short story – romance

The Perfect Dinner Party

Ten minutes until my guests arrive. I’m excited as it will be the first time in around 6 months that Elle, Katie, Dave and I are all together. We used to hang out all the time at school. I am the only one who still keeps in touch with them all. Dave and Katie were seeing each other romantically until two months ago, but they still get on really well. Dave is bringing his mate Rob, who is gorgeous. I have put on my little black number and swept my uncontrollable dark hair into a pony tail to impress him. I haven’t seen Elle for a while as she has been doing charity work in Africa. She is bringing her new boyfriend, Nigel.
My flat looks uncharacteristically tidy, you could eat your dinner off the kitchen floor. Only one disaster so far and that is the catch on the oven door no longer works, so I have put a pot there to keep it shut. I take a bowl of cream out the fridge and start to whisk it. The doorbell startles me and I drop the bowl on the floor the cream goes everywhere, including all down the front of my dress.
I grab a tea towel and attempt to wipe the cream off my front. I light the burner under the sauce and rush to the front door. It’s Katie. Her long brown hair looks wind blown and her face is pink and puffy.
‘Hi I’m sorry I’m early it’s just……’ To my dismay she starts to cry. I usher her into my flat and she plonks herself down on my sofa. Used tissues issue from her pocket on to the floor. I resist the temptation to hand them back to her.
‘Whatever is the matter?’
‘Oh it’s horrible….’
‘Let me get you some wine.’ I rush into the kitchen skidding on the cream. Grabbing a bottle and a glass I rush back to my friend and pour her a generous helping. To my surprise she downs it in one.
‘ Oh I needed that….it’s Dave, he’s found someone else.’ I am stunned.
‘He met her last weekend, I found out an hour ago. I came straight here. I don’t know if I can face him.’
‘You do know he’s coming tonight?’ I am beginning to fret, especially as Katie is pouring herself another glass of wine.
‘Oh God, is he? I better tidy myself up. He’s not bringing her is he?’
‘No Katie I’m sure he wouldn’t be that insensitive.’ The smoke detector vies for my attention. My stomach lurches as I realise that the sauce is probably ruined. I notice the footprints of cream on my dark red carpet as I go to salvage the sauce. Katie goes to my bathroom to tidy herself up. The sauce is burnt to the pan, so I tip it into the sink.
The doorbell rings and I hear Katie rush to the door. I haven’t had a chance to change and so quickly put on my apron over the top of my dress to hide the stain. It’s too bad I didn’t think to put it on in the first place. I run a damp cloth over the floor to pick up most of the cream. As I emerge into the living room an awkward silence lurks in the air. Rob is standing by the door, looking gorgeous, but my attention is on Dave who is hugging a rather striking blond in a non existent skirt. They are so ‘together’ they are like siamese twins. Katie is as white as a sheet.
‘Hey great to see you.’ I sound hysterical. I hug Dave and Rob and Dave introduces me to Amy.
‘Great to meet you. This is Katie and I’m Lucy. Sorry I didn’t know you were coming.’ I try to glare at Dave without Amy seeing.
‘I knew you’d be fine with it Luce. You’re always so laid back.’ Dave gives me an impish grin. It’s a shame his charm doesn’t look like it will work on Katie. I direct them to the sofa.
‘Katie do you mind getting them some drinks?’ I ask. Katie stomps out the room. The doorbell rings again. Thank God Elle has arrived she will know what to do.
‘ Hi Elle. You must be Nigel?’ Nigel smiles wanly and shakes my hand. He is rather large with a bright red nose and a receding hairline. Not normally the physique that Elle goes for. Elle on the other hand is looking almost anorexic. Her blond hair hangs lankly around her face and her skin is pallid.
‘My God Elle you look like you’ve lost a lot of weight.’ Elle beams as though I have complimented her.
‘Oh yes well it’s Nigel whose to blame,’ she giggles and squeezes his hand ‘I’ve joined him in becoming a vegan.’
‘Really?’ I smile, my mind wandering to the leg of lamb spitting in the oven. Katie weaves into the room and starts handing out drinks to everyone. I suspect that from the state of her she has downed a couple more glasses in the kitchen. Elle narrows her eyes and glares at Dave, who is drooling over Amy on the sofa. Dave smiles smugly.
‘Hello Elle, gracing us with your presence tonight? Did you do lots of good in Africa?’ he quips.
‘Yes thank you Dave.’ she says stiffly ‘I take it you’ve not done anything of any use since the last time I saw you?’ Dave goes pale. Nigel looks confused by Elle’s tone, and pulls her protectively towards him. Rob is standing in a corner looking uncomfortable and Katie is slumped in a chair.
I decide to make a quick escape and find something veganish in the fridge. Salad is the answer, with a dressing. Katie has smashed a glass and just left it on the sideboard. Red wine is dripping down the front of my newly cleaned cabinets. I raid the cupboard for ingredients to make a salad dressing and light the burner under the vegetables. I feel quite proud of myself that I am not daunted by the fact vegans have turned up unexpectedly. Katie staggers into the kitchen with an empty bottle. Wordlessly she starts to open another one. I try to distract her from drinking more.
‘ Katie do you mind getting the cheese out the fridge for me?’ Katie grunts and pulls open the door. As she rummages in the fridge there is an almighty crash as she sends a rather beautifully made sherry trifle crashing to the floor. Elle comes in to find out the cause of the commotion.
‘Lucy what on earth are you playing at inviting that tart? tilting her head in the direction of the living room. ‘Look at poor Katie.’
‘I didn’t’ I hiss ‘You know Dave…’
‘Yes I do, better than you know, and I’ll jolly well sort him out’
‘Leave it please’ I beg but she has already supported Katie out into the living room. I survey the disaster that is my kitchen, deciding what I can salvage. I cast my mind to next room to the two vegans I can’t feed, my friend on the edge and two people effectively eating each other. Isn’t cannibalism bad for you? I optimistically listen for the sound of playful banter, it’s far too quiet for my liking.
As I turn to scoop up the trifle I hear the kitchen door open.
‘Can I help at all?’ I feel flustered, I really didn’t want Rob to come into the kitchen and see it like this.
‘ No thanks’ I reply sounding hysterical ‘I seem to be mucking everything up quite well on my own.’ I turn to see him leaning against the washing machine. He has dark brown tousled hair, and he looks like a knight in an incredibly flattering white v neck sweater. God he makes my kitchen look good. He ignores my refusal of help, bending down beside me to clear up the trifle
‘I’ll do this, you serve up.’ It takes a while for this to filter through as I am bowled over by his terrific smelling aftershave. There is still no noise from next door, no chatting or laughing and my stomach churns. I carve the lamb, place the vegetables into a fancy dish and throw together the salad, pouring the dressing generously all over it. I’m feeling confident again as I call my friends to the table to eat. I set down my medley of dishes with pride and ask people to help themselves.
‘Oh darling it looks wonderful’ Elle gushes appreciatively as she takes a seat in between Nigel and Katie. Amy and Dave sit opposite them leaving Rob and myself at the ends. Dave is straight in there filling his plate
‘Great grub Luce.’ Amy puts a couple of carrots on her plate and waits for everyone else to start. Rob fills his plate and beams at me across the table. Elle and Nigel make no move to serve themselves.
‘Sorry darling, but what are we supposed to be eating?’ Elle is always the epitome of politeness.
‘Well there’s the salad and the vegetables, is there a problem?’
‘Can I ask what is in the salad dressing’ Nigel asks politely.
‘Yes, there’s olive oil,a hint of mustard, some eggs…..’ The blood drains from my face as Nigel sighs.
‘ Oh I’m so sorry, I didn’t think. Look I can wash it off the salad.’ I go to pick up the salad
‘ Don’t be so ridiculous, it’s tainted now. Elle and I couldn’t possibly eat it’
‘Oh I don’t know Nige, why not be adventurous? I like a bit of tender meat. You should try it.’ laughs Dave, brushing his hand against Amy’s left breast. Amy giggles.
‘Oh for God’s sake Dave, please. Could you be more insensitive?’ Elle chides nodding in Katie’s direction. Katie is staring with unfocused eyes at the pale cream wall as though it is the most fascinating thing she has ever seen. She is oblivious of Elle’s attempts to protect her.
‘Is it Katie or you that you’re upset for, Elle?’ retorts Dave ‘At least I’m not bloody rude and forget to tell Luce that I can’t eat anything she’s spent the day cooking. You stuck up hippy.’
‘How dare you speak to Elle like that,’ Nigel leaps to his feet slamming his hands on the table.’You’re the one that’s rude bringing that trollop with you!’ Amy shrieks, grabs her wine and throws it over Nigel.
‘Dave, we’re leaving!’ she grabs her handbag and totters towards the door.
‘Please calm down, please…’ I plead. Dave looks at me angrily.
‘Sorry Luce, I’m not having Amy spoken to like that, we’re going I’ll phone you tomorrow.’ He follows Amy slamming the door behind him
‘Oh God I’m going to be sick.’ chokes Katie. She bolts for the bathroom pulling the table cloth with her as she goes, sending an avalanche of food and plates crashing to the floor. Elle rushes after her leaving Nigel standing looking appalled at the destruction around him.
‘I’m so sorry Nigel, can I get you a glass of wine.’ I ask in a desperate attempt to salvage the evening. He shakes his head and looks over to the bathroom door where Elle is supporting a green-looking Katie.
‘I think we’ll take Katie home’ says Elle. She pushes Katie towards Nigel who takes her by the arm and escorts her out of the flat.
‘I think it’s best if we get together another time. I’ll call you tomorrow. I’m sorry Lucy.’ I reassure her that everything’s fine and ask her to say goodbye to Nigel and Katie.
I slump down on my sofa, head in my hands.
‘Are you okay?’ I jump, I had forgotten Rob is still here. I shake my head miserably. He sits down next to me and puts his arm round me.
‘It’s probably best if you go’ I sigh.
‘What? And leave you with this mess to clean? I don’t think so.’
‘You really don’t have to help you know.’
‘I know, but I thought once we had tidied up we could get a takeaway.’
‘Really? that would be great.’
We order some food and whilst we wait for it to arrive we scrape the dinner off the carpet and sponge it down and I then head into the kitchen to start the washing up.
‘Food’s here! Leave the washing up Lucy. I’ll help you with it tomorrow morning’
We sit on the floor eating Chinese food out of the foil containers, chatting and laughing together. Rob has put on my favourite jazz cd in the background and I am beginning to relax.
‘You look better than you did an hour ago’ notes Rob taking my hand
‘I am, I don’t think I’ll be holding a dinner party again for some time.’
‘Oh I don’t know, if it had gone any differently we wouldn’t be here like this. As far as I’m concerned it was the perfect dinner party.’ and with that he pulls me into his arms.


~ by envisioningutopia on September 22, 2011.

One Response to “short story – romance”

  1. hey karen, brill short story! loved it and i knew she would get rob in the end!

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