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Never The Bride

By:Charlotte Fallowfield

Never The Bride (Dilbury Village #1)
        Author: Charlotte Fallowfield

Chapter One

Abbie Carter


'FOR THE LOVE OF God, Georgie, please pick up the phone,' I begged, as I stood in front of the long mirror in the dressing room of the quite frankly offensively named Bridezilla Wedding Boutique in Shrewsbury. I just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole.

'Ok, what's wrong with this one?' she laughed, as her freckled face appeared on my screen.

'Sssshhhh, keep it down,' I warned, sticking my head out of the changing room curtain to see if anyone else was here with me, or if I could speak freely.

'Abbie, this is bridesmaid dress number nine. The fact that you've hated each and every single one of its predecessors means your reputation precedes you. You're the nightmare bridesmaid, the one who always hates the dress. Everyone already knows you're going to hate this one as well.'

'A nightmare bridesmaid?' I huffed, then blinked at her, not sure if she was being serious. Was I a nightmare? It was true, I hated each and every one of those eight dresses, all shoved up in my attic, never to see the light of day again. But as far as my many, many duties as one of the most frequent bridesmaids in Shropshire, I thought I was exemplary. Which was quite a feat given the messes I normally got myself into. I'd even had a bridal magazine want to do a feature on me, I was that proficient at it. Of course, I'd declined. How was I supposed to attract a man if I was the talk of the county, the one that never got to wear the coveted white dress?

'Ok, maybe I've exaggerated a little,' she giggled. 'But you do have a face like a smacked arse each time you walk up the aisle in one of those monstrosities. How bad this time, on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the dress you could see yourself getting married in, it's that perfect, and 10 being "not even for my closed casket funeral" awful?'

'I'd have to go with an eleven,' I sighed, glancing down at my vivid fuchsia froufrou dress, with layers and layers of lime green underskirt and a neon yellow sash that tied in the most enormous bow at the back. To round off the seriously crappy look, as if it wasn't blinding enough, I'd been given a bright purple clutch bag. The shoes were the only great thing about the ensemble. A pair of multi-coloured, high-heeled suede sandals that were seriously cute and summery. 'I wouldn't even want someone to have to try and dress my stiff body in this hideous creation. Seeing my naked corpse would be torture enough for the undertaker, let alone in this  …  this  …  I have no words, Georgie, that's how bad it is. It's a first. Abbie Carter is speechless. I look like some kind of 80's throwback, which wouldn't be so bad if I'd been around in the 80's, but I wasn't even a twinkle in anyone's eye!' 

'Come on, it seriously can't be that bad,' she suggested as she craned her neck, like that was going to help her see the colour-vomit tableau any better.

'I look like I just threw up a family-sized bag of Skittles all over myself. Trust me, even you'd look bad in it, and you look good in anything.' My best friend was a stunning redhead, with deep burnished copper locks that came straight out of a shampoo or hairspray commercial, gorgeous piercing light blue eyes, and a face and figure to die for. She should be a famous catwalk model, not a dog groomer, up to her elbows in soap suds, trimmed hair, and overexcited pooches who either tried to hump her or left her little brown surprise gifts that she often ended up stepping in by accident. 'And what do you mean, "a face like a smacked arse?" This is my face. I always look like this, thank you very much!'

'You're beautiful, Abbie, but lately your mouth has been in a permanent resting trout pout.'

'You cheeky – '

'No,' she interrupted, holding up her palm to the screen. 'As best friend, my chief duty is not to lie, unless it involves raiding your freezer for ice cream and snacks, or your cookie jar for those delicious home-baked ones you know I love, then denying all knowledge. You have the most radiant smile, Abbie, and it's been too long since I last saw it. But that discussion can wait for our next one-to-one, and trust me when I say I won't be pulling any punches, as enough is enough. Now, let's see this puke-inducing creation.'

'Ok, brace yourself,' I warned, angling my phone and scanning my body.

'Good God!' she exclaimed with a shocked gasp. 'And I really thought I'd prepared myself. Seriously, that would scare someone in the SAS. I think I've just been blinded for life. Surely this Rachel's having a laugh? This is a joke for the hen night, right?'

'Sadly, no. We were measured months ago, but she left the first fitting to the last moment as she wanted it to be a surprise for us all.'

'Hello! Mission accomplished, I'd say.'

'So how do I back out gracefully? It's bad enough that I already have eight dresses I hate in my attic, I can't put this up there too. It makes the others look like gorgeous Vera Wang creations!'

'It's not like you're that good friends. I mean, other than this wedding, I've never once heard you talk about her. Honestly, how you keep getting asked to be a bridesmaid for all these women in the first place is baffling. You haven't seen them for years.'

'It's a whole stupid boarding school pact.' I plopped myself down on the padded stool in my changing room with a heavy sigh of resignation. I'd given my word to my thirteen classmates, as they had to me, that we'd all be each other's bridesmaid when the big day came. We'd been sixteen years old, it was a lifetime ago. Ok, twelve years ago, but all the same, we'd moved on, grown up, and pretty much lost touch.

Sometimes I hated social media. People said it was great for finding long-lost friends, but this was what became of it. A sad, single, and lonely twenty-eight-year-old spinster, forced to wear a disgusting dress, yet again, for a woman she barely even knew. As if the humiliation of still being single, of never having had a relationship that lasted longer than a month, wasn't bad enough. Well, unless you counted Mr. Sumo. My overweight British bulldog had been with me for seven years now, a graduation present from my dad. Most people got something useful. A house deposit, a car maybe. Hell, I'd have been happy with a new saucepan set or a month's supply of sanitary products. But I got a bulldog puppy. And not just any bulldog puppy. Oh no, that would have made life far too easy. I got the most miserable-looking, overweight, stubborn, gaseous, drooling little mutt ever born. And he hated me!


'Well, as you barely see her anymore, it makes it even easier to let her down then, doesn't it?' Georgie suggested.

'I can't,' I sighed, resigned to my fate, but feeling slightly reassured that my horror at this God-awful dress wasn't misplaced. 'I promised, and I don't like to go back on my word.' My major flaw was hating to let people down. And not speaking my mind, intentionally anyway. And being too nice. And worrying too much about what people thought of me. And  …  my God, I had a multitude of flaws. No wonder I was single.

'You're too nice for your own good, Abbie Carter,' scolded Georgie. 'What say we drown your sorrows in a nice bottle of wine with a takeaway later?'

'You're on,' I nodded, cheering up for the first time since I'd pulled this over-starched and stiff kaleidoscope of a dress on. 'Yours or mine?'

'Mine. I spend my days with dogs, I don't need "Eau de Sumo" assaulting my nostrils as I'm trying to savour a lovely Pinot and some delicious lemon chicken, thanks very much.'

'For someone who works with dogs all day, you're not exactly loving towards him out of dog grooming hours,' I objected. Sumo might be a royal pain in the arse, but he was my pain in the arse. I'd never have chosen to be saddled with him for the last seven years, but he was the closest thing I had to a long-term relationship, or family, and I did love him. I'd be devastated if anything happened to him.

'Abbie, darling, how are you doing in there? Do you need any help?' called Rachel in an incredibly posh voice. Darling wasn't just darling in her world, it was dragged out into a daaaaarling.

'Ermmm, no. I'm great, thanks,' I called, grimacing at Georgie. 'Just had a bit of trouble doing up the zip, but I'll be out any minute.'

'Don't be long, you're missing all of the champers and canapés. I just can't wait to see all of you together. I'm beyond excited, it will be a riot of colour!'

'I can believe that,' I called back, and Georgie covered her mouth with her palm as her shoulders started shaking.

'Personally I really love the theme, but I swear, if anyone says anything negative about it, I'll cry. Mummy's been quite vocal that she thinks it's too much, and I don't want her getting any validation of that or I'll never hear the end of it. You must let me know what you think when you see us all together. I always valued your opinion at school, Abbie, you were always the sensible one of us.'

'Sure, will do.' Oh Jesus, now I was going to have to lie through my back teeth.

'See you in a moment, darling,' Rachel called. 

'Mmmm-hmmm.' I waited until I heard the door close, then burst out laughing along with Georgie.

'Oh my God, you're so screwed,' she screeched, reaching up to wipe some tears of laughter from her cheeks. 'You can't break the poor girl's heart now. Please tell me that I can come to this shindig as your plus-one? This I have to see.'