Tying the Knot is a Competition of Choices
Would you invite the whole country to your wedding? Well, that’s exactly what Lilac Verbois and Finn Marchant have decided to do. But their idea to launch seven individual competitions for the design of the wedding gown, the bridal flowers, the catering, the choir and band music as well as the wedding cake and artwork means multiple migraines for their for their hassled wedding Planner, Tish, but the opportunity of a lifetime for Callie-Louise Henshaw, couture fashion designer and all round textile and seed pearl princess.
That is until her design fails to make the final seven in The Wedding Gown Competition and she finds herself without a job or the safety net of her family.
Celebrities, couture dresses, rock bands and French patisserie – it’s enough to make a girl run screaming to the wedding cupcakes for a dose of restorative buttercream. After all, tying the knot is a competition of choices, but which one will win?
“Step away from the dress! I mean it Jules. If you even come one step closer with that skinny latte I’ll be forced to shoot you with my staple gun. What’s possessed you to bring coffee in here, anyway? You know how obsessed Christie is about the design studio being a sterile area!” Callie’s horrified eyes flashed with irritation as she extricated a bunch of dressmaking pins from the corner of her lips.
“Relax. Christie’s in Dubai.”
“That’s not the point. You know how precious this gown is. It’s the culmination of six months frenzied hard work from conception to vision creation! Only these last few seed pearls to attach to the waistline and it’ll be ready for the couriers to collect this evening for its final journey to The Dorchester. You do remember the judging’s tomorrow morning, don’t you? We’re cutting it fine but Scarlet’s slaved like a Trojan. Even Flora has pitched in. If you spill even a drop of coffee,” Callie gulped down her annoyance at Jules cavalier attitude to the most important project of her life, “well, all of our dreams will be sacrificed!”
“Stop hyperventilating Callie, will you? It’s one of a number of unattractive traits you seem to have developed since your design was shortlisted in this ludicrous competition. Don’t worry – the wedding gown of the decade will be presented in pristine condition to the fairy princess, Miss Lilac Verbois, at The Dorchester tomorrow – with no errant coffee stains to mar its perfection.”
“Jules,” Callie sighed, “you know how much this competition means to Christie and to me, especially now we’ve been shortlisted to the last seven. And if our design wins – well, it will cement Christianna Couture as a celebrity haute couture boutique. You know she deserves it.”
“Yeh, and you too, Callie-Louise, as her trusty, loyal protégé, eh?”
Callie rolled her hazel eyes at Jules. “I’m not going to deny the fact that I would be overjoyed if my design was selected. To see such a glamorous actress in one of my creations – well, yes, it would be the pinnacle of everything I’ve worked for over the last six years. But not just for me – it’s a real team effort, Christie, Scarlet, Flora, Lizzie even you, Jules. If our design is chosen, Lilac Verbois will appear in our creation on the front cover of every glossy magazine in the country. Interest in Christianna Couture will rocket. Our order book will be packed out and that includes demand for your headpieces, fascinators and millinery designs, too. It’ll be a fantastic opportunity for you to showcase your talents to the fashion savvy. Look, I know it’s been difficult to get commissions this last year, but…”
“I don’t need your phoney words of sympathy, Callie. I’m doing just fine, thank you. My creative juices are flowing too, you know. I’m not just cheering from the side-lines of your starring role. If you don’t mind, I’ll remove my interfering frame and offending beverage from your royal presence before my knees buckled under the pressure of an audience with such majesty and I inadvertently dribble on your beloved gown.
“If you can spare the time in your illustrious schedule, maybe I’ll see you back at the apartment later?” Jules’ boldly drawn features contorted with child-like petulance as he retreated to the open wooden stairs of Callie’s basement studio, his taut buttocks clad in his favourite black D&G jeans.
Callie read the signs of his restrained aggravation – the tightness of his broad shoulders, the stiff angle of his neck. As usual, his presentation was immaculate. His hair, the colour of liquid coal, curled between the nape of his neck and the collar of his charcoal Paul Smith shirt, impeccably ironed by the lady at the local laundrette as Callie had neither the time nor inclination to meet his sartorial demands of perfection.
“Or maybe I’ll just spend my last evening in Leeds with people who recognise my talents and appreciate my company, as you obviously intend to remain here with your precious dress until the early hours. You know Callie, I still don’t get why we couldn’t have shot over to Dubai together for my two weeks’ leave, met up with Christie out there, regaled her with the benefit of our advice for her new boutique, shopped until we dropped, sunk some cocktails, partied until dawn. But oh no, little miss celebrity fashion designer here had to retain control of the wedding gown’s final delivery. Well, don’t rush home, darling.”
Jules’ parting shot rang in Callie’s ears like feedback from a malfunctioning microphone. She opened her mouth to retaliate but relented and squashed down her rising irritation. It would not ease his envy of her success by her reminding him that he had not yet paid her back for their jaunt to Barbados at Christmas so she was reluctant to splurge on another exotic trip.
She listened as his stacked heels clacked up the polished oak stairs, leaving in his wake a heavy cloud of Chanel Monsieur cologne in which he bathed daily. Her traitorous mind rewound its image reel to remind her how different Jules was from Theo, not only physically but in personality and nature; but then, wasn’t that exactly why she was dating him.
Lindsey Paley grew up in Yorkshire. She relocated to the North East of England where she lives with her husband and young son and as many books as she can cram into the four corners of her spare bedroom.
She began her writing career over twenty years ago but that first novel – ‘Baringer Manor’ – remains in a cardboard box on top of the wardrobe. Her favourite writing place is a peppermint and white summerhouse (shed) also stuffed with books she can’t throw away.
An avid baker, with a willing family and neighbours as tasters, when she is not scrutinising her fellow human beings for ideas for her next novel, she is to be found perfecting her swing on the golf course – a hopelessly over-optimistic ambition.