There was extra sugar frosting on the cupcake and a dash of vanilla extract. Just as he liked it.
She poured out another glass of wine and helped herself to it, choosing to ignore the bitter aftertaste.
For the first time in her life, Miss Turple found herself at a loss for words.
It wasn’t like she’d known what to expect when the invitation was slipped under her door. That was suspicious in itself because she hadn’t even got around to unpacking all her shoes yet, let alone socialising with people who could afford gold trimmed envelopes. There was no name or address mentioned that she could write back to either. Just the time she would be picked up. The presumptuousness didn’t sit right with her but curiosity won. It was the first time she was living away from Mrs Turple’s hawk eyes, and the key to the case of the secret invite would be at the party.
So she’d put aside all reservations, put on her new dress and had waited by the river front as told. She hadn’t asked any questions either when Mr Top Hat showed up in a boat and gestured for her to step in. She even bared the eternity long boat ride quietly without letting loose the thousand and one unladylike quips hanging off the tip of her tongue. But when Mr Alarmingly-Silent-Top-Hat-Man led her to her destination, she couldn’t stay mum any longer.
Except she didn’t know what to say.
“I loved your piece in the press. The poem about the little animals. It warmed my heart.” Mrs Exotic-Feathers-Number-2 said before she drifted off to listen to Mr Burgundy Ascot’s caterwauling.
“It was about children, not animals.” Miss Turple mumbled to nobody in particular. At least that explained how they found her. The press had demanded she skip out on the pseudonym. In retrospect, she should’ve insisted on the confidentiality, but she quite enjoyed the flattering recognition she was receiving now. The chatter of the guests had momentarily died when she stepped into the… she couldn’t find a word to describe the place. Whispers had started up in that fraction that conversation had taken to regain traction. Clearly this was a crowd who knew of her writing.
Another Mr Top Hat came up to her to congratulate her on the marvelous work she’d done on Itsy Bitsy.
“It was a splendid plot. It’s such a shame that the production house cancelled on it.”
“Yes, they couldn’t find the right actor for the little girl.”
Mrs Pince-nez and Mr Pinstripe stopped to gush all over the Pansy True.
“What a bright, powerful, empowered character you’ve created. It would be heart-breaking if anything ever happened to her.” So Miss Turple safely excused herself without mentioning the climax of her sequel Her Witness. She looked around the open air, reader’s ball or ORB as she decided to call it. The people present were downright outlandish. She didn’t get the memo about the fancy dress theme, but it seemed like everybody else did. There was a man in a ruff collar, a woman in mourning robes and a man in what looked suspiciously like a bed sheet trying to be a toga.
She continued to look around the ORB trying to ignore the prickling on the back of her neck. Someone was watching her every move. She tried to appear casual in her actions as she raised her glass to her lips and subtly tracked the source of the intense stare. Her gaze fell on the man in the bow-tie by the pier who looked away almost immediately. The perpetrator was found. Miss Turple picked up another glass of gin from a passing waiter and made her way to Mr Bow-Tie.
“You should not have come.” He said bluntly as he accepted the gin.
“There’s still time,” he said looking around, “you can make a run for it. Take the boat and scamper.”
“Why would I do that?” she demanded. The sun hadn’t even begun to set. Even by Mrs Turple’s standards, it was far too early.
“Because,” he said, turning away from the gathering to face her, “they want you to join the society.”
Miss Turple looked at him like he’d gone mad, but the look on his face suggested that she was the crazy one.
“What society? Why shouldn’t I join?” Mr Bow-Tie cocked his head to a side, assessing her fully.
“Well, Miss Turple, this is the Dead Poets’ Society and for your contribution to literature, you’re being recruited. Naturally, dying is the only way of joining.”
Maggie likes to ask me about how everything broke down.
She does that a lot. The last time she asked me I took away her ice cream privileges. So she’s been moping about and goose stepping around the kitchen. She hasn’t figured out how to open the freezer without making a sound though and that gets her busted. I don’t think she ever will, but I finished all the mint chocolate chip anyway.
And now she’s calling her brother and demanding he take her out (to buy ice cream).
He isn’t telling her anything either. He’s dropped by three times in the twelve weeks since. I paid him for the damages the second time around. Maggie’s eyes bugged out when she saw me empty my wallet. I didn’t mention to her what it was for or that it covered less than a tenth of it.
I haven’t told her anything at all.
And so Maggie’s brother, because that’s who he is now – Maggie’s brother, quietly pocketed it and we’ve gone back to pretending the other doesn’t exist.
She’s disgruntled with him. She slammed the phone down and is now taking the wine glass off the rack. She doesn’t know I finished all her cheap wine three nights ago. How could she. The crystal never left the rack and the bottles have rolled into a corner under my bed. They’ve probably been sucked into the black hole by now. Maggie says there’s one under her bed too. And the fridge. I can vouch for that one as well. Lost half the swear jar savings(read: rent) to it.
Maggie’s looking at me reproachfully now. She’s figured out where her stash went. I know what comes next. She’s going to ask me what happened again. And this time I can’t revoke her liquor privileges. So I’ve turned my back to her, pretending like I can’t hear her with my headphones on. But she isn’t asking. Instead she’s sitting down next to me and turning the telly on.
Whenever your’re ready you can talk to me about it, she’s saying silently. Maggie’s nice like that. She’s always patient with me. Always thinks the best of me. And that’s why Maggie won’t understand.
And that’s why Maggie can’t ever know.
Maggie can’t know her brother left it in my care. She can’t know I pushed the button and watched it swirl away.
She can’t know I said I lost it. She can’t know he didn’t believe me.
She can’t know the swear jar broke ’cause he threw it in a fit. She can’t know the wall’s chipped ’cause I threw a book and missed.
She can’t, because she doesn’t know what happened the one weekend she was away.
She can’t, because she doesn’t know it had happened every time she was away.