Authors: Harriet J Kent
Harriet J Kent
“Do you, Maxim Cosmo Berkley, take Greta Olivia Standing to be your lawful wedded wife? Will you promise to love, to honour and to cherish her?”
The packed hotel suite in Cowes on the Isle of Wight lay silent as the guests awaited Max’s response. A distant throat clearing and pathetic dry cough broke the silence.
Max drew a short intake of breath and closed his eyes before breaking into a large grin. He turned to the congregation, opened his eyes and yelled.
“Yes! I bloody well
The room exploded into spontaneous cackles of laughter and chaotic cheering as the minister calmly regained control of the ceremony. Patting the air to cease the over-excited throng, she cleared her throat. She tried to make light of Max’s overenthusiastic response.
“I think you’ve made yourself
clear, Maxim. Now, do you, Greta Olivia Standing, take Maxim Cosmo Berkley as your lawful wedded husband? Will you promise to love, to honour and to cherish him, so long as you both shall live?”
Greta wasn’t paying attention. She was looking down at the floor. She had noticed a large, fleshy black spider flashing across the dark red patterned carpet. It disappeared
momentarily into the brown and black swirls of the carpet’s weave. It reappeared, camouflaged in places, but clearly on a mission. Greta froze in horror as it nonchalantly made its way towards the hem of her delicately trimmed, off the shoulder, ivory wedding dress. She looked on in sheer terror as the spider commenced its awkward ascent of her embroidered satin train. Greta found herself in a stifled panic. She opened and closed her mouth, gasping for breath. Her face was beginning to blush; she felt hot, she felt nauseous. She looked in horror, open-mouthed at the minister, who gently, but persuasively, prompted a reply. She began to flap her arms rapidly. Her sweet-smelling rose bouquet shred pretty pink petals that cascaded gracefully to the floor around Greta’s feet.
“Greta? Would you care to respond to your vows?”
Greta tried to regain her composure as the spider edged further up her dress. It was now at thigh height.
“Er. Um. Can you
help me?” she looked desperately at the minister. “I’m really sorry but I can’t say anything until someone gets rid of
!” she screamed and pointed to her dress and closed her eyes. She let out a shrill, blood-curdling shriek at the top of her voice. She couldn’t breathe; she felt paralysis seeping through her body, like an intoxicating suffocation by an invisible hand. The guests were speechless; the room was still. From their seated point in the congregation, it appeared as though Greta was pointing directly at Max. The guests looked at each other in bewilderment. They weren’t sure whether this was one of Max’s pranks, which had somehow imploded on its delivery.
the matter, Greta?” the minister asked impatiently.
“Just get rid of it! Get it off my dress! I suffer with arachnophobia and there is one of… urgh… them on my
dress!” she screamed. “I can’t even bear to say what it is! Urgh!” Greta was awkwardly stepping from side to side, flapping her bouquet in an attempt to swat at the spider.
Max looked around the fabric of the wedding dress and found the rather plump spider balancing awkwardly on the side of Greta’s hip. He flicked it with his hand and it spiralled across the room on to the floor. Greta continued to scream in despair.
“You idiot! Why didn’t you use a piece of paper and a glass to capture it? Now I don’t know where it is! It could be anywhere. Find it, Max; do something!”
“It’s probably dead,” surmised Max. “It took the full force of my hand. Either that or it is winded. Unfortunately I don’t have a piece of paper
a glass with me at this present moment in time. Look, darling, can we just carry on and get married?”
“Not until I know where it is. You know how I can’t even bear to look at one of those disgusting things! Just do it, Max, or you’ll ruin my day!” Greta snivelled. She patted at her cheeks, which were reaching boiling point. She suddenly felt faint. She looked wildly around her, much to the amusement of the guests. The minister restored what order she could as idle chatter began to filter through the room.
“Ladies and gentlemen. We will resume the ceremony shortly. If you could please remain seated. Thank you for your understanding in this… er… interruption.” She smiled warmly at them and then turned to Greta and glared.
short on time; I do have another ceremony to officiate at in half an hour. I fully understand your predicament. Admittedly, I don’t like spiders either, but I am damn sure one wouldn’t ruin my wedding ceremony. We can’t spend ages looking for it. Just compose yourself Greta, please!”
“Sorry, but if you don’t find that… that thing, I am walking out of here, right now!” Greta snapped. Her face was inches away from the minister’s. Her lips were pursed so tightly that her designer peony stain lipstick was invisible. Her eyes were screwed up in tight defiance. Her neck was elegantly long and swanlike but her veins were visibly protruding like pulsating tendrils, with meaningfulness, tinged with fear.
Max, along with his best man, Fabian, who had been urged by Max with a thump from his elbow to start a search party, desperately scoured the carpet and wooden floor boundary to find the offending arachnid.
“For pity’s sake, it’s only a spider!” Fab complained bitterly, as he crawled along the floor in his morning suit. His cravat was fastened so tightly, he could hardly move his neck; he felt breathless and restricted. He sighed as he made his way through lines of sandaled feet, selectively painted toenails and freshly polished leather brogues. He apologised as he scanned all areas of the floor. A surprising number of female guests sniggered and squealed as they strategically parted their legs to enable Fab a clear passage. Fab blinked and shook his head in amazement as an array of rather inappropriate panties, stocking tops and hemlines flashed before him.
“You know what she’s like; hates anything that has more than four legs,” Max returned as he wrestled with a pair of varicose-veined calves. “Sorry, I do apologise…” he uttered time and time again.
“And she’s desperate to live in the countryside? She won’t last there long; the place is full of spiders! Ah, here it is!” Fab picked up a black mass of entangled legs. The spider he had discovered had clearly been deceased for more than a few minutes; probably a few days.
“Are you quite sure that’s it?” Max didn’t look convinced.
“Course I’m not; but it will do. She’ll buy it; you know how gullible she is!” Fab smiled and rose to his feet. Holding the dead spider high above his head so all could view it, he straightened his jacket, adjusted his silk cravat and ran a hand swiftly through his mass of black swept-back hair. A small flurry of applause erupted from the back of the room.
“Okay everyone! I have found it! The spider is dead!” he announced in his thick Italian accent in animated triumph. “The wedding ceremony can now continue!”
Greta looked suspiciously at Fab as he resumed his position alongside Max.
“Keep it well away from me, do you hear?” she ordered and turned to face the minister. “Right, can we start please? From the beginning as I have lost the ambience of the occasion.”
“I am very short on time, Greta. So if you can just say ‘
’, I will carry on from there.” The minister forced a gritted smile.
“No way! I can’t remember what you said before. The urgh… spider, urgh, put me off!” She rearranged her dress and rechecked for the offending animal. “Urgh, it was so horrible!”
The minister sighed and hurriedly repeated the vows. Greta concentrated hard and then, to everyone’s relief, cleared her throat and said in a crystal clear voice,
A cheer erupted from the congregation in relief as the minister confirmed, “You are now husband and wife; congratulations! Maxim, you may kiss your bride!”
Greta still felt very faint and her breathing was shallow.
As Max leant forward to plant a kiss on Greta’s lips, to his disbelief he saw the spider, far from demised, triumphantly resting on the back of Greta’s elegant diamante tiara. He could clearly see its legs, which were a marginally lighter shade of brown than Greta’s hair, against her ivory coloured veil. He closed his eyes and quickly pecked Greta on the lips as though he had been burnt. Greta glared at him.
“Was that it?” she asked, clearly disappointed.
“Yep, for now, my beautiful wife. Come on, let’s get out of here!” Max grabbed Greta by the hand, bypassing the photographer who was trying to get some ad lib shots of the happy couple, and rushed outside towards the neighbouring car park.
the matter with you?” Greta stopped him in the doorway of the hotel. “We have to sign the register.” She was confused over her husband’s strange and totally out of character antics. Cool, calm Max was acting like a man possessed.
“Allow me to do one thing for you; before we go back in,” Max tried to stay calm.
“Close your eyes, stay still and all will be revealed,” Max was focussed on the position of the spider as it clambered to get a better grip of the tiara. “Do as I say!” His voice had an authority which Greta found strangely attractive. Her heart fluttered in anticipation. He focused on the spider. With his feet apart, he made his move.
“Okay; I’m waiting,” she closed her eyes and remained statuesque.
In an instance, Max thrust his hand at Greta’s tiara and ripped it harshly from her hair. He tossed it to the ground and stamped on it.
“What the hell are you doing?” she gasped. “You really pulled my hair! What’s this all about? Are you deliberately trying to ruin my day and my hairdo?”
Max continued to stamp on the tiara until it was an unrecognisable mashed up mass of metal with its sparkling diamante stones amassed on the ground. He saw the spider; it hadn’t survived the ordeal; it was well and truly dead. Max picked up the tiara, reshaped it, brushed it off and handed back to Greta, who stood open-mouthed at his outburst.
all that about? Are you completely mad?” she was dumbfounded.
“That, my dear, was the traditional ritual of all Berkley menfolk when they marry,” Max blagged, straight-faced and with pure perfection. “For as long as I can remember, both my father and grandfather had always said that all Berkley men would remove the headdress from their newly wedded wife’s hair, throw it to the floor and crush it. It is a sign, as it was of my forefathers’, of my lifelong commitment to you.” He drew Greta close to him and kissed her lustfully on her cheek. “Trust me!” he whispered. “You will always remember this moment; believe me, you’ll love me forever for it!”
He took a glance at the spider; it was now an unrecognisable wet splodge on the tarmac.
“Forgive me father, for I have sinned,” he whispered beneath his breath and ushered Greta back inside the hotel to sign the register.
Greta was overcome and not quite sure of all the strange happenings of the past few minutes. She tottered back to
the hotel suite. The minister had positioned the register on a table festooned with two artificial posies of rather dusty looking lilies and orchids. Greta turned her nose up distastefully as they didn’t blend in with her own colour scheme. She casually pushed them aside and placed her own bouquet on the table. She checked her hands for dust. The minister indicated where to sign. The photographer honed in to get a close up of the signing. Greta felt faint. She sighed as she rather hazily scrawled her name. She blinked a few times and shivered.
“Greta, are you all right?” Max held on to her arm as she began to sway.
“Uh, I don’t really know… I think I need to… urgh!”
Greta swiftly dropped to the floor. As she fell, she knocked her head against the side of the table. She was knocked out cold.
“Quick, get her into the recovery position,” Max glanced anxiously around the room. The guests were gasping in concern, as Greta lay motionless on the floor. “It’s all right, everyone, Greta will be fine. She’s only fainted. It must be from the shock of marrying me!” he tried a faint joke, which caused a rippled snigger around the room. He beckoned for Fab to come over to him. He whispered nervously.
“Get all the guests outside into the gardens. Start the champagne flowing. Greta needs some space. Go on, get them out of here!”
“Okay.” Fab patted Max’s shoulder. “Leave them all to me!”
“Right everybody; if you would like to make your way into the patio area, champagne and canapés are being served. Max and Greta will join you shortly. Thank you!”
“Oh my poor, darling girl!” Jeanne Standing, Greta’s mother, grabbed hold of Max’s arm. “What has happened
to her, Maxim? I was talking to someone and next minute, Greta is on the floor. Is she all right?”
“Don’t worry, Jeanne, she’s fainted. She’ll be right as rain. Look, can you entertain the guests until Greta has recovered? Can you and Charles do that for me, please?” Max’s eyes indicated with urgency for Jeanne to leave the room.
“Oh course, we can! Charles!” She frantically indicated for her husband to come over to her side. “We have an extremely important job to do, come on, all hands to the pump!”