“Hi, y’all”, she said in an assured drawl which startled all who knew her. “It’s great that Michael and I are surrounded by close family and friends on this special night.
“Thirty years seem a long time, but they’ve disappeared in a wink. And what better way to celebrate our Pearl Wedding Anniversary than at the Fulborough Poets and Pedants Society where we’ve had so much fun?
“I realise,” Amy went on, “that most of you are beyond surprised to see me up here - and speaking note-free. As I’ve always been labelled a slow thinker and passive onlooker among a crowd of articulate, wisecracking wordsmiths, I’ve rarely performed anyone’s work, let alone my own. But I’d like these few lines now to strike the beginning of a change.
“Why,” she continued, allowing a rehearsed grin to slide slowly across her face, “the club chose to use an ‘open-mike’ night to celebrate our marriage, I don’t understand. After all, my dear husband has always been something of a closed book. To everyone but me, of course!
“While our daughter, Alison, is long accustomed to our finishing each others’ sentences, we in turn realise that we’ve begun to look alike, and that our main distinguishing feature is that Mike has more hair on his chin than on his pate. Meanwhile, when I boast I’ve lost weight, he retorts that I’ve probably left it on the dressing table between my hearing aids and glasses!
“But,” she added amid theatrical groans and whoops, “tonight is also a time for tributes.
“I can’t forget, for example, that it’s thanks to Iris Burton, first my schoolmate, then work colleague and – umm - long-term friend, that I joined the society and met Michael.
“’I’d like to give you a token of my esteem,’ you said Iris, as I left N R Insurance after a row. ‘We haven’t always seen eye to eye. But I know you love literature and are desperate to fill the void left by a lack of formal higher education. So here’s a copy of Palgrave’s Golden Treasury’.
“What a shame you had forgotten to cover our old school stamp on the flyleaf or to erase the scribbled comment about me on the page featuring Keats’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci. Or had I been meant to see it?”
Iris coloured slightly and called back, “Oh, c’mon, Amy. It was just a joke. Anyway, you’ve said that it was through me that you first came here.”
“I can’t argue with that, Iris,” agreed Amy, smiling again.
“But I must ask, while I’m on track, if you, your husband John or indeed, Mike – had intended that I should find something else: paperwork belonging to a bank account that Mike opened twenty-eight years ago in favour of your daughter, Tricia?
“I came across it last week when I was spring cleaning. Although I’d no idea that Mike had decided to strengthen our two families’ friendship with this generous continuing contribution towards Tricia’s upkeep, it reminded me of something mysteriously sweet I glimpsed when our two darling girls were babies.
“Please don’t go,” she appealed as Iris and John half-rose from their seats in an attempt to leave. “I’d love you to stay and help me to lead a toast to friendship. I’d also appreciate your help in clearing the mystery up.
“It’s something that’s puzzled me for the past twenty-eight-and-a-half years. A riddle that I’ve tried to solve since I cared for both girls during a weekend when the three of you - Mike, Iris and John – were away at a poetry festival. I couldn’t fathom it. How, I wondered then, and am beginning to comprehend in my slow way only now, did I find that Tricia and Allie each bore a mauve button birthmark on their right buttock? An identical tiny blotch, in the exact place as that on my soul mate Mike?
“The same little beauty spot that late Grandma Reynolds insisted had passed through a dozen generations. It was the family trademark, she’d smirk after a thimbleful of brandy. "‘X’ has always marked the beauty spot. Know what I mean?’”
(Copyright, Natalie Irene Wood – 04 May 2013)