Conflicting Desire

Gill let the toilet lid slam. She sat down on the edge of the bath and hugged herself, taking deep breaths, like her mother had always taught her to do when she was nervous.

Julie knocked on the door again, "You alright, fat arsed bitch?"

"I may have many things, but a fat arse isn't one of them."

"My mistake. I remember now, actually – your arse is tight, isn't it? Very bony. Nice and smooth, though. Bit Pippa Middleton-like, actually. At least the wedding photos from behind will look good."

Gill tried to laugh, but it came out as a groan.

"No, really, Gill. You alright?"

"I'm shitting myself."

"Not literally, I hope."

She hugged herself tighter, then stopped, because her fingernails were making raw indents in her bare arms. Her nails were painted white today, but some of the paint had smudged down her fingers because she'd been shaking when she'd done them.

She stood up and spun around experimentally, observing herself in the bathroom mirror. Julie was wrong: her arse looked stupid, draped in creamy white frills. But no more stupid than everything else. Her hair was frizzy from the rain; her cheeks were as pale as her nail paint.

"You're not having second thoughts, are you?" Julie asked softly from outside the door, "I know it's hard, what with Dave being an arse about it, and..."

"No. I want to marry him. I love him."

"That's good."

"I don't give a damn what Captain Underpants thinks," Gill said haughtily, but her voice shook. Of course she cared. For ten years, she'd put up with him sleeping around because she adored him, couldn't help herself even when he treated her like something on the bottom of his shoe. She hated him, yes, but she still cared.

"Of course," Julie agreed soothingly, "Sammy texted; he said he and Orla got to the church at one o'clock, and he's now blaming me for telling him the wrong time."

"Sometimes I wonder if he's really my son."

"Oh, he's definitely your son. He says the flowers look nice."

Gill tucked a strand of her fringe behind her ear. Her son would look lovely, she was sure, and of course Orla was beautiful. She was proud of both of them; she wondered if they were proud of her.

And then she wondered why the hell she was allowing herself to get all sentimental. Get yourself together, woman.

Julie seemed to be thinking the same. "Come on, Gill; I need to do your make-up now. You can't hide away forever."

"Yeah, yeah."

"I can put it more eloquently, if you like. Open the bloody door."

Gill wiped her eyes, then laid her fingers on the lock and twisted it, swinging the door outwards.

Julie was sitting on the edge of the bed experimenting with a pair of straighteners, and wrinkling her nose at the wisps of smoke rising from them. When she saw Gill, she jumped up.

"What do you think?"

"Oh, Gill. You look wonderful, love."

"How sarcastic was that, on a scale of one to ten?"

"Ten," she grinned, but she reached out and took Gill's hands tenderly in hers, "I really mean it. He's going to be swept away. God, I sort of wish I was the one marrying you now."

"Piss off."


"Hello," Chris said softly to Gill.

Mitch, who had proudly led her up the aisle in place of her father, kissed her cheek and pressed her sweaty hand into Chris's. He crossed the church and sat down between Pete and Kevin, who were fighting over a service sheet.

"You look beautiful."

"Thank you. So do you."

He laughed. She loved his laugh.

"Handsome, I mean," she gave him a gentle shove, then nestled her head against his arm. She'd been frightened for weeks about how stupid they'd look; he was tall and young and slender, whereas she was the complete opposite. But none of that mattered right now.

Rachel wolf-whistled, "Save it for after the wedding."

Janet, Rachel and Julie sat in the row behind Lee, Pete, Kevin and Mitch. They all wore delicate lilac bridesmaid dresses, and carried little bunches of purple roses; Rachel, although her marriage to Sean had been incredibly low-key, had wanted her boss's wedding to be perfect, just to show her how much they all appreciated what she did for them.

On the other side of the church, Sammy looked slightly uncomfortable in his suit and tie, but Orla looked graceful by his side. Gill looked to Orla almost as an adopted daughter; the girl didn't have parents to speak of, and she and Gill had grown close over time. She was friendly and funny and modest, and she loved Sammy in a way Gill suspected Dave had never loved her.

Perhaps Chris could repair that now, though.

"I, Christopher Andrew Latham, take you, Gillian Victoria Murray, to be my wife."

All of this was a blur to Gill. She repeated the words after the vicar, and she heard Chris do the same, but she wasn't really listening.

"Until death do us part," Chris said, and he reached out and squeezed her fingers – like Julie had done earlier – because those words were more significant to them that to most people. They dealt with a lot of death; they knew how it tore lives apart.

"Until death do us part," she echoed.

"If any of you know any reason in law why these two people may not marry each other," the vicar waved his hands to either side, addressing the audience, "You are to decl-"

The door at the back of the church burst open as, and Dave Murray stepped inside. The entire room tensed; Janet and Rachel exchanged incredulous glances, and Sammy's eyes lit up with anger.

If it hadn't been for Chris's arm around her waist, Gill thought she would've crumbled to the floor.