Rebecca Richardson - Runner up

Competition: Humour short story competition

Rebecca Richardson is a librarian, daydreamer and sometimes writer from Manchester. She studied creative writing at university and has been published online in the past but this is her first win for WM. She is currently getting her writing career back on track now that her first child has learned how to sleep for more than an hour at a time.

Rebecca Richardson

My Sister's Wedding

I hate my sister.

Picture the scene. A family wedding, guest starring all the second cousins and great aunts that you only see three or four times a year. The bride is your effortlessly beautiful sister, who also happens to be four years younger and two stone lighter than you. You are her slightly chubby red headed bridesmaid, currently crammed into pale pink satin. Oh, and you were dumped three days ago.
I don’t know what I did in a past life to deserve this, but it must have been bad – like being Jack the Ripper or working on the atom bomb. Maybe I was the first person to think of waxing. Some crime against humanity anyway.
We’re all packed into the hotel reception, waiting for the bride and groom to make an appearance. There has already been a lot of air kissing, a lot of uncomfortable small talk and some really impressively ugly hats. As soon as I entered the room my grandmother made a beeline for me and told me that she didn’t think pink satin was a good look for me. What am I supposed to say to that? I know Nanny Rita, I didn’t choose it? I don’t think a wide brimmed, leopard print hat is a good look for anyone, but I’m not criticising your outfit? I’ve tried to hide but being a bridesmaid apparently makes you a target. I’m not even her maid of honour – how embarrassing is that? I’m her only sister but no, she picked Heather who she’s known for about five minutes. All right, twelve years but still. I’ve known her since she was hours old, when I scowled down at her fat pink face and started plotting the best way to get rid of her.
It feels as though we’ve been waiting here for about five hours. The clock on the wall says it’s just gone two o clock but it’s obviously lying. I’m starving. Nervous about wearing an unflattering dress that only just fits, I haven’t actually eaten anything all day. This nice big dinner at half past might end up being the highlight of my day.
Oh God, someone is shouting my name from across the room. There is no way this can be a good sign. I turn and see Auntie Violet enthusiastically elbowing people out of her way in her effort to get to me. She clasps her hands around my upper arms and plants a kiss on each cheek. Her shiny fuscia lipstick looks worryingly depleted when she pulls away. Great.
“It’s so nice to see you Georgia darling! I don’t think I’ve seen you since…”
“Christmas,” I fill in automatically, and instantly regret it.
“Of course!” Her face lights up at the memory. “Didn’t someone have one too many cheeky drinks and end up with her skirt around her ankles?” She tries to nudge a smile out of me, oblivious to the fact that I’m praying for death at this point. Thankfully, the glossy wooden doors at the end of the room suddenly swing open and there they are.
“Oh!” Violet sighs, “Doesn’t Madeline look beautiful?”
She does. She practically floats into the room, held aloft by her own happiness and several tonnes of white lace. The beaded ivory bodice seems to rest against her caramel skin as if held there by magic. Though her light blonde hair has started to slip from its intricate braids, even this looks soft and pretty against her face. My own red curls resisted all my efforts to straighten them into submission and in the heat of the small reception room I probably look like I’ve been electrocuted.
“So Georgia,” Violet suddenly turns back to me as Maddy and Craig begin to mingle, “about you and Harry…” she tails off but raises one plucked eyebrow expressively.
“How did you know about that?” Mum had promised to tell everyone that Harry was on a business trip.
“Madeline told me,” says Violet and I roll my eyes. Of course she did. You’ve never seen anyone less sad about anything than Maddy was when I told her. It’s not like Harry was just some guy that I met five minutes ago, we’d been together for nearly four years. He freaked out a bit when Craig proposed to Maddy last year and everyone started teasing us but I thought he was over it. Then three days before the wedding he told me he was done with me. Oh, he didn’t put it like that. There was a lot of handy clichés and an overall sense of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ but I’m not stupid; not that stupid anyway.
Maddy had smiled. Actually grinned like I told her I’d just won the lottery or something and started going on about some guy at Craig’s office she wanted to set me up with – Rory…something. The grin soon fell off her face when she realised she’d have to redo her seating plan though. Watching her flap her hands and frantically rearrange the stupid pins on her little diagram was a tiny silver lining on the whole thing.       
I realise suddenly that Violet is still looking at me expectantly. I shrug, trying to look unconcerned.
“Well, it was a mutual decision really,” I say. “The relationship had just run its course.” She narrows her eyes at me suspiciously. Is that a real saying or have I just made that up? It sounded like the kind of thing a real grown up would say.
“Hmm,” Violet stares at me, as though expecting me to crack and tearfully reveal I killed him or something and then suddenly smiles. “Well maybe it’s for the best. Madeline did tell me she thought he wasn’t good enough for you.”
“She did?” It’s the first I’ve heard of that. I knew Maddy didn’t like him but she’d never really told me why. To say we had a different taste in men was a bit of an understatement. I glance over at Craig and tried to see what Maddy sees. She assures me he’s gorgeous; all I ever see is his fake tan, his blonde highlights and his glow in the dark teeth. Nope, he’s definitely not my type but when he suddenly smiles down at her with sheer adoration on his face I can’t help but feel a little pang of jealousy.
Violet suddenly takes my arm, making me jump slightly.
“They’re about to serve dinner,” she says enthusiastically, steering me towards the door to the dining room. There is a queue at the door while people stare at the huge white poster that details Maddy’s meticulous seating plan, and my stomach clenches slightly as I see it. I wonder who has been allocated Harry’s empty seat. I have visions of sitting next to Craig’s middle aged uncle who spits, or our own second cousin Frank who will spend the whole meal talking about the intimate details of dog breeding. As we draw closer to the board I decide that if I’m sitting next to Nanny Rita I’m going to have to fake a heart attack or stab a waiter with a fork or something. Whatever it takes to get myself forcibly removed.
I blink up at the diagram, trying to find my name amongst the dozens. I spot it suddenly, and my relief at not being next to Rita is so overwhelming that it takes me a moment to register the little golden name written next to mine. Rory Shanahan. Oh God. Rory Something. Rory my apparent soul mate from Craig’s office. My sister is pure evil. This wedding is hell and she is my own personal devil.
I picture him in my head, conjuring up a Craig clone. He’ll be tall – they’re always tall – and tanned and muscular from precious hours of life wasted in a gym. In my imagination I paint in his blonde highlights, his expensive and probably fake teeth and the subtle way he’ll always manage to steer a conversation around to how much money he earns. I think I’d rather be sitting next to Nanny Rita. I take my seat and scowl up at the top table, where my sister is laughing at something Craig is saying. A slight movement to my right draws my attention away and I turn back, watching Rory Something drape himself onto a chair. I blink at him, slightly wrong footed. He is dark haired and pale, with a slight growth of stubble on his chin and vibrant blue eyes. He flicks a bow tie onto the table in front of us and undoes his top button, offering me a warm, lazy smile.
“Hi,” he says, “I’m Rory Shanahan.” He holds out his hand and I shake it blankly.
“I’m Georgia Keenan,” I say, “I’m Maddy’s sister.” He laughs and glances up at the top table, and then back to me, scrutinising the two of us.
“You’re never sisters?” he says. I’m used to this, the disbelief that one sister could be so beautiful and the other so average and I automatically prickle, but his smile has turned soft. “So I bet you’re having the best day of your life?” he asks, and I can’t help but laugh.
“I’ve had better days,” I say. “You know, failed job interviews, painful root canals, that sort of thing.” His face creases in sympathy.
“Yeah, I’m not really a wedding person myself,” he says, “I’ve already considered stabbing a waiter to get out of here.”
I look back at the top table, where I already know my sister will be watching us with raised eyebrows and the tiniest of smiles.
Okay, so maybe I don’t hate her.

Judges Comments

The best chick-lit is properly funny, and Rebecca Richardson's My Sister's Wedding, the runner up in our competition for humorous short stories, is characterised by its lovely, fizzy humour. It's nicely observational, seen from the first-person point of view of bridesmaid Georgia, recently dumped and crammed into an unflattering dress, comparing her own lot with that of her prettier, younger sister, the bride.

Weddings, of course, are a great setting for observational comedy because everyone's dressed up, on show, and slightly on edge. Rebecca deftly conveys the point of view of the disgruntled bridesmaid, puncturing social pretensions with neat observations. But this is a romcom, and Rebecca drip-feeds information about Georgia's romantic life - or lack of it - so we know we're safely in romantic territory. It's standard chick-lit fodder but it's handled with sufficient sparkle to make Georgia's journey to the possibility of new happiness (in the shape of Rory) feel fresh and unforced. Georgia and Rory both bust the stereotype of the classic romantic hero and heroine, and (with great comic timing) Rebecca leaves them at just the right place for her readers' imaginations to come into play: a new beginning, rather than 'the end'.

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