When Joe had announced to Bob and Juliette, his incredulous parents, that he and Juliette were to be married, the virtually unprecedented response had, initially, been mute, open-mouthed disbelief. It had taken quite a while before his Mother had summoned up the courage to cobble together an unconvincing smile and his Father had, in his custoJuliette manner, decided that the best place to reflect on this news – or any other matter requiring the engagement of more than one brain cell – was the Fiddler’s Arms, a few hundred yards away, down the quiet, leafy terraced street that had been home for 26 years to this quiet, mild-mannered – some would even have said ‘timid’ – young man.
It was very easy indeed totally to mis-read David – as most people had done, failing to take time to look beyond the ‘nothing out of the ordinary’, yet nonetheless quite presentable, exterior to the remarkable man inside. His well-groomed short black hair and steel blue eyes had brought the attention of more than one girl to this recently-qualified engineer and his sartorial tastes had done nothing to deflect that interest. In fact, there was nothing visual – nor even social – that would have caused offence to anyone, for David had always been a quiet and well-mannered child, boy, teenager and man. He was not gifted to excess in any particular area of life, but he was a competent, hard-working plodder and, as those who had played a part in his education and training would have told any interested party, he had an uncanny knack when it came to setting and achieving his objectives. What marked him out from his more boisterous and vociferous peers – some of whom had, however, learned at an early stage, sometimes to their cost, that David was not good bullying material – was that he did not wear his heart or display his plans on his sleeve.
Perhaps it had been this quiet and systematic approach to life that had prompted his form teacher in year seven at school to steer him towards engineering-related subjects. He had needed little encouragement, since his aptitude for work that required the application of careful deliberation, logic, soundly-based science and a hint of creativity was soon very much in evidence. His reward had been a first class honours degree in structural engineering and he was now settling well into a junior managerial post as part of a design team for a leading multi-national transport engineering company.
One very obvious characteristic of David was his ability to command the loyalty of his friends, yet friends were few and far between, for David’s cautious approach to his professional life was reflected in his social sphere. There were several acquaintances, mostly at his workplace, with whom he was able to socialise quite easily, but the list of friends in the ‘Addresses and Telephone Numbers’ section of his thick and well-thumbed diary was short.
The only difference between the response from David’s family and that from Peter and Helen Carrington to news of the impending marriage of their daughter, Juliette, was that the silence in the latter household was short-lived. In all other respects, the response was identical, to the point that even the prospective father of the bride had felt the need to see whether or not the news still sounded the same after a little mild anæsthesia of the mind at ‘The Green Man’ public house, set in a location not designed to further contemplation, being bounded on both sides by busy dual carriageways that crossed the sprawling 1970s ‘little boxes’ estate where the family lived. In fact, the only people who had demonstrated spontaneous enthusiasm had been Joline and Jemma, Juliette’s younger siblings. Their motives, however, had more to do with the prospect of their role in the ceremonials than with the longer-term prospects for the couple.
Juliette had been an athletic-looking 22-year old at the time. She stood 5′ 5″ tall and was a comfortable size 10 who, unlike most of her peers, was more than happy with her appearance and exuded confidence in enviable proportions. She did not dress to dazzle -she had no need to – but she knew how to use the contents of her carefully-selected wardrobe to good effect. For most people meeting her for the first time, it was her intense gaze, from feline green eyes framed by fine, shoulder length straight honey-blonde hair – usually kept tied neatly at the nape of her neck -that created the powerful first impression that had earned her a well-paid position as personal assistant to the manager of a well-established business travel company. This was not a job without its perks, but it had not been this, nor indeed Juliette’s impressive appearance, that had first attracted David’s attention. It had been her laughter, something that had kindled a light deep in the mind of a young man to whom this had not been a sound commonly heard at home.