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The Guest List by Lucy Foley Read Online (FREE)

‘So where did the idea for the show come from, Will?’ Hannah asks. I appreciate that she’s trying to move the conversation on, spare me any more humiliation.

‘Yeah,’ Femi says. ‘You know, I was wondering about that. Was it Survival?’

‘Survival?’ Hannah turns to him.

‘This game we used to play at school,’ Femi explains.

Duncan’s wife Georgina chips in: ‘Oh God. Duncan’s told me stories about it. Really awful stuff. He told me about boys being taken out of their beds at night, left in the middle of nowhere—’

‘Yeah, that’s what happened,’ Femi says. ‘They’d kidnap a younger boy from his bed and take him as far as they could away from the school, deep into the grounds.’

‘And we’re talking big grounds,’ Angus says. ‘And the middle of nowhere. Pitch-black. No light from anything.’

‘It sounds barbaric,’ Hannah says, her eyes wide.

‘It was a big tradition,’ Duncan says. ‘They’d been doing it for hundreds of years, since the start of the school.’

‘Will never had to do it, did you, mate?’ Femi turns to him.

Will holds up his hands. ‘No one ever came and got me.’

‘Yeah,’ Angus says, ‘because they were all shit-scared of your dad.’

‘The chap would have a blindfold on at the start,’ Angus says, turning to Hannah, ‘so he didn’t know where he was. Sometimes he’d even be tied to a tree, or a fence and had to get free. I remember when I did mine—’

‘You pissed yourself,’ Duncan finishes.

‘No I didn’t,’ Angus replies.

‘Yeah you did,’ Duncan says. ‘Don’t think we’ve forgotten that. Pisspants.’

Angus takes a gulp of wine. ‘Fine, well, loads of people did. It was fucking terrifying.’

I remember my Survival. Even though you knew it would happen at some point, nothing prepared you for when they actually came to get you.

‘The craziest thing is,’ Georgina says, ‘Duncan doesn’t seem to think it was a bad thing. She turns to him. ‘Do you, darling?’

‘It was the making of me,’ Duncan says.

I look over at Duncan who’s sitting there with his hands in his pockets and his chest thrown out, like he’s king of all he surveys, like he owns this place. And I wonder what it made him into, exactly.

I wonder what it made me into.

‘I suppose it was harmless,’ Georgina says, ‘it’s not like anyone died, is it?’ She gives a little laugh.

I remember waking up, hearing the whispers in the dark all around me. Hold his legs … you go for the head. Then how they laughed as they held me down and tied the blindfold round my eyes. Then voices. Whoops and cheers, maybe – but with the blindfold over my ears too they sounded like animals: howls and screeches. Out into the night air, freezing on my bare feet. Rattling fast over the uneven ground – a wheelbarrow I guess it was – for so long I thought we must have left the school grounds. Then they left me, in the woods. All alone. Nothing but the beat of my heart and the secret noises of the woods. Getting the blindfold off and finding it just as dark, no moon to see by. Tree branches scratching at my cheeks, trees so close it felt like there was no way between them, like they were pressing in on me. So cold, a metallic taste like blood at the back of my throat. Crackle of twigs beneath my bare feet. Walking for miles, in circles probably. The whole night, through the woods, until the dawn came.