Having announced their engagement several weeks previously, Zachary Pontington-Smythe and Kazia Waverley-Bell are welcoming guests to the predictably lavish party that their respective families have funded in celebration of such an auspicious occasion. “I was starting to worry you’d never make an honest woman of her,” laughs an elderly aunt as she is greeted by Zachary and shown through to the main reception room by a member of the waiting staff. “No need to worry, Auntie,” Zachary replies, “I was just biding my time.” He smiles at his fiancé who, he notices, looks resplendent in the inordinately expensive vintage flapper dress and tiara she has purchased especially for this occasion, though he can’t help but feel the family jewels festooned about her ample cleavage elicit a rather unfortunate Christmas tree effect. She beams back and continues greeting their guests with almost childlike enthusiasm.
An hour into the party and the adult guests are well lubricated with the magnums of champagne that have been brought up from the Pontington-Smythe family vault. A vodka luge is attracting significant attention in the vast hallway, whilst the children are more taken with the chocolate fondue fountain outside on the terrace. Nobody notices Kazia’s polite refusal of a second glass of champagne, nor the way she rests her hand on her slightly burgeoning belly. Nobody, that is, except for Zachary’s eagle eyed and ancient grandmother, who sits in a corner of the room like a stone gargoyle, watching.
By ten o’clock the festivities have escalated to parlour games and sherry. Kazia has settled on a comfortable lounge chair from where she has a perfect view of the assembly. “Where’s Zachary?” someone asks, and soon the murmur passes through the room like a ripple on an otherwise calm sea. Nobody, it seems, has seen Zachary for quite some time. Indeed clarification of his whereabouts is fast becoming the most popular game of the evening. The children, in particular, jump to attention from their post-sugar rush slump and shoot off in different directions in search of their elusive host.
When, some twenty minutes later, Zachary and the parlour boy are hauled up from the cellar in an alarming state of undress and are confronted by a room full of speechless people, Kazia obligingly bursts into tears and flees the room. But not before the stone gargoyle in the corner has witnessed her coquettish wink at the drinks waiter, and his protective glance towards her stomach. “And they say the aristocracy are boring,” the old woman laughs to herself. “What utter tosh.”