“I’m too old to be going to weddings!” The invitation lay on the table beside the bottle of milk. It rested as a barrier between Ned Daly and his wife Esther. The net in a game of mind tennis that had developed moments earlier, with the arrival of the postman.
“We have to go!” Esther replied sliding the envelope discreetly across the plastic table cloth, subconsciously putting the ball back into her husband’s court.
‘She is our only niece and your brother’s daughter,’ she continued brushing some crumbs into her opened hand, with meticulous accuracy. The shiny tablecloths were a Godsend for that type of thing.
She needled further. ‘I suppose everyone from the family will be there. We have to keep in touch you know. You never know what is going to happen...when people pass on.’
A glance from Ned. A chink in the armour.
‘And I suppose your generous brother will be doing his best to impress. I’m sure there will be a free bar.’
Ned put down his fork and looked at the invitation. He leaned back in his chair and held it between his thumb and forefinger.
“What date is it?” he asked nonchalantly,
‘You can read can’t you?’
He opened the envelope and peered down his nose as if he was reading a begging letter from a peasant and he was the lord of the manor.
‘Mr. Sean and Mary Daly request the company of....’
‘You’ll need to get a new suit’
‘I’m not going!’ He flung the invitation back down onto the table and re-applied himself to his sausage.
‘You don’t have to wear a tie...a suit will do’
‘Ties make me uncomfortable...I feel like a turkey,’
‘You don’t have to wear one. Do you want more toast?’ Esther placed another slice on his plate before he answered and he started to butter it, grumbling to himself as he did so.
There was a silence as the events of the morning were digested. Ned crunching on toast along with the ticking of the clock were the only sounds in the kitchen.
‘We’ll have to get them a present of course’
Ned stopped chewing momentarily and restarted slowly, knowing this day out would cost a fortune.
Esther stood up and brought her plate over to the sink. She lit a cigarette and gazed out of the kitchen window.
‘I hate when you smoke when I’m eating. How often do I have to say it?’
Esther watched her pursed lips in the reflection of the glass ignoring her husband’s comments. She sighed to herself. You would swear she was asking him to go off to war and not a wedding. It was Sean that was the problem. The jealousy thing. Sean had been very successful in business, where Ned had been a working man. Doing his bit and then coming home to his pigeons. She didn’t mind that. She was glad that he had always been home for the children but he shouldn’t let his pettiness stop them from going to their niece’s wedding.
‘Is there any jam?’
‘In the fridge, where it always is’
She heard the chair skid backwards and the sigh of ‘Do I have to get it myself?’
‘The door opened and closed and she listened as Ned re-settled himself.
‘Looks like rain’.
‘What’s new? Was there a paper this morning?’
‘No, he’s been late all week’
‘Will be time for the Herald at this rate’.
Esther smiled. He still made her laugh. She turned around and rested her bum onto the sink.
‘So are we going?’
‘S’ pose...when is it? September?’ Ned picked up the envelope again as if reading it for the first time. ‘How will we get out there? I’m not paying for a taxi!’
‘Kenny will drop us out...there will be a bus back I’m sure.’
She made her way to the table with a cloth and started to wipe it down. Ned sat back with his arms folded.
‘What age is she anyway? Sinead. Is she not too young to be getting married?’
Esther stood up straight.
‘She’s thirty two! Sure I was married when I was nineteen.’
Ned remembered back.
‘And gorgeous you were too.’
Esther placed a hand on his shoulder as she walked past him.
‘I better see where I left my hat from Joan’s wedding,’ she said smiling. She walked out from the kitchen leaving Ned alone.
‘Feckin’ Strawberry jam!’