‘Let’s get to work.’
As he works he explains that trying to bleach away years of chemicals is very harmful and he won’t be able to strip it back to its natural color. But he will take away as much as he can, throw a medium brown dye on all of it, and add three shades of highlights everywhere, which will turn me into a dark blonde overall.
Afterwards he cuts a good four inches of damaged hair off. By the time he is finished I am totally confused. I don’t look like myself, but I can see that the creature in the mirror is attractive. With soft tendrils around her mouth, drawing attention to its glossy color.
It’s… It’s, well, I guess, it’s quite…sexy. I look sexy. Lana comes up to me, meets my eyes in the mirror. She smiles and nods her head.
‘You’ll do,’ she says with great satisfaction, and I know it is the highest compliment I could receive from anyone. Because the truth is I don’t just secretly hate her, I also secretly admire her.
It is the eve of the wedding. Tom comes to pick Billie and me up and drives us to the church for the rehearsal. Made of ancient grey stone it has a quaint feel to it. We are introduced to India Jane, the wedding organizer. She has a posh voice, no-nonsense eyes, and oozes superficial charm from every pore. As soon as everyone arrives she sets about taking us through our paces with impressive efficiency, but I am too excited to pay much attention to any proceedings that do not directly involve me. Tomorrow I will see Jack again! I try to picture that moment and wonder what he will make of my dream dress, and the new me.
I hardly speak to Lana as Blake never lets her out of his sight. I do, however, meet Blake’s sister. A fully-grown, handsome woman who smiles artlessly, and behaves like a child. In the procession, she walks with a basket of flowers behind the flower girls and baby Sorab, who is carried in by his Nanny. He is given a dummy ring pillow to clutch.
I also meet all the groomsmen except for the best man who apparently has been through his part separately as he is attending a funeral wake. I wonder what it must be like to attend a funeral one day and a wedding the next.
At the end of it all, when Billie and I are about to get into the Bentley to be driven to Wardown Towers, where we will spend the night, Lana runs up to us and gives us devastating news.
I did do some research and discovered that Wardown Towers houses one of the largest and most fabulous art collections in private hands and is considered the grandest estate in Bedfordshire. It even has its own Zoo, but I go to it heavy-hearted and saddened. It is all for nothing.
Jack is not coming to the wedding.
It is 10.00 a.m. and I am in Wardown Towers. Billie and I spent last night here, because in four hours Lana will become Mrs. Blake Law Barrington. I have left them in the room with the make-up artist and the hairdresser while I go down the impressive curving staircase and walk through the many reception rooms and out into the stone courtyard. Stretched out below me is the vista of beautifully manicured gardens and farther away, but still part of the estate, the best and greenest of English countryside.
I watch workers stream like ants in and out of a large white marquee. They are carrying mostly flowers and plants, but also trays and boxes of all kinds. I go towards it and stand at the entrance.
Inside, it is bustling with activity.
A very g*y man, presumably the one Lana says is from Beverly Hills, is prancing around giving orders. I gaze around in wonder. The tent is in the process of being turned into a gold, black and cream wonderland. The ceiling of the interior is made with hundreds of yards of crushed black velvet and looks like a giant black scallop. Fairy lights illuminate its whorls. Six enormous, three-tiered chandeliers hang from this sumptuously decadent ceiling.
The stage at the end of the room is made of hedge and surrounded by magnolia trees that were separated into trunks, branches and flowers so they could be flown in from America. Workers are reassembling them with staple guns. For a moment, the florist in me feels for those beautiful trees that will, after this one occasion lasting no more than a few hours, wither and die. The gratuitous waste of these beautiful trees is shocking. And yet this what I have read about in all the celebrity mags and longed to be part of. They are only trees, I tell myself. Raised solely for this purpose. Their greatest moment is here. When they are part of the fantasy garden a billionaire banker pays to create for his bride. She wanted a spring garden wedding.
She’s got it.
I let my gaze wander over to the walls, made of billowing cream drapes, greenery swags and countless—and I mean countless—white flowers. The amount of flowers and leaves on the walls superseded only by the number of flowers on the three long dining tables that edge the room. I reach for one of the roses and lightly squeeze it. You can always tell the difference between the high and low quality ones by doing so. This is a high quality one.
Dinner is to be a plated meal and all the tables are already set with plates, cutlery and glasses. The centerpieces are tall, elegant candelabras entwined with trailing exotic flowers. They are surrounded by clusters of small, unlit candles.
Later I will see the real effect.
The middle of the room, meant to serve as a large dance area, is covered in a cream and gold carpet. There is no gift table because Lana and Blake have requested their guests to pledge donations either to CHILD or to their favorite charities. To the left of me is a long table where there are earplugs in cream boxes for when the music gets too riotous, a phone charging station, comfy slippers for feet tired of high heels on the dance floor, miniature bottles of sunscreen, bug repellent, paper fans, and cozy wraps for the women in case there is a sudden evening chill.
The attention to detail is astonishing.
I leave the tent and head back towards the room where the three of us are getting ready. I open the door. Billie is sitting in a toweling robe having her make-up done and Lana, who has already had her make-up done, is now having her hair styled. My hair is already done.
The videographer is filming and a photographer is clicking away.
‘You’re next,’ the make-up artist says to me.
‘OK,’ I reply and go sit on a chair beside a window.
Fat Mary comes into the room and closes the door behind her. She is wearing a peach dress and a matching hat. For a change she actually looks all right.
‘Cor blimey…have you girls seen the best man?’ she asks and chortles.
‘Vann Wolfe?’ Lana asks with a laugh.
Mary indulges in a long whistle. ‘Even his name is perfection. One look at him and I know he is going to be a fantastic lover.’