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The glow of the late afternoon sun beamed through the stained-glass windows of the old church, casting brightly coloured shafts of light across the flagstone floor. Immaculately dressed wedding guests, resplendent in all their finery, packed the polished timber pews. The picture-perfect bride and groom standing at the altar gazed into each other’s eyes, oblivious to all except this moment as they imagined their blissful future together. The officiating priest turned to the best man and said, ‘May we have the bride’s ring please?’

The expectant crowd smiled as one, knowing the celebratory culmination of the service was almost upon them. But then the mood shifted; heads turned, and hushed whispers were spoken as all eyes focussed like a laser beam on the best man. As the seconds ticked by, the bride and groom shuffled, breaking the moment and their locked gaze. The best man was now frantic, patting both sides of his chest, his thighs and his backside, checking all pockets for that item most precious, the ultimate symbol of the day’s joyous union. His face contorted in a mask of panic and his shoulders sagged under the weight of expectation.

Slowly, cautiously, the best man shuffled across and cupped his hand to the ear of the groom, whispered a secret and then retreated with eyes downcast, staring at his shoes in shame. The bride bristled in anger, with nostrils flared and eyes ablaze. Through gritted teeth, she snarled, ‘Tell me.’

The groom put his hands up and out in front to placate his almost-wife, but also as if to protect himself as he said slowly, ‘Mike’s lost it. He can’t find your ring.’

‘I KNEW it!’ screamed the bride, face immediately purple with rage. ‘I TOLD you not to choose him for your best man! He’s a total screw-up, completely useless! Always has been, always will be. He had ONE JOB today. Just one. And he couldn’t even do that right. Oh, my god, I think I’m going to be sick.’

As the bride sagged to the floor, Mike cast a glance to the back of the church and gave the slightest of nods. Signal received by the door attendant, the heavy oak door creaked open and light flooded in, silhouetting the outline of what emerged as a bounding Golden Retriever racing down the aisle to the front of the church. The faithful canine slid to a halt on the stone floor and started licking the tears from his master’s face.

‘Rusty! What are you doing here? Oh, I’m so happy to see you,’ gushed the bride as a smile broke out on her face. She buried her face in the fluffy scruff of her dog’s neck and threw her arms around him. As she rubbed her dog’s neck, she felt something foreign on his collar and looked down at what she quickly identified as a ring box. She looked up at her groom with a quizzical look and he simply shrugged in confusion. They both turned and looked at Mike, who smiled sheepishly, turned both hands upwards and quietly said, ‘Surprise…’

‘You Bastard!’ shouted the nuptial pair in unison, then turned to the priest as one and said, ‘Sorry, Father.’

The priest responded with a shrug and said, ‘Well deserved. Shall we continue?’

Tension broken, the bride and groom smiled and nodded, and the crowd breathed a collective sigh of relief.
The bride looked over at the best man and said, ‘You’ll pay for that, Mike. You won’t know when, where or how, but I’m going to get you back for that. From now on, you’d better sleep with one eye open.’

Hell hath no fury like a panicked bride.