The Wedding Season by Katy Birchall (Excerpt)

CHAPTER ONE

When you get dumped the day before your wedding in a broom cupboard, suddenly everything seems a bit shit.

I never imagined my world would come completely crashing down like this, but if I had, I never would have considered it might happen in a broom cupboard. I had a mop handle literally resting on my shoulder. My right foot was balanced on the dustpan and brush on the floor. There were about a hundred gross spiderwebs hanging around my head. And barely two inches away from me was my fiancé—the man I’d spent the last twelve years with; the love of my life, whom I was due to marry the very next day—who had decided that this was the best place to tell me that, actually, he’d changed his mind.

A broom cupboard.

My brain couldn’t process the information at first. I made him repeat himself. You know, just to torture myself as much as possible. Apparently, I wasn’t content with how he’d spelled it out the first time, when he said very plainly he couldn’t go through with the wedding. No, I made him say it again and again, each time expecting his words to make sense.

But there was no sense to be made. All Matthew did was stand in that broom cupboard and repeat that he’d had doubts for a while, but that he didn’t want to believe them. He’d hoped they would just go away, and when they didn’t he had no idea what to do. As the wedding crept toward us, he’d tried to work out a way to tell me that he wanted out. Only he could never quite muster the courage.

Suddenly, it was the day before and he couldn’t bear to cause me pain, but he knew he had to do it, otherwise it would be even crueler to go through with the marriage. So, he took his parents to lunch and he was honest with them. And they told him that he absolutely had to tell me. That day. Right there.

“They told you to tell me this in the broom cupboard?” I managed to whisper. Gail and Andrew loved me, how could they have encouraged their son to call off our wedding in a broom cupboard?

“What?! No, no, course not,” he confirmed, his brow furrowing. “They didn’t mention the broom cupboard specifically. This was the only private place on offer.”

But as Matthew continued to say how sorry he was and how even though he loved me, he just wasn’t in love with me anymore, I went strangely numb. And because I wasn’t saying anything—on account of the bizarre, dazed state I seemed to have entered—Matthew just continued to make his case, and each reason he listed as to why he was breaking up with me was subconsciously logged away in my brain to scrutinize at a later time.

He believed he could be happier. We’d met when we were so young, we’d never had a chance to see what else was out there. What if, he kept saying. What if this wasn’t as happy as we could be? What if there was something more?

“I can’t do this, Freya. I can’t do this. It doesn’t feel right anymore. I’m so sorry.”

Finally, tired of repeating himself, Matthew moved on to logistics. He courageously stated that he would help in any way possible to make the whole process easier on me.

I stared at him, still numb. “The process?”

“Of canceling the wedding.”

Oh. Right. That process. God. I was losing Matthew, and the wedding I’d just spent eleven months planning was now off. We were going to have to let everyone know that I had been dumped in a broom cupboard, less than twenty-four hours before I was supposed to walk down the aisle.

We’d have to ring round the guest list, make sure nobody made the unnecessary journey, and tell everyone already here to head home. The marquee would have to be taken down, the catering team canceled—not to mention the florist, the band, the bar staff, the vicar, the church string quartet, the wedding-car company, the minicabs, the photo-booth guy.

“And what about the peacocks?” I whispered.

“I’m sorry?” he said, kicking the hoover to one side.

“The peacocks. They’re missing.”

“Freya, what are you—”

“The peacocks that were meant to roam around the lawns tomorrow,” I said, firmer now, irritated that he wasn’t getting it. “If the wedding is off, we have to find them so they can go home.”

Matthew stared at me like I had lost my mind. Which, I think it’s safe to say, I had.

“Peacocks? That’s what you’re worried about, the peacocks?” His jaw clenched. “I’ve just told you the wedding’s off and you’re…”

He trailed off then, before sighing and shaking his head. “Look, Freya, this is kind of what I’m talking about. We don’t … mesh well anymore. You’re so pragmatic all the time. So together. Which is great. For you. But I’m, you know—” He searched for the words. “—I’m all over the place. Temperamental. Emotional. We can’t be good for each other. We just can’t. We don’t make sense.”

He paused, biting his lip. I went ahead and stared at him some more.

“Freya, you have every reason to hate me,” he continued dismally. “I wish beyond measure I wasn’t doing this to you. I’m a stupid bastard who should have said something sooner. I’m so sorry. But I also know I’m doing the right thing. I think … I think one day you may thank me.”

There was a long silence after that. He tried to wait it out, but he gave up and asked if I was okay. Then, when I still wasn’t responding, he begged me to say something, to tell him what he should do.

I asked him to leave me alone in the broom cupboard.

He was a bit confused I think, but he nodded, told me he was so sorry once more, and then opened the door.

“I’ll … I’ll go speak to your dad,” he said softly. “Get the ball rolling.”

Of canceling the wedding. He’d get the ball rolling of canceling our wedding.

I asked him to close the door. When he did, I reached up and turned off the light and then slid down to sit on the floor, next to the dustpan and brush. The mop fell forward, bouncing off the back of my head and resting on the floor. I sat there for a while, wondering if there was really a need for me to leave this cupboard ever again.

Perhaps I could stay here forever. It wasn’t so bad. Sure, it smelled kind of musty and was already inhabited by a number of spiders, but once you got over all that, it really could be considered quite a cozy and convenient living space.

After a while, the door gently opened and Dad sat down next to me. He put his arm around my shoulders. I rested my head against him and closed my eyes.

“Dad,” I whispered into the darkness, “I don’t want to see anyone.”

“I assumed as much,” he replied. “Adrian’s sorting it.”

“How did this happen?”

“I don’t know,” he said, holding me close. “I just don’t know.”

We stayed there for a long time until Adrian rapped his knuckles on the door and reported that everyone was gone. It was just us three. Together, he and Dad lifted me to my feet and practically carried me up to my bedroom and sat me on the bed.

They reluctantly left the room after I insisted, slowly shutting the door behind them. And finally safe in the knowledge that I was alone, I began to cry, my body heaving with alarmingly uncontrollable sobs as it began to sink in what was happening.

My whole world had just fallen spectacularly apart.

Copyright © 2022 by Katy Birchall