The Eighth Guest
Chapter Oneby TT (a.m.tilmouth.s99 at cranfield.ac.uk)
The Night Light Restaurant perched high above the clouds of New
London, a marvel of modern engineering hovering like a giant glass and metal
Smartie in the night sky. It was only a couple of months after opening and it
held a fresh feel, still secure in the favours of food critics and journalists
a like. It was a place for the rich and newly rich, the stars of today and
tomorrow, for intrigue...and romance. The gentle glow of mood lighting on the
tables was matched only by the cold glow of the stars above, which glittered
and shone like diamonds on a black velvet canvas -- not that Tessa Moriarty
could see any of the beautiful things that surrounded her. She sighed and
tried to stare in the direction of the caramel blur that was her dinner
companion; she hoped beyond hope that she was staring lovingly at him but she
realised she was most likely squinting again.
It had been almost six months since she had lost most of her sight
while being held hostage, six months since she had last been able to see any
of her friends. She was beginning to forget what they looked like and that
scared her. But her eyesight was improving, from the dark world she had once
inhabited to one now full of light and indistinct shapes. Her doctor had been
pushing her to have her eyes replaced with grown ones, but while her sight
was improving, while there was any chance of that sentence being reduced to
corrective surgery, she held firm and waited.
Across the table she heard Peter Ling cough; he lightly touched her
hand and the caramel blur that had been his face for too long came closer.
"Tess, you remember you asked me to tell you if you were squinting
again...well, you are."
She tried to relax and felt her brow smooth. "Thanks."
They had been dating for about nine months now and he had been the
rock she needed to get her through the blindness, the fumbling and the danger,
as she had learnt how to survive in the new world of shadows and shapes. She
loved him more deeply than she had ever thought possible and in a completely
different way to her ever-present friends and her small adopted family of
Tennyson and his aunt; having him around made her feel safe. She straightened
and removed her hand from his as she smelt food coming closer.
She sagged as the smell passed and mingled with others on surrounding
tables. Why Peter had taken her to a restaurant which took over forty-five
minutes to serve food sheíd never know; she was about ready to eat the table
decoration, she was so hungry. Not that he couldnít afford it now he was the
Hornets' number one racer -- his partner, Craig Wilkinson, and he
had been on a winning streak all last season and were limbering up for the
next now. In fact this would probably be their last restaurant meal before he
had to go back on the strict racing diet that their coach insisted on, if it
ever got there. She sighed again and tried to remember the feel of racing her
board high in the sky along the circuits of the world, and then shook
herself; best not to bring herself to tears in public.
"....Tess...Earth to Tess. Have you been listening to a word Iíve been
saying over the past five minutes?"
She shook herself again, if she didnít buck up she was going to ruin
the evening for both of them.
"Something about your board thrusters?"
"The new water-resistant membrane theyíre putting over the boosters?"
Tess sighed. "Sorry, Peter. I guess Iím just not with it tonight."
"I guessed. I havenít seen you this down for ages. Whatís wrong?"
She shrugged and leaned back in the chair and Ling watched as she
rubbed her short brown hair irritably. She hadnít dyed it red since she
"I donít know, I guess itís just the fact that the racing season
starts soon and youíll be off round the world touring for the internationals
and I wonít be able to see you again till come back for the nationals...it
just gets me down, thatís all."
"Youíll have Tennyson and Miss Fayre to keep you company, and Iíll
come back for a weekend or so."
"I know. Iíll still miss you like crazy, though."
Ling smiled and rubbed her hand; she couldnít see the mischievous
glint in his brown eyes, but it was there all the same. "You know you told
me to tell you if any of your jewellery was wonky...well, your ring is."
Tessa looked confused and went to rub her hands.
"Ring? Iím not wearing a...."
Her fingers touched a smooth band encircling the second finger on
her left hand...her wedding finger. Ling watched the expression of shock and
surprise emerge on her face as her fingers found the ring and he grinned.
"You really should pay more attention to me when Iím talking, my dear."
On to Part 2!
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