in this excerpt, Tony is given some monumental news…
I was normally out after school, either on the sports field or spending time with Ruby, but I remember I came home straight after the school bell one day because Dad had told me they wanted to discuss something. I don’t recall being particularly apprehensive, we had talked a lot about what I would do after school, and assumed it was going to be another one of those discussions.
But when I got to the house I saw mother’s car outside, with Mother in it. She told me, in a very clipped voice, that Ben was already inside and that I should hurry. I went in to find the 3 of them, Dad, Mrs. McKinley and Ben all sitting round the kitchen table. “I won’t beat around the bush,” Dad said, “but I wanted you both to hear the news at the same time. Tell your Mum that I’m sorry to get her out here, only I know you’re busy with school and all, and I wanted you to hear before anyone else.”
“Get on with it” Mrs. McKinley hissed, which was exactly what I was thinking.
“Yes, well, the thing is, Mrs. McKinley – Margie – and I have been talking and, well, we are getting married.” He paused, maybe to judge our reactions. For myself, I was stunned. My first thought was, I can’t call her Mrs. McKinly anymore. He went on to tell us that they had set a date for April, that it would be in the Parish Church in Lynn and then at the private room above the Jolly Anchor. I’m not sure that Ben or I actually said a word, we were so taken aback by the news. I gathered that Dad had already told Mother; I guess he had to so that she would drive Ben over here. Mrs. McKinley asked me if Ruby would be one of her Bridesmaids, and I said I’d ask her.
We had shared a house for almost 7 years by that time, but I just could not bring myself to call Mrs. McKinley anything other than that. She kept saying that I should call her Margie, or Ma, or MM, I just could not do so. I’m not sure if there ever was a Mr. McKinley, or what had happened to him, but in my head, she was just Mrs. McKinley. The school teacher that I had known since a kid, who had lived with us for years, and somehow was now going to be married to my father.
When I told Ruby, she was over-the-moon excited and wanted to talk about dresses and so spent more time at our house, going over designs and color choices. Then suddenly the attention turned to me.
Up until that time, I had been spared the chore of really thinking about clothes. I wore uniforms for school, rugby, and cricket, and if I weren’t in one of them, I’d pull on some old jeans and a tee shirt. But now I had to get a decent suit, along with a button down shirt and a tie. For the first time in my life, I walked into a men’s outfitters.
It was horrible! I felt I was choking with a tie round my neck, and every collar I tried looked stupid around my scrawny neck. We tried many different styles of suit, but no matter how I did up the jacket, I could only stare at myself in misery, thinking how much I looked like an undertaker. Ruby, who had appointed herself my official dresser squealed at how cute I looked, or how distinguished, and after a while I began to notice the sly looks from the shop assistants. Then I realized that they thought the suit was my wedding to Ruby, and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Eventually, the shopping nightmare was over, and I had a suit that was half decent, a smart shirt and tie, and a pair of black patent leather shoes. Ruby insisted I went with her to her fittings for her Bridesmaids dress, and I was at once embarrassed and proud to be seen with such a beautiful lady. When I looked in the mirror at us standing arm-in-arm, both dressed up in our finest, I had a lump in my throat at what a great couple we made. I even started to think that maybe someday I might be walking down the aisle with her at our wedding.