By Carl Schonbeck

By now it was a tradition. They met for dinner just before Christmas every year, usually at Trevor and Kate’s elegant flat in Wycombe Lane. In all there were three couples; Alan and Mary, Justin and Edie plus their hosts. They’d been friends for years and, as one might expect, the mood on these occasions was festive. Yet there was another, more serious reason for these get-togethers. They were there to remember a friend, Peter, the seventh member oft his small tribe, had died suddenly three years earlier. They were there to recall the times they’d had with Peter and celebrate their continuing friendship.

“Are you boys going to spend all night chatting on the terrace or hel us eat this Cr√®me Brul√®e?” asked Kate. The dinner had been excellent and the men had stepped out for some air.
“Well, we’ll certainly do our best”, answered Justin as Trevor opened a bottle of Sauternes.
The six of them sat down and Trevor filled each of their glasses.
“I’d like to propose a toast to Peter, who unfortunately couldn’t be here this evening … though he did phone asking that we save him some dessert. He’ll be here to get it as soon as the pubs close”, said Trevor. They lifted their glasses to their friend.

“He was one of a kind”, said Kate. “One of a kind and one of us”, added Edie.
“He always brought us together”, said Mary with a tear in her eye. Again they raised their glasses.
“To friendship and being together”, said Justin.
There was an awkward pause.
“Oh, do you remember our holiday driving across the States? Peter certainly liked to put on a show for the Americans, didn’t he?”, said Edie.

“Oh, how could we forget! And when he told that waitress in Oklahoma he was Prince Charles’ manservant, and she believed him?” answered Trevor.
“Right … and then ho offered to show her the “proper” way to serve an English gentleman dinner, and she let him”, exclaimed Mary. “It was like something form Monthy Python!”
“Even better!” added Kate.
“Yes, old Peter that rascal … he never paid me back the money he borrowed for that trip!” laughed Justin.

“It’s a bit late to ask now”, replied Alan.
“Yes … great chap but a bit stingy with money”, said Justin looking towards the ceiling. “Oh, sorry, old friend”.
“This isn’t the moment to talk about such things, Justin”, said Mary. “We’re here to remember him”.
“Yes, and I’m remembering him in all his glory!” laughed Justin.
“Well, you should try thinking more of the good things”. Mary seemed a bit tense.
“Er … more wine anyone?” asked Trevor.
“Oh, come on, Mary … I’m just having some fun. We don’t have to make a saint of him, do we?”
“No, but you could show more respect”.

“Maybe we could change the subject”, said Kate brightly. “Is anyone going away for Christmas?”
“i think Justin’s right”, said Edie, “he wasn’t a saint and we shouldn’t think of him that way just because he’s dead”.
“No, definetly not a saint, especially with the ladies”, said Justin.
“Will you just stop it?” said Mary raising her voice.
“oh, relax, Mary. It’s not like we’re ruining his memory. He wasn’t perfect”, said Edie, taking another sip of wine.

“Oh, and I suppose you are?” said Mary. The mood was becoming unpleasant.
“Come on, everyone, there’s really no need to argue. I’m sure Peter would’ve been the first to admit his faults”, said Trevor diplomatically.

“Don’t be so sure”, said Justin.
“Justin! Will you stop making these stupid comments?” shouted Mary.
“Stupid? What’s stupid is you getting upset about nothing, Mary!” shot back Edie. “You behave as if Peter were your husband instead of Alan!”

“Are you going to sit there all night and not say anything?” Mary asked Alan.
Alan began to say something about “Just wanting to have a pleasant evening”, but Mary interrupted him.
“You never have anything to say, do you? Right, we’re leaving! Alan get your coat!”
Alan went to get his coat. Despite Trevor and Kate’s protests Mary stormed out angrily with her husband walking behind her.

“Justin, you could’ve stopped”, said Kate. “You could see she was becoming angry”.
“What? So you’re saying it was our fault? We can’t help it if Mary’s in love with a dead Don Juan instead of her husband!” exclaimed Edie. “I’ll think we’ll leave too”.
“Fine!” shouted Kate.
After they’d gone Kate looked at the table and sighed.
“it’s funny, isn’t it? Mary said that Peter always brought us together”. Trevor put his arm around her.
“Yes, but I think tonight we learned that people who bring others together in life don’t always do such a good job of it when they’re dead. Come on, I’ll help you clean up”.

[SpeakUp, dicembre 2014]

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