“I sent my measurements”, Lydia said it over and over again to anyone who’d listen. To Therese: “I didn’t do it to hurt you,” but Therese barely spoke to her until after the ceremony. The peach satin dress hung like a sack. She’s turning into Mum, Lydia thought bleakly, and felt a tug of guilt. “Don’t leave me here,” Therese had begged when Lydia went away. “I’ll send for you,” she had promised.
Rockin’ Rick the DJ was setting up in the backyard when Therese ran past in tears, Lydia and Nick trailing behind. He sniggered: Teletubbie wedding! Bride, groom, parents, all fatties. Good thing it’s a garden wedding, he thought, those heifers doing the Time Warp on a wooden floor would scratch the vinyl to buggery. He took a photo of the buffet: a whole ham and buckets of KFC. Fuckin’ hilarious.
Therese had barely slept the night before the wedding, she was so excited to see her sister. Melbourne seemed a world away and the emails and phone calls didn’t bridge the distance. Without Lydia, Therese was at her mother’s mercy. Then she walked off the plane, this skinny bitch all dressed in black. Unrecognisable. Beautiful. Therese felt sweat pooling under her heavy breasts and was disgusted. When they got home she sat in her room and ate a Mars bar stashed in a drawer, swallowing it in four quick bites she barely tasted.
Madeleine was not surprised, not surprised at all when Lydia came in. That girl came into this world to cause trouble and it was just typical of her to ruin the day for everyone. The girls were always the same size, everyone knew that. She made their clothes all their life, she should know. Then to lecture her, her own mother about the food. Airs and graces. City girl thinks she’s better than us now. She blamed Jim, he encouraged her.
As always, their father Jim was the peacemaker. Lydia felt a fizz of anger to see him in the wheelchair, reassuring her it’s just temporary. Screaming scenes from her adolescence shamed her to silence though. She went in search of pain relief: Carrington Blush and cask wine, but it still did the job. Paper decorations hung limp with humidity. The DJ, all bleached perm and leather trousers, sleazed over to her and she was grateful for the attention.
The MOB was a behemoth of a woman and all that bulk was anger. You could usually count on Mum being sentimental, generous with the drinks and tips, but this old bitch was watching his every move. He wasn’t much given to finer feelings, but he felt a bit sorry for the Teletubbie bride, looking like a toilet roll dolly in her huge dress, scared of her own shadow.
When Nick looked into her eyes and said “I do,” Therese forgot she was angry at Lydia, forgot she was hurt. He made her feel like a princess, and he was taking her away. Not as far as Melbourne, but away.
The guests were mainly Nick’s family, all couples. Mum and Dad had never really had friends. His parents spoke Italian to each other and her mother talked loudly about wogs. Nick seemed alright, the kind of guy Lydia knew she’d have been lucky to marry if she’d stayed. Seeing the joy on her sister’s face washed away the anger and the hurt, for a moment, at least.
Therese fetched Lydia the Aerogard from the laundry when the mosquitoes came in at dusk. “Dad has to have an operation,” she said, the words lifting the weight of knowing from her. Dutch courage fuelled Lydia’s fury. She went straight to Dad, asked him outright. Then she turned on her mother.
“Amputation! Why won’t you listen to the doctors, Mum? Are you trying to kill him? Will that make you happy?”
Madeleine’s anger needed no help, it had years of conditioning. She looked at her child and felt nothing but the rage that expanded daily to fill the holes in her hope. No one understood what she’d lost, what she’d sacrificed. Jim’s illness forced them into town, forced them to endure the stares, the talk. He did it on purpose, to shame her. Lydia should be here. Lydia should be helping. Not looking down her nose.
“Don’t you come here and tell us how to live. Just because you go to university doesn’t make you better than us”
“It’s diabetes! It’s a medical fact. How can you be so stubborn?”
Therese wailed for them to stop, just stop but Lydia couldn’t back down, couldn’t be the one to stop. Nick’s parents got up to leave and the cake hadn’t even been cut.
“Why did you come here to ruin your sister’s wedding”
“Me? I came to see her get away from you”
The mountain of flesh couldn’t stop the arrows of Lydia’s hate. Deep under the anger, Madeleine felt sorrow and made it live in a slap that knocked Lydia to the ground. She caught her father’s eye as she looked up, spell broken, and he looked away. Rockin’ Rick pulled her to her feet. Therese looked away too.
In the end it was Rick who drove Lydia back to town, helped her find a motel. She listened to him putting down her family and felt sick. She’d left the peach satin on the bed in her old room, not wanting to see it again. Therese didn’t answer when she called from the airport, the mangroves stinking like a toilet in the heat.