After rifling through her handbag for her compact mirror Ivy inspected her normally dull and tired blue eyes, even in the darkness she could see they were sparkling and full of life, glistening like precious jewels. She smiled and put her compact back, smiling again as she touched the plastic bag of clotted cream fudge, she’d bought for her friend Eileen. She was being returned to the care home after dark. She wasn’t surprised when she saw the welcoming committee on the doorstep, she had expected it. She knew she would have to face the pained expressions of the care staff. She had taken some delight in knowing that Fran, the home manager, would have spent several hours pacing the dirty threadbare carpet in the day room, claiming to be concerned and worried-sick about Ivy. But they all knew, when any of the residents ‘wandered off’ she was concerned about her job and not her charges. But Ivy hadn’t wandered off today, she’d left intentionally and had a partner in crime.
Saturday had started like any other day with her alarm clock buzzing loudly at 8am, which never woke her as generally she had been wide-awake for hours staring at the uninspiring beige wallpaper on her bedroom wall. After bathing in the walk-in bath contraption, she had dressed choosing to pair a pale-yellow twinset with a pair of white linen trousers. Deep down she knew white would be a mistake considering the lack of cleanliness in the home, but she tried to dress in contrast to the drab surroundings. Just as Ivy was rummaging through her handbag trying to find her room key a knock on her door made her jump.
Having spotted her abandoned keys, she first checked her reflection in the mirror and answered the door.
“Hi Nan! I’ve come to take you out for the day!”
Ivy was pleasantly surprised to see her granddaughter Lola standing in the hallway. Lola was in her late twenties and although a constant disappointment to her parents with her lack of career or purpose in life, Ivy had always secretly favoured Lola. She was a warm-hearted girl who had showed a determination to be her own person and choose her own way in the world from an early age. Her actions were often seen as being rebellious to her parents, but Ivy always saw and nurtured a care-free and spirited girl who enjoyed life and was curious to see what the world had to offer.
“Come on Nan!” Lola urged her beloved grandmother impatiently and shook her car keys. “Grab your coat, you don’t need anything else.”
Smiling from ear to ear, Ivy quickly grabbed her coat and handbag. “Where are we going?” she asked whilst locking the door of her room. “I’d better just let Eileen know I won’t be at breakfast.”
“No time!” urged Lola and grabbed her grandmother’s hand.
Locating and insisting Ivy took a seat in an abandoned wheelchair Lola hurried the pair of them out of the building, exiting through a fire escape so they wouldn’t have to answer any questions from the reception staff, who had been leisurely enjoying cups of coffee and gossiping when Lola had passed them minutes ago.
“Right then, wagons roll!” exclaimed Lola as she dramatically revved the engine of her car and she and Ivy sped from the car park.
Two hours later, having enjoyed shop bought pastries and a journey filled with laughter and singing and reminiscing about old times, Lola and Ivy arrived at the coast. Greensummer Bay was a quaint fishing village with a small number of dated tourist attractions on the seafront. It was a place Ivy and her husband used to take their grandchildren for day trips when they were younger, which both Ivy and Lola shared cherished memories of.
“Nan, I need to be honest with you, I’ve got you here under false pretences.” Lola had turned the car engine off and turned to look at her grandmother. Her tone sounded serious, but her eyes were smiling. She was biting her bottom lip giving the impression she was nervous. “Tim and I are getting married today and we wanted you here.” Lola blurted the news out, her voice higher pitch than usual, she desperately wanted her Nan’s approval.
“I don’t understand, are your Mum, Dad and sister here?” Ivy looked confused.
“No, I only wanted you here. I didn’t want Mum getting involved, you know what she’s like. She would have turned it into a circus and invited a load of her golf club friends.”
Ivy was torn, she wanted to support Lola but also knew that their daughter getting married without them would break her parent’s hearts. Ivy looked at her granddaughters youthful smiling face, her eyes shining with hope and expectations of the happiness her future would bring. Despite her reservations and the niggling feeling of what was to come Ivy took her granddaughters hand and squeezed it gently, giving her approval silently, her heart was bursting with love for the girl she’d adored since the first day she’d held her. As for Tim, Ivy had loved Tim as soon as Lola had introduced them, he was quieter and more sensible than Lola, the qualities he had balanced and calmed Lola when her wilder side was getting out of control.
Ivy and Lola walked to the registry office in comfortable silence, hand in hand and occasionally glancing at each other to share reassuring smiles and the odd giggle. When they arrived, Lola was whisked off by her pink haired friend who Ivy had met previously but couldn’t recall her name.
The small group greeted Ivy warmly and Tim made a point of thanking Ivy for coming and placed a protective arm around her shoulders giving her a nervous kiss on the cheek. “Lola wants you to give her away so when we get called in wait outside Ivy and I’ll make sure there’s a seat at the front for you.”
After a few minutes of the group making small talk, admiring wedding guest finery and making vague plans for after the ceremony they all trooped into the council building following Tim who was leading the group. Ivy was left outside the room to wait for her granddaughter, Tim patted her hand and thanked her again for coming, emphasising how much it meant to him and Lola, his future wife.
Ivy sat herself down on a hard plastic chair and waited patiently alone with her thoughts and concerns, her attention broken when she heard rapid footsteps approaching. She glanced at her watch assuming they were some guests running late.
“Mum!” Ivy jumped when she heard her son Malcolm’s frantic voice. “Thank God you’re here, we called the home this morning after Tim had called us. They said you’d gone out for the day with some of the other residents.”
After tutting about Fran lying to cover her back Ivy open her mouther to answer but Lola and her pink haired friend turned the corner, their laughter and smiling faces drained the concern and confusion from Malcom’s face.
“Dad!” Lola stopped abruptly, her blushed and made-up face drained quickly of colour. “How did you know?” her small voice stammered.
“Tim called us this morning he wanted to give us the opportunity to be here, I wish you’d told us darling; we know you’re happy with Tim and we would have been happy to give you our blessing.” He looked at his feet and sighed. “Your Mum and sister are waiting in the car outside, is it ok for us to come to your wedding?”
Lola’s pink haired friend whispered something in Lola’s ear and ducked into the suite where the groom and the rest of the wedding party were eagerly waiting.
“I didn’t think you would want to; it won’t be anything like the grand affair Alexandra had at the golf club.” Lola was the one to look at the floor now.
“Your happiness if all we ever cared about. And anyway, we always knew whatever you decided to do it wouldn’t be conventional.” Malcolm opened his arms out towards his daughter, which Lola fell into silently.
“Sorry Dad, I just didn’t want a circus and I didn’t think you liked Tim.” Lola’s voice was muffled.
“Course we do silly, now shall I go get your Mum and Alexandra?”
Lola sniffed, blotted at her eyes with a tissue, hoping the thickly applied mascara hadn’t run, and nodded her head.
After Malcom had left Lola looked at Ivy who was smiling, it was a watery tear-stained smile but a bright beaming smile. They held each other’s hands, no words passed their lips, but each knew what the other was thinking.
Lola’s Mother and sister came rushing around the corner, looking sheepish and not dressed to the nines like they both would usually for a wedding. They both liked an opportunity to get their designer labels out.
No words were exchanged just reassuring looks and kisses before they smiled at Lola and joined the wedding party.
“Dad, I want both you and Nan to walk me down the aisle.”
“Of course, I know you two are thick as thieves.” Malcolm’s smile was warm and genuine.
“No, you don’t want me.” Ivy spoke for the first time since Malcom had arrived. “It’s your Dad’s job to give you away.”
Lola dismissed this notion with a quick flick of her hand and placed her hands on her hips so they could link arms. “Like Dad said, I’m not one for convention.”
The ceremony was quick with minimal fuss, making up for the lack of grandeur with tears of joy, warm genuine smiles and love for the happy couple.
After the register had been signed and Tim had kissed the bride several times the now loud party’s volume matched the noise of their brightly coloured outfits as they left the registry office and made their way to the seafront. They congregated on picnic blankets and hired deckchairs on the beach. The wedding breakfast was fish and chips they eaten from polystyrene containers. Lola’s pink haired friend produced a couple of bottles of homemade elderberry wine from a carrier bag and they all toasted Lola and Tim and many years of happiness as a married couple. A sea of paper cups was held aloft, and Lola and Tim leaned towards each other and sealed their union with more kisses.
The party stayed on the beach until the sun started setting and the temperature dropped, they’d taken it in turns to wander off to buy seaside souvenirs to commemorate the day, bought warm sugary donuts and candyfloss to devour on journeys home, and Ivy had been escorted to the sweet shop to purchase soft fudge for her friend back at the residential home. Lola and Tim were staying at a B&B which their friends had booked as a surprise, so after more kisses, hugs and elderflower wine induced tears, Ivy was being taken home. Her heart was happy, and her face ached from smiling and laughing. Lola’s friends were a funny bunch with what Ivy considered to be some equally funny ideas, but they were good people and Ivy knew Lola would be surrounded by love, good friends, and a kind thoughtful husband for the rest of her life.