THIRTEENTH GUEST • by Ragna Brent

The wedding was a quiet affair with only twelve guests in a Georgian Register Office. Once the ceremony was over, the certificate signed, and tissues passed around, the party moved into the walled garden. Emily wore an ivory dress with her hair pulled back, ringlets gently falling around her face.

“You look stunning,” Antony said as he stroked her bump.

They were standing alone posing for pictures under the draping trees.

“You don’t look bad yourself,” she said with a tease in her voice, “for someone that wanted to wear his jeans.”

He laughed, kissing her gently on the cheek. “As if?”

The cameras clicked away, capturing the moment. There were no official photographers, just the family and a few close friends. The atmosphere lively, confetti was thrown, laughter and smiles exchanged.

Emily held Antony’s hand tightly when they arrived at the restaurant. She opened the door to the function room. It was empty.

“He may still come,” Antony whispered.

“I know.” She half-smiled at him.

The guests began to drift in amid excited chatter. Emily joined in with a permanent smile on her face. Every now and again, her eyes would be drawn back to the vacant seat. Eventually, she began to relax and enjoy their wedding day; memories that would bind their marriage together for the rest of their lives. She’d wanted so much for her dad to feature in these recollections. Still the seat was empty. Occasionally, the door would slowly open and each time she discreetly crossed her fingers, hoping, praying. It was never him.

The coffee arrived; it was nearing the end of the meal. Soon everyone would depart and go their separate ways. Throughout the afternoon nobody mentioned him. They knew she was hurting. They all knew of his refusal to accept Antony, the baby, or the wedding. Her pleas futile.

Emily glanced at her mother. She was deep in conversation with Antony’s mum. Each wore huge smiles and even bigger hats. She glimpsed again at the empty seat, then back to her mum who was now looking directly at her. She shrugged and smiled. Emily knew that her mother tried hard to persuade her ex-husband. She loved her so much; a closeness she’d always yearned for with her dad.

Gradually the guests left, finally leaving Emily and Antony on their own. As they gathered up the cards and presents, Emily searched for that familiar handwriting, only to be disappointed. Antony knew his new wife’s ultimate wish. He wrapped his arms around her while she quietly sobbed.

Emily knocked on her mother’s front door. The journey back from their honeymoon had been tense since the call.

“Mum sounded really serious on the phone when she rang. What do you think it could be?” she asked Antony.

“I don’t know, sweetheart,” he replied, squeezing her hand.

The door opened and her mother, with reddened eyes, invited them in.

“It’s your dad, love,” her mother said, after making her sit down. “He was in a serious road accident.” She paused and held her hand. “He didn’t make it. I’m so sorry.”

Emily turned to Antony, tears welling up in her eyes. He draped his arm around her shoulder.

“When?”

Her mum didn’t answer.

“Mum — when?”

“Saturday… he was on his way to your wedding.”

Emily sat in silence. Her mother handed over a battered envelope.

“They found this in the car.”

She looked at the front. It was Dad’s writing. Opening the envelope, she pulled out the card. An array of fifty pound notes floated to the floor. Emily looked to her mum and then to Antony. No one had expected this. In the card, there were five words.

“I’m sorry — Love You — Dad”


Ragna Brent thinks it’s a miracle that she manages to construct a sentence. As a wife and busy mum of six, in her early forties, and still coming to terms with being made a grandmother by her eldest daughter, she lives the majority of the time in chaos. When she’s not writing, or reading, she can be found on Facebook networking, or struggling around the roundabouts in her hometown of Milton Keynes, UK.

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Every Day Fiction