Espoo Old Church stood at the end of a country lane, set aside from a newly built shopping centre. In the distance lay high rise blocks to one side and a wide motorway to the other. Father and I went to see it for the first time on a Saturday in January 1984. It seemed odd to plan a wedding in a church I’d never been to, but The Old Church was the prettiest in the parish I belonged to since moving in with my Father.
The stone clad church was empty as we wandered down the narrow aisle. I shivered, the air inside seemed colder than outside. It was strange to think I’d stand here in a few month’s time, arm in arm with my Englishman. There was so much to do before I could get away, and be together with him for forever and ever. I moved my gaze from the simple altar with its two silver candle sticks to my Father. He stood perfectly still, with his hands in the pockets of his light grey overcoat. His shoes were unpolished. Instead of his smarter work clothes, he wore the same shabby jogging pants and cardigan he did when lazing around in front of the TV at home. His eyes met mine. ‘What?’
‘Nothing,’ I said.
My Father had been in a funny mood all morning. In the car he’d asked me how long we’d be away, as if he had some other, more important, appointment to go to. Had he changed his mind about paying for the wedding? But I wasn’t sure he had any idea of how much it would all be, and neither did I.
I walked out. I was afraid some-one, a Pastor or a Warden would come out of the recesses of the church and start asking questions. I wasn’t ready for that; I didn’t even know the date of the wedding yet.
‘We have to be in Bastvik in 15 minutes,’ I said to my Father over my shoulder.
The Bastvik Manor House faced a central courtyard, with two converted barns either side. There were bedrooms in each of the outbuildings for the use of overnight guests. The ceilings were low and the furniture antique. It all looked perfect, even if there was just one bathroom in each corridor for the guests to share. Surely the Englishman’s family wouldn’t mind? The woman who showed us around the rooms smiled. Back at the Manor House she checked in a large book and said there were still dates available for a function in the summer. ‘How many wedding guests are there going to be?’ she asked my Father.
‘Not too many, I hope,’ he said and sneered.
The woman’s smile froze.
I looked down at my hands. ‘How many can you accommodate?’ I asked.
‘The maximum number is 75 .’
‘That many!’ my Father said.
‘That should be more than enough,’ I quickly added.
‘Good, good,’ the woman tried to smile at my Father again, but she ended up smirking in a futile effort to lift everyone’s spirits.
My Father and I didn’t speak in the car on the way home. As we got closer to his house, my anger rose. He’d embarrassed me in front of the woman in Bastvik. What must she think of us? How was I now going to arrange the wedding with her? I looked at the leaflet she’d given me. The rates seemed reasonable. After Father’s comment about the number of guests, she’d suggested a domestic sparkling wine for the toasts and a cheaper meal option. No fish course and chicken instead of veal as a main.
That evening the Englishman called. I feigned excitement when he told me the news. ‘I’ve got the whole of my programme set out for next twelve months. First at the NATO base in Naples until the last week of May. Then two weeks off and the rest of the year I’ll be based in Pompey. So, our date will be Saturday 2nd of June!’
‘The 2nd of June.’ I tasted the date on my lips. Could this be true? Would it really happen?
‘So when can you finally come over to England for good?’ the Englishman asked.
‘My Professor says I can take the final exams at the Finnish Embassy in London, so I can come as soon as I have arranged everything here. I think perhaps middle of February.’
‘Great! I’m going to Italy in March, but you can stay in the house in Southsea. I’ll be home every other weekend at least.’
The words ‘I’ll be home’ rang in my ears for the rest of the evening. How would it be to wait for the Englishman to come home? Would I be as lonely in England as I was here in Espoo in my Father’s cold house? Though I was glad that he left me alone tonight after our disastrous outing.
At least it would be warmer in Southsea, I thought. And I’d be working just like the Englishman’s sister-in-law and sister. Taking the bus or the train to an office, where I’d do some important work. As yet I had no idea what that job would be. First I needed to marry the man, I thought and pulled out the Yellow Pages. I ran my finger down the names of printers. Now I knew the date I could have the invitations made. And I needed to let everyone know. I lifted the receiver and dialled my Mother’s number in Stockholm.