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There are 365 days in a year, and slightly fewer people in my immediate family, and yet we all seem to end up sharing birthdays. My childhood best friend and maid of honour never actually saw me get married, as she gave birth on the morning of my wedding day. Wherever I travel in the world I always end up bumping into someone from home.
And then there’s my friend James.
James has three gorgeous children with his wonderful, patient and generally awesome partner. They’re very happy. But James has always said - ever since I met him over twenty years ago - that he would never get married. He didn’t need a piece of paper to make him commit, a wedding was a waste of time, and a marriage was unnecessary for him to have a happy family life. All perfectly valid and reasonable views. We all just accepted that there’d never be a wedding in James’ future.
Which is why it came as such a huge surprise when, less than a year ago, he called to tell us he and his partner were getting married – next month. In Gretna Green. Slap bang in the middle of the one week of the year that my husband and I would be away on holiday in Pembrokeshire, South Wales, with the kids, and my whole family.
Actually, that’s not the only reason it was a huge surprise. The biggest reason is because of the power of coincidence.
You see, the day before James called with his big news, I’d just finished writing my latest YA novel, And Then We Ran. It’s the story of two friends who, to escape their small town life and their families’ expectations, elope to Gretna Green for the least romantic wedding ever. Of course, Megan and Elliott's road trip is fraught with difficulties and disaster - as well as new friends, and a new way of looking at each other... Oh, and did I mention that their small town is in Pembrokeshire?
“Obviously we want to go,” my husband said. James had been his best man at our wedding, and had asked my husband to be his in return. “But can we?”
I pulled a face. “As it happens, I do know quite a bit about transport between deepest, darkest Pembrokeshire and Gretna Green,” I told him. “It’s at least six and half hours drive, non stop, as long as you don’t get stuck behind a tractor. Or crash into a sheep. Or break down and end up in the pub instead."
“So that’s five hours from here to Pembrokeshire, a day with your family, then six and a half hours up to Gretna, wedding, stay the night, six and a half hours back, then another five hours back home again two days later.”
“With two kids in the back. Yes.”
“That doesn’t sound like fun. What about if we leave the kids with your parents then get the train up and back?” he asked.
“Four trains,” I replied promptly. “Tenby to Camarthen, Camarthen to Crewe, Crewe to Carlisle then Carlisle to Gretna Green. About ten hours, all told.”
“How do you know all this?”
“Remember when you found all that information about getting married in Scotland on my desk and said you hoped that it was research….?”
As you can imagine, we didn’t make the wedding. But did Megan and Elliott make theirs?
You’ll have to read And Then We Ran to find out...
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