Authors: Christina Jones
Tags: #Fiction, #General
‘But?’ Erin frowned. ‘But? Go on, please. Don’t stop there. I can’t wait to hear the rest.’
Nalisha sighed heavily, looked at Jay, and shook her head. Despite her brave words, Erin saw the look between Nalisha and Jay and felt a pang of fear.
Nalisha and Jay: the perfect, beautiful Indian couple.
In the two years she and Jay had been together, their differences had never been mentioned by anyone, least of all themselves. There
no differences for heaven’s sake. Never had been; never would be.
Or would there? Was Jay, now reunited with Nalisha who knew everything and everyone that mattered in the Keskar culture, secretly feeling the same way as Deena?
Jay sighed and looked at his mother. ‘Whatever Erin says, Mum, we really don’t want to hear any more objections. This is the twenty-first century. We’re not having an arranged marriage. Erin isn’t coming to me with a dowry. We don’t care that we have different backgrounds. We haven’t even considered it. For God’s sake – we’re marrying each other because we’re in love and want to spend the rest of our lives together. This is getting ridiculous.’
Erin, giving Nalisha a triumphant glance, swallowed in relief. He
completely on her side. Yay!
Tavish shook his head. ‘Jay, you shouldn’t speak to your mother like that.’
‘No, Tavish, it’s all
right. I’m sorry,’ Deena said quickly. ‘Erin, darling, please don’t ever think that we would prefer anyone else for our daughter-in-law.’
Not even the exotically and expensively fragranced Nalisha? Really?
Erin knew that she had to be grown up here, and that one wrong word could ruin things for ever.
‘Thank you. And I’m sorry, too. I shouldn’t have said anything. It’s just, well, I’m feeling a bit bombarded by all this Indian ritual stuff when our wedding is already arranged. That’s all.’
‘That makes two of us,’ Jay said. ‘And I really can’t see the point of carrying on with the conversation. Can we change the subject, please?’
‘What a good idea,’ Nalisha said softly.
Deena played for time by moving a slightly less than perfect piece of cucumber to one side of her plate. ‘All right, yes, of course. But because I don’t want to upset either of you, can I just reiterate that even if Jay’s the first person in our family not to be marrying within our culture, we absolutely adore you, Erin. Don’t we, Tavish?’
Erin felt it was all being a bit overdone now.
‘We do,’ Tavish said, smiling kindly at Erin and saving a glower for his wife. ‘We couldn’t be happier.’
Oh, good, Erin thought, hoping that the conversation would now change to something far less inflammatory. Politics would be good.
‘Exactly.’ Deena nodded. ‘And we’re not completely archaic, you know. It’s simply very important to us that our wedding traditions and rituals are observed.’
Some hope, Erin thought, irritably. Deena
wasn’t going to let it go, was she? Bugger.
‘Why?’ Jay shook his head. ‘Come on, Mum. When did you and Dad last go to the temple, if it wasn’t for someone else’s wedding? You’re no more committed than we are.’
‘That’s not the point.’
‘It’s exactly the point,’ Jay insisted. ‘Neither Erin nor I pay more than lip service to the religions we were born into. That’s why we’re having a civil ceremony.’
‘Goodness me!’ Tavish dropped a snaking loop of linguini from his fork. ‘A
‘Nooo.’ Erin, much cheered now by Jay’s support, blessed Tavish for his great comic timing. ‘That’s a civil partnership.’
‘Tavish knows that.’ Deena sighed at her husband. ‘We went to one when Kishan married Daman. It was very nice.’
‘You’ve actually been to an Indian gay wedding?’ Despite still being cross with Deena, Erin was fascinated. ‘Blimey.’
‘Fortunately both families are very forward thinking. There was no problem.’ Deena inspected a cherry tomato. ‘But even they had a
. A lot of the boys wore saris.’
Nalisha smiled. Erin giggled. So did Jay.
‘There you are.’ Jay looked far more relaxed now. ‘And the temple roof didn’t collapse, did it? And Kishan and Daman’s families haven’t been condemned to hell fire, have they? Times are changing, Mum. Honestly, no one in the family is going to worry that we haven’t stuck exactly to the old ideas. They’ll just be happy to have been invited to our wedding – whether it’s totally traditional or not.’
‘They are.’ Tavish mopped up the last of his sauce and gave his wife a warning look across the table. ‘As we are. Honestly.’
‘Good,’ Jay said. ‘And we
know you’ll all have a wonderful time. And so will Erin’s family. So please don’t go on about cousin Alisha’s fabulous marriage in the Wembley temple, or cousin Mittul’s wedding that lasted for three weeks, or any of the other family stuff, because this is
going to be an Indian wedding.’
‘That –’ Deena captured a last piece of Lollo Rosso ‘– is becoming abundantly clear. Oh, dear … All right. I can see that I’m not going to win on all counts here. But there are some things that I’d still like to discuss.’
Please, nooo, Erin thought, pushing her plate away. Just when it all seemed to be getting sorted. And as if there wasn’t enough to worry about. Now it wasn’t just if she tumbled off her wedding shoes, or found a spider in her bouquet, or any of the million things she’d previously imagined could go wrong.
Now, just when she’d got Nalisha into perspective – well, almost – Deena was going to
on things, and those things were going to cause a massive, massive problem, she just knew it.
‘No, no pudding, thank you.’ Deena waved away the dessert menu. ‘Like Nalisha, I have to think about my figure.’
Like Nalisha, a teeny-weeny size 10 at most, and toned and honed to perfection, Erin thought, sighing.
‘Well, I’m going to have the honeycomb mousse,’ Tavish said happily. ‘With the Jersey cream, please.’
‘And me, thank you.’ Jay smiled. ‘Erin, have you decided?’
‘Nothing for me, thanks.’ Erin, having hardly eaten anything, shook her head. ‘I’ve got another dress fitting really soon and I can’t afford to have put on an ounce.’
‘Ah.’ Nalisha’s eyes sparkled. ‘The wedding dress? Fabulous. I want to hear all about what you’re going to be wearing.’
‘Not a chance.’ Erin refilled
her water glass. ‘My mum’s been begging me to tell her about it, too. My lips are sealed.’
‘Oh.’ Deena fluttered her eyelashes. ‘Come on, darling. Mind you, I can guess at the colour, and probably the style.’
‘Can you?’ Erin frowned. ‘Really? Because no one, apart from Sophie and Bella who’ve been with me at the fittings because they’re having their bridesmaids’ dresses from the same shop, have seen it or know anything about it at all. Unless –’ she shot a look at Jay ‘– they’ve said something to you at work? And you’ve told your mum and –’
‘Whoa!’ Jay held up his hands. ‘More than my life’s worth to cross-question Sophie and Bella I can tell you. They’re so loyal to you that they wouldn’t tell me anything – not that I’ve asked. I want to be stunned along with everyone else.’
Deena and Tavish laughed.
The two puddings arrived and Jay and Tavish fell on them with murmurs of appreciation.
Deena leaned eagerly towards Erin. ‘Yes, I completely understand that you’d want to keep the details secret, darling, but obviously it will be red and gold with possibly a touch of white or cream and heavily embroidered and gorgeously bejewelled. A ceremonial sari is always –’
‘What ceremonial sari?’ Erin giggled. ‘I’m not wearing a sari!’
Deena looked as if someone had just slapped her. ‘Notwearing-a-sari?’
‘Sheesh,’ Nalisha murmured. ‘Another wrong move …’
‘No.’ Erin shook her head. ‘Why would I wear a sari? For the umpteenth time, it’s a fusion wedding, which is why Jay is going to wear a Nehru suit and I’m wearing … well, a traditional Western wedding dress – and that’s all I’m going to say about it.’
‘But you have
to wear a sari,’ Deena insisted. ‘Jaimal’s bride
wear a sari.’
Here we go again, Erin thought.
‘Don’t call me Jaimal,’ Jay mumbled round a mouthful of honeycomb. ‘And whatever wedding dress Erin’s chosen I know it won’t be a sari. Why on earth would it be a sari?’
‘Because –’ Deena’s eyes flashed ‘– we will all be wearing saris or
. Nalisha will be wearing a sari, won’t you, darling?’
‘Yes, probably. But that’s because I’m Indian. Erin isn’t. She’s bound to be wearing a Western wedding dress. It is a fusion wedding.’
Erin wanted to kiss Nalisha.
Deena sighed heavily. ‘But every woman on our side of the family will be wearing saris or
and they’ll all expect Erin to do the same.’
Erin exhaled. ‘Then maybe you should tell them that I won’t be. That way they won’t be shocked on the day, will they?’
‘Cool,’ Nalisha whispered. ‘Well done.’
Deena merely frowned.
Jay laughed. ‘Look, Mum, Erin and I are delighted that all my aunts and cousins will be wearing saris or
. Just as all the ladies on Erin’s side of the family, and our friends, will be wearing their best outfits. And, as Erin says, I’m wearing a Nehru suit, so you have no complaints there – oh, and before you ask, no there will be no ceremonial turban with it and –’
?’ Deena’s voice travelled up several octaves. ‘Why on earth not?’
‘Because we’re not Sikhs, because
turbans are not part of our heritage or religious dress code, because I am not wearing a Hindu wedding turban for anyone, because I’ve never worn a turban in my life, and because I’d look and feel a complete prat.’
Nalisha and Erin looked at one another and snorted with laughter.
Tavish put down his spoon. ‘Deena, you and your sisters and mine, and the other girls in the family will be splendid in your saris and what have you. But I think the children here have made it perfectly clear that their wedding outfits are already chosen, and they both sound ideal for this fusion wedding, so maybe we should leave it well alone.’
‘And you’ll look gorgeous in a sari,’ Erin put in quickly as it looked as if the elder Keskars were about to have a very public row. ‘I’ve never seen you in one. You’ve always worn Western clothes. You’re like a walking advert for Per Una and Phase Eight.’
‘Yes –’ Deena’s eyes were flinty ‘– but
on ceremonial occasions. As mother of the bridegroom, I shall definitely be adhering to the correct dress code, even if no one else is.’
Ouch, Erin thought, trying to clamp her lips together so that nothing unforgivable could escape. She did a quick eye-meet with Jay and was relieved to see that he was actually trying not to laugh.
Oh Lordy, I love him so much, Erin thought. She’d cope with Deena and the
and the saris and Nalisha and all the other stuff later. With Jay, she knew she’d cope with anything.
‘OK, so we know, very clearly, that Mum and Nalisha and the aunts and cousins will be wearing saris and
and Erin won’t. What about you, Dad?’ Jay looked at his father. ‘Are you going to be wearing a Sherwani tunic and churidars to our wedding?’
Tavish glanced down at his
trademark neat chinos and white sports shirt, and chuckled. ‘No, I’m not. Like you, I’ll be wearing a Nehru suit. And that’s as far as I’m going too.’
Thank goodness for that, Erin thought, wishing that her future parents-in-law would shut up about the bloody wedding. Surely there was nothing left to say?
The gods – of whatever religion – were smiling on her.
Deena glanced at her watch. ‘Tavish, it’s getting late – we’re not even going to have time for coffee. We really ought to be going. I have a client at three-thirty.’
Oh, goody, Erin thought.
Deena ran a beauty parlour and therapy centre. She was absolutely ace at head massages and eyebrow threading and fitting elaborately decorated acrylic nails.
‘And I’m in surgery, and Erin has to be back at work, too,’ Jay said. ‘No, put your wallet away, Dad. It’s all taken care of. This is our treat.’
Some treat, Erin thought darkly, managing to stretch her lips into a charming daughter-in-law-to-be beam at the same time.
Tavish scraped up the last drops of his Jersey cream. ‘Thank you both, then. It’s been lovely. And it’s hopefully answered all your mother’s questions and put her mind at rest.’
Judging by the way Deena snorted and snatched at her Radley bag as she stood up, Erin reckoned Tavish was going to get both barrels of thwarted fury all the way back home. She hoped Nalisha had her iPod to plug in and drown out the worst of the barrage.
‘Not entirely,’ Deena said. ‘But it has at least given me some idea of what’s needed before September. So much to do, so little time. Now, darlings, we’ll have to fly. Thank you for a lovely lunch and we’ll be in touch very soon.’
Can’t wait, Erin thought
darkly, as they thanked the Swan’s staff, and trailed out of the dining room.
Nalisha, her arm now linked snakily through Jay’s, turned every male head in the restaurant.
Outside in the car park, the early afternoon sun broiled relentlessly in the cloudless sky and the Swan’s shady dining room and tastefully hidden air con was very quickly a thing of the past.
Nalisha hugged Erin, then moved away and kissed Jay. Erin tried not to look, or listen as they laughed together.
Be grown up, she told herself. Nalisha will be whizzing up the motorway in a few moments and you won’t have to see her again for weeks.
‘Bye then.’ Nalisha beamed at Erin. ‘It’s been lovely to meet you.’
‘And you.’ Erin smiled fixedly as Jay helped Deena ease herself into the Mercedes and held the door open for Nalisha.
Nalisha paused and smiled secretively at Erin. ‘I’m so pleased we’re going to be friends. And don’t forget what I said. Leave Deena to me.’
‘I will – thank you.’ Erin wondered just why she’d worried about Nalisha who was clearly a very nice woman indeed and simply an old friend of Jay’s and no threat whatsoever.
‘Oh!’ Nalisha smiled suddenly. ‘Your sandals, Erin! I hadn’t noticed them before. How sweet.’