A Trip to the Theatre

The evening had started well enough. Alice had been so excited to see the sparkle of the city light’s. She could scarcely take in all the glorious London sight’s as the tram trundled on its way. She was surprised that there seemed to be so few horse drawn carriages. On the last occasion she had visited the city, only two years previously there seemed to be so many more. As they had arrived into the warmth of the Lyceum theatre’s foyer, Alice marvelled at the sight of so many people crammed into such a space. It seemed as if all the people that mattered had turned out. The ladies shimmered in the latest elegant fashions in chiffon and silk. The gentlemen in evening suits were an imposing sight. After they had discarded their coats, Ruben had scurried off to buy Alice a programme. Stood momentarily alone Alice had felt like an uninvited guest at a party. She had been certain that someone would appear at any minute and ask her to leave. She was much relieved when Ruben had re appeared at her side. Her relief had been short lived, when she noticed a well dressed couple heading towards them. With a sinking feeling of dread, Alice had realised straight away that she knew them. Or rather knew of them. She was certain; it was Dr Taylor, a close friend of Mr Spencer’s. The last time she had seen him and his wife, she had been serving their dinner. It had been a very raucous occasion, Mrs Spencer’s birthday, wasn’t it? She remembered Mrs Taylor drinking rather too much sherry before dinner and becoming very loud during the main course. In fact she had been so embarrassingly loud that, Dr Taylor pointedly told her to be quiet. And now they were here, right here. Alice had been dreading a moment of this nature from the moment she had agreed to accompany Ruben. In fact she had initially refused his invitation when he had mentioned that a number of his acquaintances’ were also planning to be there. When she had expressed her concern to him, he had simply shrugged and told her she should ignore the nosy old buggers who might let their curiosity get the better of them. Ruben had welcomed them both warmly. He had complimented Margery Taylor on her evening dress and surprised Alice by even seeming to know who it had been designed by. Again, acutely aware of her own simple attire, Alice had sensed Margery’s quizzical scrutiny. She had borrowed her dress from Grace. It had only been worn a couple of times but Alice felt it suited her quite well. It was an elegant pale blue, with lace on the edge of the sleeves and a long, column like skirt. It was the nicest thing she had ever worn. Once Grace had put up her hair properly, Alice felt happy that she must look quite presentable.
“So my dear, how have you come to meet our dearest Ruben?” Margery turned to Alice. Ruben’s hand was resting in the small of Alice’s back. It should have felt like re assurance but to Alice it simply felt like it was burning a hole into the back of her dress. Margery seemed unable to take her eyes away from them both and was glancing from Ruben to Alice and back again.
“Well we met at the hospital”
“Oh my dear, I am sorry to hear that. Were you ill, have you recovered now?
“Oh yes, it was nothing, just a small strain to my ankle. I am fully recovered now thank you.”
“It’s just I have a curious feeling that I know you? Could that be possible? Have I seen you in the Serpentine Tea Rooms perhaps?” Margery was frowning slightly. Alice doubted very much that Mrs Taylor had ever seen her in the Serpentine Tea Rooms. The thought was simply ludicrous.
“No, I am quite certain” Margery persisted “Your face is very familiar. Tell me, where, do you live, perhaps that will help jog my memory!”
“I live just near Hampstead Heath. Just around the corner from it” Alice couldn’t think quickly enough to invent a new location. Wishing she could be stood anywhere but here at this moment, she looked around for Ruben. He was locked in deep earnest discussion with Dr Taylor. She thought that she might be sick. Her head was hurting and she felt sure that Margery would see the emerging beads of perspiration that she could feel on her forehead.
Margery paused, considering the point “No, no I don’t think that can be it then. Although we sometimes meet some acquaintances for dinner at a residence there, the Spencer’s. Are you familiar with the family? Not friends you understand. He is a lovely man, just the gentleman and quite well connected too. She is a frightful woman with exceptionally bad taste and out of control children. Of course I accompany William every time but to be truthful I would much rather we decline when an invitation is received”
Alice let out a long breath. As she paused, the programme she had been clutching behind her back dropped to the floor. As she reached down to retrieve it, Margery did so at the same time. Instead of picking up the programme, she clumsily grabbed Margery’s gloved hand.
“Oh I’m so sorry” Alice muttered hastily. Margery was fixated on Alice’s hand as they both slowly stood up. She could not take her eyes away.
“Where was it you said you lived once more, my dear?” Margery’s expression was unreadable but Alice could sense a change to the tone in her voice.
“Near the heath” she stammered.
Margery said nothing. Instead, she turned to William, still engaged in conversation with Ruben and touched his arm. “William, I need your assistance to solve a little mystery” she smiled at Alice, who in turn looked desperately at Ruben. “I have been becoming better acquainted with young Alice here, and feel sure we have met before. I first thought we must have crossed paths at the Serpentine Tea rooms, such delightful company there, but then no, I decided this wasn’t the place. I feel sure that where I have seen Alice before is at one of the Spencer’s dinner occasions…” Pausing for effect, Margery waited. Ruben’s face reddened.
“Well I am certain I would have remembered such delightful company” said William, bowing slightly in Alice’s direction.
“Yes William, you would certainly have remembered but I do no think you would recall so well if this young lady had been serving your soup!” she finished with a flourish.
Ruben’s face was even redder. Alice did not think she had ever seen him look this angry. “Margery” he spoke quietly “I do not see that it matters where Alice is employed Margery” he spoke very quietly “I do not see that it matters where Alice is employed. Alice is my guest and I have invited her here"
"My dearest Ruben, one must simply think through the consequences of one' actions" said Margery “Surely you must see that a 'friendship' with this young lady does not befit you! My goodness what would Professor Donaldson say if he were to know?”

Julie Waters

 

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