I admit I was sceptical when my brother said he was getting married. He's never been the steadiest character, much as I love him, and his girlfriend Shore always seemed a bit on the wild side as well. I put it down to the hippy parents. None of us had met Shore's parents before the wedding, but we formed an opinion of them based on the name, floaty skirts, and unreliability of their daughter. Unfair of us, as it turned out.
"They're getting married on a beach," my mum said, reading the postcard. "The beach where they met."
"That's quite sweet, I suppose," I said.
Inconsiderate too, since the beach in question was a long way from our family. Though much closer to Shore's.
Freddie and Shore had been off doing their own thing for months, no fixed address and no plans, but that's the beauty of getting a first in maths and doing something complicated in a bank for a few years, you're not likely to be strapped for cash.
"Where are they going to live?" I asked, but my mum had no idea.
"There's no present list registered anywhere either," she said, "and they've got plenty of money. We'll have to make do with giving them cards and taking lots of photographs to send them afterwards."
"I suppose we should be grateful we're invited."
We turned up in a small Cornish town a few weeks later, hoping Freddie had told us the right date as we hadn't heard from him since. I left my parents arguing quietly in the foyer of the hotel, and went for a walk. My brother and his fiancee were standing hand in hand at the bottom of the boat ramp.
"That's why you're suddenly getting married," I said, nodding at Shore's bump.
Freddie just grinned.
I don't know why I didn't tell my parents, but I slipped off next morning to a bigger town with a shop that sold baby clothes. I know nothing about babies, none of my friends have reached that stage yet, but I picked out some sturdy looking old-fashioned green sandals. I figured Shore would happily use them for a boy or a girl. I put a ribbon round the box and slipped it onto the buffet table for later. It was time to fetch my wedding hat and run down to the beach.
As soon as I saw Shore's mum at the edge of the water I understood why they were getting married there. My mum just kept looking from Shore's shapely legs to her mother's fish-tail and demonstrating her own fish-mouth.
"With mixed marriages you can never tell," said Shore's dad, who was every bit as human as Freddie. More so, my dad would probably say. "Sometimes it skips a generation."
I looked at Shore's bump, and I thought of the gift I'd left waiting in the hotel. I wished with all my heart that my little niece or nephew never needed it.