The writing assignment was to take something true and develop a fictional piece from it. In this case, the only true thing is the soup being spilled at Grantley Hall. haha.
The night was young in Grantley Hall. The candles still tall, the first bottles of wine only half empty, so the gentlemen in the surrounding tables were still sober and the ladies were still acting like ladies. I stared at the empty seat in front of me. It had been ten minutes.
“Should I bring your starter now, or would you like to wait?” the server asked, gesturing toward the vacant chair.
“I’ll wait another minute or two, please.” I said.
I continued to distract myself from her lengthy absence by eavesdropping on conversations I heard in murmurs among the tinkling of cutlery touching dinner plates and crystal glasses clinking in early toasts to everything from friendship to business to one brazen celebration of someone’s recent plastic surgery.
I was beginning to wonder if I should go look for her, when she slid back into her seat in a rush of bright pink; her silk scarf creating its own breeze.
“Sorry that took so long,” she said. “I could not get my lipstick right.”
I looked up to see tiny magenta rivers in the lines around her mouth.
“All better now?” I asked, reaching to be polite.
“You tell me.” She beamed, eternally pleased with herself. She had lived in infinite worship of her own existence—always needing to be the centre of attention. On my wedding day, she insisted on wearing white, despite every obvious hint I’d deliver by way of links to more appropriate dresses for a mother of the groom. Bryan finally had to speak with her directly on the matter, and you would have thought she were being showered with arrows.
She wore white anyway.
She took a sip of her Bordeaux, commented on the notes of fig and black cherry and buttered a pinch of bread. “Damn the French and their wonderful wine.” She sighed. I watched her through narrowed eyes. The way every move was polished to a shine. She could glide through a meal, a conversation, even a lion’s den with a sort of confidence I’d never been able to muster for myself—something she’d held against me since the day we met. “Are you sure, Bryan?” I’d overheard her whispering around the corner the night before our wedding “I’ve known mice to have more … presence. Truly. You could marry a door and have a more interesting wife.”
It took five years of marriage, but she finally got through to him. Her endless comments on the weight gain of pregnancy or the way motherhood siphoned off some of some of his attention hit their intended mark. She pointed to any and everything, poisoning Bryan against me one snide remark at a time, until he finally confronted me with divorce. The next thing I knew, I was sitting at a table in the most exclusive restaurant in Yorkshire, waiting for her to delineate her terms for our dissolution. She couldn’t have me getting too close to the family fortune.
“Martha, I have no interest in taking anything beyond what the children will be entitled to.” It was abrupt, but I couldn’t drag myself through five courses before addressing the real reason we were there. “I’m not going to rob him blind, but to write us off as if we’re not deserving of anything is absurd.”
“Of course, darling.” She said “We will set aside a small trust for your girls.” My girls. “A nest egg to get them started. I wouldn’t dream of —“
She was interrupted by the server returning with a large tray. “Your white onion soup.” He said, placing the beautifully plated dish in front of me with white gloves. He then reached for Martha’s King Prawns, and tilted the tray just so, sending the salt shaker for a ride. It landed perfectly in my soup bowl.
I gasped, my eyes wide with shock as I quickly surveyed my dress and handbag. The server, himself, was gasping too, frantically enlisting help to whisk away any evidence of his clumsy mistake. “Oh my God, I’m absolutely mortified! Are you alright? Please, inspect your clothing, I’m happy to have anything dry cleaned or replaced.” He and his staff were snatching linens, glasses, and even candles spattered with soup. I looked myself over and smiled “It was almost like a magic trick!” I said. “I don’t have a drop on me. You couldn’t do that again if you tried.”
I looked up to see my mother in law, wiping soup from her scarf and out of her hair. “Yes, well, it seems to a have bathed me in a tidal wave of pureed onion” she said in laboured breath.
I looked a bit closer “Martha? Martha are you alright?”
Martha looked up, eyes swollen and wet with tears. Pink patches were blooming over her face and neck. She began struggling for another breath, managing one final question “Did that … soup … have … nutmeg in it?”