Read An Enormously English Monsoon Wedding Online

Authors: Christina Jones

Tags: #Fiction, #General

An Enormously English Monsoon Wedding (5 page)

Deena laughed. ‘Really? That all sounds wonderful, and I know that’s what it says on the invitations, but surely, you can’t actually be
getting married
here? I know it’s a beautiful old manor house, and it’s in a stunning location, and it still looks like a minor stately home, but it’s
an hotel
.’

‘With a designated wedding room,’ Erin said. ‘It’s licensed for marriages.’

Deena nodded. ‘Yes, yes, I understand that. Most Indian wedding ceremonies – and I’m talking here about the actual marriage only – take place in venues that have been blessed for the occasion these days. Not everyone wants to wait for the temple to become available. But even so, there are still a few things I simply don’t understand and need to clarify.’

Just as Erin was going to speak again, Jay did a silent wide-eyed, head-shaking warning. ‘Maybe we could talk about the arrangements over lunch?’

‘Good idea.’ Tavish stood up and winked at Jay. ‘Your mother thinks she’s been kept out of the wedding loop for far too long. She’s got all sorts of questions that need answering.’

Erin groaned inwardly. Trust Deena to arrive now and put a bloody spanner in the works. Just when they’d got everything running so smoothly. What on earth was she talking about anyway? Why would she imagine that their wedding was going to take place somewhere else? Oh, why did people have to
interfere
?

Crossly, Erin swung her legs over the rustic bench and caught the heels of her unfamiliarly high sandals on the edge of the table. One sandal flew off across the rustic benches and disappeared into the riverside undergrowth.

Erin groaned. Loudly.

The swans stopped
and stared at her with haughty disdain.

Oh Lordy, Erin thought, mortified as she bunched up her frock and hobbled lopsidedly to her feet. In front of Jay’s perfect parents, too. And just when she’d wanted to be all elegant and sophisticated.

‘Oh, dear.’ Deena stared at Erin, clearly trying not to laugh and holding out her hand. ‘Are you OK, darling?’

‘Fine, thanks. I’ll just have to look for the sandal,’ Erin sighed, clasping Deena’s perfect pearly-nailed proffered hand to steady herself.

Deena smiled again. ‘Jay’s searching for it now. Shall Tavish and I start making our way to lunch? We don’t want to be late, do we? And I can’t wait to show you both our surprise.’

Erin forced a smile. ‘I’m sure we’ll love it.’

Jay had quickly retrieved the errant sandal from the long grass and held it out while Erin slid her foot into it.

‘There you go, Cinders.’ He grinned at her. ‘You shall go to the ball.’

‘Ta, but lunch’ll do nicely right now.’

‘Mmm, me too. I’m starving. Although, much as I love Mum and Dad –’ Jay glanced towards the rear view of his parents, making sure they were out of earshot ‘– a picnic for two, by the river, sounds a pretty good alternative at the moment.’

‘I wish,’ Erin muttered. ‘What the heck is your mum on about?’

‘I’ve no idea, but I suspect we’re about to find out that it’s all about tradition, ritual and culture.’

‘Oh, goody. And the surprise?’

‘Probably yet another bejewelled elephant ornament to join the rest of the herd in the loft.’

‘That’s what I
thought,’ Erin giggled. ‘Oh, well, we’ll just have to look suitably thrilled, won’t we?’

‘We’ve had enough practice, haven’t we? And – er – right,’ Jay said loudly as they caught up with the elder Keskars, ‘we’re all sorted now and I’m starving.’

‘Me too, and I can’t wait to have a good chat about these arrangements. And to share our wonderful surprise, which you’re both going to love.’ Deena slid her arm through Erin’s and they set off towards the first rustic bridge with Jay and Tavish behind them. ‘Oh, and if you’re going to be wearing heels on your wedding day, darling, maybe you should have a few deportment lessons before the wedding. I know a very good –’

‘Mum!’ Jay frowned. ‘Erin doesn’t need lessons in anything at all – least of all deportment.’

Erin shot him a grateful glance. ‘And actually, I’ve just told Jay I’m going to be barefoot at the wedding.’


What?
’ Deena looked at her in horror. ‘Why? We’re Hindus, darling, not Jains. There’s absolutely no cultural or religious need for you to go barefoot.’

‘Joke, mum,’ Jay chuckled. ‘And Erin will be perfectly OK with heels on the big day.’

‘Well, of course. But –’ Deena pouted playfully ‘– I was only trying to help.’

‘We know you were,’ Tavish interrupted smoothly. ‘But I’m sure, as Jay says, Erin will be perfectly poised on her wedding day and won’t need any help from anyone else.’

Erin shot him a grateful look too.

‘Maybe not,’ Deena said. ‘But this is the most important day in our lives, Tavish. I don’t want anything to spoil it.’

‘It’s pretty important to us, too,’ Jay said quickly.

Deena paused on the crest of
the rustic bridge and looked over her elegant shoulder. ‘Of course it is, darling. But you, obviously more than Erin, should be aware of just how important family honour and tradition is. The entire family is open to scrutiny at a wedding. We’re all on show. Which is why I think it’s high time I found out
exactly what you’ve got planned, before we lose all credibility.’

Chapter Five

‘Jay’s booked the table over there by the window,’ Erin said excitedly, as they walked into the Swan’s beautiful dining room. ‘The one with the view across the – Oh! There’s someone sitting there!’

Erin glared at the stunning woman with the smooth, dark-honey skin, large perfectly made-up dark eyes and layered chocolate-brown hair shot through with auburn highlights feathered round a traffic-stoppingly beautiful, high-cheekboned face who was browsing the menu.

‘The cheek of her! We’ll have to ask her to move and–’

The rest of Erin’s sentence was lost in a shout of amazement from Jay, and laughter from Deena and Tavish, as the woman abandoned the menu, uncurled herself and flew elegantly across the dining room on killer heels.

‘Jay!’

‘Nalisha!’

Erin frowned in complete disbelief
as the tall, slender woman, who looked as if she’d just sashayed from the pages of some exclusive glossy fashion magazine, squealed with delight and entwined her arms round Jay’s neck and kissed him.

A lot.

‘What the …?’ Erin shook her head.

‘Our lovely surprise, darling,’ Deena gurgled happily. ‘Nalisha’s one of Jay’s oldest friends.’

Erin blinked. Was she? Really? It was news to her. She’d never heard of a Nalisha, had she?

Erin suddenly felt a cold lump of fear grip her heart. So
this
was the big surprise, was it? This was what Deena and Tavish had brought them? The stunningly gorgeous Nalisha.

Oh, great.

Instantly knowing she’d really, really have preferred to be surprised by another bejewelled elephant or twenty, Erin tried to smile.

Her lips didn’t quite make it.

Which wasn’t surprising, was it? After all, what woman really wants to see some scorching female curled like a second skin round their fiancé?

Not her, that was for sure.

And she knew she’d never heard of Nalisha. Ever.

‘Erin,’ Jay laughed, his arms still clasped round Nalisha’s slender waist, ‘this is Nalisha. Nalisha – my fiancée, Erin.’

‘It’s wonderful to meet you at last.’ The long-legged vision in the short, fitted coffee-coloured lace dress with her arms still entwined round Jay’s neck, beamed. ‘I’ve heard so much about you.’

And I’ve heard sod
all about you, Erin thought, still man-aging to smile. ‘Er – thank you, and it’s lovely to meet you, too.’

Liar!

It
might
just have been lovely to meet Nalisha if she’d known she existed and if Nalisha had been some even averagely pretty woman. But
this
? This was definitely
not
lovely on any level.

And why, again, did she feel so scruffy and grubby? Because, Erin told herself darkly, in comparison to this elegant, glorious vision of perfectly groomed Indian womanhood in a designer outfit that must have cost a fortune, she looked like a chainstore-dressed
child
in her now slightly crumpled summer dress and high street sandals.

Euueewch …

Jay managed to extricate himself from the hug, and beamed at his parents. ‘How on earth did you manage this? Last time I heard from Nalisha, she was still working in California and –’

‘Sir? Madam?’ The maître d’ hovered beside them. ‘Your table is ready and …’

‘Yes, sorry.’ Jay grinned. ‘We can all catch up when we’ve ordered.’

Nalisha, Deena and Tavish, still laughing and chatting, headed for the table.

Jay, beaming, grabbed Erin’s hand. ‘How fabulous is this? I can’t believe Nalisha’s here. Oh, you’ll love her, Erin. You’ll be such great friends.’

Erin swallowed. Now was not the time to turn into some shrewish fishwife and screech ‘Never in a million bloody years,’ however much she might want to. ‘Um – yes, I’m sure we will be. But who is she? Have I heard of her?’

‘I’m sure you have, and you did write her name on the wedding invitation.’

Erin sighed. Yes, she probably had – along with dozens of Jay’s other female friends and relations with very pretty Hindu names.

Jay hugged her. ‘Nalisha and
I grew up together. Our parents were friends and neighbours, and Nalisha and I were both only children, much the same age, so we just knew each other from being kids.’

OK. Keep rational. Sound calm.

‘Oh, right. How nice. Sort of like a reality version of Friends Reunited?’

Jay beamed. ‘Yeah, I suppose it is. Nalisha was exactly like a sister to me while we were growing up, and it’s so great to see her again.’

‘And you’re still in touch with her?’

‘We’ve kept in touch, yes.’ Jay smiled. ‘Not so much recently because I’ve been so busy with work and the wedding plans. But we email occasionally, and we do try to catch up on Facebook as often as possible. I knew she’d be over here in time for the wedding, of course, but she didn’t tell me she was coming home early.’

Erin frowned.

Jay laughed. ‘Don’t look at me like that. Do you tell me all about your Facebook friends, and people from your past that you text or email, with chat and old photos and “do you remembers?”?’

‘No, of course not. They’re not important to
us
.’ Erin felt quite proud. She was handling it well now the initial shock had worn off. And it wasn’t as if Nalisha was a
threat
or anything, was it? Especially as she lived in America. Which was a huge bonus. ‘So Nalisha will be able to tell me all your embarrassing teenage secrets over lunch, will she?’

Jay chuckled and pulled her even closer. ‘I sincerely hope not.’

Erin stared across the Swan’s dining
room. Nalisha was now giggling with Deena. The maître d’ was still twitching.

Jay squeezed Erin’s hand. ‘We’d better sit down before he explodes.’

‘What? Oh, yes, right.’ Erin nodded as they moved towards the table. ‘And honestly, I’m really happy for you if you haven’t seen each other for so long … oh, thanks.’

Jay pulled out Erin’s chair. Deena, Erin noticed had rearranged the seating so that Nalisha was between Erin and Jay.

Oh, great. And, Lordy, Erin thought, as she was engulfed by a fragrant wave of Nalisha’s expensively heady, exotic scent, she even wears the same perfume as Deena.

‘Honestly, it’s simply wonderful to meet you.’ Nalisha leaned towards Erin. ‘I can’t wait to get to know you better – I know we’re going to be such good friends. And nothing Jay’s told me about you does you justice. I’m so pleased that you and he are so happy and are getting married.’

OK, Erin thought, Nalisha’s clearly a very nice person.

‘Um … Thank you. And, er, I’m so glad you’ll be at the wedding.’

‘So am I,’ Nalisha laughed happily. ‘I would have come over from the States for your wedding anyway, of course, but because of my new post in London, I have some unexpected free time – and here I am.’

Bugger, Erin thought. Not living in America any more, then. Sod it. And, yes, here you are. As a special treat for my fiancé.
My
fiancé.

‘You’re moving back to the UK?’ Jay said happily to Nalisha. ‘Permanently? Wow. I never thought that’d happen. I thought you loved the California job?’

‘I did. But, you know, life changes …’

Deena peered over the top of her
menu. ‘I know Nalisha’s far too modest to say this, but she’s been headhunted over here. An offer she couldn’t refuse, as they say. She’s taking a sabbatical before moving down to London in September, so she was back home visiting the family, and we thought this – bringing her with us today – was too good an opportunity to pass up.’

I bet you did, Erin thought darkly.

‘So –’ Erin looked at Nalisha, trying very hard not to let any of her rapidly mounting insecurities show ‘– your family live close to Jay’s in Birmingham, do they?’

‘Solihull, actually.’ Nalisha nodded and leaned even closer to Erin. ‘Not Birmingham. Yes. And as Jay and I grew up together – our parents are best friends, did he tell you? – Deena’s always been like a second mother to me. She’s absolutely wonderful, isn’t she?’

‘Oh, yes, wonderful.’

‘You’re so lucky to be having her as your mother-in-law.’

‘I am, yes.’

Well, she was. As opposed to a future mother-in-law who was an axe-murderer or a serial poisoner or something.

‘I think we should order,’ Jay said as the hovering waiter tried not to appear too obvious. ‘Otherwise we’ll all be here at supper time.’

Everyone laughed and diligently studied their menus. Erin wondered sadly what had happened to her appetite.

‘And then,’ Deena said, ‘we really must get down to discussing this wedding.’

Erin and Jay exchanged glances.

Nalisha chuckled. ‘And as weddings are definitely not my area of expertise, I’ll keep well out of that.’

Hallelujah, Erin thought. She smiled sweetly at Nalisha. ‘So, you’re not married?’

Tavish spoke before Nalisha
could answer. ‘No, not our Nalisha. She’s an independent career woman. A highly qualified corporate lawyer. And a very much sought after one. And I doubt if there’s a man in the world who’s good enough for Nalisha.’

Other books

Wanda E. Brunstetter by Twice Loved
Cooking Up Trouble by Joanne Pence
Carolina se enamora by Federico Moccia
TROUBLE 2 by Kristina Weaver
Theme Planet by Andy Remic
The Promise by Fayrene Preston
The One That Got Away by Simon Wood