My writing class was asked to choose favourite books and write something in a similar genre. I love E F Benson's Lucia books. This is my attempt!
Candles spluttered, releasing a subtle beeswax smell. Their gentle, warming light enhancing the beauty of antique cut glass wine glasses and reflecting off the highly polished silver cutlery. A vase containing the most exquisite roses held centre stage on the table and the handmade Belgian lace tablecloth completed the perfection.
‘Oh my!’ breathed Alessandria. ‘Sweetheart, do come and look. See if I’ve missed anything.’
‘Alice, what is it now? I’m not ready and the guests will be here soon.’
‘Thomas,’ pronounced with a slight Italian edge, ‘I have asked you not to call me Alice, so common. Please, I want your opinion.’
Tom hobbled into the dining room, trying to get his shoe on and button his shirt at the same time.
‘Darling, that tie is awful, what will they think if you wear that? Wear that Italian silk one I bought you for Christmas, so tasteful, and it is obviously very expensive but not in your face expensive. Now what do you think of the table? Perfect or what?’
‘It’s lovely but did you really have to go to so much trouble?’
She raised her perfectly plucked eyebrows, gave a very meaningful sigh and turned back to the table flicking off a miniscule dust mote.
‘Don’t forget the music, I’ve chosen some tasteful pieces that won’t interfere with the conversation. I did think to invite that young cellist from the music school, you know the one we met in Waitrose, but she was otherwise engaged. Don’t put it on too loud. I know you prefer that moaning Blues stuff but that won’t give a good impression, will it?’ She turned blowing a kiss to placate him.
Alice and Tom’s first dinner party in their new home, and Alice felt that it was a make or break occasion. The designer dress had come from a small boutique in the neighbouring town, the diamond earrings had been left to her by her granny and the shoes, the killer heels she could just manage, were Jimmy Choos. But she knew that this was not enough, her guests would be all eyes and ears, waiting for the slightest wrong move or nuance.
The door bell rang, not anything common, but the opening bars of The Grand March from Aida.
‘Do you remember Tom, sitting under the stars in the theatre in Verona and being enchanted by the music. We must tell our guests.’
‘Julia! So pleased you could come, and this must be Carlo. From Naples? Such a beautiful city, and what a history. Do you have any connection with the Mafia Carlo? But I do suspect you are much too young! Champagne? Or, and I recommend this, a martini. Thomas has perfected the recipe. Added a secret ingredient. Champagne is so passé don’t you think? ’
Julia was top of her list of people to impress, or to outdo. She was one of the great and good of the area, on all sorts of committees and fund raising groups for the underprivileged. Even rumoured to be next lord mayor.
‘Let me show you round. Thomas show Carlo your boy’s room. He’s just managed to acquire an old juke box, in perfect working order. Too retro for me but he loves it, don’t you darling. Boys will be boys won’t they Julia? He insisted on having a place where he could escape. Not from me I hasten to add. We’ll start in the orangery. Do you remember that pokey conservatory this house used to have? We employed a top notch architect, he did Lord O’Neil’s barn conversion, all the timbers best quality oak, bespoke of course. We’ve even managed to grow a pineapple. I wrote to Monty Don asking his advice and the lovely man was so helpful. Asked for photos should it fruit.’
Julia was given little chance to reply as Alice continued her guided tour. Pointing out little gems on route.
‘I do like the under stated don’t you? Thomas was all for having a crystal chandelier in the morning room. My choice is discreet, hidden lighting works so much better. I must show you our piece de resistance. Our last holiday to Verona, the opera of course, but also a visit to the flea market. And we found this, on the tattiest stall imaginable.’ She waited for a reaction from Julia who looked slightly nonplussed. Pointing to a tiny picture on the wall, ‘An Andy Warhole. The dealer didn’t have a clue. We got it for a song. And the rug, I need hardly tell you dear, it is hand knotted imported directly from Afghanistan. Don’t you think the colours are exquisite?’
‘Charming,’ Julia was allowed to breath.
A sweet tinkling sounded
‘Our entree is ready, shall we? I’ve hired a butler for the evening. I didn’t want to miss any time with my dear guests. Obviously the planning and cooking of the meal is down to me. You can’t always trust staff to get such important things right can you?’
The evening went, much as Alessandria had planned, beautiful food ( prepared by a professional chef and not by Alice. She felt that telling such a small lie was not wrong), sparkling conversation, much supplied by herself, and a guest who seemed to be thoroughly impressed, and in awe of her.
‘Thomas, mio caro, didn’t that go well? I think my rightful place in our little community is settled.’
‘If you say so. Can we go to bed now please?’