Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 19: Banquet for the Lost

This is the 19th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing from 2nd December 2012 until the 1st December 2013. It’s intent is to keep me writing throughout the year, and not just in November. you can find out more about the challenge here.

Banquet for the Lost, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 20th December 2012

Word count: 977

Theme: drama, families, atonement, reunion, discovery, history

The story:

Katherine smoothed off her red dress, though the material was sheer and seemed immune to creasing, it was a self concious act. Katherine felt seriously out of her depth right now.

“Relax, you’ll be fine I promise,” Luther said with that overly warm smile. He was a middle aged man with a German accent, he looked swathe in his perfectly fitted tuxedo, gold cuff links  and just the barest hint of cologne. He was also a bloody good salesman, and Katherine would know she considered herself as a pretty good one, yet he’d been able to convince her, a perfect stranger to come to this fancy dinner party.

“Maybe I should go, I don’t fit in here,” she said, and it was true. As people filed in they wore the expensive clothes and jewellery with ease, most seemed middle aged, and well preserved.

“I asked you for a reason, you’re born for this,” he said, repeating the line that had finally broken her resolve, who didn’t want to run shoulders with the great and the good. This was a meeting of like minds, and as it happened her boss’s boss would be here, which meant maybe she could insinuate herself into his good books, it wouldn’t hurt her promotion prospects.

As the line approached the door she smoothed her dress again.

“You look lovely,” Luther repeated, “We’re nearly there. Now I should warn you, they do this whole announcing people’s entrances here, so just smile and carry on.”

“Excuse me?” she started to ask, but never got a response, a finely dressed attendant took a piece of card from Luther, and they were descending marble stairs which were covered in a luscious red carpet.

“Viscount Deerhurst, accompanied by Lady Hinton,” a man at hte bottom of the stairs declared, several people turned to take note, despite their entrance being one of many.

“Why are they looking?” Katherine asked, “And is it normal to call everyone Lady?”

“Just relax, act natural, it’s quite normal.,”It’ll all be clear later. There’s someone I want you to meet.”

“Luther,” a late middle aged gentleman said enthusiastically, “I’m so glad you could make it. Did you conclude our little business?”

“Katherine, allow me to introduce the Earl of Yorkshire, John Howard,” Luther said.

“Ah, a pleasure to meet you young woman,” he held her hand and stared at her long and hard. “Quite the rare jewel.”

“I’m not wearing…” she looked down at her hand, there was suddenly a ring there, a beautiful gold ring, with a flower made from an emerald and small diamonds. “Where? how?”

“Sorry, my idea of a little joke,” he said with a smile. Katherine started to take the ring off, “No, no, keep it.”

“Is it fake?” Katherine asked.

“No, it’s genuine. It’s a family heirloom,” John said.

“Oh I couldn’t,” Katherine said admiring the ring.

“Luther give me a minute,” the Earl of Yorkshire said.

“Are you sure?” Luther asked.

“What’s going on?” Katherine asked confused.

“Yes, quite so,” John said to Luther, “Katherine come with me.”

They walked around the edge of the banquet room, and out the doors of the stately room onto a balcony.

“I really want to know what’s going on,” Katherine said, “I get the feeling Luther didn’t just ask a random person to come with him to this swanky do.”

“No, you’re right. I had you brought here under false pretences Katherine,” John said sombrely.

“But why?”

“This is difficult,” John said looking abashed, “I don’t know where to start,” he took a deep breath, “I’m your father.”

It took a moment for the words to sink in, and as her brain processed what he said, she felt herself shrink into the railings, “My father?”

“Yes,” he aid joining her. “It’s a not my proudest moment, giving you up thirty years ago. My family were very traditional, you were born out of wedlock. They made me give you up.”

“I, I, I,” Katherine said trying to take it in, she’d knew she was an orphan but had long ago given up on finding her family, “My mother?”

“She died shortly after you were born, I’m sorry,” John said, “She was a lovely girl though. Had my family allowed it,  I would have married her back then.”

“Oh,” Katherine said, she’d long to have a real mother. She’d been fostered and ultimately adopted, she had good parents, but they lacked a bond, she’d always felt it, or imagined she did.

“I know I’ve put a lot on you all at once,” John said, “And I’ll not say a word to anyone. I wanted to meet you though, and while I was in town I asked Luther to make your acquaintance. He’s very complimentary of you, but I don’t think he did you justice at all.”

“But why? I mean why now? What is it you want?” Katherine asked.

“It’s taken a long time to find you. My mother was very efficient, you weren’t easy to find. What’s in the past is in the past though, and my parents aren’t around to disapprove anyway. So, I guess I just wanted to get to know you, see how life was treating you, see what kind of woman you’ve become.”

“Just to get to know me?” she asked.

“Yes, if you’d like to. I would completely understand if you never wanted to see me again,” he said.

“I would like to,” she said deciding, though in her heart she realised it was all she wanted for a long time.

“Good, come we’ll sit together during this tiresome banquet, I want you to tell me everything,” he said breaking out in a smile.

“On one condition,” Katherine warned, “I’d like to know more about my mother too, and you.”

“Agreed, you deserve that,” he held out his arm and they walked back into the banquet room.

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