WRITTEN BY HELEN M HUNT
Trying to choose her dress prompted Kath to think about her choice of husbands…
Kath wasn’t sure she believed in third time lucky; certainly not when it came to getting married. So what on earth was she doing standing in the It’s Never Too Late bridal boutique trying on a wedding gown “for the more mature bride”?
She’d worn a fluffy meringue creation when she’d married Rob at the tender age of nineteen, and a daring number with a plunging neckline when she’d married Jason in her twenties. This time, now she was thirty-something-with-a-forty-in-it, she was going for something more classy.
“Your first time?” the shop assistant asked as she tacked up the hem.
You’d think I’d know better by now, wouldn’t you?
“Hardly,” Kath said with a sigh. “I’ve been married twice before. You’d think I’d know better by now, wouldn’t you?”
“Well, I suppose it depends what went wrong the first two times,” the woman said, standing back and squinting at Kath’s hemline.
If nothing else, Kath felt more comfortable about the dress she was wearing this time. Its folds of orchid silk outlined her body without clinging to the bits she was least proud of, and it made her look younger than she was without making her look like mutton dressed as lamb.
At least this time she wouldn’t be teetering on high heels and wondering whether she was going to trip over her train, she thought with a sigh of relief.
What had gone wrong the first two times, she mused, as she stood in front of the full-length mirror twisting this way and that in an effort to see whether she was now totally happy with the length. If only she could understand that, she might be able to unpick how she was feeling now.
She thought back to the fluffy creation she’d been wearing when she’d looked into a similar mirror in the run up to marrying Rob.
The flimsy bodice had been all lace and frills and the skirt, with its layers of silk and net, had tumbled around her like a sea of froth. Somehow the insubstantial nature of the dress had underlined how she’d felt at the time: just nineteen, unsure of herself and the world around her. Rob had seemed like a haven and a protector.
What she hadn’t realised then was that you couldn’t rely on someone else to look after you; you had to learn to be strong enough to do it yourself.
“I suppose what went wrong the first time is that I was just too young,” she said. She’d been talking to herself really, so it came as a slight shock when the woman replied.
“Think of me as a confessional,” she said. “I get to hear all sorts in here and it goes no further. You can tell your Aunty Maggie anything. Don’t forget though, it’s my business to get people married, so you won’t hear a word against it from me.”
“Well, er, Maggie…” Kath started.
She couldn’t really see the woman in a role as honorary aunty, given that she barely looked older than Kath herself, but in the circumstances a confessor might come in quite handy.
“As I said, I was too young. I didn’t fully realise what marriage was about back then, I suppose.”
Everyone’s allowed one mistake
“That’s not that unusual,” said Maggie. “I get a lot of second-time-around brides in here who got married the first time in their teens and early twenties and didn’t know what they were letting themselves in for. Everyone’s allowed one mistake.”
“It wasn’t just one mistake in my case though. It was two – and the second was so much worse than the first,” Kath said.
She caught sight of her anxious expression in the mirror and tried to replace it with a smile.
It was funny, Kath had wondered a lot about whether or not she was suited to marriage since she’d said yes to the third marriage proposal of her life. It was only talking to someone else about it – someone who’d seen marriage from every angle through the eyes of a thousand brides – that she was able to articulate her thoughts.
She felt as if she was actually getting to the root of the problem now: It was the mistake she’d made with marriage number two that was making her doubt whether she deserved the possibility of happiness with number three.
“What happened?” Maggie asked, putting her pincushion away and standing back to admire her handiwork.
“I was unsure of myself with Rob. I felt under pressure to be the perfect wife but I wasn’t even sure what that meant. Poor Rob was out working every hour he could to make enough money to keep a roof over our heads. I think it was all just a bit too grown up for me.”
Not sure whether she wanted to go on, Kath sat down on one of the delicate chairs in the fitting room.
Suddenly she felt exhausted.
As Maggie started to help Kath out of the dress, she found her voice again. For some reason, it was easier to talk when Maggie wasn’t looking at her.
“Somehow, Jason just dazzled me. He seemed so much more exciting than Rob. I’m not proud of it, though. As it happens, it was the worst mistake of my life.”
“You started seeing Jason while you were still with Rob?” Maggie asked softly.
“Yes… I can’t believe I did that now. Poor Rob.”
“Marriage number two got off to a bit of a messy start then?” Maggie prompted gently.
Back in her own clothes, Kath took a long, hard look in the mirror.
What had she been thinking of when she’d chosen both her second husband – and the dress she’d worn?
The dress had been defiant. It had said, Look at me. I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. With its plunging neckline and sheer fabric with a split up to her thigh, it had been everything she wasn’t inside, but wanted to appear to be; daring, reckless and drop-dead sexy.
Yet it had just been an illusion and the marriage had been doomed to failure. She had had something to be ashamed of.
She’d never got over the guilt of how she’d treated Rob, it was the worst thing she’d ever done and she’d have given anything to go back in time and undo it.
To make things worse, Jason had turned out to be something of a disappointment as well.
“Jason was all wrong for me,” she told Maggie, as the other woman handed her a succession of different head-dresses to try on. “He was brash, selfish and, ultimately, unfaithful. But I couldn’t really complain about that, after the way we got together.”
“It’s all this that’s making you uncertain about number three?”
The two women regarded each other in the mirror, both looking at the feather fascinator on Kath’s head, but in reality contemplating the bride-to-be’s dilemma.
How do I know I can make it work this time?
“Yes. It is,” Kath said. “I blew it with Rob because I was selfish and immature, and Jason blew it with me because he was selfish and immature. It’s not a great track record is it? How do I know I can make it work this time?’
“You’re older and wiser now,” Maggie said, removing the fascinator and replacing it with a tiara.
“It sounds like what you really need is someone like your first husband. I haven’t met your fiancé, but if number three is anything like number one, I’d say you’re sorted.”
Kath smiled at her reflection in the mirror. The sparking tiara was just right – and so, she now realised, was soon-to-be-husband number three.
Maggie was right about Rob, even though she’d never met him.
It looked like Kath had actually been first time lucky, she just hadn’t realised it at the time.
“You can meet him now,” she said, as the shop door bell rang and her fiancé came in.
His familiar face lit up with a smile at the sight of her, and she knew for certain that this time she definitely wasn’t making a mistake.
“Maggie,” she said, reaching for his hand and holding it tightly. “Meet husband number one, about to become husband number three. This is Rob.”