The Guest

… Since then Dawn had felt an uneasy tightening in her stomach. She had long accepted Lottie’s saccharine sweetness was self-serving, and she excelled at spinning catastrophes around herself from a flurry of trifles – it was all woven into her dazzling, virulent charm. But in recent years, a vying sourness had started to skulk about with Lottie, it was unsettling. Perhaps it was the escalating number of hapless love affairs or the simple sting of age that all women come to face; whatever the root, it made Lottie’s theatrics harder to vindicate.

Dawn went over to lean on the window for some air. The room was so high up, the highest point of the house. Staring down gave her a slight feeling of vertigo, so she gripped the window frame to steady herself. She could see the ushers talking animatedly far below. One of them clenched his hands as though he was cold. The sun had moved behind the clouds and the temperature outside appeared to have cooled. Yet her face felt flushed and she was certain the room was getting hotter. She felt something behind her back and spun around, but as she turned, she saw there was nothing. Lottie was still by the dressing table and there was no one else in the room. Dawn dismissed the feeling, putting it down to pre-wedding nerves and walked over to inspect her wedding gown.

‘In a way I’m glad you didn’t leave your dress here last night,’ Lottie said. ‘I’d be terrified of tripping up on it and ripping a hole through the middle of it or something awful!’

Dawn looked up at her old friend for a fleeting moment, musing to herself she had also considered a similar scenario. She laughed off the comment and rearranged the veil, making it as compact on its hanger as possible.

‘Why don’t you hang the dress here in the light?’ Lottie waved to the dressing table where she was camped amidst the cluttered flowers and jewels.

‘Ah no. I think it’s probably better out of the way over here.’

Lottie shrugged and continued adorning her headdress while Dawn settled herself back on the chaise-longue. For some reason getting ready seemed to be taking much longer than planned, she could have sworn she was nearly finished only to now discover she looked a mess.

The light in the room was darkening. She felt her body heat rising further as she fastidiously unpinned and re-pinned her tangled hair. She was finding it harder to breathe, as though a thin gauze cloth was covering her mouth and nostrils. Her head started to spin and she felt the inexplicable compulsion to try and remember the words to the Lord’s prayer, despite the fact she had not recited it since being forced to as a small child in school…

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