“My mother and aunt,” said Mirren, “are organising the pre-wedding family get-together.”
“Pre-wedding family get-together?” Rensa looked at her with concern.
“You know,” Mirren explained, “that thing where the two families get together for a party about a week before the wedding, get introduced to each other and identify any problems before the ceremony. It gets the introductions out of the way before the wedding, reveals all the relatives no-one was quite game to bring up and if there are any old grudge matches, it cuts down on the fights and body count at the actual wedding.”
Rensa stifled a giggle at that description. “We all knew each other so we didn’t have to be introduced and we were so closely related that the odd relatives were everyone’s odd relatives. But fighting at a wedding?”
“Oh yes,” Mirren assured her, “it’s what happens when you put people who don’t necessarily get on with each other in a defined space, ply them with alcohol and put social pressure on them not to leave.”
“Mirren,” Rensa had a startled but thoughtful look on her face, “how much alcohol?”
“All up?” Mirren looked thoughtful. “The women in our family don’t get married so I’ve never organised the catering but four bottles of wine to a table of ten per course sounds about right. Two to three times that if you’re only serving beer.”
“They tell me we’re having three courses,” Rensa looked at her, “I’m used to about two glasses of wine per person for the whole meal, including toasts.”
“What do you drink instead?” Mirren looked at her bemused.
“Water. Chilled water. In really nice glasses.” Rensa looked back at her, “After all, the children can’t have wine or beer.”
“My family’s going to come as a shock to you then,” said Mirren drily, “And so’s this party. Mum and Aunty Tyrren are allowing two bottles, give or take, per person for the night. I’ll have to make sure they lay on the water for you.”
“I don’t think my discretionary rations will cover that much alcohol.”
Mirren sighed. It had been days since Rensa had spoken about food in terms of her ration allowance. “You’re the only person who’s thinking about this in terms of rationing, especially as they’re lifting the rationing regulations in time for the wedding.”
“I know,” Rensa smiled, “but it is the habit of a life time. I’m actually interested to see how it will work – ‘you can buy as much as you like and afford of anything that’s available’, but the selection and stocking proportion of what’s available isn’t going to change.”
“You’d rather talk about economic regulation than your own wedding preparations?” Mirren was astonished, “Most brides-.”
Rensa cut her off. “Most brides have a say.”
“Item Four on the agenda is the finalised menu for the wedding feast,” the chairman of the organising committee said. The rest of the committee turned the page in their folders and made appreciative noises, even those who’d read ahead.
“Excuse me,” Yannic spoke up, “there seems to be an omission.”
“I don’t think so,” Kemmic, the sallow faced man who was in charge of the food and drink arrangements contradicted him. “Three courses, four dishes per course and accompanying beverages. They’re all there.”
“Princess Rensa specifically asked for a smoked fish pie topped with potato and cheese,” the Emperor corrected, “and it’s nowhere on this menu.”
“Your Imperial Majesty,” Kemmic was trying to be rude, he was one of those who didn’t understand why Yannic’s elevation had been necessary, “we are using this event to demonstrate the legitimacy of our government. There’s no place on this menu for a dish made of leftovers.”
“You’re telling me that there’s no place in our wedding feast for the one dish my bride requested,” Yannic replied templing his fingers in front of him. Kemmic’s assistant, seated behind him, moved uncomfortably in place.
“We’re trying to project authority and dignity,” retorted Kemmic, “She can have her leftovers the day after.”
“Where I grew up, smoked fish pie wasn’t leftovers,” commented Lurien, a middle aged woman at the far end of the table who’d been a cell leader in the western regions, “and it’s something anyone can make. Solidarity with the people and all that. I say let the girl have her comfort food – it’s not like she wants something rare or expensive.”
“Smoked fish pie would cut costs a touch,” agreed the financial representative, “and a nice smoked fish pie can be just the thing. Perhaps we can replace something in the first two courses where the ingredients are difficult to obtain and haven’t been secured yet?” The entire table looked at Kemmic who sighed, picked up his pen and began to flip through his notes.
“Don’t worry,” Yannic was holding Rensa’s hand, his fingers linked through hers, “my family don’t bite. Well,” he rapidly revised, “Some of them might, if you paid them to. Gentlemen,” he nodded to the two very large doormen flanking the entrance to room where Tyrren was hosting the family pre-wedding party. One of them opened the door and a surge of sound, made up loud music and chatter, poured out at them. “In we go then!” Yannic grinned at her and pulled her after him towards the cheerfully coloured throng.
Behind them the doormen stood in front of the door, Yannic and Rensa not having cleared its swing yet, and one said loudly to the entourage who’d insisted on following Yannic, “I’m sorry, gentlemen, this is a private party, family only.”
Then the door closed behind them. “Mum hired some bouncers she knows,” Yannic’s grin widened, “to keep out all the hangers on. Now, come and meet every one!”