Writing inspired by the SWC creative writing prompt: Everyone is celebrating and having a good time except for you. Why are you the odd one out?

Odd One Out

By Jane Dudeney

I observe them all in there, but they don’t notice me. It’s curious, after being friends all these years, how things turn out. I certainly didn’t see this coming, although now I’ve got a moment to myself to look back, there were, perhaps, some signs I could have spotted.

Andrew is practically holding court, his left hand gesticulating his words while his right casually holds what is likely to be his third or fourth champagne of the night. Maggie practically simpers next to him, that unattractive desperation of unrequited love oozing from her pores. Even I can sense it from here. Idiot. She was always an idiot.

I know I called us friends earlier, but to coin a rather cheesy term I’m loathed to admit to using, “frenemies” would have been more accurate.

Hector is with them, and the adoration radiating from him is almost as disgusting as Maggie’s. Andrew is aware of both, of course, and has toyed with them equally in the past, yet somehow laughing it off later and acting as though they would be absurd to have thought it meant anything. Of course it didn’t mean anything. Andrew Bancroft does not settle. And oh, how choosing Maggie or Hector would be settling in the eyes of the Bancroft’s.

Sebastian and Rupert are sat together by the open fireplace, each of them holding a whiskey rather than champagne. I watch as Rupert brings his glass to his lips, taking a distracted sip, too caught up in Sebastian’s words to really enjoy the burn of the liquid down his throat. What could Sebastian be telling him, I wonder…

Cressida enters the room, and the room knows it. She’s wearing what would be considered a simple slip of a dress, draping over her body in just the right places, but anyone with the right knowledge would know that dress would have cost what most people earn in a month. Pocket money for her. Shiny dark waves of hair cascade past her shoulders, and poor old Andrew actually loses his audience’s attention for a second as they can’t help but flick their eyes over for a glimpse. Of course, out of everyone there, Andrew wants to look the most, and so tries not to – we all know it. Sadly, for him, Cressida will only ever keep him at arm’s length. Maybe tonight will change that. We will see. 

Cressida glances around the room, a serene smile across her face as she nods a greeting, but she settles on Hugo, Verity and Rafe as her intended company at that moment in time and glides over to join them near the window. It’s dark outside already, and their reflections fill the glass, blocking out anything they might have seen in the gardens. I can see it all though.

Verity is clinging to Rafe’s arm in a way that makes it clear he belongs to her, and she needs Cressida to know it. Not that Cressida cares, but God-forbid Verity blame her one true love for any of his previous infidelities. Oh no – it’s always on the woman. Rafe can’t ever be held accountable. For anything. I wonder just how far her denial could run if she truly knew what he was capable of…

Hugo, of course, is the actual reason Cressida headed their way. I watch as she raises a delicate hand to his face, under the guise perhaps of removing a speck of dust. Her ivory skin contrasts against his darker hue, and I can see in her face that she is imagining the beautiful babies they would have if only Hugo would show any sign of wanting to be with her.

A bell rings in the background, one of those old-fashioned kinds you see on period dramas and probably thought didn’t really exist anymore – well, they do if you know the right people. And my friends and I – we are the right people. For this, anyway.

There are smiles all round and those who are sitting begin to rise, knowing the feast that will await them in the dining room. Their joviality can resume in there. This reunion, of sorts, will continue to provide insights into each other’s lives, their successes. 

Finally, it seems my absence is noticed and it’s Maggie’s lips where I see the words form – Where’s Anika? She directs it out to the group, and I watch, closely, scanning each of their expressions. Stunning. Absolutely stunning. No hint, no clue. God, they are good.

Maybe she’s already in there. That’s Hugo. Cressida nods agreement, and the group move towards the door.

I wonder when they’ll find me. Or maybe I should say, find what’s left of me. I’m not well hidden, and the blood made a mess – they didn’t even try to clean it up. My friend of 15 years had just stepped away with one last glance, stopping by the mirror to run a hand over their hair before leaving my broken body behind. 

You’d never know which one did it from their behaviour tonight. But I know. The only thing I’m wondering, and will now enjoy finding out, is which one of them is going to be next.

Jane Dudeney

Jane Dudeney

Sunday Writers' Club Member

Jane Dudeney studied Psychology at the University of Surrey before floundering as an editor for nursing journals and ending up working in Student Support with a responsibility as a designated safeguarder. It was this role that led to inspiration for a YA contemporary novel with which she was lucky to longlist with in the Write Mentor Children’s Novel Award in 2018 (subsequently winning a year of mentoring for being the highest ranked entry with a BAME main character). Following mentoring from the wonderful Simon James Green and Emma Smith-Barton, she also entered the same novel into "Undiscovered Voices 2020", a competition by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and was long-listed as an "Honorary Mention" at the back of the winner's anthology.

Jane now works as a Senior Training and Development Adviser for the Open University and is currently working on the eternal editing of her YA novels while embarking upon her first adult contemporary.

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