Denise flipped the switch and the bulbs began to glow, their filaments like fireflies against the darkening sky.
“You can make the announcement now,” she said.
“Ladies and gentlemen, friends and family, colleagues and acquaintances, dinner is served!” I unclipped the thick red rope from the eye on the second post and hooked it up against itself. I stood aside and beckoned through the people we loved, one by one, the parade twisting and clumping as they continued to chat, speculating on the seating arrangements they’d find.
We’d taken days on this, the decisions crucial to the success of this night. Denise had hired the best caterers in the town and we’d hesitated before choosing the most expensive table d’hôte menu options they’d offered. There was something for everyone, our friends able to pick anything that had been on the cards they’d been sent, the difference being that we’d also engaged a chef for the night, her duty to cook and plate anything they asked her to prepare, ensuring that everyone would be happy with their meal.
It had cost us a fortune but it was worth it. It would probably be the last time we’d see most of these people, so we wanted to leave them happy and give them something memorable to remember us by.
Denise stood with me now, her arm around my shoulder. She leaned against me and smiled, her lips brightly painted and her eyes filled with stars.
“It’s perfect. It’s come together so well. We couldn’t have hoped for a better night.”
I nodded, my eyes running along the queues forming at the serving-stations the caterers had wheeled out onto the lawn. The manor house had been an inspired choice from the event organiser, the grounds and the gardens usually closed to the public. The organiser had known the family who lived there, having arranged private functions for them in the past, her success and her popularity making this possible at short notice. There was nowhere in town that could handle this many people, that could provide such a rich and varied menu, and do it with so little notice. We’d both taken a deep breath when the organiser had told us how much it would cost but that was the old James and Denise reacting. We’d won so very much so we could spend that and hardly notice. And it would be the grand event everyone would remember us by.
“Is that a cloud, Hun?” Denise leaned across me, her hand pointing to the west. A line of dark smudges were massing, growing larger and heavier as they neared us. Threads of light joined them and an ominous rumble began.