Shadows And Charades

Entry by: Jim bob

30th December 2016
Mowgli’s phantoms danced, and flickered against the walls from the fireside flames. His feline actions caused the shadows to jive as she stretched, smooched and purred away at the gathering in the room, who congregated around with drinks, laughing, chattering.
Sweet whispers from Mark to Jane, the tipsy, lightly dressed fiancé adorning a grin that suggested several cognacs, and a Christmas day proposal, accepted with glowing eyes, a beaming smile that could last for the rest of the day. And, Sera, her best friend since days from college looked on from the other side of the table, radiant, hand resting against her chin, joyful for Jane. Talk and playful babble from the other couple, Dave and Fee, their love still afloat, still alive. And, Mowgli’s shadows created the music with movements; her black body silhouetted against the licking flames, whilst calm talk exuded peacefully through the living room.
‘Shall we play a game’ piped Dave, intersecting the hazy chatter.
They looked at him, as if suddenly awoken from an intoxicating dream.
‘Well, I’m going to feed Mowgli,’ responded Sera, getting up. ‘The poor dear hasn’t eaten since this morning.’ Sera spoke like a lady who’d had an education, eventhough her voice contained shoots of Newcastle within the tones. The rest watched her as she made towards the door.
‘Come on Mowgli’ she said. Mowgli moved quickly, leaping from the hearth rug to the limb of a Victorian arm chair, then down to Sera’s side. He followed her out to the kitchen, his pleading mews, unrelenting, yet cute.
‘I think it’s high time Sera found a man’ said Fee, after the door had closed. ‘I’ve heard she has the hots for Terry in the teaching faculty.’
‘You’ve a point there, Fee,’ said Jane, finishing her drink, a gratified look on her face. ‘A sort of game. I suppose. She went to the fire and stirred up the coals. Because they’d settled, she added a few more from the bucket.
‘Well it is about time’ agreed Fee, who also finished her drink. ‘Re fill us Jane while you’re up.’
Jane returned with the bottle and topped up each glass with the rich red liquid that appeared black against the subdued lighting. The day’s events of eating had drowsed everyone, however with this injection of an idea, Fee perked up, anticipating this new-found event.
‘She is so attractive,’ said Mark, squeezing Janes leg teasingly. ‘A great catch for anyone.’ He breathed in allowing Jane to pour his wine.
‘Thanks,’ he said. Looking up at her. ‘Don’t you agree, Jane.’
‘You bet I do, now what are we going to do. Fix her up with him? she said, seating herself. ‘She’ll be back in a moment, lets decide.’
‘I’ve an idea,’ said Fee. ‘When she returns, I’ll tell her that Terry really wants to meet her, and would like to take her to dinner in the new year,’ she concluded, releasing a laugh, her large body moving significantly enough to cause the table to shudder from her body that met with its edge.
‘Is this true, Fee’ asked Mark, popping a nut in his mouth. There was a small gravy stain on his tie, something he wouldn’t notice until he removed it later that evening; dark light and light-headiness preventing such observations.
‘Not really, but I know he’s commented on her in the past.’
‘But, we’ll be lying to her, Fee. ‘responded Mark, putting his arm around Jane who, in turn, rested her shoulder against his, kissing his neck.
‘Yes, well, Mark, it’s a white one.’ she said. ‘I mean Terry has spoken highly of her, and Sera has expressed interest in his buttocks- all we are doing is match-making.’
Fee’s infectious grin remained. She was loving this; always ready to pounce on any given opportunity, and play cupid.
‘Your sweetly wicked Fee but I love ya all the same,’ said Mark, and he took a handful of nuts, popped two in to Janes awaiting mouth, the rest in his.
‘Listen’ said Fee. ‘Quick everyone. I think I hear her footsteps.
They heard the returning pats of Sera’s heels against the linoleum flooring of the kitchen. Mark switched on the small table light, which just, but suitably lifted the lighting of the room. He thought that subdued visibility would, somehow, diminish the importance of their attempt to persuade Sera in to a romantic escapade with Terry. The shadows around the walls, against moving postures were now, less obvious, but still remained a pleasant surrounding distraction.
‘So have we decided on a game?’ asked Sera, entering the room.
‘Come back here and sit down, Sera’ said Fee, ignoring her question. ‘There’s a re-charged glass in front of you, and we’d like to discuss something.
‘Oh.’ Sera seated herself, appearing perplexed. ‘What’s all this then.’ She looked around the table, eight pairs of radiant eyes – despite much wine - returned her gaze, extended from grinning expressions.
‘Well’ said Fee, who’d now adopted the role of charge for this unexpected idea to have Sera wed-locked before the new year bells tolled. ‘Terry, your faculties colleague, has been asking me much about you over the last few days.’
Sera took an indulgent sip of wine, the others, especially, Mark who was still popping nuts in to his own mouth as well as his wife’s, looked on with stimulated intrigue, the wine playing its part to promote larger-than-life interest. The subdued lighting prevented anyone from seeing the emergence of unease on Sera’s face.
‘Oh him’ she said, after a brief silence. ‘What else has he been saying, Fee?’
‘Listen Sera,’ intercepted Jane before Fee could respond. ‘We all think you are a lovely girl that deserves to be, you know, happy in love.’

‘I am quite, you know, happy, Jane right now,’ she said, bluntly.
‘What Jane means,’ said Mark following a quietness, ‘is that we are quite aware you are happy, but perhaps you wouldn’t mind a bit of loving in your life. That’s all.’
‘Also’ added Fee, attempting to alleviate any pressure on Sera, she suspected, could be taking place. ‘This guy Terry really does like you, and wants to take you to dinner. What do you think?’

Dave let Mowgli back in following her annoying scratches at the door. She ambled back to her place on the rug, and shadows re-commenced from her fidgety movements; across the walls and in to the recesses, overlapping those from the gathered friends. She began to purr. Mark lit his pipe, something he’d recently taken up. The smoke gave off sweet tendrils, and fogged around the table subduing the atmosphere further.
‘I do like him very much,’ said Sera, looking straight at Fee now. She brushed back her hair that had fallen against her face, then took another sip of wine.
‘Well then said Fee. ‘Would you like to have dinner with him.’ A tentative smile emerged on Fees large round face. Dave squeezed her hand. He loved Fee very much, but sometimes felt her intrusiveness tended to over step the mark.
‘I’d love to have dinner with him.’ she lied’ beaming, and raised her glass.
Everyone cheered, and Mowgli leaped up from his cozy position, ears erect and tail flapping about like an alligator. Slowly though he curled up on the rug and went back to sleep, the shadows ceasing to dance. But, Sera wasn’t smiling like her friends.
‘That’s wonderful’, said Fee. The candles had almost burned their way down to the end, and dying flickers sent out spasms of light across the room, over the table.
‘Yes’ agreed Mark, tapping the bowl of his pipe in the ash-tray. ‘He’s a nice fella, Sera.’
‘I know he is,’ replied Sera. ‘I’ve worked with him in the consulting game for fifteen years. Of course I know.’
‘Just being polite, that’s all.’ He leaned across and squeezed her hand to confirm this.
‘Listen, Sera’ said Jane we’re just trying to help that’s all. We all agree that you should have yourself some company, now that you’re no longer a spring chicken.’
Fee, whose smile had dissipated looked, along with the others, dismayed at Sera’s reaction to their good will. Dave got up and turned the ceiling light on, shadows disappeared, candles burnt out. He opened another bottle of Margaux and cradled it in its basket. Then, he topped up everyone’s drinks. Tears were now visible in Sera’s eyes.
‘What is it Sera?’ asked her best friend, Jane. Come on, why all the tears. We only have your interests at heart.’
‘Remember that fella I dated all those years ago, Jane’ she said, rubbing the moisture away from her eyes. Fee leaned forward a little, intrigued as the others watched.
‘You mean Gary,’
‘Not him. It was after Gary. Cedric, was his name’
‘Oh Cedric,’ said Jane. He was really nice. He worked for the Labour Party right? oh God, that must have been fifteen years ago.’
‘Eighteen, and he worked for the RAF, but you weren’t to know. I hadn’t known you long.’
‘What is all this about, Sera’ said Fee, interrupting the flow of conversation. ‘You don’t need to talk about this if you don’t want to’.
I know I don’t have to, but, I’m going to,’ she countered.
Silence. Mark and Jane caressed their respective glasses, looking on in wonder at the state of Sera; a shadow of the sparkling personality from several hours earlier. Dave re-filled his pipe, possibly a support mechanism, like Mark and Janes glasses; a cloak to mask their discomfort and the uneasy ambiance.
‘Come on Sera, it’s not necessary.’ Said Fee. ‘You don’t have to explain yourself to us.’
‘Yes I do, Fee. You see it isn’t always champagne and roses in life. Did you know that.’ Sera leaned forward, anger clear on her face.
‘Calm down Sera’ said Dave, ignoring the question. ‘Fee means well; she isn’t trying to hurt you.’
‘I know she isn’t, but you all need to realise something.’
Okay’ interjected Mark, ‘Let’s hear it.’ his manner, changing from complacent to irritated.
Sera shifted her body, securing a comfier position in her chair.
‘People aren’t always what they appear to be.’ She said to no-one in particular. ‘They’re not always what they seem like, and you, Fee, I suspect, think differently.’
Fee’s hand went straight to her mouth.
‘Come on Sera,’ announced Jane, squeezing her hand for another time this evening. ‘You’re getting upset.
Sera shrugged off the squeeze, from her best friend
‘Listen to me,’ she shouted. Everyone looked.
‘People come up with charades and facades to hide stuff,’ she continued. They do it all their fucking lives, a lot of them, and I’ve been doing it for a fair bit.’
She helped herself to the cradled basket of Margaux, emptying the rest in her glass.
‘What are you hiding, dear Sera? What is it’ said Jane, a tear passing down her cheek. She tried to console her again, but, again, Sera shook her away. Fee still had her hand to her mouth, in reaction to Sera’s accusation, as the others looked on with worry for their pal.
‘This man, Cedric, someone I almost married,’ said Sera, beginning to remove her blouse. ‘An RAF big-wig, a man of bravado and skill, raped and beat me for one long year. He forced his way in to me time and again. He even tried to kill me.’ She finished removing her top and pointed to an extensive scar that ran from each side of her belly.
‘I got away from him that night.’
Silence continued, the feeling of it, heightened.
If you look him up, you’ll find he’s behind bars, now.
‘Oh Sera, said Jayne, allowing her to console her best friend her, as tears resumed from them both.
‘I will never let another man in to my life again. Never.’ she concluded.
Fees face turned white.