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06/10/2011

Smooth Operator

 

She had taken a lot of time and troublover this evening.  The party was, after all, marking a milestone in her marriage.
Her hair and nails were freshly done.  She wanted to look her best, though David only complimented her when he really had to.

 

It had been convenient for her that David had stayed at the conference for dinner, as she’d been able to put all the
clean glasses and china ready on the dining room table she’d explained when he got in.

 

Then she’d shown him the food:  dishes stacked in the huge fridge and piled on the worktop in the utility room, everything home made.  David had told her to get a selection of stuff from M&S when she was at her most ‘neurotic’ – as he called it – about the party but she wouldn’t hear of it.  She didn’t want people to think that she was a lazy hostess.   Never once in all the years of hosting business dinners for David’s colleagues had she succumbed to shop bought food.

 

Today there had been only the salad stuff to get ready and the three hot dishes to cook and put on the warmers in the centre of the table; plus the flowers to arrange, of course.

 

Her love of flowers was obvious.   From the white lilies in the silver vase on the hall table, through the sitting room where yellow roses stood on low tables between the cream sofas and on into the enormous new conservatory filled with gardenias and freesias, guests were guided through the beautiful house on a perfumed trail.

 

She’d dressed extra carefully.  This was a special occasion for her: David’s and her silver wedding party.  David had bought her a silver necklace from a Bond Street jeweller when he’d been in London for the meeting with the new American owners of the firm last month.   He’d agonised over his choice.

 

With the necklace she wore a turquoise silk maxi dress, hooped silver earrings bought during their holiday in Rajasthan and silver high heeled sandals.    David had told her that he didn’t want to know how much the designer dress had cost.  He just wanted this to be a special evening to make up for being away so much.

 

By the time the party had been going for an hour, she was no longer able to greet each new arrival and was, instead, moving
from group to group and room to room, her quick eyes trying to check that all was well but it was getting more and more difficult to see through the crowd.  She’d have to trust that everything was as it should be.

 

The rooms were getting warm and she openedthe sitting room’s patio doors onto the terrace.  The smell of lavender and nicotiana drifted in from the huge urns each side of the doors.  There was a small area outside the kitchen door for guests to use if
they wanted to smoke but no-one would feel comfortable screwing a cigarette butt into the urns or onto her York Stone.

 

Someone – probably David – had just turned the music up.  She’d asked him to put together a suitable selection.  Nothing
too loud: lots of smoky, jazzy stuff:   Adele, Michael Bolton, Sade…  She could always rely on him to do as she asked.  Or so she thought.

 

Sade’s voice floated across the room.  David tapped her on the shoulder, she turned, he took her in his arms and they began to dance.  A space cleared around them and they had their twenty five year equivalent of a ‘first dance’ to Sade’s track ‘My Love is King.’

 

I let them dance.  I knew, though they didn’t, that this was almost certainly their final dance as husband and wife.  The song approached its climax and I slowly worked my way forward through the crowd and stepped out of the shadows as the
dance brought David round to face me.

 

The colour drained from his face and he mouthed “No.  Please.”   But it would make no difference.  They thought tonight was their time.   But they’d had twenty five years.  Now it was my turn.  I’d not been invited to this
party, though I’d heard so much about it over the past days and weeks.

 

I stepped further forward and said, “Can I have everyone’s attention please?”

 

They moved apart, she turned round.  I could see her thinking, ‘who’s she?’  She didn’t know me.  He knew me, though, knew me very well, had known me for years, though I’d never intruded on his home life before.    But to her I was just an uninvited guest.   She had no idea what I was going to say.

 

The music ended but as the murmur of conversation died and I opened my mouth to change our lives forever, Sade’s
voice cut across the momentary silence as she launched into her most famous song ‘Smooth Operator.’

 

Sherrian Guest

Date: 06/06/2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From → Fiction

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