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He was finally ready, he thought, as he straightened the damned bow-tie that had taken him forever to tie, as always, and tugged at his jacket. The fit was a little snugger than he remembered it being the last time he had worn this suit. He patted his midriff sadly, and murmured to his reflection, "Have to do something about that, old son, we don't want to be getting out of shape, do we?" His wife came up behind him and put her hands on his shoulders. "Indeed you don't Jim,' she said, "let yourself go, and I'll run off with that cute guy who delivers the courier parcels for TNT." Laughing, he turned to face her. "You wouldn't dare. I've seen the girl he goes out with - she's terrifying!"

He stretched out his hand and brushed a stray tendril of hair off of Becky's face. It had escaped from the velvet band tying it back and she held completely still as he helped her tuck it into its bonds again. Her hair was the bane of her life, she swore, too fine to ever stay where it was put.

As she thanked him, he let his hand linger on her face, gently stroking her cheek, enjoying the softness of her skin under his fingers, tracing down to the dimple that always appeared when she was smiling a genuine, happy smile. She leant her head against his palm as he stroked, and made a little purring noise in the back of her throat, before giving way to an attack of giggles.

He looked down fondly into her laughing eyes. Those eyes had been the first thing he had ever noticed about her, when a friend had introduced them at his cousin's wedding, wide and large and a startling, clear green. He'd seen green eyes before Becky's of course, but they had always been muddy, or pale, or shot through with blue or brown, while Becky's were flawless, the colour of - well he ought to say emeralds, he knew, but really they were the green of the glass in a wine bottle.

He smiled a little wryly to himself. No wonder he'd never been able to turn a pretty compliment, he thought, reality intruded over romanticism every time. Thank heavens that what Becky had wanted was honesty rather than charm, and cuddles rather than compliments. He slipped his hand round to the back of her neck and pulled her face to his, kissing her slowly and sweetly, soon caught up in the kiss, the same way he always was, always had been. His nostrils were filled with her perfume, the soft floral scent of Anais Anais, that always made her smell like a garden in summer, and she was soft and yielding in his arms.

When he finally released her she gave a delighted little laugh then tutted at him. "That was just lovely dear, but we'll never be ready, at this rate," she said, moving back toward the mirror, asking, "have you mussed me?" He shook his head, telling her she looked perfect, but glancing at her reflection, she gave a little clicking sound with her tongue, and settled into the chair by the dressing table to repair whatever damage her critical eye decided he had done.

As she deftly reapplied her lipstick, Jim scrubbed at his own lips with a tissue to remove any she had transferred to him, and smiled as he watched her hand roaming over her jewellery box trying to make a decision about which baubles to wear to the party. The smile widened when she settled on the pearl earrings he had given her as a wedding present, together with the necklace her parents had marked her twenty-first birthday with. Her preparations complete, she stood, and turned to face him. "Well," she said, spreading her arms a little, "how do I look?"

Jim carefully took in the whole effect before answering, knowing she wouldn't believe him if he gave an answer without really looking. He examined the new dress, just below knee length in a deep forest green velvet, the low-heeled black pumps, the pearls nesting at neck and ears, the hair caught up in a knot at the nape of the neck, decorated with a bow the same colour as the dress. "Lovely," he replied. "You look lovely, and very elegant."

Becky snorted. "Elegant? Now there's a word I never expected to have applied to me. Ever. Are you ready?" she continued, "We really will be late if we don't get a move on." She picked up her handbag, opening it to drop in lipstick, perfume and a comb and quickly checking she had the hotel room key and money. "Almost ready," he answered, "but before we go, there's something I want to say to you." He looked straight at her, his face deadly serious.

"Oh? You'd best say it then." She replied, looking back at him with equal gravity.

"Love, I…. I've never been good with words, you know that," she nodded gravely, and let him continue, "but I just wanted to tell you …. tonight especially …you're everything to me, Becky. I don't know where I'd be without you. I don't say it often enough, not even half often enough, but I love you, with all my heart."

Her eyes seemed full of tears for a moment but she blinked them quickly away. "You dope!" she said, on a quavering laugh, "I know that! Now, can we get going?" He nodded, smiling, and took her hand.

Then he led her out of the hotel room, down to the ballroom on the floor below, where two hundred guests, including 4 children, 9 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren waited to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary with them.