We had a feeling that there was more than meets the eye to this story from the moment we began reading it. Jo's skilful storytelling was both abstract and yet fluid, candid yet withheld. This blending of extroversion and mystery piqued our interest and held it until the eloquent resolution.
Shortlist - Open Prose Competition
‘Didn't she look a picture?’ Maggie said waiting for her sister to unlock the car.
‘Beautiful,’ agreed Sylvia. 'Have you got directions to this place?’
The driver polished the headlights while he waited. The bride and groom were hugging people in the church yard. Wedding guests took selfies on their mobiles and children threw confetti at each other. He checked his watch. Another hour and he could go home and watch the football.
‘Oh my God,’ shrieked Maggie.
Sylvia braked hard and the car spun out of control.
The scene was grim. A cow lay bleeding on the tarmac, another was already dead. A woman was screaming, sirens wailed still far in the distance. Cars were strewn over the carriageway overturned and crumpled. A vehicle was wedged between two trucks; a long white ribbon fluttered in the devastation.
The sign said Reception.
There was a long queue. People shuffled and complained.
‘I wasn't expecting this today,' a woman said.
‘We've been to a wedding, me and my sister, but I'm not sure where she is now,’ said Sylvia looking around. ‘Look,' she said pointing. ‘There’s the bride’.
‘They're taking their time, that's for sure,’ said the woman.
‘They need more staff,’ agreed Sylvia. ‘Perhaps we should give them a hand!’
The women both laughed.
Two young men in motorcycle leathers were having an argument.
‘This place is a dump!’ said the taller of the two.
‘And you're a twat,' replied his friend.
Maggie arrived. She had got separated from her sister. She looked round the room but couldn't see her because she didn't have her glasses.
‘Do you think it's always so busy?’ Maggie asked a man holding a baby.
‘To be honest,’ he said, 'I don't really know why we came. This little one is usually in bed by now.’
Maggie nodded and stroked the baby’s leg absently. ‘We were at a wedding,’ she said, 'but I think the reception was cancelled.’
A small boy was sucking his thumb.
‘Is he with you?’ Maggie asked the man.
They both looked at the child. The man shook his head.
‘One’s enough,’ he said and smiled.
‘I'm so sorry,’ said the groom to his wife 'I got a bit lost.'
‘I was so worried,’ she said. ‘I was afraid you weren't coming.’
‘They wouldn't let me through. Especially my Mum,’ he said.
‘She loves you,’ said the bride.
‘And I love you.’
‘Well you're here now, that's all that matters,’ she smiled.
‘Name and occupation please?’
‘Kenny Simpson, chauffeur,’ he replied.
‘Anybody else in your party?’
‘Um no, just me.’
‘Arm, please,’ said the receptionist. He put a blue wristband on Kenny’s wrist.
‘I don't suppose there's any chance of a drink?’ he asked.
‘Through there,’ said the receptionist pointing at a door marked "Blue Bands Only".
‘Next!’ called the receptionist.
Service with a smile, Kenny thought. ‘Miserable git.’
‘Welcome!’ smiled the host handing him a drink from a silver tray. ‘My name is Peter and I will be looking after you today. Please, help yourself to canapés.
Kenny took a sip of his beer.
That's hit the spot! It's been a long day, he thought as he looked around.
They appeared to be in a large gazebo thatched with palm fronds. Tiny hummingbirds hovered around glorious red Passion Flower blooms. They shimmered like decorations on a Christmas tree. Two motor boats were tied to a jetty leading directly into the sea. A small boy stood alone looking out at the waves lapping on the sand, his ice cream melting down his arm. People milled about with their drinks. Two elderly ladies in matching fascinators twizzled the umbrellas in their cocktails. The newlyweds were holding hands, smiling.
‘This looks heavenly,’ said the bride.
‘Absolutely heavenly,’ agreed her husband, and they clinked their glasses.