by Pauline Scriven

Christopher Jones stood in front of the long mirror admiring what he saw. Perfect! Smiling with satisfaction he agreed with his reflection that he was a magnificent sight. Six feet tall, trim where he should be trim and muscular where muscles were needed. He had never worn a morning suit before. It looked great. He reached for the top hat, put it on at a jaunty angle and laughed with exhilaration.

Over the years he’d had his pick of women, but up to now there hadn’t been one that met his expectations. Penny Frobisher was the exception. They had all slept with him on the first, second or the third date, but not Penny. She was special and worth waiting for, and she knew it.

She wasn’t exactly beautiful – he had known better, but she was a perfectionist. An incredibly rich perfectionist. She was just what he had been looking for. Nothing but the best would suit her. He leaned towards the mirror with a wide confident smile. He was the best. His whitened teeth sparkled back at him. Perfect!

The doorbell announced the arrival of Tom. This was the one thing he hadn’t allowed Penny’s mother to organize. Tom was his oldest friend and had to be his best man. Carefully hanging his coat on a hanger he went to the door. Tom’s wife, Pam wouldn’t be at the church. She was heavily pregnant with their third child. His and Tom’s idea of happiness were very different.

‘I never thought I would have to dress up in a monkey suit,’ Tom grumbled as he slumped into an armchair.

‘You’ll crumple your coat,’ Chris protested.

With a heavy sigh Tom stood up to straighten himself out, before sitting down again more carefully.

Looking down at him, Chris said. ‘You’ve got a face on you. What’s the matter? Get out of bed the wrong way?’

‘No. When I came downstairs dressed in this lot, Pam and the kids laughed.’

‘Well she would, but Penny and her mother won’t laugh if you turn up looking like a dish rag.’

Tom raised his eyes to the ceiling in a grimace. ‘You should have got her brother to do this.’

‘I’ve told you, I didn’t want her stuck-up brother. I wanted you.’

‘Okay. You got anything to drink?’

‘We can’t smell of drink.’

‘That’s okay, I’ve got some peppermints. A drink will calm you down.’

‘I am calm.’

‘If you say so.’

With a shrug, Chris went to the drinks cabinet. Speaking over his shoulder, he asked. ‘Have you got your speech?’

Tom took a couple of hand written sheets from an inside pocket. ‘Pam helped me with it. I know you don’t trust me, but read it. I’ve been very careful and haven’t mentioned anything that your future in-laws wouldn’t approve of. They’re going to think you’ve lived an angelic life.’

- 1 -

With a grin, Chris said. ‘That’s the general idea.’

Sipping his drink, Tom studied his friend as he read the speech. He didn’t like this wedding or the over-indulged Penny, or the sound of her family. The whole thing had been arranged by them as a military campaign. He was convinced that Chris was heading for a fall.

‘That’s great.’ Handing the papers back, Chris drained his glass. ‘We better make a move.’

‘There’s plenty of time.’

‘I thought that as it’s such a nice day, we could walk there.’ Chris fancied going through the high street in his finery. ‘It will only take about twenty minutes.’

Tom wasn’t so keen. Shaking his head, he said. ‘I don’t think so. I’m not walking about in this getup.’

‘Oh come on. This is my day. Tom, I need to walk.’

Reluctantly Tom stood up.

Locking the door, Chris’s stomach rumbled.

Tom laughed. ‘Hey ho, you can’t do that at the altar.’

Chris rubbed his stomach. ‘It’ll settle. I shouldn’t have had that drink.’

They soon reached the high street which on a Saturday lunch time was full of shoppers. Chris walked proudly, aware but ignoring all the interested glances. Tom cringed, wishing he was somewhere else. Chris’s stomach rumbled again and again.

‘That’s getting louder,’ Tom commented. ‘Have you had anything to eat?’

‘No. I thought about some cereal or toast, but couldn’t face it.’

‘It could be nerves, but you need something inside you. There’s a baker’s along here. We’ll get something.’

In the baker’s, Tom said. ‘I fancy a ham and pickle roll. They look nice.’

‘We can’t have pickle. It’s too messy.’

‘Okay.’ Tom smiled at the shop girl. ‘Make that two separate ham rolls then.’

Chris leaned forward to bite into his roll. Glancing at Tom, he said. ‘Don’t get crumbs down your coat.’

‘Stop fussing. They’ll brush off.’

They walked slowly as they ate. Tom finished his roll first. ‘That was good.’ He brushed his hands down his coat in case he had left any remnants.

Chris was having trouble with his roll. Most of it was gone, but there was something unpleasantly hard. He pushed it around his mouth trying to separate it from the bread. He thought of beetles. Oh my God, you hear about that sort of thing. What else could it be? He went to the kerb and spat out a lump of crust. Not the picture of elegance he was trying to display.

‘You okay?’

‘Something in the roll.’

- 2 -

Carrying on with their walk, they saw the spire of the church. Chris slid his tongue around his teeth to dislodge any crumbs. He stopped suddenly. Something was wrong. A gap. His beautiful teeth. One of them was missing.

‘What’s wrong now?’ Tom followed as Chris turned sharply to run back down the street.

With his hand clamped over his mouth, Chris tried to speak. ‘Mmmmmm.’

Catching up with him, Tom yelled. ‘Chris, what’s the matter? What are you saying?’

With his hand still hovering over his mouth, Chris gasped. ‘I spat out a tooth.’

‘You can’t spit out a tooth. Let’s have a look.’

Chris stopped and turned to face his friend. There were tears in his eyes. His lip curled upwards to expose the gap where one of his front teeth should have been.

Tom stared in amazement. ‘It was false?’

‘Of course it was false.’

‘I didn’t know you had false teeth.’

‘I’ve only got one, or I did. Look we have to find it. How far have we walked since I spat it out?’

Tom had no idea, but he joined Chris to walk along the kerb searching for a lump of bread.

‘What are you going to do if we find it?’ Tom asked. ‘You can’t stick it back.’

‘I don’t know,’ Chris cried in despair. ‘What can I do? I can’t get married looking like this.’

‘You could keep your mouth shut.’ It was the only suggestion Tom could come up with.

Standing at the kerb, Chris flattened his lip over the gap and mumbled. ‘I can’t stay like this.’

‘I hate to say this, but you haven’t any choice.’ Tom looked past him at the mechanical road sweeper coming towards them. ‘I think your tooth has gone for good.’

‘Oh no.’ Twisting round Chris clutched at Tom’s arm. ‘I’ll have to cancel. She’ll be so angry. Tom, what else can I do?’

They stood back from the kerb as the road sweeper went past.

‘What about chewing gum?’ Tom said thoughtfully.

‘What’s that going to do?’

‘Get enough of it, soften it up and push it into the gap. Maybe you could flatten it so it looks like a tooth. Once it’s dry it might stay put. It’s white … or whitish.’

Chris looked round wildly. It wouldn’t work. Of course it wouldn’t work, but what else was there?

Determined to help, Tom went into the newsagent. One day they’ll laugh about this. He was sure that Pam would find it hilarious. Chris chewed and chewed. Three strips didn’t seem to be enough. The fourth was better. With his finger he pushed it into the gap, trying to mould it to match the other teeth.

- 3 -

‘Have you got a mirror?’

‘Of course I haven’t.’

‘What does it look like?’

Tom thought it looked like a piece of chewing gum pretending to be a tooth.

‘Better than it did,’ he said. ‘Once it’s dry try to keep your lip over it. Don’t smile too much.’ Taking his friend’s arm, he added. ‘There’s one good thing though.’

‘What’s that?’

‘Your stomach’s stopped rumbling.’

The church bells rang out. The church was filling up when they entered. They smiled and nodded as they took their places. Chris kept his lips firmly closed. The organ struck up. They both turned as the bride came in with her father, trailed by six bridesmaids.

Side by side the bride and groom glanced at each other before facing the vicar. Apart from Chris mumbling his vows, the ceremony went without a hitch. When it was over, the vicar said. ‘You may now kiss the bride.’

Eagerly Chris pulled Penny towards him. In the excitement of the moment, he forgot about his missing tooth. His mouth sought hers in a crushing kiss. When he released her to gaze lovingly into her face, he was horrified. A large blob of chewing gum was attached to her mouth. In confusion her fingers felt it, pulled it off and stared down at it with a shrill scream. She flicked her fingers trying to get it off.

Turning, she rushed into her father’s arms. ‘Daddy, take me home.’

- 4 -

© Pauline Scriven, 2013