Table by the Window.
Abigail sat at the table by the window, and adored the view across the park. What a brilliant idea it was to have built her restaurant on this elevated spot. From within the dining room all her guests could enjoy the vista of the open space while they ate. They could delight in the comfortable elegance of the interior décor, as they selected their gourmet meal, and still experience an ambience of the outdoors.
This park was full of life; from the tiniest of insects, to birds on the lake, and a range of wild animals. It was also a place where leisurely people; walked their dogs, strolled for a breath of fresh air, or in colourful Lycra would jog along the wooded avenues. In the afternoons the restaurant veranda would be full of customers who would be engaged in their pastime of people watching as they consumed cream cakes with tea or coffee. But Abigail offered so much more than just coffee. She smiled and through the window she watched a young couple as they dawdled by. If only they knew.
‘Are you ready to eat, Miss?’ The waiter demanded her attention.
‘Ah Preston, yes. What’s the soup today?’
‘It’s Wednesday… coriander and carrot Mistress –‘
‘Careful what you say!’ she interrupted him.
‘What about the chicken, is it succulent and fresh?’
‘Of course.’ He grimaced, and quickly arranged her cutlery. He then turned and walked away. ‘Of course, it is always fresh,’ he mumbled shaking his head.
She might have to get rid of Preston as he wasn’t as astute these days, and at times he was insolent. He made mistakes, dangerous mistakes that might expose her past. She was the Mistress and Captain of culinary delights, but being called Mistress by Preston would turn her guests’ attention towards her. Once she heard the whispered innuendos from a group sitting at a corner table. They had pushed their food around on their plates as if the green of the peas was some genetically modified discolouration. That won’t do. She revelled in the thrill of watching her guests squirm with delight when served with an elaborate presentation of food, and listen to them moan in ecstasy as they savoured the tastes of the dish. Perfection. It was a discourtesy to allow Preston’s behaviour to distract them from their food.
‘Your soup Miss.’ He put the plate down, spilling some over the tablecloth.
‘Preston! This is mushroom and dandelion from our Friday menu.’
‘Yes Miss, today is Friday.’
‘Really!’ She stirred her soup. ’Are all the ingredients fresh?’
‘Early this morning Miss. Baby Liberty Caps direct from the park.’ He grinned and walked away. ‘Of course, magic mushrooms and sweet dreams,’ he whispered.
Abigail was a Gothic princess, and on the opening night of the restaurant she flaunted her status by wearing; a dark velvet cape, laced boots, her ceremonial knives and titanium jewellery, which were all the symbols of her royal patronage. However, it was a costume that attracted some curious and weird voyeurs.
That evening, she had forced Preston to wear his gossamer body suit made from the skin of his dead pet python. The fool, he over did his role with his hissed and clipped way of speaking. A pubescent girl had sat terrified by his manner of preceding every sentence with a slow “Yesss… Mistresss”, and he had a wriggling rat’s tail hung from his mouth. The traumatised girl ran out with urine trickling down her legs, unforgettable and unforgivable. Many guests had left halfway through their meals without paying, others said they were sorry as they rushed for their coats. The evening was a disaster. Clearly, these people were not ready for her sophisticated style, and this unfortunate start dissuaded the true gourmet diners. There had to be change.
Over night, she had revamped the restaurant and changed her clothes for a light business suit. It made her feel almost human. She chose a light-grey theme with maroon bow ties for the staff uniforms and ordered them to carry brilliant white napkins. However, it was typical of Preston to object and he refused to tuck in his shirt, until she threatened to send him home.
When it came to foraging for food, Preston was her expert and so it was inconceivable she would send him away. For instance, he was an expert on identifying wild mushrooms and herbs, and he knew how to hunt the deer. There were also other lurking creatures that frequented the park at night, and Preston always had this speciality meat ready and hung in the cooler for the next evening’s dinner.
Abigail’s adventurous menu contained fox, badger, rabbit and the oily eels from the lake. These were disguised as chicken or lamb and served in a rustic curry or soup. Preston could always be trusted to be discrete, particularly as to the source of the “reality meat” for the cottage pies served on theme nights.
Her favourite guests were from the county courts, the lawyers and their staff, who demanded cannibal evenings, “for just a bit of fun”. An inebriated secretary once remarked on how life-like the stuffed heads of the children looked, centrally plated as décor on the table. Preston, the idiot, had taken a liberty. He had left the eyes intact.
‘Your coriander and carrot soup, Miss.’
‘But I’ve just had mushroom, where has the plate gone?’
‘That was Friday, it’s Wednesday Miss.’
She must not be misled by Preston’s inept attempt to distort time, elusive as he may be. But shock does that to you, it pins you to the spot with a crystallised picture of the last moment, and your mind fractures beyond repair. It has taken him two days to bring soup from the kitchen, yes that has to be the reason. Her last black out was over a month ago, and she had recovered. So why is Preston lying?
Outside the window is where real life begins. For instance, she noticed the same man arrives and sits on a bench, always at one, just before she is served her soup. He wears a different shirt every day, and is always writing or sketching, or maybe he just doodles in the notepad on his lap. Well today she would speak to him.
‘Preston, will you please invite that man to join me?’
‘No Miss, he might be a policeman.’
‘Tell him we are having champagne.’
‘No Miss, what about the twins?’
Will Preston ever forget? Everyone else has, besides no one cared. The twins had gone missing after their picnic in the park, but it was not their fault. That day, Preston had rushed out on a request from a wealthy diner, meat for a plate that had to be filled. The police had come searching the restaurant like hounds sniffing for truffles, but failed to find the missing children.
‘Make it pink champagne, Preston.’ She waved out the window to the man. How could he resist licking and lapping as it trickles over her? Would he linger with his tongue if a pool collected around her navel?
Oh, she missed the days when the park was a royal hunting ground where her entourage of princes could enjoy their afternoon of blood sport, and at night gorge on the meat of venison and pheasants. They would drink wine late into the night and ravage the captured maidens, foolishly wandering in the woods. It was their punishment for trespassing on her Gothic land. That was her world, but something had gone wrong, where time had been distorted by a few hundred years.
‘Yes Miss.’ Preston stomped off. ‘Of course pink champagne, it is always pink.’
She looked back to the bench but the man had gone. Her soup had gone cold and tasted of dry insects with oily fish.
That evening she showed her guests, the session of the court she liked to call them, to their table. They were all eager for their mock cannibal feast. The man from the park bench was also there. In fact, he was the centre of attention and as the guests sat around the table, they stared; his eyes stared back at them from his handsome severed head displayed on a sliver tray. The secretaries screamed and the lawyers shouted obscenities. They said the poor man’s name was Joseph, who wouldn’t have harmed a fly.
‘Preston, you idiot.’
‘You boast authentic meals for the demanding diner.’ Preston sneered.
‘I hate you Preston.’ She will have to leave this dimension now. What a pity, it was such a beautiful park and a great place in time.
The restaurant in the park disappeared overnight. The following investigation found that the buried remains, on the residual mound, were a mixture of animal and human bones. A detailed forensics examination confirmed, through dental records, that the two children’s sculls they discovered were those of the missing twins, Abigail and Preston Fletcher.
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