by Steven John

Fenella spins on the dance floor like the music box fairy on her dressing table back home. Round and round she goes, on one fat leg then the other. The wide, gauzy underskirts of her wedding dress brush over the pin pricks of ever changing coloured lights in the floor, so one minute her bottom half is seashell pink and the next, an azure blue. There’s a handful of other people in the nightclub and they’re all watching her, amused and entranced by her unselfconscious gyrations.

This is the third time the DJ has played “I Think I Want To Marry You” and each time the singer sings the words ‘Marry You’ Fenella points with both index fingers at her new husband Barry, and he points back. ‘MARRY YOU!’ They laugh each time as if the thought was newly minted. Barry has modernised his baldness with an all over shave. His scalp and white waistcoat change colour in sync with his wife’s underskirts. She’d rubbed some of her tanning cream onto his bald head before the marriage ceremony and he’d rubbed some over her expansive chest, above and below the neckline of her dress.

Barry had been her boss at Alpha Auto Clutch and Brakes before their relationship went public, then she’d been asked to resign. It was Barry who’d suggested they got married on a cruise ship. Barry had shown her the brochure. Beneath the title “Enjoy a Day of Love, Laughter and Celebration” was a picture of a suntanned couple under an awning emblazoned with the name of cruise company, tropical flowers in hollowed out pineapples and the sea glittering in the background. When Fenella had read ‘Includes a six inch, iced celebration cake and rose petals on the bed’ she was sold. Her three-year old son was left at her sisters for the week and Barry had left his ex-wife and two boys pretty much everything he’d got.

There’s one other person on the dance floor with Fenella and Barry. Fenella’s mother, in the same dress she’s worn to every do she’s ever been to, sways alongside her daughter and new son-in-law, taking photos of them with her mobile phone. There hadn’t been any other guests at the ceremony other than Fenella’s mother, the Captain who officiated in his white uniform and the young female Head of Events called Chelsea. Chelsea had taken the complimentary photograph with Fenella piped in between the Captain and Barry, like whipped cream.

“I Think I Want To Marry You” comes to an end. Fenella and Barry point at each other one last time, laugh, kiss, then Barry leaves the dance floor to order more drinks. A middle aged drunk on a barstool says that the next round is on him and orders champagne. Four women sat at a low table in the shadows giggle as they watch Fenella and her stiff-jointed mother attempt to dance to rap music. One of the women whispers a comment about Fenella’s bulging legs wrapped around Barry’s bottom in the honeymoon cabin.

‘Like chicken sausages on a boiled quail’s egg,’ and they all shriek.

The drunk follows Barry back onto the dance floor with the bottle and four glasses intertwined in his fingers. Barry makes the introductions to Fenella and her mother. The drunk kisses both women on the back of their hands, pours the champagne and toasts,

‘The happy couple.’ He clinks glasses with Fenella’s mother – the newlyweds are away, hugging each other close in a slow dance.

Back in their economy cabin, with no balcony or porthole, Fenella lays semi-comatose on the bed. Barry plucks off her shoes and rolls down her damp stockings and plus size French knickers. Fenella had promised they’d fuck whilst she still had her dress on. Barry unties his bow tie and checks his phone. There’s a text from his kids wishing him a Happy Wedding. Through prickly eyes he composes a reply with an image of the ship’s funnels, then presses delete.

Fenella has her head turned on the pillow looking at the complimentary framed wedding photo. She thinks if they’d been married at home her son could have been a pageboy in his Spiderman suit. She feels like she’s going to throw up. They’ve eaten the whole wedding cake and drained God knows how many bottles of champagne with the drunk until he fell over and Barry had to slop him into a chair. The ship is lolling from side to side on the sea swell and Fenella isn’t sure she can make it to the toilet.

Further down the corridor of cabin doors Fenella’s mother slots in her key card. The drunk, a divorced greengrocer from Colwyn Bay, follows her in with both hands on her backside. With one hand Barry picks rose petals off Fenella’s back as she pukes into the toilet on all fours, her French knickers still wrapped around one ankle. With the other hand he texts his ex-wife to ask what days next week he’s having the boys.

Steven John lives in The Cotswolds, UK, where he writes short stories and poetry. He’s had work published in pamphlets and online magazines including Riggwelter, Spelk Fiction and Cabinet of Heed. He has won Bath Ad Hoc Fiction a record six times and was highly commended in 2018 ‘To Hull and Back’ competition. Steven has read at Stroud Short Stories, Flasher’s Club and The Writer’s Room on Corinium Radio.

Twitter: @StevenJohnWrite