WRITTEN BY ALISON CARTER
All these thirty-something weddings were making singer Jamie restless – but she wasn’t sure what exactly she wanted…
It had been a year of weddings already, and it was only July. It had been a season of hats and buffets and talking to other people’s eccentric uncles, and sitting in those funny gold-painted chairs that always seem to come with marquees.
“This is one of a sort of ‘second wave’ of weddings,” Jamie remarked to her boyfriend Pete. “I went to several when I was in my mid-twenties, and then it all calmed down for a while. Now it’s all the rage again.”
“Is it the ticking of biological clocks?” Pete suggested. “Our friends seeing forty just around the corner?”
Jamie shrugged. “Might be.”
They were standing outside Ealing Town Hall, waiting to witness Pete’s friend Harry marrying his long-term girlfriend, Elsa. The sun was shining, and everyone looked lovely – not lounge-suit-and-cocktail-dress, kitten-heel, fascinator lovely, but rock and roll lovely.
Jamie herself wore a black denim bodice, a sweeping taffeta skirt nipped in at the waist, and a lot of heavy silver jewellery, while Pete was slender and gorgeous in polo neck and narrow trousers, his ponytail sleek and his shoes shined. It was going to be a great day, Jamie thought, celebrating with other musicians.
Never thought of doing this yourself?
Then her friend Rachel nudged Jamie in the ribs. “Never thought of doing this yourself?” she asked.
Jamie looked at Rachel, momentarily speechless and startled. But then Rachel was distracted by the arrival of Elsa, the bride, in a white London cab, and Jamie felt sure that her brief look of unease had been seen by nobody.
She had been feeling unsettled for some weeks, since the start of the summer and the first of those weddings.
“Pete,” she said.
“Yup?” He took her hand.
She was just tired, she told herself. Rock concerts had a habit of occurring in the same months as weddings, and lately she’d been working hard.
Jamie was thirty-seven and enjoying life. A backing singer in a successful band, she was doing what she loved best, and Pete was amazing, and they’d just bought a dog with whom she was fast falling in love.
Still, that summer, a sense of discontentment had been niggling at her, and she had begun to wonder whether she was getting old.
“Am I turning… normal?” she asked Rachel the following week, as they set up for a gig in West London.
“Explain,” said Rachel, handing Jamie a microphone stand. Rachel was their fabulous, raspy-voiced lead singer, and Jamie’s best friend.
“Well, for instance, I’ve never thought of myself as the marrying kind.”
“And I’ve always thought you and Pete are great as you are,” Rachel said.
“But I keep looking at all these brides. Maybe I’m having a mid-life crisis, early!”
“So, get a sports car,” Rach said. She laughed and opened another flight case. “Or a husband, if that’s your bag.”
Stop. Husband! That sounds weird.
“Oh my goodness!” Jamie shrieked. “Stop. Husband! That sounds weird.”
“There is nothing wrong with marriage,” Rachel said. “I should know. I’ve done it myself, twice. Maybe you’re feeling odd because you suddenly want more from your relationship with Pete.”
“But I’m a rock chick,” Jamie said. “I’m wild and free.”
“And you’re thirty-seven and a half.”
Jamie stamped her foot on the stage.
“I even have a rock chick name, so I can’t be conventional. Jamie. I am the Stevie Nicks, the Joni Mitchell, of W5. I sing for a living, and I’ve never imagined myself in a white dress.”
“You’d look lovely in white – with big black biker boots. But listen, talking of singing for a living, we do need to get this rig finished. Where’s Iain?”
Iain was their roadie, a huge guy with skin so black it shone purple, and an obsessively fussy attitude to the band’s working environment. He’d been on a lot of health and safety courses lately, and while he looked like Mr T, he behaved like Paul Hollywood inspecting a Charlotte Russe.
“No, no, no!” Iain strode onto the stage. “That’s the broken stand. Can you not see I put tape round it? Put it down.”
Iain fussed and fretted, and seemed to Jamie even more jumpy than usual.
When they were finally done, he said, “I’ve been building up to asking you something, guys.” He was twisting an XLR cable in his enormous hands like a little girl preparing to say “thank you” at the end of a party. “Teresa and I are going to get married, so –”
Rachel and Jamie exploded in shrieks of delight at his words.
“You finally asked her!” said Rachel. “The entire band has been waiting for this since, like, 2011!”
“She asked me,” said Iain, beaming. “Thing is, we both… hoped you might –”
“Play at your wedding! Of course!” Jamie dashed across the stage and hugged Iain, and Rachel followed.
“Wait ’til we tell the band!” Rachel said.
Jamie climbed down from the stage.
“Yet another wedding,” she murmured softly to herself.
Driving home on her motorbike late that night, Jamie felt the now familiar flutter of unease. People were settling down left, right and centre, moving on, taking that big step into the unknown.
Did she want to get married, too? Was it that which was making her restless – that she was always the bridesmaid and never the bride?
At home, Pete was still up. He handed her a mug of coffee half a minute after she walked in – Pete seemed able to sense when a gig would finish and when she’d roll in, tired but buzzing.
He kissed her. Pete was The One, Jamie knew that much – so what about a wedding, and a party, and a piece of paper to signify her personal progression? Certainly, she was in a rut of some kind.
“OK, doll?” he asked.
Jamie looked at him. Pete the free spirit, the rock journalist. But what if she asked him, and he said no? What if he didn’t share the restlessness, and liked the status quo? It might rock their foundations if she read this one wrong.
“I’m fine,” she said. “By the way, Iain and Teresa are tying the knot.”
“We’re going to play at the do, obviously, for nothing. They grabbed a cancellation at this big hotel in Wimbledon in three weeks so it’s all hands on deck.”
“I think spontaneous weddings are much better,” Pete said.
Jamie and Rachel decided to launch a new song at Iain’s wedding, as a gift, and Jamie practised her harmonies. She was a great backing singer. The role had a special skillset of its own, quite distinct from solo work. She’d sung lead with a band at college, and after they split, had got a backing job. She loved the work.
“All the fun and none of the responsibility,” she often said to Rachel.
The band had a substantial fan base, and were always getting approaches from musicians – many of them good – asking to be considered for the band if a vacancy ever occurred. It gave her a warm feeling to be popular.
There were two backing vocalists. Kate took the higher parts, while Jamie’s voice was lower and richer; it wove around Rachel’s in a way critics loved. The quality of the music was hugely important to Jamie. She wrote many of the band’s songs, and gave a lot of thought to balance and texture.
As Iain and Teresa’s wedding approached, Jamie could not shuffle off her low spirits. Rehearsals went well, and a couple of outdoor concerts were a great success. She bought a new stage outfit, a sequined tunic that hugged her curvy figure, and a pair of knock-em-dead suede boots. The band was doing great, but Pete noticed she was out of sorts.
You seem… distracted.
Jamie thought for a moment.
“Do you think that a person can be in a rut even when they’re happy?”
He frowned. Pete was happy-go-lucky, not prone to self-examination.
“I hadn’t considered it. Do you think you’re in a rut? Do you crave change?”
Jamie smiled. “I was just thinking.”
So Pete, she thought, wasn’t sharing her wavelength on the marriage issue, and that was fine. Maybe, she thought, it was her biological clock ticking. Yet Jamie had never felt a longing for children.
She pinned a torn-out magazine picture of a sports car on the fridge, and thought about something else.
The morning of Iain’s wedding was hot and close. Jamie had a cool shower and took her breakfast into the garden. Faintly, she heard the phone ringing inside, and hurried to answer it.
“Jamie.” It was Rachel – but she sounded dreadful, her voice weak and thin. “I’m not well.”
Oh, no, the wedding
“Rach – oh no! The wedding.”
“I know, but I can’t… I have to go back to the bathroom. I think it’s… what’s that thing? Norovirus?”
Jamie called Rachel’s sister and made sure Rachel had the help she needed, then called their lead guitarist, Jared.
“I can hardly believe it, but in all these years Rachel’s never missed a gig because of illness,” she said.
“The music keeps us healthy,” Jared replied. “Poor Rachel – those bugs are unspeakable. So you know what we’ll do?”
“Well, Kate’s perfectly capable of modifying her harmonies and going it alone on backing, and we can put a vocal mike on me for fill-ins where necessary.” He chuckled. “Iain will probably insist on rigging it himself.”
“Do you mean… I sing lead vocals?”
“No-brainer.” Jared sounded so matter-of-fact. “We can’t let Iain down.”
When she stepped up to the microphone that night, Jamie expected nerves to overwhelm her. She had tried, as the day wore on, not to count the number of years since she’d last been a lead singer. But instead of fright, she felt an intense, astonishing wave of strength. It had been such a long time, a half-hearted, middling, kind-of-OK time, since all eyes had been on her.
Now the crowd was focused on her, and it felt extraordinary. She had the tracks under her fingertips and the voice ready in her lungs. As she drew the microphone from its clip, and ran the words of the new song through her mind – her song – she wasn’t scared. In fact she was mentally urging Mike to get the intro moving.
Her first note, clear and pure, seemed to strike the very air in front of her and shatter, like a firework in a night sky, glittering away over her audience, and Jamie knew that what she needed in her life was not a white dress, speeches, a ring nor a certificate. It was to sing at the front of a band again, with the wall of music at her back. Under the surface this longing had been growing. She’d been the backing singer, not the star. It was time for that to change. There was musical talent out there, too, ready to play alongside her.
Afterwards, leaning against Pete and nibbling wedding cake, Jamie told him what had been going round in her head – the wedding thing, as well as the career thing.
Why have I let you stand at the back so long?
“Lead singer, yes!” he said. “Why have I let you stand at the back so long – me, who knows his music?” He stroked her hair. “And wife? If you like, Jamie.”
Jamie looked at him. “You think? I may be a bit tied up for a while, what with this new band I’m going to form.”
“Perhaps I’ll ask again,” Pete said softly, “next summer.”
“Maybe avoid summer – it’s a busy time in rock music.”
Pete smiled. “Whatever you say.”
Look out for more wedding themed stories every Monday and Thursday throughout July. Great summer reading!