The groom-to-be is thin, nervous-looking, with a pointed trimmed beard that makes his thin face look even thinner. The train is crowded, so he and his stag party compatriots can't sit all together. They spread themselves out across a few rows of seats, twisting and turning to look round at one another, conducting their conversation louder than necessary.
The groom doesn't say much. But it seems that's normal for him. Maybe he's nervous about what his companions have got planned for him later. Stag weekends are expected to get like that. Whether he's normally a quiet person, or whether his friends understand his nerves, they continue the conversation without him.
"Is Tom coming?" one asks.
The groom nods, biting his lip.
"Does he still get grumpy when people make jokes at his expense?"
"Yeah. He's got no sense of humor."
"Excellent. We can have some fun winding him up tonight then."
The groom-to-be points at his friend's exceptionally large rucksack.
"What have you got in there?" he asks. "We're only going away for one night."
"Ahhh, nothing you need to worry yourself about," grins his mate. "Not till later."
The groom-to-be looks pensive. He knows the rucksack contains some outlandish costume which he'll be required to wear for the duration of the all-day drinking session to come. He says nothing.
Another one of the group pipes up: "What about Steve? Is he coming?"
The guy with the large rucksack replies: "He couldn't. You know Gary? Gary and Lucy? Well, they're getting married too. A week after you, I think," he says, prodding the bearded groom-to-be. "Anyway Gary's brother is the best man and he left it all too late to organise anything. So they're going out this weekend. I think they're just going drinking. Gary's a bit pissed off I think, but you know. It's his own brother."
Large rucksack man says: "I sold the Volvo."
"Did you? Why?"
"It was too expensive. Got one of those little Fords now. Tax is only about 20 quid. And because it's new, there's hardly anything to pay when you get it serviced. The old Volvo was costing me hundreds of quid to get through every service. It was getting silly."
The groom-to-be says: "Yeah but you won't be able to take your friends to the beach in a little Ford, will you?"
"Nope," grins large rucksack man. "I didn't think that one through did I?"
"Are you driving to our wedding?"
"Yeah, think so."
"Are you taking anyone else?"
"Only the girlfriend."
"Have I met her?"
"Yes. At Andy's party. Don't you remember?"
The groom-to-be doesn't look the slightest bit embarrassed.
"No. Anyway, does that mean you'll have room in the back?"
"Why? You need a lift to your own wedding?"
"What? Don't you get a limo or something?"
"Well SHE does, of course. And her dad's paying for it. But right now, I don't have a lift to the church for my own wedding."
"You twat. Yeah, we can take you. No problem."
"Wait, are you invited to the ceremony?"
Large rucksack bloke blinks and runs his hands through his hair.
"I don't know. Am I? I've got no idea."
The groom looks sheepish. "We had to keep the numbers down for the ceremony itself. Small church, you see, and she's got a massive family. So quite a lot of people got invites to the party but not the ceremony."
Large rucksack guy shrugs.
"Well I can't remember either way. But if we're coming to the church, we'll give you a lift. No problem."
They go silent for a moment, each young man looking in a different direction. The groom-to-be's eyes flick sideways to look through the window, then down at his hands, then up at the ceiling. This is a tricky one.
(26th April 2013)