DERNIER MOT - Marina's wedding
After months of feverish preparations, Marina finally got married last Saturday, and the whole village was invited. Festivities kicked off at 3pm with a ceremony in the Mayor's office which Marina's papa and her ton-ton Jacques had re-painted especially for the occasion. Well over fifty people managed to crowd into a room which normally only fits Alphonse and his secretary. The smell of scent and fresh paint was overpowering but nobody minded because marriage ceremonies are brief affairs in Moisson.
"Well, when Marina and I were at school together," started Alphonse blushing scarlet, "little did I think that I would be marrying her to Jean-Marie today!"
Marina, wearing a floor-length meringue and a white straw hat, gazed steadfastly at the ceiling and Jean-Marie clenched his jaw.
"But here we are..."
"All of us!" said Bernadette crisply.
"Get a move on!" said Marina's brother Christophe.
Alphonse went a shade more tomato and gabbled through the list of laws covering the married state in France; the happy couple signed the register and everyone applauded. Outside in the blazing sun, the crowd of well-wishers cheered as Marina and Jean-Marie scuttled down the Mairie steps and made the 50-yard dash to the church on the opposite side of the square.
The curé was not amused at having been kept waiting. He also was less than happy about the buzz of excited conversation.
"We are gathered... I'm not blessing this union unless you all shut up!" he said. "It's all very well - you're all here today when there's free drinks, but every Sunday all I see are empty pews so while I've got you here I'm going to make the most of it!"
Alarmed, the menfolk glanced at their wives and their watches, and those who had prudently stationed themselves near the door slid out into the sunshine to smoke and kick each other's tyres.
Marina and Jean-Marie made faces over their shoulders and a respectful hush settled over the remaining congregation. The curé consulted his prayer book and Marina's small rusty spaniel bolted up the aisle and took refuge under her hoop skirt.
The silence was absolute. Every eye was fixed on the bride's hemline. Jean-Marie shuffled nervously and the curé launched into a lengthy Latin prayer as a small black nose appeared, and then two velvet-brown eyes.
"Coco!" hissed the bride's mother. "Heel!"
The curé raised an eyebrow but luckily he didn't spot the canine intruder and, equally luckily, Coco stayed put for the rest of the blessing, only fully emerging when her mistress went off to sign the parish register, at which point Coco pranced outside with the rest of us.
As we waited for the bells to ring and the happy couple to emerge into the sunlight, the kids milled about with baskets of sugared almonds. The women eyed each other's cameras and the guys disappeared into the courtyard of the crumbling chateau which overlooks the square.
Marina and Jean-Marie soon came out of the church, to be met by a volley of gunfire from the chateau ramparts. The guys, determined to do Jean-Marie proud, loosed off nearly 200 rounds into the plane trees, causing leaves and twigs to rain down on the bridal party like green confetti. Coco went berserk, the kids squealed with excitement, Alphonse nodded portentously and Eglantine put her umbrella up.
"Blimey!" whispered the SP under the cover of gunshot. "That was a close shave. I thought for a moment that Marina was going to marry Coco instead of Jean-Marie. No wonder her menfolk are celebrating!"
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