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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 73 - An Invitation To A Party

John Illingworth returns home and is invited to a party.

John Waddington-Feather continues his story of the turbulent lives of a Yorkshire mill-owning dynasty.

He was in for a surprise when he reached the end of the drive. Parked in front of the house was Harry Clemence's car. John halted, and considered walking back to his own car parked in the cemetery, but he braced himself and went inside.

His father had seen him coming up the drive and rushed into the porch to greet him, throwing his arms around him and leading him back to the lounge. Abe was overwhelmed, as was Johnson, and clung to him like a leech. He wished to God the Clemences weren't there, but they had taken to visiting him frequently since John left.

But they were there and they had taken over the whole lounge with their son's toys, and Rodney was bawling his head off on the floor having pulled an ash-tray on top of himself. Tab-ends lay strewn around everywhere and Johnson was valiantly trying to sweep them up round the yelling child. He looked as if he could cheerfully have swept the brat into the dust-pan as well! He was always having to clean up after him.

John took a deep breath as he entered and greeted Harry Clemence pleasantly enough. Rosemary didn't notice him at first. She was too busy kneeling on the floor trying to console her brat with a sticky bar of chocolate, yapping away at the same time at her husband for not keeping an eye on their son. Her nagging had become habitual - and public - but Harry ignored her and gave John his self-satisfied smile.

She sensed someone had come in and looked up. She shut up at once and stood turning on the charm-tap, as Clemence shook John's hand. Since they had last met, John noticed how overweight Clemence had become and how bald. For his part, Clemence was all affability and chumminess. "Well, well, if it isn't our John!" he gushed. " I am pleased to see you... after all this time. We thought you'd forgotten us! He's made your day, hasn't he, Rosie, dropping in like this?"

He turned to his wife and gave her the full benefit of his froggy grin and too hearty laugh. Then he added, "You've been going on for ages wishing he'd come home, haven't you, love? You've no idea how much she's missed you," he said turning back to John.

The innuendo in Clemence's voice stuck out a mile. Certainly the way he called his wife 'love' wasn't particularly endearing, and Rosemary looked sharply at him every time he said it. Yet he chalked up a plus by inviting John to a party they were throwing the following Saturday.

"A little bird's told us you're free most weekends, so we won't take no for an answer, will we, love?" he said beaming across at his wife. Rosemary was about to say something, but her son began howling again and she rushed over to stuff more chocolate into him. He was plastered with the stuff. So was the carpet.

Sir Abe stood tight-lipped by the fireplace. He would have said something about the brat on the floor, but was too overjoyed to see his son to lose his temper. He found both Clemence and his son Rodney more and more distasteful and daily wondered why his niece had married him. Once John had quit, Clemence had become more familiar, more brash and arrogant. It was never 'sir' or 'Sir Abe' now, but always 'Uncle Abe' even at work, where he had moved rapidly up the promotion ladder. He continued to look at the Clemences with disdain, till the telephone rang and he had to leave the room.

As her son stuffed himself with chocolate, Rosemary stood up wiping her hands on her handkerchief, then crossed the room to kiss her cousin warmly. She linked her arm through his and looked up at him, letting her eyes run greedily over his face. There was a hunger in them that didn't go unnoticed either by John or her husband, but Harry didn't care. He had never been the jealous husband.

"You will come, won't you, John?" she insisted. "I won't take no for an answer - not after all this time without you. It will be quite like old times. You know what our parties are like," she added, giving his arm a squeeze.

He smiled, but it was strange smile; one which seemed warm, but was as cold as ice underneath; one which had more hate in it than affection. But Rosemary saw only his gaunt handsome face and felt the tight flesh through his sleeve. She ached for him and he was there to flirt with again.

Before he released her, he surprised her by responding to her squeeze and putting his arm round her waist. It was years since he had done that and she shivered slightly at the thrill of it. She glanced up to read his face, but there was none of the old playfulness there; only that smile, which at once inflamed and frightened her.

His father walked in and saw him smiling. That pleased him. It was the old Jonty coming back on course, he felt, and he was grateful to his niece for it. She had been loyal to him through thick and thin and he was doubly pleased when she told him they had invited John to their party the following week.

"Your old room's just as it was. You'll stay here, Jonty, won't you?" his father asked apprehensively. He hadn't changed the room since the day John had left, hoping against hope that he would return. Now he had come back and Abe was over the moon. He poured them all a drink and asked the Clemences to stay on a while, even managing to be affable with Harry. Rodney had fallen asleep, so they had quite a cosy family chat before he woke up and had to be taken home. In fact, it was like old times - or so they thought.


To read earlier chapters please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/


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