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Fast Fiction: The Guest

'Now, now, you two, let's have a little peace, please . . . You must forgive them,' Kathleen said, turning to me, 'they are always a little tense and tetchy when I'm around but I can cope with it. They call me the Catholic whore behind my back but that doesn't worry me. There are worse things to be called, such as cold, selfish, greedy and cruel -'

But what will the guest make of such a statement? Richard Mallinson tells of indiscipline in the ranks.

'Please come in, said Alec Dawson, 'we've been waiting for you.'

There were three people in the room. 'Here is our guest,' he said and they all stood up to greet me.

'This is my daughter, Zena,' he said. 'And this is my son, Hugo . .. And this is my darling friend, Kathleen.'

'Yes, we've -' I began.

'I'll take you home again, Kathleen,' said Zena, smiling to herself.

We sat down. 'Well, I said, 'this is a lovely room in a lovely house.

Soon we had full glasses in our hands. 'This is excellent wine,' I said.

'Only the best is good enough for such a guest,' said Kathleen.

Hugo coughed. 'Do you have any projects in hand?' he asked.

'Yes,' I said, 'I'm working on a scheme in Bristol.'

I thought he would ask for details but he just stared at me.

'Hugo is at Eton,' Dawson said quickly, 'and heading for Sandhurst.'

'If he can get in, said Zena, 'and it's a big if because he never does any work - and it's not fair anyway, him being at Eton . . . You should see my school,' she said to me, 'for what it's worth, which isn't much.'

'Please don't, Zena,' said Kathleen.

'Please don't, Zena, the girl mimicked, Irish accent and all.

'Go to your room, Zena,' said Dawson, 'and stay there.'

'I'll stay here, if you don't mind,1 she said, curling up in the chair.

'No discipline,' said Hugo, staring at her, 'she has no discipline.'

'Now, now, you two, let's have a little peace, please . . . You must forgive them,' Kathleen said, turning to me, 'they are always a little tense and tetchy when I'm around but I can cope with it. They call me the Catholic whore behind my back but that doesn't worry me. There are worse things to be called, such as cold, selfish, greedy and cruel -'

'You're none of those,' I blurted out and they all stared at me.

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