• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 05

The Centrepiece

I’m all dressed up, face caked with paint. I sit at the head of the table, people on either side of me. The person I face blinks back at me, waiting. I feel my lips move up in a small smile.

I turn to the person on my right. I don’t know their name. They’re wearing a loud tie, with fruit embroidered on it. The red of the grapes is all I can focus on. “Shall we begin?”

The people carve and cut and serve. I sit smiling like an idiot, occasionally leaning over to murmur something in someone’s ear as they lean over to serve me something, or to mutter a ‘thank you’. The only moment the smile fades even a little is when I lean down to adjust my dress, when the table hides my face.

Once everyone’s plates are filled, they look at me once more. Most of their faces hold anticipating smiles, some look vaguely hostile (they may be smiling but their eyes give everything away). I clear my throat and get to my feet.

“To us,” I say. “May we continue to love each other as we do now. Let us cherish this moment.”

My voice sounds cheery. Cheery, but not sugary. Cheesy, but it sounds sincere. I know it does because the girl on my left claps happily. She looks nervous. She’s a fan.

The girl was chosen, apparently. She’s dressed in yellow, looks down at her hands or her plate most of the time. She sneaks glances at me, smiles happily when I acknowledge her. When the time comes, she tells her story. We clap when the time comes, and I tell her she always has a friend in me. It’s malicious really, the way everyone is cheering. Everyone knows she’s really just a crumb on the plate. But I’m perhaps being too harsh.


The Centrepiece

The waiter brings out the pudding. It’s huge, but nowhere as huge as the centrepiece. It looks lovely though. It’d be a shame to eat it, really. It’s beautiful. They slice into it slowly. The chocolate sticks to the knife.

A berry falls down.

I talk more, I don’t remember what I say. It’s all getting to be a bit much, honestly. A drop of sweat runs down my scalp. I feel the makeup melt slowly, slowly, slowly, along with the smile. They ask more questions, I answer them. The moment is close, I know it. The smile quivers but stays on my face, my head is spinning.

Everyone’s talking except the girl.

Before I know it, I’m leaning towards her. I whisper into her ear, “Get out while you can.”

I know it’s over as I sit up straight. The dessert has been cut. Plates are filled once more. I look up again, fork raised with a piece of cake. I smile and take the bite.

I look towards the foot of the table. The camera smiles back at me, satisfied.