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The Guest List by Lucy Foley Read Online (FREE)

He knew exactly what he was doing: making it harder for me to get my own version of the truth out. And he’d also banked on me being too pathetic to say anything to Jules, too scared that she wouldn’t believe anything I said.

He was right.

 

HANNAH
The Plus-One
There was something weird about Will’s speech just now. Something that felt strangely familiar, a sense of déjà vu. I can’t quite put my finger on it but while everyone around me cheered and clapped I was left with an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

‘Here we go,’ I hear someone at the table whisper, ‘is everyone ready for the main event?’

Charlie’s not on my table. He’s on the top table, right there at Jules’s left elbow. It makes sense, I suppose: I’m not one of the wedding party after all, while Charlie is. But everywhere else husbands and wives seem to be seated next to one another. It occurs to me that I have barely seen Charlie since this morning, and then only outside at the drinks – which somehow made me feel more disconnected from him than if we hadn’t seen one another at all. In the space of a mere twenty-four hours, it feels as though a gulf has opened up between us.

The guests sitting near me have done a poll on how long the best man’s speech is going to last. Fifty quid for a bet, so I declined. They’ve also designated our table ‘the naughty table’. There’s a manic, intense feeling around it. They’re like children who have been cooped up for too long. Over the last hour or so they’ve knocked back at least a bottle and a half each. Peter Ramsay, who’s sitting on the other side of me – has been speaking so quickly that it’s starting to make me feel dizzy. This might have something to do with the crusting of white powder around one of his nostrils; it’s everything I can do not to lean over and dash it off with the corner of my napkin.

Charlie rises to his feet, resuming his MC role, taking the mic from Will. I find myself watching him carefully for any sign that he might have had too much to drink. Is his face drooping slightly in that tell-tale way? Is he a little unsteady on his feet?

‘And now,’ he says, but there’s a scream of feedback as people – especially the ushers, I notice – groan and jeer and cover their ears. Charlie flushes. I cringe inwardly for him. He tries again: ‘And now … it’s time for the best man. Everyone give a big hand for Jonathan Briggs.’

‘Be kind, Johnno!’ Will shouts, hands cupped around his mouth. He gives a wry smile, a pantomime wince. Everyone laughs.

I always find the best man’s speech hard to watch. There’s so much expectation. There’s that tiny, hair-thin line between being too vanilla and causing offence. Better, surely, to stay on the PC side of it than to try and nail it completely. I get the impression Johnno’s not the sort to worry about offending anyone.