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  • Writer's pictureGirlWellTravelled

4 - Call Me Blair: The Rehearsal Dinner

The sun cloaked the chill well. The difference in the air very noticeable when it set below the horizon.

By the way, are you going to this dinner later or not? Asking as I motioned for us to go inside.
Jess, we both go, or neither of us does.
Honestly James, its okay. It's not as if any of these people know me anyway.
That is not the point.
I see.

I say adding that I didn't bring anything to wear to a rehearsal dinner. And not just any rehearsal dinner but a society-filled rehearsal dinner going by the who was who in the hotel's car park earlier. His 'you could attend in what you're wearing' (caused me to look at him side on.) 'And still be best dressed.' He continued.

Oh really. Looked at him full-on this time.
Yes really. Either way, it's not an issue since neither of us is going.

I made no plans to argue. After all, I stood to benefit from him not going. We could stay in, drink wine, get drunk. Party like only West Indians know how to—well, West Indians, only one. James, a half of one. Private schooling, that international accent of his, home in the countryside and trips every other winter back to a very French European St Barths, insufficient to ground him in any way West Indian.

Okay, then tell me what are our plans for the rest of the evening?
There's another restaurant downstairs; we can try that or order room service.

Either was fine with him, but it was now up to me to choose. I'm beginning to like the sound of all of that. I say either is fine. Though I lie. My thoughts are firmly embedded in room service because then we never need to leave this room.

By the way, I can't recall if I told you or if you realised but there's a spa here with a pool, sauna, and steam room. Any chance you brought a bikini with you? We could go check it out.

I'm liking his thinking because yes I did bring my bikini. The one I thought I'd have to wait until next summer to wear. Although in my head, my plan for the pool was tomorrow morning to show off this bikini. But tonight works just as well and I say, 'I'm ok with that too' as casually as ever while I close the balcony doors behind us. But the entire time, my four chambers trip over their beats in excitement.

 

The debate is on. Which to go to first (pool, steam room or sauna) while I try to find this bikini I tossed in earlier when his phone goes, breaking that up. Charlotte called back. Well, we both now had dinner reservations. I guess she wanted James there more than she didn't want me there. Eyes dart to the wall in front of me and then across to James, who looked at his watch.

Jess, how quickly can you get ready?
James, how quickly do you need me to get ready? Eyes still on him.

Charlotte had cut it close to the bone, giving us fifteen minutes to get ready and get over there. Over there being some two minutes by car across the hotel's grounds. Over there being the restaurant of the famous TV chef James Martin, whose place, along with the hotel, they'd hired out in its entirety for the weekend.


So, while James may have been okay with me attending this dinner in what I'd arrived in, I, on the other hand, had done my research and was not. Yes, a certain search engine had done its share of feeding me small plates of information after my initial search of Chewton Glen, so yes, I was prepared. And while I hadn't brought anything specifically to wear to a rehearsal dinner, I did bring an emergency outfit. A navy blue romper with dainty polka dots in gold. Figure-hugging with an underwire bustier, spaghetti straps and a belt. Because it's an outfit I've worn before, I swap out the skinny black belt it came with for some golden newness. This I marry with a pair of chunky drop earrings, bangles, and heels all of the same hue. Though I could have kept the belt as it compliments the oversized black blazer I was about to throw on. With my pixie haircut quickly teased up and off my face, I added a few sprits of Carolina Herrera's Good Girl. And in my haste to finish trip over myself, one slinky heel at a time, coming out of the bathroom.


It may have been my sudden appearance of an-all-changed-me in the hallway or the smack down of my heel on the floor but James looks up from the new watch he's about to put on to finish off his attire, surprised. Does so at the same time I support myself on the door frame with one hand. The other adjusting a slingback. The spaghetti strap of the same arm drapes off my shoulder down my arm in an effort that's teasing to undress me.


He paused but every second stretched. Fixed eyes, spoke an entire language unspoken. Then the darn room phone went.

That was the butler, James said, the car is ready, when he'd hung up the receiver and looked back at me.

The room stayed still. My breath found a rhythm; each inhale and exhale fell into a steady pattern, but I dismissed it and quickly. There was no mistaking that look on his face—intense. A silent storm brewed behind those eyes of his, pierced through through me, making my pulse quicken despite any outward calm.

Um, are you ready?
Yeap.
Then we shouldn't keep the car waiting.
Ah yes, the car. I stammered with a confused chuckle. My mind struggling to recall what is we were supposed to be doing.

It wasn't our butler James from earlier who drove us to the restaurant, but another, though he was just as chatty. Almost drowned out James finally telling me I look lovely to which I replied he didn't look bad himself. And he did not, a dark grey rolled neck jumper over an even darker grey pair of smart trousers and shoes and a jacket over his arm. And then we arrived at the restaurant.


Out of the car, I pull my jacket snug. They must have borrowed nearby McLarens' wind tunnel machine, I tell myself as I struggle with the ten steps to the restaurant. The restaurant's host is on the ball, swings the door open as we approach, to a room brimming with high spirits. Music played but only in the background—no competition for the swells of laughter and chatter from the congregations formed.


It then dawned on me that apart from James, there was unlikely anyone else inside the restaurant I knew. To add to my chagrin, I'd forgotten my little chit-chat and small-talk handbag, and that left me feeling slightly awkward. But I kept my smile on, though it suddenly dipped to a nervous one, slowed my steps. He reached back for me. A sense of security made me take both his hands, and he looked back at me.

You okay?

I gave him the rest of that nervous smile for an answer.

Jayymes, my old friend. Long time no see.

James turns back from me to where one man jaunts over from his congregation to him. How he made James out in this low light is beyond me but his legs took him to James while his eyes stayed on me. 

James, my old friend, he said again, giving James a handshake with one hand and a man pat on the back with the other.
Hey, long time. Long time. James replied. I didn't know you were going to be here.
Why? This exuberant man asked. Would you have cancelled your date? Still looking at me as he said that. 'Tell me, who is the Miss Universe you have here with you?
This is Jessica.
Hay-lo Jess-e-cah. He stops. Turns to James. Wait, this is Jessica? He turns back to me. You're Jessica?

In acknowledgement, I smile at him wide-eyed. Glance from him to James and back, then waved. The same wiggly finger wave I gave Charlotte earlier. But he instead takes my hand. Kisses it. All without unlocking from mine.

Jess-e-cah! He repeated it with much excitement. How are you?
I am wonderful. You?
I'd have to agree with you on that.

I catch James watching him closely.

Friend, huh? Scrutinising James.
Jess, this is Fredric.

Now that name I'd heard before. And if it was the same Fredric, the something of a womaniser who had moved to LA, I knew well to keep my distance and stay wary of his charmful charm. He'd now turned himself and James (still holding my hand) towards a congregation.

Friend, huh, now where have I heard that before? Patting James on his back again.

I realised why I'd heard of Fredric. But now the bigger question was: how had Fredric come to know about me?


Shadow on Concrete Wall
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