He was still going. Round and round the lake in the distance he went, vrooming through the water in his little tuxedo. “How much fuel can a jetski hold” asked the reverend, baffled. Turns out loads.
They should have seen this coming. Simon had been saying things all day, things that taken separately perhaps didn’t mean much, but lumping them all together, and with the benefit of hindsight, they probably should have raised an eyebrow or two.
“I don’t want to get married anymore.”
That was one.
“You’re murdering me. Everyone here is murdering me.”
But yet they were all surprised – even Aunt Marge who said she wasn’t after the fact but definitely was at the time – all of them were surprised when, in the middle of the ceremony, Simon shouted “NOPE”, dashed off down the beach, and before you could say “well, isn’t that just a thing” had kicked a man in a wetsuit off his jetski, commandeered it and taken off onto the water.
Lake Conrad is a lovely place to hold a wedding. It’s tucked into a plush green valley, sheltering it from the winds; it’s fringed with beaches of fine white sand just begging to have a floral wedding arch built on them; the valley crescents at just the right point so that the forests obscure as little of the sunset as possible, turning the standing water a beautiful molten amber.
The lake also had a special connection for the two of us. My father owned a small wooden fishing boat and, me and Simon, we’d take it out here, catch minnows in jars, swim naked and talk about how we were going to live in weird and different places. We came here last night. We took the boat out onto the lake, laughed, talked and cried together, although now I see that we might have been crying for two different reasons.
The final and most important aspect of Lake Conrad is that it is a lake and does not provide an escape route to the ocean. It’s quite small and round, and so once you’ve taken a jetski out there, you’ve really got nowhere to go except round in circles. And that’s what Simon was doing. He’d been out there for one hour and forty minutes. You could see his small figure moving across the water, hear his plaintiff little vrooms and, now and again, his shouts of “I am not marrieeeeed” would carry to the beach.
The last of the sunset was turning grey. Susan, her bridesmaids and pretty much all of the congregation had moved on to the reception marquee, and the DJ had started the disco. The plastic sheet windows of the tent were glowing purple and gold and you could hear The Birdy Song. The wetsuit man had left, after giving us his phone number and telling us to call him. Only me, the reverend and the father-in-law were still on the beach, watching Simon scoot along.
“I’m going to break his fucking head open” said the father-in-law, who was large and did in fact fight men on a regular basis. The reverend and I didn’t speak up on Simon’s behalf. This wasn’t the time for that. We just waited.
Finally, the jetski spluttered, coughed and stopped. For about fifteen minutes Simon was still, sat on his little wedding jetski, bobbing in the distance. The father-in-law, the father-in-law’s friend, who was equally big, and the reverend all took my father’s fishing boat and went to collect him, while I went and rounded up the guests.
Simon returned with an overcoat draped over his damp shoulders, soaking wet turn-ups and red hand-shaped mark on his face. He looked at his feet, ashamed.
“Now, shall we go back to the wedding, Simon?” asked the reverend.
Simon didn’t look up from his shoes, but softly nodded.
“Is that alright with you, madam?” the reverend asked Susan.
She didn’t respond for ages. She eventually said yes, but it was possibly the longest silence between a question being asked and an answer being given that has ever, ever happened.