The maid ducked back through the open window, this time pulling the chair with her, and placed the heavy object in the space indicated by Mrs. Winters: a space made by the guests, in between Geoffrey Winters at the head and Joshua Newton. Some of them were grumbling, forgetting about their characters for a minute, about the loss of elbowroom, but most seemed to keep quiet, even if they did blame Azura Peterson for arriving out of place.
“Now, if there are no more…interruptions.” Mr. Winters stood up, giving a reproachful glance in his wife’s direction. “We can begin.”
He picked up the cylindrical champagne glass once more, and a fork, and tapped them both together so that the small building was filled with the tinny and softly melodic ‘ting’ of steel touching glass.
Alexandra thought this a rather odd turn of physics as, for one thing, the room was too small to reflect sound off the walls as an echo and, for another thing, there were too many cushions and curtains for sound to resonate far; the place was all too full of sound absorbers.
Nevertheless, what Alexandra remembered as the solution was that there was also the big bathroom, and the veil-covered double bed. The maid may not have been thought as wise as her love, but Alexandra had a fair amount of logical knowledge, even when her father had only been as lowly a butler, and her mother an uneducated maid, as herself.
Luckily none of the guests noticed the inconsistency or came to any sort of conclusion. As it wasn’t their home, it wasn’t in their minds to think of such placement confusions.
“I’m very gladdened to see you all could make it, and very pleased to welcome you to our lovely abode. No doubt, by now, you are all becoming greatly acquainted. I don’t think any of you’ve met before, especially not in so strange a circumstance as this, so feel free to chitchat over the course of the afternoon. Of course, my wife has reminded me that we don’t want anything to get in the way of the story…and I’d advise that you follow her rules. As we all know, my darling Annabelle will get want she wants!
“You may also have noticed our…surprise guest, the honourable Ms. Azura Peterson. Lovely for you to be here, ma’am, and as for the disagreement, well, it can be sorted simply. Miss Glass was the certain one invited, I believe, but being the actress, I think it only fair that you are the one to play the part of the mother character. After all, you know what it is truly like; you did bring your sons. No point in leaving the boys out, you see.”
Cynthia flushed pink with anger, about to stand, but Joshua quickly placed a strong hand onto the girl’s wrist, more forcefully, perhaps, than someone in a relationship like theirs would have done in prior circumstances. Alexandra narrowed her eyes at the action; not only did she disagree with the idea of men forcing their wives to go behind their ideas, ‘puppy-dogging’, but the movement only saved to heighten her curiosity.
As for Mr. Winters’ comment, Alexandra was sure that its logic did not quite follow through. In what circumstance would the young boys participate when, clearly, Mr. Newton was still going to keep his part, by design and by his own stubborn ways? He wasn’t there throwing up his hands in despair, and his words of comfort to Cynthia seemed to be dotted with relief at not losing his own place.
“I do suppose you all know what it is that you are about to participate in. My dear wife-” Here he sweetly indicated Mrs. Winters, as though no one would have known who she was before. “-My dear wife is in the habit of reading murder mystery novels, and hosting fancy dinner parties. Imagine my surprise when she told me she wanted to combine the two!”
Here he stopped to let the group laugh, a move he had dearly anticipated, and orchestrated wordlessly.
“But, of course, I have to grant my lady’s request, and so here we all are. Now, I don’t know how this will turn out, but perhaps I should let my wife take command of you…”
Mrs. Winters gave a flowery giggle and sprang up, joining her husband.
“Geoffrey! Yes, as my husband has rightly pointed out, this-” she gestured round, “-is all my doing. I have set up something of a grisly murder…or two.
“You have each been assigned a character- with the exception of Cynthia, who, I suppose, will be the role of an observer, and ‘unnamed guest’- and that character has a personality, background and role in our story, which has been carefully created by myself. Some of you, as you will have seen, have the… um, misfortune of being casualties in our performance.”
She means that they die, then? commented Alexandra.
“Don’t worry; it’s not your fault, but mine, friends.” At this comment, those gathered laughed again. They were eating out of the couple’s hands, and fully accepting their plans.
“You, hopefully, will have understood my intentions in order to act out said troubles. If not, and if it is the matter that you are unsure what move to make, well…improvise.” Here Mrs. Winters gave a rough and rather nervous laugh, making Alexandra wonder whether the lady had thought the whole of it through before jumping.
“But that’s enough said for now. I could talk all day, but, of course, we are busy people, who don’t have the freedom to lark about for eternity. I’m sure you all have other people and places to get back to…
“That is, if you ever get back…” Mrs. Winters finally concluded her speech with a wicked smile. There were smiles all around the table too, albeit some were a little worried by their host’s words.