The Guest List by Lucy Foley Read Online (FREE)
Everyone already seems to have forgotten about Olivia’s crazy stunt; it could have happened on another day entirely. They are throwing back the wine, guzzling it down … growing increasingly loud and animated. The atmosphere of the day has been recaptured and is following its prescribed track. But I can’t forget. When I think about Olivia’s expression, about that pleading look in her eyes when she tried to speak, all the little hairs on the back of my neck prickle to attention.
The plates are cleared away, every one practically licked clean. Alcohol has given the guests a real hunger and Freddy is a great talent. I’ve been to so many weddings where I’ve had to force down mouthfuls of rubbery chicken breast, school canteen style vegetables. This was the most tender rack of lamb, velvet on the tongue, crushed potatoes scented with rosemary. It was perfect.
It’s time for the speeches. The waiters fan out about the room, carrying trays of Bollinger, ready for toasts. There’s a sourness in the pit of my stomach and the thought of yet more champagne makes me feel slightly queasy. I’ve drunk too much already, in an effort to match the bonhomie of my guests, and feel strange, untethered. The image of that dark cloud on the horizon during the reception drinks keeps playing upon my mind.
There’s the sound of a spoon on a glass: ding ding ding!
The chatter in the marquee subsides, replaced by an obedient hush. I feel the attention of the room shift. Faces swivel towards us, to the top table. The show is about to begin. I rearrange my expression into one of joyful anticipation.
Then the lights in the marquee shiver, going out. We are plunged into a twilit gloom that matches the fading light outside.
‘Apologies,’ calls Aoife, from the back of the marquee. ‘It’s the wind, outside. The electricity’s a bit temperamental here.’
Someone, one of the ushers, I think, lets out a long, lupine howl. And then others join in, until it sounds as though there is a whole pack of wolves in here. They’re all drunk by now, all getting looser and more wild. I want to scream at them all to shut up.
‘Will,’ I hiss, ‘can we ask them to stop?’
‘It’ll only encourage them,’ he says soothingly. His hand closes over mine. ‘I’m sure the lights will come on again in a second.’
Just when I think I can’t bear it any longer, that I really will scream, the lights flicker on again. The guests cheer.
Dad stands, first, to give his speech. Perhaps I should have banished him at the last minute as a punishment for his earlier behaviour. But that would look odd, wouldn’t it? And so much of this whole wedding business, I have realised, is about how things appear. As long as we can make it through with all seeming joyful, jubilant … well, perhaps then we can suppress any darker forces stirring beneath the surface of the day. I bet most people would guess that this wedding is all down to my dad’s generosity. Not quite.