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The Wedding Party by Cathy Kelly Book

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Overview: Four sisters. Decades of secrets. One week they'll never forget...

For the first time in years, the beautiful Robicheaux sisters are returning to their childhood home. Decades after they first met, their parents are getting married again - to each other, in a week's time!

Indy is used to high-stress situations in her job as a midwife - but she knows that keeping the peace in her family of big personalities is a different matter entirely...

Eden is on the brink of political success and a surprise family wedding is the last thing she needs. Especially when a long-buried secret is threatening to destroy everything.

Savannah might look like she has it all, but she's spent her whole married life hiding the truth. It's a fragile façade that's unlikely to withstand a week spent with her sisters.

Rory lives with her gorgeous girlfriend and tends to avoid family gatherings. Particularly now, as her new book might just reveal more than her sisters or parents would like...

A big wedding party is sure to throw up a few surprises - but one thing's for sure, it's going to be a week that the Robicheaux family will never forget...

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The Wedding Party by Cathy Kelly Book

The Wedding Party by Cathy Kelly Book Read Online Chapter One

The Invitation

The wedding invitation was a card fronted by that first photo of the Robicheaux girls, a picture as vibrant as it had ever been: four young women sitting on a back porch of the sprawling Sorrento Hotel, the girls lined up in age, smiling at the camera with the clear gazes of youth.

Even though it had been taken in black and white, colour seemed to leap from the photo, particularly from those young faces.

The twins were in the middle: just seventeen, lean and athletic, almost identical with what people knew was long strawberry-red hair, faintly curling around their faces. But they weren’t identical, if you looked closely enough.

One had a dreamy gaze and fewer freckles, as if she stayed inside with her head in a book, lost in her imagination. She was twirling a strand of strawberry hair in one hand. Fey, you might say. Savannah.

Her name suited her, made her sound like a sweet-natured girl who’d lie on the grass with her friends and discuss what shapes the clouds made.

Her twin, Eden, looked altogether more knowing, as if books were the last thing on her mind. Eden Robicheaux was anything but fey. She wore very tight jeans and her shirt – the photographer had apparently insisted they all wore shirts and jeans – was opened just down to her breast bone from where perky, Wonderbra’d breasts pushed up.

Eden had nearly been expelled twice from the local school. She was on her last chance, by all accounts, but the arrogant look in her curious sea-green eyes made it obvious that she didn’t give two hoots.

At the other ends, were the youngest and oldest of the girls.

The youngest was an altogether stockier girl of perhaps fifteen, who was staring at the camera with ill-disguised irritation: Aurora, who never answered to this fairy-tale name. She was Rory, she insisted.

You could easily imagine her snapping, ‘Can you get a move on, Steve?’

She had a clear gaze, dark straight hair, wasn’t yet as lovely as the others, if you wanted to be pedantic.

Steve Randall, the photographer, had taken a photo of the sisters every year since then: same positions, same simple outfits.

Steve had exhibited his photos – they were mildly famous in photographic circles, those Robicheaux girls, famous in a quiet sort of way for the twenty-something portraits of them as they grew up. Age, life, sisterhood in elegant black and white. The people who lived near the Sorrento Hotel who knew Stu and Meg, sometimes laughed that the Robicheaux clan were infamous.

At the time of the very first Four Sisters portrait, the photographer, Steve, was dating the eldest sister, the one on the far right: Lucinda or Indy Robicheaux, the one who looked like a model but wasn’t one. Very tall, twenty-one, fair-haired, annoyingly exquisite in the eyes of any woman who wasn’t born with limbs like a ballerina and the huge eyes of a startled deer in the forest. They were incredible eyes: a sea-green colour like her sisters’ but with an explosion of amber around the pupils.

Kaleidoscope eyes, someone said. Or central heterochromia, as Wikipedia called it.

The photographer had married the stunning Indy.

Of course he had, the men thought. You’d marry that just to stamp your name on it: ‘She’s mine. Hands off.’

Now Indy was a midwife; she had two children, and yet she still looked as if she might slip onto a Milan catwalk at a moment’s notice. No early-forties’ weight gain there. Steve was a carpenter these days. The photography hadn’t worked out but they seemed like a couple who’d found that elusive happiness in marriage, which annoyed everyone who hadn’t found it.

One of the twins, Savannah, was married to somebody very rich, some clever advisor person – whatever that meant.

Money, the husbands said enviously. Money is what it meant. They lived in a big house with a guest bungalow and an indoor pool, and he drove a classic Jaguar. She had a business too – something to do with perfumes and candles, but he was obviously the real brains behind it all, people said knowingly.

Savannah was still fey and other-worldly – and thin, very thin. As if she might float away like dandelion fluff.

It was probably all the stuff for magazines – she was in papers and in articles a lot, so she’d have to be thin, wouldn’t she?

The other twin, Eden, despite the up-for-anything look in her eyes in that first photo, had changed beyond all recognition in that she was now in local government, of all things, wore long, ladylike skirts and was to be seen on the television talking about green issues. She was a stalwart of kindly liberal politics, having married into a political family who owned half the pharmacies on the east coast. Her husband, who ran the pharmacies, was a hunky, smiling sort of guy, dependable and decent, not the wayward boy people imagined Eden would have hooked up with.

His father was the famous Diarmuid Tallisker, one of the elder statesmen of politics. She’d fallen on her feet marrying into that family, people said.

Luckily for Eden’s political career, old boyfriends had never come out of the woodwork to talk about wild deeds, although there were certainly wild deeds in there somewhere, according to anyone who’d been to school with her. Mention her wild youth at your peril.

Eden Tallisker had never had her twin’s dreamy eyes – she’d always looked like she had a taser on her person and knew how to use it.

As for the youngest one, still insisting on being called Rory, which was a boy’s name, she worked in advertising but she said she was a writer first and foremost and that being a copywriter was just her day job.

What was the difference between the two types of writer, people wondered? Rory looked contrary, they decided. Her girlfriend, a petite girl who worked in a chichi boutique, was a sweetheart. Nobody could ever have called Rory a sweetheart. Plus, who wouldn’t want to be called Aurora?

People who’d had unimaginative parents almost wept at the Robicheaux girls and their beautiful, memorable names.

The Marys and Janes felt stony-hearted. A smattering of Conceptas and Attractas were just enraged. The Sadhbhs were enchanted with their exotic Irish name but worried that if they had to go abroad, nobody would be able to pronounce it. Anyone could say Eden, Savannah, Rory or Indy.

But Sadhbh … it was tricky.

The Four Sisters’ twenty-plus years of black-and-white pictures just added to their magic. The parents slipped in and out of the photos. For a few years, Stu and Meg together, holding hands, then, after the divorce, just Meg.

Surrounding the photo on the invitation was a hand-drawn golden line, unbroken writing endlessly repeating the words Stu & Meg. Getting married again after all these years.

Married at twenty-one, divorced at fifty.

And now, when other people were discussing having hips replaced, the Robicheaux parents were declaring their love again with a full court press. A wedding weekend in the place where so many weddings, so many parties, had taken place.

Having the first ever photo of their daughters on the invitation was pure genius: it was like saying: ‘Yes, we know we split up for years, but look – look what we made. These beautiful women. Our remarriage is a testimony to them and to us as parents.’

Meg and Stu Robicheaux invite you to The Sorrento Hotel on Saturday, 29 of June at 3 p.m. to celebrate their marriage. Come as yourselves.

Everyone remembered that house – a big old Victorian pile close to the beach in Killiney. Killiney was a glorious slice of high-priced Dublin set on perilous roads that all led down to a panorama of rocky sea, expensive houses moulded into the cliffs so that the sheltered curve looked like a piece of the Amalfi coast, hence the Italian names running through the area. The family had run The Sorrento Hotel as a two-/three-star establishment for years, ignoring worn carpets because they were antique, damp on the wallpaper because it was hand-painted Victorian, for goodness’ sake, and letting the army of delinquent peacocks grow more and more wild till they’d had to be cordoned off for fear of them mounting an attack on unwary guests or their pets. Legend had it that one small dog had had to be Xanaxed back to calm after the peacocks had cornered him. Who knew peacocks could get so inflamed? Or that dogs could take Xanax?

Life was curious.

Many weddings had been held there – Indy’s, for a start – in the huge, mostly manicured gardens where there were Venus de Milos galore, a male nude with his willy long since knocked off, a pond with a giant leaping stone unicorn at its centre, and plenty of bowers in the flower meadow (easy to manage, no grass cutting, as Stu said every year when he threw another handful of seeds into it). There was a box-ball herb garden, also easy to manage as long as you went at it with the secateurs once a month.

The Robicheaux family had held many parties when the hotel was closed in the off season and everyone had at least one story of when the party went wild and when Stu – before he got sober – would get out his electric guitar, coax a song out of it and make everyone dance, even the kids, because what child could sleep with that noise going on?

The trees would be strewn with fairy lights, never taken down. It had all looked like an arty fashion magazine shoot but natural as opposed to contrived. The burned-down candles; throws flung half on, half off chairs; glasses of every stripe on tables along with the remains of the feast; bits of cheese and grape stems stripped of fruit; bowls of Mediterranean dips made by Meg and whatever jobbing chef they’d managed to hold on to at the time. It had been the stuff of magic.

People looked at their diaries when they got the wedding invitation. The 29th of June? They’d be there. Come as yourselves? That was so Meg and Stu. They used to be famous for the fancy-dress parties, Sixties nights, Charleston nights when Stu served all the drink from a bathtub. Were there fire eaters once …? The fire brigade, certainly.

The invited guests put their invitations where they’d be seen – on mantelpieces at the very front, on a large bare bit of fridge held up with the prettiest magnet – and began to think about what ‘coming as yourself’ meant? It was hard to know who you were, sometimes, wasn’t it? The Robicheaux family had always known – that was what drew people to them.

‘They’ll think we’re mad,’ Stu had said the night he’d proposed – again – to Meg.

He’d gone the whole hog this time: a picnic on the beach in the evening, sparkling elderflower pressé, grapes, pears and cheese with real napkins. Rugs for them to lie on, a cushion for Meg’s lower back which could be dodgy on hard surfaces.

And the ring …

The ring had caught Meg somewhere inside her heart, holding it in a tender embrace. They hadn’t managed the straightforward proposal route the first time. She’d been pregnant with Lucinda. The delicate rituals of courtship had been flattened by the pregnancy test with its two blue lines. The urgency and immediacy of it all.

‘We’ll get married,’ Stu had said then, holding her close. ‘We were always going to: it’s just happening sooner, that’s all.’

Stu, whom she’d never really stopped loving even if she hadn’t always liked him, had known how she’d missed being wooed. She’d never told him. Never thrown it back in his face as they were divorcing.

In the last year, when they’d been spending time together, going on dates, letting people guess without actually saying anything, Meg had wondered what it would be like if they were together again properly. Man and wife. Thirteen years after the divorce.

Then he’d taken out the box with the ring in it: no perfect diamond in a loud princess cut announcing both a wedding and a surfeit of cash. This ring was a piece of the goldsmith’s art, with a glittering green amethyst looped into whorls of curved gold, like a ring dug from an archaeological site in Brazil.

‘Will you marry me, Meg?’ he asked hoarsely.

Still, she stared at the ring.

‘It’s a rare stone, connects the heart chakras and is about love,’ said Stu, holding it to her and Meg, who knew that Stu had never been in the slightest bit interested in crystals or stones or anything he couldn’t pawn (his mother’s pearls) for a bet, felt that this was indeed the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. He had changed after all.

‘Yes,’ she said, leaning forward and kissing him.

He slid the ring onto her finger, the one that had been bare for many years.

Then he kissed her fingers, one by one.

‘Yes,’ she said again.

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