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102. Knaresborough House - 3 104. Knaresborough House - 4

November 12th, 2020

pool (no water)

The speeches began when everyone was sat down, a few still milling about between the table map and the bar, chatting, laughing, hugging old friends and looking about in awe at the movie scene they had wandered into. A huge tent had been erected on the lawn of the house, more like a festival marquee, than a back garden canopy, two huge wooden beams supporting the centre of the canvas that was pinned back by several enormous ratchets keeping the thick sheet taught and splayed. At one end was the master table where currently stood a young man in an evening suit and bowtie, glass in hand, orating to his heart’s content, safe in the knowledge the large glasses on arrival would have whetted the appetite for sitting back and listening to some safe yet probing jokes at the expense of their enigmatic host. Sitting behind the speaker was a row of smiling family members, at their centre the man of the hour, who smiled and looked around with a twinkle in his eye, eager to make sure everyone knew he was having a good time. Running around the inside of the tent were rows and rows of soft amber fairy lights, hundreds of tiny bulbs that lit the joyful faces like firelight, as they turned in their chairs to watch the speaker who now sat, another old friend taking their place. ‘Who the fuck is that?’ ‘Saorise, come on.’ ‘Sorry,’ she dialled it down to whisper in his ear, ‘but like, who is that?’ The person in question was a tall, thick-armed man with a quiff of black hair, dazzling sharp eyes, and already a few sloppy light-weights eagerly lapping up any small comment thrown their way. ‘Just listen to the speech,’ whispered Tim, trying not to look over at where the handsome man was causing a distraction from his seat at the rear of the tent, making low comments about the new speaker who, in his defence, was not designed for comedy, but was making a hard push on sentiment. Poorly stifled laughter was bursting out intermittently from his round table of eight, making more than a few from the middle tables turn and look around, if only briefly, causing a small ripple of turning heads as people nearer the front wondered was going on at the back, their attention waning as their bellies started to notice the lack of food in front of them. ‘He’s being a prick,’ Saorise muttered, fidgeting with her fork, glancing between the speaker, Tim, the flowers on the table, The house was a small castle, or a large manor. Not a stately home with three floors of fifty windows, or a keep with courtyards and perimeter walls, but large enough to comfortably house an extended family, and have several rooms to spare for guests, live-in maids, or whatever artistic bent might take on the lady of the house. An eccentric woman, she tried to spend an equal amount of time at every task of the day, whether it be watering flowers, cooking meals, painting a landscape, knitting a jumper, calling her mother, reading a book, everything took exactly the same amount of time, leading to some interesting results, mostly in the kitchen. On this night she was to be found wandering the fray, engaging with anyone who might cross her random path as she greeted and made good conversation with the lows and the highs of her prodigal son’s wide range of friends. Tim was caught by her as he stood alone at the top of some wooden steps, slightly away from the tent and house, admiring the view, an empty glass in his hand. ‘Hello there, Tim.’ ‘Hi, Mrs E_____.’ ‘Are you enjoying yourself?’ ‘I am yes, very much, just taking it all in.’ ‘Really come together, hasn’t it.’ ‘It all looks amazing. The tent is so cool.’ ‘Yes, quite impressive isn’t it, only took an hour or so for them to get it up.’ ‘Really?’ ‘Can I get you a drink?’ ‘No, that’s alright, I think I’ll… I’ll go get one now, thank you.’ ‘Are you alright, Tim?’ ‘Yes, fine,’ he smiled, probably a little widely, but she didn’t seem to notice. ‘I’ll see you around then, have fun.’ And she was gone, distributing wisdom and comfort, into the shadows. Tim sighed and rolled the flute around in his hand, looking out from the small rise where he stood at the view going sweeping down the hillside. What a bizarre place you’ve found yourself, he thought, how did you end up here? ‘You alright?’ The voice made him jump and he almost dropped the glass, turning to find a silhouette standing in the light spilling out from the tent, where the music was slowly moving from relaxed upbeat, to classic pop bangers. ‘Yeah, good, thanks.’ ‘Just—seemed a bit— I dunno.’ ‘No, yeah— yeah, I’m good.’ ‘Alright, well.’ ‘I’m going to go back in I think.’ ‘Yeah?’ ‘I mean, it’s a bit much.’ ‘That’s why I came out here.’ He nodded, me too, and they were both quiet for a while, looking out at the valley, shrouded in the night but lit sparingly by a clear moon-less sky. Tim frantically searched his mind, but the drink was already bullying his memories into a blur, and the girl’s name was lost in the sea of everyone he’d met milling around before and after dinner. She had sat at your table though, he mentally knocked a fist against his forehead, trying to beat the name out of himself. Only Saorise appeared, and her constantly moving, frantic energy swallowing the others who sat awkwardly trying to pretend they weren’t desperately intrigued by the subplots taking place all around them. ‘I thought he was a bit out of order.’ ‘Who? Oh— yeah, me too, way out of order.’ ‘It was only five minutes, like.’ ‘Just a bit rude I thought.’ ‘Exactly, and he’s not even that funny.’ ‘Attractive— Yeah, sorry, I thought…’ She laughed, he blushed. ‘Do you fancy going for a wander?’

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