I've tried to make things right with Matt but he hasn't cheered up much. We had a chat yesterday but it was really hard work. He's still in a mood and after a while, I got tired of trying to make him laugh. I think it's time to bring all this to an end. Maybe we should have a proper talk next week, like adults. I need to gear myself up for that and work out what I'm going to say to him.
For now though, I'm going to put him out of my mind because I have been looking forward to this weekend for so long. My oldest friend's daughter is getting married tomorrow and it's going to be great.
I've known Ashley since I was two when our mothers became friends. They only lived in the next street so we saw each other all the time. We went to the same school and although I was much cleverer than her she had her first kiss before me, got her first boyfriend before me, passed her driving test before me and basically grew up long before I ever did.
That may have been because her father died suddenly when she was just fifteen. It was such a shock. He was a lovely, quiet man and suddenly he was gone but she never cried. I tried to get her to talk about it but she never did. Even to this day we've never spoken about how that affected her. It was as if she locked it away deep inside her. I often wondered if she ever dealt with it. Her younger brother got into a lot of trouble after that which I'm sure was a direct result of losing his dad but Ashley just carried on. She became quieter but I remember she suddenly took against me swearing. She would get cross everytime I used the f word and would tell me it wasn't impressive. Even now, I never hear her swear.
She never went to university but I remember one hols when I came back and she said she was going out with this guy Barry who she met at her church. I didn't take much notice, but then soon after, she wrote to tell me they had got married! Very quietly and quickly and she was sorry that she hadn't invited me but they couldn't afford a big wedding and that she hoped I would forgive her and wish her well. And then she moved away with him to live on the South Coast.
About a year later she had given birth to Gemma who I saw for the first time when she was just a few weeks old and I completely fell in love with her. I couldn't believe that Ashley was so grown up - married, running a house and now a mum and still only 22. And Barry was actually a really decent guy.
He's about five years older than her but it has always seemed much more than that. He worked in a furniture shop and he's still there now. They can't have had much money but as far as I'm aware they have never been in debt and never taken any loans apart from their mortgage which I think is pretty much paid off now. I'm so in awe of the simple, happy life they lead in their small village where they are well-loved and where Gemma and her sister Maisie grew up so innocently.
A bit too innocently as it happens. A few years ago, Gemma went to stay with Barry's mother in Manchester to help look after her as she wasn't well. On the train journey there, she met a bloke who chatted her up and flattered her. He lived in Manchester and so saw a lot of her during her stay. She hadn't really had a boyfriend up to then and yet within the week they were sleeping together. When it was time to go back, she announced that she was moving in with him, much to her parents' distress. It wasn't long before she stopped calling home and her mobile was always off. She wouldn't see her parents when they went up there to talk to her and just said she was old enough to make her own decisions. I remember having long conversations with Ashley who was almost out of her mind with worry and I didn't know what to say to make things right because I was also pretty scared. The police said that it wasn't a cause for concern because she was not missing and old enough to make the decision to cut off contact. What they didn't seem to care about was that it was so out of character.
Anyway a week or so later, Barry's mother called him to say he had better get there fast. And when he did, he found her all beaten and bruised and hardly speaking - apart from saying she didn't want the police involved. Ashley was just happy to have her home but she kept telling me she had lost her little girl - she had completely withdrawn.
Over the next month or so, she got a bit better but still never spoke about what happened. And then one day, I called to speak to Ashley and Gemma answered. It was the first time I'd spoken to her since her return. We had always got on well so I just tried to be bright and breezy and funny and we talked generally about everything other than what had happened. We talked of her athletics (which she loved) and a job that she had applied for and films she wanted to see and a dress that she had seen that couldn't get in her tiny size. I seized on that one and told her to come and stay with me so we could do girly things like find that dress and go to the pictures and just be silly and surprisingly, she agreed. Ashley was thrilled and said it was the first time in ages that she had seen her so animated.
So she came for a long weekend and although she seemed quite fragile at first, we really did have fun. And more importantly for her, she finally opened up and told me what happened which was basically that this bloke came home drunk one day and laid into her until she managed to get out and find her way back to her gran's house. She didn't want to say anything because she thought basically it was her fault for being so stupid and she hadn't wanted to talk to her parents about it because she knew how upset they would be - especially her dad. I think it did her good letting it all out. I told her to talk it through with them because it would help them all.
I remember Ashley was so grateful even though I hadn't done anything except give young Gemma a shoulder to cry on. Anyway, she went from strength to strength after that and it wasn't long before she met Ian. He is lovely! She came to visit me just so that I could meet him and it was fabulous to see her so happy.
And so tomorrow, we'll see her get married. My little Gemma - daughter of my dearest Ashley. I'm going to have to take lots of tissues ........
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