“Annalise, this way please, hurry up” Mr Stately was ushering Annalise to the final guest room. Each one they’d been to, to drop everyone off in had been more extravagant than the last. They approached the door and for some reason Annalise starting getting butterflies in her stomach.
“Your house is so lovely, Mr Stately, it’s really nice of you to offer it up to us like this” Annalise complimented.
“Yes, I know,” replied Mr Stately in a very matter of fact tone.
Annalise flashed a polite smile as Mr Stately left the room she had been assigned. She took in her surroundings, the room was huge. There was a large bed in the centre, with a built in chest attached. Annalise ran her hand along the chest and turned on the TV that sat atop it, she switched on the news, partly for background noise but also so she could be around something familiar, she’d never been in a home quite like this one.
She made her way over to the lounge area of the bedroom, pulled a book from the large bookcase in the corner of the room, the fire was already on. She’d been given an en suite and was extremely grateful for this, Annalise had always had a nervous disposition and the thought of sharing a bathroom with five strangers made her stomach churn.
Mr Stately made his way back down the grand stairs and met Mrs Stately still staring into the licking flames of the fireplace in the living room.
“Maria, are you ok?” Mr Stately had a hint of caring in his voice that had not been displayed so far.
Mrs Stately sighed, looked round at Mr Stately and then back to the fire.
“Come on, we need to make sure Anja has the dinner ready for our guests” Mr Stately made a turn to head towards the kitchen.
“James,” Mrs Stately was still staring into the fire, “do you ever regret our choices in life?”
“Now Maria, this is no time for that.” Mr Stately replied, and with that he disappeared from the living room.
Kris sat on the side of his bed and looked out the window. “What am I doing,” he whispered aloud to himself, “this is ridiculous” there was a soft knock at his door which pulled him out of his own thoughts.
“Come in,” Kris called towards the door. When he looked up Annalise popped her head around the side.
“Hi, Kris isn’t it?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he replied. “Annalise, right? That’s a pretty name”
Annalise blushed. “This is crazy, right? I mean, this house. It’s…it’s…”
“Massive,” they both said in unison.
Before Annalise could say anything further they heard a ringing sound. Kris looked at Annalise, expecting a reason for the bell interrupting their conversation. Not a moment later their answer was provided in the bellowing tones of Mr Stately.
“DINNER. Please all make your way to the dining room.” Mr Stately was stationed at the bottom of the stairs to pass on the message to his guests.
Everyone gathered in the exquisite dining room, it contained a kitchen, seating area and bar, there was even an all-in-one baking machine, was there anything the Statelys’ didn’t have? They all took a seat at the table.
Marco was the one to break the silence. “Hey, did you guys hear about the chap from Oasis Springs? He was in a horrific car crash”
Kris winced, Annalise shot a look in Marco’s direction but Lena was the one who spoke up “Marco don’t be a jerk, weren’t you listening to Kris earlier?”
“Aw, mate, sorry it’s not what you think honest. Just hear me out,” Marco continued. “So the Oasis Springs bloke, horrible accident, the guy was maimed. He was barely recognisable, so they rushed him to the hospital, right…”
Lena rolled her eyes, she was starting to get pretty tired of Marco’s verbose.
“Anyway,” Marco seemed to not notice the rest of the groups weary smiles, clearly being polite in the company of strangers, “the doctors had to complete this life saving surgery, first of its kind in this country. A full left hand side amputation. That’s amazing, isn’t it?”
“Quite,” Mrs Stately, with thinly veiled disdain responded.
“Don’t worry though, he’s all right,” with this Marco erupted into laughter, between breathes he exclaimed, “all right? Gettit? Cause they amputated his left hand side”
“Hysterical,” Lena replied snidely.
“Ah, forget it. You lot have no sense of humour, obviously” Marco huffed.
Mrs Stately cleared her throat and everyone looked up at her expectantly, “I’ll go fetch the drinks then, shall I?”
“Let me give you a hand, Mrs Stately” Annalise was desperate for any reason to leave the table before Marco launched into another of his hilarious stories.
“Thank you, dear. That would be lovely.” Mrs Stately and Annalise rose from the table and made their way across to the bar. It was only a few steps away but the way the room was laid out meant that the pair were out of earshot from the rest of the table.
“Mrs Stately,” Annalise started.
“Maria, dear,” Mrs Stately replied.
“Sorry, Maria. Are you ok?” Annalise wondered if she was maybe stepping over the line but continued anyway, “It’s just, I saw you earlier, at the fireplace and you looked really upset?”
“Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just a silly old lady. It was nothing important” Mrs Stately waved her hand dismissively, “Can you pass me the soda water, please?”
Annalise turned towards the drinks cabinet, she scanned the shelves of drink trying to locate the bottle of soda water, it took her a moment but she located the blue bottle. She unscrewed the cap and turned to pass the bottle to Mrs Stately.
“Would you like me to pour for you, Maria?” asked Annalise.
“Oh yes, if you could. My angina is playing up this evening, I would hate to spill it and make a mess,” Mrs Stately looked up at Annalise with a weak smile.
Annalise lifted the trays and both woman returned to the table. They had just caught the end of another of Marcos’ jokes.
“…it’s a new type of broom y’know, it’s sweeping the nations” Marco gave off a belly laugh that vibrated off the walls in the dining area.
Lena shot a knowing look at Annalise and the two shared a half grin at each other.
“BOOM!” Marco yelled and wrapped his arms around himself in a fake shiver, “that was never Ms. Lena the ice queen cracking a smile was it?”
Lena picked up her knife and pointed it at Marco, “sweetie, I was laughing at you, not with you”
Marco winked in Lena’s direction, “a laugh is a laugh sweetcheeks”
Mr Stately, who had been quite throughout the entire dinner turned to his wife, “Maria, it’s time for us to retire for the evening I think. Say goodnight to our guests.” Without saying another word, Mr Stately nodded to his table of guests and walked out of the room.
“Goodnight all,” Mrs Stately spoke in a softer whisper than normal and followed her husband out of the room.
“Well, that wasn’t awkward or anything…” everyone looked towards the voice, it was Kris.
“What’s that, did Helen Keller over there just make a joke?” Marco slapped Kris on the back, “I’ll get another round of drinks in”
“I’m pretty tired to be honest, I think I’m just gonna head up to my room,” Kris excused himself and made his way up the stairs. They heard the echo of his door clicking shut.
Annalise stood up from the table, “yeah, I’m gonna get an early night as well.” She started to walk away and Lena called after her.
“Hey, girlie girl, take this advice from me, no glove no love” Lena snorted, “Marco, move your ass with my drink”
Annalise turned on her heel and made her way back up to her room on the first floor. She was surprised to find she had left the TV on from earlier, she felt a pang of guilt which passed fairly quickly. She was sure that an electricity bill was the last of the Statelys concerns. She lifted her bag and dug through till she found her pyjamas, changed up and crawled under the sheets.
Previous: Chapter One
Next: Chapter Three