The Wedding Day: Sample
Published: March 9th 2012
Publisher: Cupid's Arrow Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Word count: 50,000 words approx.
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Sometimes, getting lost is the best way to find yourself.
Nicole Baxter thinks she has the perfect life all mapped out. She is steadily climbing the corporate ladder as an intrepid journalist and she's about to marry the love of her life, Dr. Paul Schofield.
Everything is working out exactly as she planned. Life can't get any better.
Nicole's carefully planned life is unceremoniously turned upside down when she gets jilted at the altar by the so-called love of her life.
She must learn to live and love all over again and decides to open her heart and mind to new people and possibilities.
She begins to realise that life is about finding her passion and with the help of her sister and some new friends she sees that getting lost was the best way to find herself.
Head up. Shoulders back. Deep breaths. Nicole Baxter took one last admiring look at her reflection in her full-length bedroom mirror and smiled.
This is it, she thought. This is the first day of the rest of my life.
All the years of waiting patiently and being the perfect girlfriend had finally paid off. She was about to marry the man of her dreams, Dr. Paul Schofield, after nine long years of waiting.
Nicole and Paul had met as first year undergraduates at university. She was studying journalism and Paul was studying medicine. They'd literally bumped into each other one day in the library when Nicole had dropped her books and Paul had fallen over her as she bent to pick them up.
He'd sustained a nasty bump on the head, but the two soon became friends and it wasn't long until they'd started dating.
"I fell head over heels for her," Paul joked when he regaled new acquaintances with the story of how they'd met.
Nicole smiled to herself at the memory.
No more Nicole Baxter. I'll soon be Mrs. Nicole Schofield.
She carefully adjusted the tiny diamantes in her expensively highlighted blonde hair before taking her father's proffered arm and beginning her much anticipated journey to the church where she would soon be married.
"You look beautiful, darling." Imelda Baxter had happy tears in her eyes. She gazed lovingly at her eldest daughter as she gracefully descended the stairs.
"Thanks mom." Nicole hugged her mother close, breathing in the familiar comforting scent of lavendar, her mother's signature fragrance.
"Congratulations, soon to be Mrs. Schofield." Simone Collins, Nicole's friend from college, smiled as she handed the wedding bouquet of red roses and baby's breath to the bride.
"You can't say Mrs. Schofield yet!" Helena Murphy scolded. Helena was another of Nicole's friends and also her maid of honour. "It's bad luck to congratulate the bride before the actual wedding."
"Don't be dramatic," Simone rolled her eyes. "You make your own luck in this world, and silly superstitions have nothing to do with it."
"Well, I was only saying," Helena continued. "There's no point in accidentally jinxing her."
"Ok, ladies, let's have everyone out to the limousine, or we'll be unfashionably late at this stage." John Baxter, Nicole's father, looked pointedly at his watch.
"What time is it?" Nicole asked, her nerves beginning to give way to panic. "I don't want to keep Paul waiting too long."
"Plenty of time, dear." John gently patted his daughter's arm as Helena and Simone gathered the bride's wedding paraphernalia together.
Helena and Simone helped Nicole outside to the waiting limousine which would take them to the church. They folded her carefully into the car, delicately arranging the layers of the bride's dress so that she wouldn't arrive looking crumpled. Then they climbed in beside her.
"Is there a minibar in here?" Simone asked the driver. "I could do with a strong drink. I don't know about you girls but my nerves are starting to get the better of me." She laughed loudly.
Helena looked at her sternly. "It's a bit early for alcohol, don't you think?"
"It's never too early, darling." Simone laughed shrilly again.
"Are you ok?" Nicole looked pointedly at her friend.
Simone had been acting strangely for the past few weeks. She'd always been outspoken and a little eccentric, both qualities which Nicole loved about her but recently, she'd been acting even odder than usual.
"I'm fine, never better." Simone tossed her long auburn hair nonchalantly over her shoulder.
"Never better, darling. I'm not the one getting married. I'm still young, free and single."
She was starting to sound slightly hysterical. Helena elbowed Simone sharply in the side, which promptly shut her up.
Nicole decided not to push the matter any further and turned to gaze out the window. She tried to distract herself from the sinking feeling that had crept up on her at random intervals during the past few months. She shook herself and practiced her yoga breathing, dismissing her panic as wedding nerves.
It was a perfect day for a wedding. September usually had the best weather in Ireland. The sun shone brightly and there wasn't a single cloud in the clear blue sky. The road was lined with trees and the rich colours of the autumn leaves caught the sunlight brilliantly. The myriad colours of rich burgundy, deep orange and yellow-gold carpeted the ground. It was a wonderful autumn morning, filled with hope and promise for the future.
Nicole sighed deeply as her nerves began to abate. She thought of Paul who would already be waiting for her at the church; handsome, dependable, successful Paul. She lost herself for a few comforting moments in the happy memory of his marriage proposal.
He'd taken her to Killarney, in County Kerry, where they'd stayed in a jacuzzi suite at The Millington Hotel. She'd spent the whole day indulging herself in the exclusive beauty treatments at the spa while he'd played golf.
Then he'd whisked her off for dinner at the Michelin starred O' Hara restaurant where she'd never eaten food as sumptuous. Every single bite was melt in your mouth fantastic!
After dinner, they'd taken a horse-drawn carriage around Killarney National Park. It was a cold, frosty night but the stars had shone brightly down upon them. Paul had taken her hand as he got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. Nicole hadn't been expecting his proposal but she accepted immediately. She had never felt happier or more content in her life.
She sighed happily at the wonderful memory that she knew she would treasure always. She couldn't wait to become Mrs. Nicole Schofield and start the rest of their lives together.
"We're here, sweetheart." Her father's voice broke her pleasant reverie.
"How many people have you invited?!" Helena exclaimed. "The car park is full to overflowing." "Paul has a lot of extended family who insisted on an invitation," Nicole replied, distractedly.
The limousine pulled up outside St. Patrick's Chapel, which was attached to the university where Nicole and Paul had met. They'd thought it would be romantic to have their wedding ceremony at the university church, almost like coming full circle.
A few last-minute stragglers made their way quickly into the church when they spotted the wedding limousine pulling up. Nicole checked her makeup one last time and reapplied her lipstick before opening the car door and being helped outside by Helena and Simone.
They adjusted her veil and made sure her dress was perfectly aligned before assuming their positions behind the bride and her father.
"You look beautiful, darling. I'm very proud of you," Nicole's father whispered to her as they entered the church to the soaring music of Wagner's Bridal Chorus.
Nicole's heart skipped a beat as she made her way slowly up the aisle. She returned the beaming smiles of friends and family who watched in admiration as she glided gracefully past them. Her heart was bursting with happiness and love. She knew it was a cliche but she genuinely felt that this was the happiest day of her life. The nerves which had plagued her earlier had now given way to an overwhelming joy and peace.
She could see Paul standing, waiting for her near the altar, with his best man, Bob Phillips, by his side. She couldn't wait to stand next to her husband-to-be and look into his eyes and see the love that was reflected there.
She gulped back tears, suddenly feeling overcome with emotion. She was leaving the old Nicole behind and standing at the precipice of her wonderful new life.
"Good luck darling," her father whispered to her as he passed her hand to Paul and took his seat in the front row.
Paul smiled nervously at her as he took her hand in his. She squeezed his hand three times, their secret code since their college days, to tell him "I love you." He didn't return the squeeze but instead let her hand drop as he turned to face the priest.
Nerves, Nicole tried to dismiss the unease that suddenly gripped her heart. He is looking rather pale. She stole a glance at him under her eyelashes as the priest opened the wedding ceremony.
Paul was very pale indeed under his tanned golden brown face. He had dark circles under his eyes and Nicole noticed a bead of sweat on her fiance's brow. He was usually so calm, cool and collected that she was more than a little surprised by his demeanour.
Nothing ever seemed to shake him or knock his cool reserve. She'd never seen him in such a state.
"Do you, Nicole Ann Baxter, take Paul Michael Schofield to be your lawfully wedded husband?" "I do," Nicole replied proudly as she looked at her husband, but he refused to meet her eyes.
"Do you, Paul Michael Schofield, take Nicole Ann Baxter to be your lawfully wedded wife?" "I...I..." Paul stumbled over his words.
He looked like he might throw up at any second. Nicole anxiously searched his face but he still wouldn't look her in the eyes. A hushed silence fell on the congregation as the groom searched for words.
The priest decided to repeat the question. Nicole started to feel a horrible panic rise in her stomach. She felt very hot. Her heart began to beat faster. She reached for Paul's hand but he pulled away from her. Nicole heard her father clear his throat loudly. Bob put his hand on Paul's shoulder and whispered something in his ear.
Nicole was beginning to feel like she was having an out of body experience. It was as if she was watching her own wedding in slow motion from somewhere far away. She wished she was far away at that moment and that she could somehow magic herself out of there.
She was suddenly aware of everyone's eyes on her as she stood there at the altar. She felt like some sort of show piece.
"Paul?" she heard herself whisper.
He still wouldn't look at her.
"Paul!" she screamed, her voice echoing around the church.
The congregation gasped and she could sense them leaning forward in their seats to listen or get a better view of the spectacle that was unfolding in front of them.
"Nicole...I'm sorry, I can't do this," he whispered.
"You can't do what, Paul?"
Nicole wanted him to say the words. Some part of her still hoped and fervently prayed that he meant he couldn't do something else; like take the rubbish out or wash the dishes.
"Say it, Paul, just say it!" Nicole screamed again.
Helena rushed to her friend's side and put an arm around her slender waist. She tried to whisper something to her but Nicole pulled away.
"Say it Paul. Grow a set of balls and say it!"
"I can't marry you!" Paul roared, his voice reverberating around the church.
The congregation gasped in unison. It was like watching a day-time drama on the television.
"Are you happy now?" Paul hissed at her.
"Am I happy?!" Nicole yelled at him incredulously.
Her face was distorted with anger and humiliation. She would have gladly killed him in that moment; the absolutely worst moment of her entire life.
"Why?" she asked him, her voice quieter this time.
"I can't." Paul sounded defeated.
"Can't or won't?" Nicole asked, her voice rising sharply again.
"I can't and I won't marry you," Paul hissed back at her.
"Why? There has to be a reason," she persisted.
"Do we have to do this here, now, in front of everyone?" he asked her, looking tired and defeated. "Why?" she repeated. "Tell me why! I have the right to know why I am being dumped at the altar on my wedding day!"
"I slept with someone else." He finally admitted the truth to her.
A deathly silence fell on the church. Nobody spoke. Nobody moved. It was as if everyone was frozen in time or holding their breath. Nicole looked at Paul, the man who was supposed to love her more than anything or anyone else in the whole world.
She couldn't breathe. The feelings of anxiety and trepidation that had plagued her recently were back in full force now.
Somewhere in the pit of her stomach she'd known that Paul was up to something behind her back. He'd been snappy with her about the wedding plans and reluctant to make decisions. She'd put it down to pre-wedding nerves on his part.
She hadn't wanted to admit it to herself, to face the truth. She'd tried to block it out, to dismiss her thoughts as wedding jitters and silly jealousy. She needed to know the answer, the truth and needed to know it right now.
"Who is she, Paul?" Nicole whispered through gritted teeth.
Paul looked at her then, shock written on his face. His reaction made her catch her breath. She desperately swallowed the sobs that were threatening to escape.
Nicole looked frantically around the congregation, scanning the faces of her family and friends. She wondered if her fiance's mistress was someone she knew personally.
Had she had the audacity to attend their wedding?
"Are you here, you bitch?" Nicole lashed out at the congregation. "Speak now or forever hold your peace, you coward!" She laughed maniacally, her blue eyes spitting fire.
Her gaze snapped back to Paul, who was staring meaningfully at someone over her shoulder. Nicole swung around and caught Simone smirking.
"You!" Nicole yelled. "It's you, Simone, isn't it?"
Simone arched an eyebrow, no emotion showing on her immaculately made up face.
"Is it her?" Nicole turned back to Paul. "Is it her?!"
"Yes!" Paul finally admitted defeat.
Nicole looked from one to the other. She'd known there was someone, but one of her best friends? How could they stoop that low? Helena reached out to her then and tried to put an arm around her friend.
"Get away from me, all of you!" Nicole shrieked. "I have to get out of here."
She gathered up the folds of her wedding dress and ran down the aisle. Several people tried to stop her but she pushed them away. She burst through the doors of the church and crashed outside into the blinding brightness of the spring day. I have to get out of here. I can't stand their pitying looks. How can I escape from this train wreck that was supposed to be my wedding?
She squinted for a moment, searching frantically for a mode of escape and with relief she saw the wedding limousine and jumped inside.
The driver was nowhere to be seen. The ceremony wasn't scheduled to finish for another half an hour and afterwards there would have been photographs to be taken outside. He'd decided to go for a walk around the park and take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather.
Nicole fiddled with the keys in the ignition, which luckily for her, the driver had left behind. She started the engine and reversed the awkward car out of the church. Another car slammed on their brakes and blew the horn loudly as she suddenly shot out of the church entrance. She blinked and tried to focus.
"What now?" she said aloud. "Where can I go? Everyone who supposedly means anything to me is back in the church."
She sighed, wracking her brains for an escape plan. Evette! Suddenly she remembered her younger sister, who'd been invited to the wedding but had declined the invitation, pleading work committments as an excuse. Evie, I'll find Evie. The sisters had never been very close, but Evie was Nicole's only hope now.
Nicole took a sharp right turn and drove the motorway to the city centre. Her mind and heart were racing with the living nightmare that she'd experienced in the church. It seemed surreal.
She couldn't quite comprehend that less than an hour previously she'd been driving down the same road heading to what was supposed to be the happiest day of her life and now she was driving in the opposite direction with her whole life in meltdown.
She wished that she was dreaming or having a nightmare and that it was some other poor misfortunate woman who'd been dumped at the altar.
How could this happen to her? She'd had everything planned so carefully and meticulously, like everything else in her life. She'd always believed in plans. All her other plans had worked out, why not this one; the most important day of her life!
She'd believed that as long as she was a good person, and made sensible decisions that everything would be well in her world. Follow the plan was her mantra and it had served her well until today. She slammed her fist on the horn in anger.
Paul had been unfaithful with one of her closest friends. She suddenly broke out in a cold sweat. The steering wheel was slippery in her clammy hands. Her stomach heaved and her mouth went dry. She pulled over just in time to open the car door and violently throw up.
How long had it been going on? How long had they been making a fool of her?
Images of them together made her throw up once again.
She slammed her fist on the horn in frustration.
How could she not have known that he was cheating on her? How had he hidden it from her? Was Paul happy that it was over between them? Would he start dating Simone properly now? Was Simone the only woman he'd been with? How many others were there?
She could feel her stomach heaving. She felt dizzy and lightheaded, like all the fight had suddenly been knocked out of her. She rested her head on the steering wheel for a moment and tried to focus on her breathing.
How could he do this to me? How could that bitch do this to me? Block it out, block it out!
She couldn't deal with the enormity of her situation in that moment.
I have to find Evie, then everything will be ok, she tried to console herself.
Nicole sped down the motorway and before long she was parked outside her sister's apartment complex. She couldn't remember the code to the gate; it had been so long since she'd last visited her sister.
A guilty pang shot across Nicole's heart. She'd never shown her little sister much interest or encouragement. She'd been too wrapped up in her own life. The two sisters weren't close, but Evette was the only person that Nicole felt she had left to turn to now.
She stood outside Evette's gate, desperately trying to remember the entrance code. She stared at the apartment numbers, each of which had their own buzzer on the wall. There were twenty apartment numbers listed. She couldn't even remember Evette's number, so she decided to buzz them all, figuring that someone would have to let her inside eventually.
"Excuse me, love." A burly man ambled slowly towards her from the other side of the gate. "Can I help you?"
"Yes, I'm trying to find my sister. I've forgotten her apartment number." Nicole tried to explain.
The superintendent looked at her doubtfully. "You don't know your own sister's apartment number?" he asked, as he looked her up and down, taking in her tear-stained face and crumpled wedding dress.
"It's been a very bad day," Nicole tried to swallow the lump that was building in her throat. "My sister's name is Evette Baxter. Please can you tell her that Nicole needs to see her urgently."
Finally, she managed to persuade the superintendent to let her inside. He must have taken pity on her in her dishevelled wedding dress and her makeup-streaked face. She was sure she looked a sorry sight.
"It's number twenty," he advised her as he let her into the apartment block. "Take the elevator to the third floor and Miss Baxter's place is second on your left."
"Thank you," Nicole sniffed as she brushed past him into the elevator. She was relieved when the edoors finally closed behind her and she was away from his and everyone else's pitying eyes.
Several minutes later and Nicole was standing outside Evette's door. She hesistated momentarily. She took a deep breath before knocking, but Evette swung open the door before she'd even had a chance to knock once.
"Wow." Evette couldn't help staring at her sister. A mixture of shock and horror flashed across her face and it took her a few moments to regain her composure.
"Aren't you going to ask me in?" Nicole asked tetchily.
"Of course, come in, come in." Evette pushed open the door and let her sister inside.
Her head was spinning. What on earth was her older sister doing at her apartment, wearing a wedding dress?
"What happened, Nicole?" she asked as her sister flung herself onto the couch.
"Take a wild guess," Nicole replied sarcastically.
"I'm afraid to guess," Evette said carefully. "Isn't today supposed to be your wedding day?"
Nicole looked dramatically at her watch and said, " it's half past twelve. Yes, I should have been Mrs. Nicole Schofield by now, according to the wedding plan, but that's never going to happen. Paul dumped me at the altar."
"Why?!" Evette asked incredulously.
"Apparently, he's been sleeping with my best friend, Simone. They've probably been having an affair for months for all I know."
"Wow," Evette repeated as she slumped onto the sofa next to her sister. "I can't believe it."
"Nor can I," Nicole sighed. "Isn't love grand?" She gave a strangled laugh.
"I couldn't stand to look at their pitying faces so I ran out of the church. I don't why I ran to you, but you were the only person that I could think of."
"Well, I'm glad you thought of me," Evette said kindly.
"I don't understand what I did wrong. I know I was a good girlfriend, he told me so a million times. I've supported him throughout medical school. I've been understanding of the long hours he had to work at the hospital. What was my mistake? What did I do to deserve this?"
"I can't even begin to imagine what you're going through, but I don't believe that any of this was your fault," Evette said slowly.
Nicole smiled gratefully at her sister.
"Wine?" Evette asked tentaively. She wasn't sure if Nicole would have wine at such an early hour. She was usually so straitlaced that she only ever drank one small glass of wine with dinner, "to aid her digestion."
"Yes, please," Nicole accepted immediately. "Bring me the bottle."
Evette hurried to her refrigerator and quickly returned with two large glasses of white wine. She handed Nicole a glass which she promptly demolished.
"Refill?" Evette offered uncertainly.
"Absolutely," Nicole held out her empty wine glass for more.
They didn't speak again until Evette opened the second bottle of wine. She could see that her sister was in a complete mess, but she didn't know what to say or do to comfort her. Nicole had always been the perfect older sister with the perfect life plan, while she often felt like the black sheep of the family by comparison.
Nicole was the A grade student, captain of the debating team who graduated with first class honours in her journalism degree. She was head-hunted in her final year of university by the top national newspaper in Ireland, News Central, where she'd been working ever since, steadily making her way up the corporate ladder.
Evette, in contrast to her older sister, left school at sixteen, having barely passed her final year exams. Her working life to date had consisted of various temporary positions, none of which she'd managed to hold down for very long.
She loved her sister but she didn't really know her. Nicole had always been busy with her own group of friends and Evette had moved out of home when she turned sixteen.
They'd lost touch over the years and only saw each other occasionally at family gatherings like Christmas and their parents' birthdays, but that was about all the interaction they had with each other.
"How could he do this to me?! Nicole yelled suddenly, making Evette jump and spill some of her wine. "Things like this don't happen to people like me. People like me don't get dumped at the altar! I had everything planned perfectly. This sort of thing happens to people like you, not me!"
"Gee thanks," Evette said evenly, trying to keep the anger out of her voice.
"You know what I mean, no offence intended." Nicole waved her hand dismissively in the air.
"Don't worry, none taken," Evette replied sharply. Same old Nicole, she thought to herself. She wondered how long she would have to endure her sister.
Evette's old childhood resentments and inferiorities came flooding back to her at her sister's harsh words. She found it difficult to restrain herself from yelling that she wasn't the one who'd been dumped at the altar, instead she sighed and got to her feet.
"I need to go out for a while," she said as she gathered up the empty wine bottles and glasses and stuck them in the kitchen sink.
"You can't leave me now!" Nicole cried. "I can't be alone at a time like this!"
"It's only for a few hours," Evette tried to explain.
"Where are you going? Take me with you." Panic was starting to rise in Nicole's voice.
"I'm going to work actually," Evette continued.
"You're starting work at three o' clock in the afternoon?" Nicole asked disbelievingly.
"Yes, I'm a model for a life-drawing class."
"What?" Nicole almost choked on the last of her wine. "Is it nude?"
"Yes, it's nude," Evette rolled her eyes behind her sister's back.
"Well, I'll come too. I can't stay here on my own."
"You're going outside in public in your wedding dress to sit in an art class and watch me, your sister, pose in the nude?" Evette said slowly.
"Maybe not," Nicole relented. The prospect of seeing her sister naked wasn't very appealing.
Evette looked Nicole up and down. She'd had enough of her sister already. She wasn't about to put up with her sanctimonious attitude nor was she going to tolerate being judged disdainfully in her own home.
She'd had a surfeit of being treated like a second class citizen when she'd lived in her parents house and she wasn't prepared to regress to that stage in her life again.
"Don't you think you should go home? Everyone must be worried sick about you at this stage." Evette couldn't wait to get her sister out of her apartment. There was a reason why they'd never spent much time together; they were polar opposites in every way.
Nicole was uptight and obsessive whereas Evette was easygoing and free-spirited. They simply didn't understand each other.
"Home? Where's my home? I'm not going home. I'm never going back there. Paul and his slut are probably fornicating in our bed as we speak!" Nicole shuddered involuntarily at the thought.
Evette shuddered too. She'd never liked Paul. He'd struck her as a sanctimonious, arrogant, smug prig and as irritating as Nicole could behave sometimes, well a lot of the time, she didn't deserve to be dumped at the altar on her wedding day. Nobody deserved that treatment.
"Mom and Dad must be going out of their minds with worry," Evette said, hoping that Nicole would pick up on her subliminal message and decide to go and stay with their parents.
"Would you call them for me, please, Evie? I can't face talking to anyone."
Nicole looked completely defeated as she sat on the couch in her crumpled dress. Her carefully styled hair was sticking up in all directions and she had black smudges under her eyes from her mascara.
"Ok, I'll call them," Evie sighed.
"Thank you, sis, just let them know I'll be staying with you for a while."
"Will you be staying with me?" Evie asked in surprise.
"Where else can I go?" Nicole asked mournfully.
"Don't you have any friends?" Evie suggested, desperately trying to think of something to stop her sister from staying with her.
"My best friend is sleeping with my fiance," Nicole said in disgust, "and my other friend probably knew about it all along, so no, I don't have any friends. Who knows, he's probably moved her in by now; out with the old and in with the new. Look I'll go. It's obvious that you don't want me here." Nicole struggled off the couch and tried to smooth out the wrinkles of her crumpled dress.
"I know when I'm not welcome."
"Of course you're welcome," Evie insisted, hardly believing the words that were tumbling from her mouth. "You can stay for as long as you want."
"Really?" Nicole looked almost happy for the first time that afternoon. "Oh, Evie, I love you," and with that she flung her arms around her sister and held her tight.
The Wedding Day by Joanne Clancy is available now at Amazon. Click here to download.