Tall Story (part six) – Issue 12.1

The letterbox snapped shut as half a dozen items of mail hit Audrey and Richard’s doormat causing a flurry of dust to rise into the sunlight beaming through the frosted door window.  It was a perfect late-October morning, crisp and clear with not a cloud tainting the exuberant blue sky.
Audrey’s mood did not match the bright day.  Months of anxiety and soul-searching over the state of her relationship with Richard had been replaced with a much greater worry.  She recalled the visit a few days ago of Yvette Pestis, a rival literary agent and a woman with no scruples and no hint of self-doubt, claiming to have information regarding Richard.  He still hadn’t fully explained, to Audrey’s satisfaction at least, how and why he was involved with this woman, or how he’d received such an appalling injury to his hand, or why their babysitter, Alice would apparently want to kill herself.  Richard had stalled when Audrey had proposed a meeting with Alice, but Audrey’s patience was wearing thin and Richard’s evasion was proving increasingly irksome.
Audrey picked up the post and flicked quickly through the usual jumble of junk mail, separating two letters as she did so.  “Just the credit card statement and…er…Oh, what’s this?”
Audrey began opening a small, ornately-addressed envelope, no bigger than a postcard.  She pulled out a scalloped-edged card upon which was written in gold embossed lettering: Lord and Lady Chattering request the presence of Mr and Mrs Cooperman at their annual Fancy Dress Halloween Ball.  7.30pm, 31 October 2010.
“Well, well, well!  Look at this.”  Audrey passed the card to her husband.
Richard read it and immediately took a step backwards.  His face was ashen and he had to lean against the wall feigning nonchalance or he’d have surely collapsed.
“God!  Why on earth have we been invited to this?”  he managed to blurt out.
“Lord knows!  Maybe that blow to the head he took last week has addled his brain.  We’ve barely spoken to him in the last two years.  I know I saw him at that do the other week, the night Alice was taken to hospital, but I didn’t have much to do with him then.  Before that, it must have been about two years ago.”  Audrey thought for a moment.  “Yes, it was, when you published his book, the one that propelled him from the ‘C’ list to the outskirts of the aristocracy.  Do you remember?”
Richard paled even further.  “Yes, how could I forget?  Well, we can’t go to this.  I mean, there’ll be wall-to-wall Lords and Ladies for a start.  Not our kind of people at all.  Besides, he probably won‘t be up to it.  He just got out of hospital two days ago.”
“Nonsense!  He wouldn’t have sent out the invites if he wasn’t up to it, would he?  It’ll be fun!  Heaven knows, we could do with letting our hair down after the couple of weeks we’ve just had.”  Audrey waved the envelope in front of Richard’s face.  “See!  Mr and Mrs Cooperman it says.  Fedora obviously thinks we’ll fit in.  Hello, what’s this?”
A sliver of paper protruded from the open flap.  Audrey pulled it free, unfolded it and proceeded to read aloud: “I do hope you’ll come to my little soiree, especially you, Richard.  I owe you so much and I feel it’s time you were repaid.”  Audrey looked at her husband and frowned.  “Repaid?  I wonder what he means by that!”
“I dread to think!” mumbled Richard, slightly agitated.
“Well, we’ll have to go now after that.  A personal hand-written invite from Ben Fedora, the great novelist?  We can‘t turn that down.”
“The great plagiarist, you mean.”
“Whatever, Richard!  I’m not sure I believe half the fantastical stories you’ve come out with these last few days, but I do know there’s more going on than you’ve told me.  When we go to this, I might just get some answers.  Now, we’ve only got a couple of days, what AM I going to wear?”                                                                                                 (to be continued)

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