Shirley sat looking at the group of embarrassed relatives gathered around her in the front room of the log cabin. She glanced from one face to another as they busied themselves in small talk casting a furtive look in her direction occasionally. She shrugged and stretched. Something caught her eye and she picked up the hem of her wedding dress. There was a tear on the right hem. Must have torn when I alighted from my horse she thought.
Then the humour of it all struck her. She was to be alone on her wedding night. She threw back her head and laughed loudly.
Her relatives looked up in alarm. It had been an unusual day to say the least and they felt embarrassed for her. Obviously, the stress of it all had to come out but laughter was not what they’d expected. Aunt Millie moved quickly to her side and put her arm around her niece.
“You alright Shirl?”
Shirl’s Mom and Pop rushed in from the kitchen where they were preparing snacks for assembled guests. Not that they needed it, they’d all gorged themselves at the banquet set up on top of the hill where Shirl’s wedding had taken place. It had been comical to see the looks on her extended family and city friends faces when they learned the wedding was to take place in what they considered to be the back of beyond far from so called civilized places they were familiar with. But they were a close-knit family and while Shirl had always been a bit odd they felt obliged to attend.
Signs had been strategically placed along the main dirt road. They read “Shirl and Shane’s Wedding” with an arrow pointing straight ahead. When they’d bumped their way five miles from the last country town through dust haze from passing vehicles they came to a sign with the arrow pointing sharply to the right. The convoy ground to a halt while the leader, a prominent Melbourne banker looked at the track uncertainly. His Mercedes was already coated with thick dust and now they wanted to test springs and shock absorbers on his cherished vehicle!
He was considering turning back when an ancient WWII jeep exploded from the track leaving a contrail of dust behind. The jeep did a wheelie and out got a tall lean handsome man dressed in kaki. He strode over to the lead vehicle and knocked on the window. Cousin Sid the banker pressed a button and the window slowly descended a crack neatly cutting through accumulated dust as it slid down.
“I’m Shawn, is this the total guest group or should I wait around while you guys follow the track in and talk to Shirl?”
Sid turned to his wife who sat next to him looking distressed. They’d all spent a sleepless night at the rowdy hotel in town. Shirl had been with them but had left early with her bemused parents to get things ready at the cabin. The town had been a wakeup call to all these city-bred relatives and as Shirl had breathlessly described the way to the wedding which obviously was to her liking her relative’s apprehension increased. But they’d dressed in their best clothes for the wedding nevertheless not realizing how foolish their clothes choice was to be.
Sid turned from his speechless wife and grunted indicating he’d take the convey up the track to find cousin Shirl and the cabin she’d gushed praises about.
Shirley had been raised in the prim and proper city of Melbourne. She’d been an inquisitive child, often into mischief but anxious to drink in all knowledge she could as her education progressed. Eventually she opted for a career in medicine and while the family consisting of bankers, accountants and other professionals did have capacity to see her through studies Shirl applied for and received a scholarship which covered much of her training years. Of course, governments never hand out money without conditions, so after training was complete she was drafted to serve a small community in outback Australia.
Shirl quickly adjusted to new surroundings. She loved the solitude of the outback, the friendly laid back attitudes of locals and of course animals. In no time, she became an expert horse rider and in rare moments away from duties would ride for miles into the mountains. It was on one of those rides she came across Shawn, He was tough, tall and handsome. Originally from the east coast where he’d completed a teaching degree he’d thrown it away for a life of horse breaking and training. It was a good business and he was well placed with a large country holding in the hills. While in a rain shadow there was adequate water supply from the two bores drilled in strategic areas of his property.
Shirl decided this was to be her partner in life and pursued Shawn with all the powers of persuasion a woman can muster. Shawn was happy to go along for the ride. She was tough, and she liked country life. It wouldn’t be so bad to share his cabin with a wife.
Shirl loved the cabin, it was large and surprisingly sophisticated with all amenities you’d find in the city. Shawn loved his comforts and had spent lavishly in building amenities and buying the best of furnishings. Looking at the cabin from outside one would never imagine the luxury on the inside so it was with amazement her relatives burst through the door and stood studying an interior that matched any middle-class Melbourne home.
Shawn joined them soon after coaxing along stragglers for the wedding celebration. Shirl took leave of the party with her parents and went to dress for the occasion. Shawn motioned for the rest to follow him to the top of the hill overlooking his cabin. The group passed horse paddocks on the way fighting off a colony of flies who’d taken a liking to these city visitors. It was a steep climb and relatives and friends began to regret their choice of clothes for the wedding, but eventually tired and sweaty they arrived and again were amazed at the scene before them.
A large tent had been erected, tables set up tastefully and imported cooks were in the process of preparing for a banquet after the ceremony. While the presentation would be city style, the aroma coming from multiple barbecues would feature a country flavour. To the right of the large tent were rows of chairs facing a bower Shawn had arranged. A clergyman sat entranced waiting for the signal to start. Shawn excused himself pointing to guest chairs and sprinted back down the hill. Guests took their seats and began to share their opinions on this surprising turn of events.
There was an explosion. Shirl’s parents appeared at the top of the hill and came over to reassure their relatives and friends. The explosion was a signal they said and pointed in the direction of the bower.
Shawn appeared on his favourite black steed dressed in riding clothes, dismounted and took his place by the clergyman.
Shirl appeared on her chestnut mare riding side saddle and dressed in her Mother’s wedding gown. She too dismounted and stood beside Shawn. Relatives were confused. Where were the bridesmaids and best man? Why was the bride not being given away by her father? Where were Shawn’s relatives? Shirl’s parents smiled and shrugged.
“It’s Shirl’s wedding, this is the way she wants to do it!”
The clergyman stood, gave a brief discourse and went through familiar routines of marriage, then pronounced them man and wife. Shawn’s muscles rippled as he effortlessly lifted his wife and hugged her. They then went to mingle with astonished guests.
Wedding dinner was served. Tables were set city style but each guest took their plate and selected from an amazing range of foods at the serving table. There were no speeches, and guests were too surprised at this unusual wedding to make more than small talk drinking large quantities of the country beverage supplied until ice broke at last and the tent was filled with wild antics and shouting. These city folks were unprepared for the power packed into what they were drinking. Shawn downed those tankards one after another. This was going to be a wedding he’d never forget. Sounds of their merriment echoed through surrounding hills.
Eventually as evening drew on those who’d been hired to erect the tent, and catering contractors, became anxious to pack up and leave for home. They indicated their part of the wedding was over and began packing vehicles. Shawn raised objection and argument built until an eventual fight broke out. Relatives and friends fled to the cabin leaving Shawn and Shirl to deal with angry contractors. Blows were exchanged and one of the contractors fled the scene on a motorcycle to reappear after an hour with a contingent of police. Shawn was arrested and taken to the police station to spend the night and cool off.
Shirl arose from her seat gently removing Aunt Millie’s arm. She turned to shocked relatives.
“Come on, let’s go back to the hotel. I’ll spend the night there with you and see you off in the morning for Melbourne. When Shawn has dried out I’ll bring him back to the cabin and we’ll commence married life together. What do you think of my husband, he’s quite a character isn’t he?”
Shirl laughed a contented laugh. She’d change him over time but there was no hurry, and no one else for her.
Her relatives nodded vigorously. The sooner they left this place before Shirl’s new lifestyle caught hold of them the better. It would be back to Melbourne and normality as fast as they could get there.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2016 All rights reserved”
NB: The above image is copyrighted to nightspiritimages.com