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The Guest List by Lucy Foley Read Online (FREE)

Back at the Folly, I carry a tray of champagne flutes through to the dining room, ready for this evening’s drinks. As I open the door I see a couple sitting there on the sofa. It takes me a moment to realise that it’s the bride and another man: one of the couple that Mattie brought across on the boat. The two of them are sitting very close together, their heads touching, talking in low voices. They don’t exactly spring apart on noticing my entrance, but they do move a few inches away from one another. And she takes her hand off his knee.

‘Aoife,’ the bride calls out. ‘This is Charlie.’

I remember his name from the list. ‘Our MC for tomorrow, I believe?’ I say.

He coughs. ‘Yes, that’s me.’

‘Sure, and your wife’s Hannah, isn’t she?’

‘Yes,’ he says. ‘Good memory!’

‘We were going through Charlie’s duties for tomorrow,’ the bride tells me.

‘Of course,’ I say. ‘Good.’ I wonder why she felt the need to explain anything to me. They looked rather cosy together on the sofa but I’m not here to cast any moral judgement upon my clients, or even to have likes and dislikes, to have opinions on things. That isn’t how this sort of thing works. Freddy and I, if everything goes well, should simply fade into the background. We will only stand out if things go wrong, and I shall take care to ensure they will not. The bride and groom and their nearest and dearest should feel that this place is theirs, really, that they are the hosts. We are merely here to facilitate everything, to ensure that the whole weekend runs smoothly. But to do that I can’t be completely passive. It is the strange tension of my role. I’ll have to keep an eye on all of them, watch for any threatening developments. I will have to try and stay one step ahead.

 

NOW
The wedding night
The sound of the scream rings in the air after it has finished, like a struck glass. The guests are frozen in its wake. They are looking, all of them, out of the marquee and into the roaring darkness from where it came. The lights flicker, threatening another blackout.

Then a girl stumbles into the marquee. Her white shirt marks her out as a waitress. But her face is a wild animal’s, her eyes huge and dark, her hair tangled. She stands there in front of them, staring. She does not appear to blink.

Finally a woman approaches her, not one of the guests. It is the wedding planner. ‘What is it?’ she asks gently. ‘What’s happened?’

The girl doesn’t answer. It seems to the guests that all they can hear is her breathing. There is something animal about that too: rough and hoarse.

The wedding planner steps towards her, places a tentative hand on her shoulder. The girl doesn’t react. The guests are transfixed, rooted to the spot. Some of them vaguely remember this girl from earlier. She was one of many who smilingly handed them their starters and main courses and desserts. She cleared their plates and refreshed their wine glasses, pouring expertly, her red ponytail bobbing smartly with every step, her shirt white and clean and crisp. Some of them recall her gentle singsong accent: could she top them up, could she get them anything more? Otherwise she was, for want of a better expression, part of the furniture. Part of the well-oiled machinery of the day. Less worthy of proper notice, really, than the chic arrangements of greenery, the wavering flames atop the silver candlesticks.