Monday morning arrives as unwelcome and uninvited as a mobile phone that won’t stop ringing at the worst possible moment. For the past few days I have fluctuated between elation and misery. Was I really kissing Henry Cavill less than a week ago? The whole dizzying, life-changing experience on that London rooftop seems to be fading like a hot air balloon that is drifting on the horizon. The memory of that short and sweet encounter with the man of my dreams now unattainably distant, even though his scent still lingers on my dress (now hung in my closet) and in my hair. I know I need to shampoo it, but I’m afraid that if I do I will lose this last connection to him. I’m still having difficulty believing any of it actually happened, so that last thing I want to do is literally wash that man out of my hair, hence I’ve probably doubled the share value of dry shampoo overnight! My arrest-me-red lipstick is a squashed, mushy mess and my only other souvenirs of the event are the photo and the note. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have read and reread his note over the weekend. The photograph that I surreptitiously took of him now also exists as a framed print in addition to the copy on my phone. I’ve tried not to pine over it, over him, but his incomparable eyes taunt me with a reminder of what was and his lips seem to gently mock my longing to return to that brief pocket of paradise when they covered mine in that sweet kiss.
Henry, I think, is still in Jersey. The travelling circus that is the world of movie premieres has moved on from London and touched down in Henry’s home. The tiny island just off the North coast of France celebrated with one of its most famous sons, with a premiere of its own on Saturday. It was heart-warming to see Henry again, surrounded this time by his family and friends but tinged with sadness as a stupid, jealous part of me couldn’t help but wonder if he had met someone else that night. Does he make a habit of picking out a girl at his premieres and seducing them at the after party? Does he send notes like this one often? Is it normal for him to practically throw a girl over shoulder like a cave man but then ask permission to kiss her, like some kind of fucked up mating modus operandi? I know this rat-run of useless and petty questioning is pointless but I can’t help it and I can’t get past the unavoidable fact that he asked for my number and hasn’t called or text and that he didn’t give me his number in return. It’s like there’s a roadblock in my head complete with red and white tape, traffic cones and glaring signs that flash on and off, shouting HE DOESN’T WANT YOU! Reality definitely bites and she’s one blood-thirsty, venomous-fanged, vampiric bitch.
Stacey has done her best to cheer me up. After oohing and ahhing in all the right places over the recounting of my tale with Henry, she offered to use some of her A List contacts to ty to get in touch with him – an offer I had to refuse. I am not going to chase him. She has been unswervingly loyal but magnanimous in her belief that he will call.
“He’s just busy that’s all.” She’d said on Saturday. “These Hollywood types are all the fucking same Jea. They get swept up in whatever they are promoting or shooting at the time and personal lives go to shit. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets in touch with you later today.”
That was two days ago and there’s still no word from him. I resolve to try and get on with my life the best I can from this point on. I have never been the kind of girl that wallows, waiting for a man to call but I have to admit that Stacey may have point, as she does know this industry better than me. Hating myself for clinging to this pearl of wisdom from my best friend, I make my way to the bathroom to shower, knowing full well that I won’t be washing my hair again today.
Work is a welcome distraction, although considering I have my own business and I get to do something I love, I’m not sure I can justifiably call it working.
“Something Old” is my pride and joy and is situated in one of the old arches under the railway at Camden Stables Market. In the last two years I have laboriously and lovingly taken this dusty, dull, cavernous shell and transformed it into the beautiful, eclectic slice of bridal heaven it is today. The oak double doors are painted a sumptuous antique gold and give way to yards of white gossamer and creamy silks. From the ceiling more lace and satins drape artfully and an oversized gilded birdcage, large enough for a person to sit in, is suspended. There are stacks of Victorian and Edwardian teacups, teapots and cake stands arranged on a fifties style dressing table – complete with spotlights – in one intimate corner and, in another, a tailor’s dummy clasps a huge white ostrich feather fan, as if to shield its modesty. Four large baroque style mirrors line the walls and an original Wurlitzer jukebox plays hits from the twenties to the fifties. A sign reads ‘Wedding’ in large ornate letters reminiscent of a travelling circus and helpfully points the way. Piled high are steamer trunks and antiquated suitcases and just about every surface has a candelabra or lamp.
A little investigation further around a velvet curtained alcove is the payoff: My dresses. The most luxurious, exquisite and opulent collection of vintage wedding dresses are displayed from an ornate version of a clothes airer, that is suspended from the ceiling. The dresses are breath-taking. Masterpieces of design in silks, damask and lace adorned with pearls, beads and ribbons. Each dress is as lovely and unique as the next and each handpicked by me as representative of bygone eras and old time glamour. There is a silk bias cut Chanel 1930s gown embellished with ostrich feather trim and a daring low cut back. A cute, tailored cream A-line dress with matching bolero and pill box hat that Jackie O herself would have been proud of. A full skirted delicate lace dress with so many petticoats it looks as if it is made of wisps of air. There are wiggle dresses, ball gowns, prom dresses, long, full, short, floral and polka dots, hippy chick, steampunk, pin up or grunge – every vintage bride is catered for. These beauties have set me back a small fortune, but I am happy and I never tire of the thrill of helping a bride find her prefect dress. It’s been a labour of love that began with my mum’s own wedding dress; a pastel floral flouncing affair from the height of 1970s flower power, a dress that wouldn’t be out of place on Kate Moss at Glastonbury or Coachella.
I love every aspect of my work. I can happily spend hours rummaging through car boot sales and charity shops and have a borderline unhealthy addiction to Ebay. I am a trained seamstress, and spent five years of my life studying textiles and design. I love noting more than firing up my old Singer sewing machine to repair, alter or create a gown. If I don’t have a dress for a bride to be, I will endeavour to make one. My business is busy and although it won’t make me a millionaire, I am comfortable and happy.
Today is exciting, as I have just had a delivery of a new dress and this one is rather special. I make it a habit to try on every gown (if they fit) as it helps me get a feel for how the dress hangs, especially if I want to make a copy for a client and also because I simply can’t help playing dress up! This new dress is stunning. A creamy silk satin and lace number with a fitted bodice, long sleeves and a high neck. The lace overlay is delicate and just about covers my modesty as otherwise it would be open at the nape of the neck to the base of the spine. It’s sweet and demure, yet very sexy at the same time and is quite fitted around the hips, giving me a lovely hour-glass shape before fanning out to a long, sweeping train. I know there is something wholly narcissistic about my dress up fantasies and it’s a part of me that I like to keep hidden – not even Stacey and Craig know about it.
I’m just about to unzip the gown when the bell over the door tinkles. I don’t have any appointments scheduled until after lunch, so assume it’s a walk-in. Unwilling to keep a potential customer waiting I draw back the curtain to say hello and my heart stumbles again as I come face to face with Henry. The blood rushes to my face and chest and I feel uncomfortably hot all of a sudden in this dress. What on earth is he doing here? Why didn’t I take an extra five minutes in the shower to wash my hair? Why did I have to play fairy princess this morning? I must look like such an idiot. Please don’t think I’m some kind of crazy lady, desperate to get a ring on my finger. I just love pretty dresses, that’s all.
“Forgive the intrusion in your place of work but I don’t have a lot of time and I figured I owe you an apology.”
He looks sincere and awkward and I realise he’s letting me down gently. I’m wearing a bloody wedding dress for crying out loud and Henry Cavill is blowing me out! Can this be anymore mortifying?
I hate that I sound so pathetic but all I want is for him to get this over with and go, so I can take off this stupid dress and lick my wounds in private.
As this is the last time I will ever see him, I take a moment to study him completely. He looks simply divine, casually dressed in thigh-hugging jeans, black tee and baseball cap, his hair curling below its peak and around his ears. He’s wearing the same spicy aftershave as before and, as he lifts his hand to his face to take off his cap, it hits me full on, heady and potent.
“Yes. I’m sorry I didn’t call and I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to find you again. The lipstick smudged. Do you know how many mathematical combinations there are of your telephone number if you’re missing a few digits?”
His eyes lock with mine and I let his words wash over me and into me, drinking in their meaning. It’s like a switch has been thrown and the atmosphere between us charges instantly. My breathing hitches and my heart doesn’t just skip, its playing Double Dutch. I only now realise he has his right arm behind his back and as if by magic he produces the most exquisite bouquet of flowers. How does know that wild flowers are my favourite?
“Am I forgiven?” he asks with a shy tilt to head, his magnetic eyes drawing me closer to him like a tractor beam.
He hands the flowers to me – a beautiful mixed posy of Cornflowers, Cosmos, Californian Poppies and fragrant Sweet Peas, tied together with a pretty organza ribbon. How can I resist him?
“There’s nothing to forgive.” I say truthfully and, once again, I’m in his strong arms.
His eyes search mine for moment, as if asking for permission before he kisses me gently. I wonder momentarily if he sees the irony here: a girl in a wedding dress, clutching a bouquet kissing the man she loves. Just for moment I entertain this impossible dream and then I lose myself in him and this bliss.