Home > The Party Crasher(6)

The Party Crasher(6)
Author: Sophie Kinsella

   “I don’t look,” Bean repeats in her quiet, resolute way. “But I have spoken to Krista. Apparently there’s going to be a party.”

   “A party?”

   “A house-cooling. A chance to say goodbye, I guess. It’s going to be a big deal. Black tie, caterers, all that.”

   “Black tie?” I echo in disbelief. “Whose idea was that, Krista’s? I thought she was spending all the cash on a villa, not some pretentious party. When is it, anyway?”

   “Well, that’s the thing,” says Bean. “Apparently it’s been under offer for a while, only Dad didn’t tell anyone in case it fell through. So they’re really far along. They’re completing a week on Wednesday and the party’s on Saturday.”

   “A week on Wednesday?” I feel suddenly hollow. “But that’s…that’s…”

       Soon. Too soon.

   I close my eyes again, letting the news ricochet through me in bounces and jabs of pain. My mind can’t help hurtling back yet again to that day our world changed forever. Sitting in the kitchen, drinking mulled wine, feeling all happy and warm, with no idea of the explosion about to hit us.

   Of course, in hindsight I can see there were signs. Mimi’s tense hands. Dad’s damp eyes. Those wary looks they kept shooting each other. Even the downsized Christmas tree feels significant now.

   But you don’t see a small Christmas tree and automatically think, Wait a minute…small tree…I bet my parents are divorcing! I had no idea. People say all the time, You must have had some idea. But I truly didn’t.

   Even now I sometimes wake up and have a few blank, blissful moments before suddenly, whoomph, I remember it all. Mimi and Dad are divorced. Dad’s dating Krista. Mimi lives in a flat in Hammersmith. Life as we knew it is over.

   Then, of course, all the other catastrophic elements of my life pile into my head. Not only have my parents broken up, our whole family has pretty much broken up. I’m engaged in an ongoing feud with Krista. I never speak to Dad properly—we just exchange emails. I was laid off four months ago. I’m just not on top of my life anymore. It’s like I’m in a fog. Sometimes I almost feel like someone died, only we didn’t get any flowers.

   And I haven’t had a proper boyfriend since Dominic, who turned out to be totally two-faced. (In fact, if we’re counting a “face” for each girl he was secretly shagging, he was five-faced, and I can’t believe I wrote out all his Christmas cards for him because he said my writing was nice. I’m a gullible sap.)

       “I know it’s all happening really fast,” Bean is saying apologetically, as though this is her fault. “I don’t know what’s happening about the furniture; I guess it’s going into storage till they find a place. I’m claiming my stuff, anyway. Dad and Krista are going to rent somewhere meanwhile. Anyway, Krista says she’s emailing invitations out later today, so…I wanted to warn you.”

   Everything’s been happening fast, I think, my chest tight. Divorce. Girlfriend. Sell the house. And now throw a party. I mean, a party? I try to imagine going to a party at Greenoaks that isn’t hosted by Mimi, but it just feels wrong.

   “I don’t think I’ll go,” I say before I can stop myself.

   “You’re not going to go?” Bean sounds dismayed.

   “I’m not in a party mood.” I try to sound casual. “And I think I’m busy that night. So. Have a good time. Send everyone my love.”

   “Effie!” says Bean.

   “What?” I say, determinedly playing ignorant.

   “I really think you should go. It’s the last ever party at Greenoaks. We’ll all be there. It’s our chance to say goodbye to our house…to be a family….”

   “It’s not our house anymore,” I say flatly. “Krista’s ruined it with her ‘tasteful’ beige paint. And we aren’t a family anymore.”

   “Yes we are!” protests Bean, sounding shocked. “Of course we’re a family! You mustn’t say that!”

   “OK, fine, whatever.” I stare morosely at the ground. Bean can say what she likes, but it’s true. Our family is shattered. Splintered into shards of glass. And no one will ever be able to put us back together.

       “When did you last talk to Dad?”

   “Can’t remember,” I lie. “He’s busy, I’m busy….”

   “But you have spoken to him properly?” Bean sounds anxious. “You have patched things up since…?”

   Since the night I yelled at Krista and stormed out of the house, is what she means. Only she’s too tactful to say so.

   “Of course,” I lie again, because I’m not having Bean get all stressed about me and Dad.

   “Well, I can’t get through to him,” she says. “Krista always answers.”

   “Huh.” I put as little interest into my voice as possible, because the only way for me to cope with the whole Dad situation is not to engage with it. Especially with Bean, who has a way of stirring up my heart just when I thought I’d quietened it.

   “Effie, come to the party,” Bean tries again, in a cajoling voice. “Don’t think about Krista. Think about us.”

   My sister is so reasonable. She sees other people’s points of view. She says things like, On the other hand, and You do have a valid argument, and I hear where you’re coming from. I should try to be reasonable, like her, I think, in a gust of self-reproach. Or at least I should try to sound reasonable.

   I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and say, “I hear where you’re coming from, Bean. You do have a valid argument. I’ll think about it.”

   “Good.” Bean sounds relieved. “Because otherwise Greenoaks will be gone forever and it’ll be too late.”

   Greenoaks will be gone forever.

       OK, I can’t deal with that thought right now. I need to finish this phone call.

   “Bean, I have to go,” I say. “Because I’m working. In my very important job as a temporary waitress. I’ll talk to you later. Bye.”

 

* * *

 

   —

   As I sidle back into the huge marble kitchen, it’s buzzing with catering staff. A florist is unloading flowers, there are big buckets of ice everywhere, and I can see the guy they call the “house manager” discussing the table settings intently with Damian, who owns Salsa Verde.

   Putting on a big fancy lunch like this is like putting on a performance, and I feel more upbeat as I watch the chefs at work. I just need to work and keep busy. Yes. That’s the answer.

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