Jenny gave a signal to both Jamie and Ian as the music started to play. The groom seemed relaxed, talking with his best man as the the door opened and the bride started to walk the aisle with her uncle. People rose and looked at the bride as she made her way to the altar. She was beautiful, Jamie thought, as he made photographs of the moment. She caught the tears of the mother of the groom and left for the side of the altar where he was to capture the ceremony.
'Dear beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate the marriage of Frank and Claire.' The priest commenced with the ceremony, taking his time on a sermon about the importance of marriage and family. Jamie made a couple of photos of the happy couple on the altar and then waited until the vows for the next round. Just as the moment arrived, a blond woman, dressed in street clothes, came into church, and run to the altar, and before anyone could stop her, punched the groom on the face. 'You fucking bastard!'
Everyone on the church gasped at the situation. 'I hate you, son of a bloody bitch!' The woman kept screaming at the groom, now on the floor.
'Who are you?' The bride asked at the woman. 'What are you doing here?'
'Do you want to know who I am?' The woman tell the bride. 'I am Frank's other fiancee.' She threw at the groom photos of them two, some of them pretty intimate. 'And also, I am the mother of his child.' She threw next a pregnancy test and a sonogram. 'He told me he was going to be with us and then I read the announcement of your wedding. Fucking bastard! Enjoy that image, is the only time you're going to meet your child.' The woman left the church before the groom was able to stand up for himself. By then the bride had been checking the photos, dates printed on them.
'Claire, I swear to you...' The groom tried to say before the bride hit him with her bouquet and ran away from the altar, followed by her uncle and her bridesmaid.
Silence swarmed the church as the groom stood up alone in the altar. Jamie switched off the camera and went to group with Jenny and Ian at the back of the church, waiting for Mr. Beauchamp, the bride's uncle and who had hired them to ask what they might do next. One for the records, Jamie thought as he took his equipment. Most professional photographers have some funny story like that. Soon the church started to empty, the groom leaving with his parents and his side of the guests as the bride's waited for news. Mr. Beauchamp appeared again from the room he had been consoling his niece and took the microphone the priest had been using on the ceremony. 'Claire is shocked for what it just happened, but we had decided that if you wish, you can join us at the venue for the meal. It's already paid and prepared and it would be a shame to let it to waste. Of course, we don't want too much talk about this...ordeal, during the lunch. We are grateful you are here still and we want to give you something back.' Mr. Beauchamp came to them and assured them that he would finish with the payment due after that day and invited them to the lunch. Jenny and Ian excused themselves, telling Mr. Beauchamp they would go to pick up their children from Jenny and Jamie's mother's house, but Jamie decided to accept the invitation. He gave his stuff to Jenny and Ian to take it home with them and joined Mr. Beauchamp, his niece and the bridesmaid on the car, toward the venue.
She looked at the bride through the mirror of the car. She wasn't wearing make-up or the veil anymore. She had signs of have been crying but she was relaxed now, looking wistfully through the window as her uncle and her friend berated her ex-groom for the situation he had put her on. She kept quiet for the duration of the journey, seemingly on her own bubble. Before they got into the venue, Mr. Beauchamp and the bridesmaid went to tell the staff of the situation, so no one asked the bride about where the groom and his family were. Jamie waited with her at the car. He smiled at her as he caught her eye, and she timidly smiled back. He went to tell her something, but Mr. Beauchamp and the bridesmaid were back by then, taking the bride with them.
The lunch was awkward, people eating on silence, some looking at their phones or looked at the DJ, dismantling his equipment as the dancing had been cancelled. The bride, her uncle, the bridesmaid, and the bridesmaid husband sat on a small table by themselves, the big, overdecorated bridal table being also dismantled by the venue's staff as the lunch went on. The bride suddenly took one of the unopened champagne bottles the waiters were moving back to the kitchen and left the table, she stopped her uncle of go with her, walking to the gardens of the place, where soon disappeared from view. Jamie finished his plate and went to the gardens too, a cold breeze was blowing as she found her, sat on a hidden corner, drinking champagne from the bottle and crying again.
'Take this lass.' Jamie said, giving her his jacket, to cover her bare shoulders. ''Tis starting to get cold.'
'Thank you.' The braid said, accepting the jacket. 'You're the photographer.'
'Aye, yer uncle invited me to the...well, the meal.' He said, sitting on the grass with her. 'Jamie. Jamie Fraser.'
'Claire. Claire still Beauchamp.' She said, before take another swing of the bottle.
'I'm so sorry for what has happened. Truly.'
'I should have taken notice earlier. Too many red flags. Too many bad excuses.' Claire took another big gulp from the bottle, she was already drunk and Jamie took the bottle from her.
'Give me that lass, ye dinna deserve a hangover because of that bastard.'
'You're right on that one Jamie. How's your...? What was your partner?'
'My sister. My Da opened the business with my mam, after he passed, my sister and me took over.'
'I'm sorry to hear that.'
'Thank ye Claire.'
They kept talking for few minutes until she stood up and made Jamie come with her to a lateral entrance to the rooms upstairs. 'Here it is' She said as they arrived to one of the rooms.
'What are we doin' here?'
'The honeymoon suite. My uncle paid it, so it's OK.'
'OK, for what?' Jamie looked at drunk Claire.
'Fuck me, Jamie. Here and now. It's my wedding day, the worst day of my life. I need to get fucked and you are the best guy I've seen today. You choose the way, I am open to anything at this point.' She kissed him, before fall to her knees and try to open his trousers fly. Jamie thanked God he was the one who had found her, made her stand and sit with her on the bed.
'No, Claire. I canna do that.' Jamie started explaining to Claire. 'Ye're hurt and drunk, Ye're no' thinkin' straight and I'm no' takin' advantages from it.' She started crying again and Jamie took her on his arms, soothing her with sweet words in Gaelic.
'That's why Frank had a mistress, isn't it?' She said. 'I am not that attractive to men.'
'Och, dinna ever say that again. Ye're beautiful. That fucker didna respect ye and the other lass enough. 'Tis his fault, not yers.' She cried on his shoulders for a long time, after that, he prepared her tea from the room's supply, helped her to rearrange herself and took her back to her uncle who had been worried about her. He said his goodbyes as they left for home and took a taxi to his apartment.
He tried to take the whole day out of his mind, and he succeeded, until one day, three months later, Claire still Beauchamp came into the his shop and back into his life.