The Guest List by Lucy Foley Read Online (FREE)
I’m aware of things moving around us as we walk – too fast to see properly, caught momentarily by the weak light of the moon. Something flies so near to my face that I feel it brush the sensitive skin of my cheek. I jump back, put a hand up to fend it off. A bat? It was definitely too big to be an insect.
As we climb down into the cave a dark figure appears on the rock wall in front of us, human shaped. I almost drop the bottle in shock until, after a beat, I realise it is my own shadow.
This place is enough to make you believe in ghosts.
The wedding night
The four ushers have formed a search party. They take a first-aid kit. They take the big paraffin torches from the brackets at the entrance for illumination.
‘Right boys,’ Femi says. ‘Everyone ready?’
There has been a strange, fervent energy about their preparations, bordering on an inappropriate excitement. They might be scouts preparing for a mission, the schoolboys they once were on some midnight dare.
The other guests gather around silently watching the preparations, relieved that the thing has been taken out of their hands, that they are permitted to stay here in the light and warmth.
To those inside the marquee who watch them go, they look like medieval villagers on a witch hunt: the lighted torches, the fervour. The wind and the blackout have added to the sense of the surreal. The macabre discovery that supposedly lies in wait out there has taken on a fantastical dimension: not quite real. Besides, it’s difficult to know what to believe, whether they can really trust the word of a hysterical teenager. Some of them are still hoping that it has all just been a terrible misunderstanding.
They watch, silently, as the small group marches through the thrashing flaps of the marquee entrance. Out into the loud ragged night, into the storm, holding their torches aloft.
The day before
In the cave the sea has come in, so it’s practically lapping at our feet, the water black as ink. It makes the space feel smaller, more claustrophobic. Hannah and I have to sit nearer to each other than we did before, our knees touching, a candle we nicked from the drawing room perched on the rock in front of us in its glass lantern.
Now I understand why it’s called the Whispering Cave. The high water has changed the acoustics in here so that this time everything we say is whispered back to us, as though someone’s standing there in the shadows, repeating every word. It’s hard to believe there isn’t. I find myself turning to check, every so often, to make certain we’re alone.
I can’t make Hannah out all that well in the soft light of the candle. But I can hear her breathing, smell her perfume.
We pass the bottle of vodka between us. I’m already a bit drunk, I think, from dinner. I couldn’t eat much and the booze went straight to my head. But I need to be drunker to tell her, drunk enough that my brain can’t stop the words. Which seems silly, as recently I have been needing to tell someone about it so badly that sometimes I feel like it’s going to erupt out of me, without any warning. But now it has actually come down to it, I feel tongue-tied.