I stood at the bus stop in Lewisham High Street trying to decide whether or not to just go home. I hadn't come by bus as I only lived walking distance away, but had arranged to meet Cynthia nearly an hour beforehand.
Finally a bus pulled in and out she stepped. 'It's fashionable for a bride to be late,' she exclaimed without the expected apology. 'But you're not a bride,' I replied, 'you haven't even snared a fiancé yet. I really don't know why you're looking for a wedding dress.' She stared at me tetchily for a moment, trying to read from my expression if I would still shop with her.
As a drag queen, she seemed to think I would be some kind of expert. 'I need to plan ahead,' she snapped. 'At my age, when I find a man, I've got to get on with it bloody quickly, before he changes his mind and buggers off again.'
If this ever-elusive groom did bugger off, it would be because of her attitude and not her age, I thought. But sensing her stress, I grabbed her arm and began walking her towards the precinct. 'Come on them, let's get this over with.'
As we entered "Mrs Bliss' Wedding Emporium", Cynthia's face lit up like a dog in a biscuit shop. Row upon row of every kind of dress in every shade of white lined the walls. She ran her hand across the front of them excitedly, as though she had a ceremony planned for each one.
A snooty yet immaculately groomed middle-aged shop assistant appeared, glancing down her long bony nose at Cynthia's hands to ensure they were clean. 'Can I help you, Modom,' she snarled disapprovingly, assessing Cynthia's appearance before gesturing towards the budget section to one side. 'I'm getting married and need something very special for my Mr Perfect.' Cynthia gushed. 'He's a captain in the Air Force and we're expecting titled people at the church.'
'Really?' asked the assistant disbelievingly, glancing at me for confirmation. I just shrugged. It was already all I could do to keep a straight face. Looking discreetly at her watch, Mrs Bliss pulled out a huge puffy number and hung it across the front of the rail for approval. I had to chuckle that the first dress was dark cream and not white; she had clearly read Cynthia like a book before she'd even tried anything on.
'If Modom would like to experience this in the fitting room, we might establish Modom's further requirements,' she suggested. Cynthia's excitement turned to embarrassment when she saw the label. 'This is a size eighteen, I'm only a fourteen!'
'Of course you are Modom, but we are merely establishing a style that Modom would suit,' she advised, hastily guiding Cynthia and her dress into a curtained off area to one corner.
Bride out of sight, I couldn’t help but laugh. But as Mrs Bliss stepped from the changing area, she caught me. I expected her to be angry, but instead she smiled the smile of an ally. 'I've worked here for thirty years,' she whispered. Then looking at her watch again, she gestured, 'eight minutes.' I smiled approvingly, fascinated by the suggested challenge. I admired her choreographed elegance as she glided across the thick pile carpet to the reception desk and scribbled something on a piece of paper.
Suddenly, Cynthia appeared from behind the curtain. The dress fitted her perfectly, considering it was several sizes too big. Mrs Bliss gasped, throwing her hand to her chest and grasping the side of the counter to steady her balance.
'Oh Modom,' she exclaimed, taking a small piece of tissue from her sleeve and holding it to her nose. 'It's a dream!' Cynthia was delighted, running across the room to a large gold-framed mirror. Instantly regaining her composure,
Mrs Bliss hurried behind to fluff the back of the frock. I smiled and shook my head with respect for her impeccably scripted routine. She was top of the bill, rather than the bride, and the shop floor was her stage. 'Do you really think so?' said Cynthia. 'Thousands of blushing brides have crossed my threshold and yet I don't think I've ever seen such a perfect match. Would Modom mind if I took a photograph for our catalogue?'
Cynthia was thrilled, striking a pose as the assistant took a few imaginary snaps from a camera that clearly had no film in it. 'I've written the name of the dress on a piece of paper for Modom. There is no model number because it's a one off, the only one made before the seamstress eloped to Romania with her gypsy lover.' 'Oh my,' sighed Cynthia romantically, 'what's it called?' 'Fairy Tale Princess,' announced Mrs Bliss, with a well-trodden tearful wobble in her voice.
Cynthia burst into tears, pulling her into a hug. She checked her watch again behind Cynthia's back. I nodded my approval, though I was merely in a supporting role. As we stepped from the shop, I turned to glance back at Mrs Bliss, turning the door sign to "closed" and pulling down the blind. Catching my glance, she paused momentarily and gently smiled at me with a wink. I checked my watch: eight minutes exactly.
I've always aspired to be as good on stage as those who shine with genius. That cloudy afternoon in Lewisham, we had been in the presence of a master.
Don't forget you can see Jeff at Molly Moggs in London's SOHO on Monday and Thursday nights where Jeff performs his famous Sing along show, (Always a great night out)
You can also see what else Jeff has been up to by visiting his brand new website here:
www.jeffkristian.com and follow him on
Facebook and Twitter @jeffkristian
Jeff also has his own range of "Life's a Drag" products available, get your hands on some here:JK Merchandise
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