home and look at them”

Jackson took the leaflets and catalogues from Barry as he was turning a little red from the weight. He was a small fragile man who was balding on the top of his head. “Thank you. We will”

“I look forward to hearing from you. All the best Miss Carlson, Mr Regan” he bent towards them and shuffled off. Jackson took Bryony’s hand and started to walk to the door when Bryony felt a little draft. She expected that and thought that it added to the authenticity but she would have to make sure she wore warm underwear for the wedding.

“It’s draughty, don’t you think? But I kind of like it”

Jackson looked at her “Sorry?”

“The draught”

“I can’t feel anything hon” he pulled her closer, wrapping his arm around her shoulder, making sure not to drop the leaflets from his other hand, and noticed that she was a little cold.

“Oh. Must just be me then” She felt a small shiver up her spine.

“You do feel a little cold. Do you want my jacket?”

Bryony shook her head “I’ll be okay. Thank you though” They were about to leave the building when Bryony suddenly stopped and let go of his hand. He turned to find her standing still, looking stiff and pale.

“Sweetheart?” Jackson stepped closer to her, unsure of what was happening.

As Bryony approached the door she felt a sharp shock throughout her body and it was if her body had become frozen. Even though she was fully conscious she was unable to move or speak and her brain would not understand what she was trying to do. She felt a stabbing sensation in her stomach as the feeling came back and she dropped slightly, her arm wrapped around her stomach.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” Jackson ran to her and helped her up.

“Wh-what happened?” Bryony was a little dizzy and the lights suddenly seemed bright to her.

“You went cold and kind of zoned out. Are you feeling okay?”

Bryony didn’t know what had happened to her but she remembered the pain that she felt. She could still feel the coldness throughout her body and she couldn’t shake the feeling away. Her head started to buzz and she had to squint as the light was blinding.

“Can we go home please?”

“Of course” Jackson removed his jacket and handed it to her, watching closely as she put it on and wrapped it around herself. He took her hand again and led her outside to the car, his mind trying to make sense of what had happened back in the castle. They reached the car and he placed the brochures on the backseat and helped Bryony into her seat, she still felt cold and she was shivering slightly. He put the heating on full when he got into the driver’s seat and watched as Bryony leant her head against the seat and closed her eyes.

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