Another Saturday session, another hour of free-writing! Again, we will forgive any typos, errors or mistakes, as this was all typed in an hour. Spark word was ‘decorum’; here is my piece:
The summer Eleanor returned from her Swiss Finishing School, was the summer Isabel decided she would kill her. She had always suspected grandam had preferred Eleanor, as she was prettier and daintier and younger. For even though they were twins, Eleanor had taken her sweet time in being born and had arrived after midnight. As such, they had separate birthdays, and Isabel always thought grandam put more effort into Eleanor’s birthday plans than to hers.
Eleanor was due to arrive back at their palatial Georgian townhouse on Wednesday the 15th. It was swelteringly hot outside, in the leafy streets of Regents Park, but inside their house, it was oppressive. Grandam had insisted on keeping the house at a Georgian standard, and so there were heavy draped curtains over the windows, and huge glooming oil pantings which loomed down from almost every wall. Isabel wasn’t sure how grandam had managed it, but the house surpassed itself in being boiling in the summer, and freezing in the winter. The only place to get some respite from the heat was the orangery, out back, and in Eleanor’s room. Isabel held it as further proof that grandam liked Eleanor more: she had the better room. She had been allowed to decorate it how she wanted, and had even been to Ikea. Isabel’s room looked like the Grim Reaper’s bedroom. There was a portrait of hr great-great-grandfather hanging directly opposite her bed, which was dark and menacing and needed a good clean, if truth be told. It gave Isabel the heebie-jeebies. She longed to wash it, or, better still, get rid of it.
She sat now, in the orangery, drinking a cup of Earl Grey with lemon and listening to grandam go on and on about how much she was looking forward to Eleanor’s return. Isabel swilled the tea around in her bone-china mug, and wished it was a mug of builder’s brew, with 2 sugars. Or, even better, instant coffee. She wasn’t really listening to what grandam was saying. A brief ‘mm’ here and there was all that was necessary to hold a conversation.
“So you’ll do it?” asked grandam, shaking Isabel out of herself.
“Do what, sorry? I was miles away.” Isabel smiled shyly at grandam, hoping that the old woman would think she had just had a momentary lapse of concentration, and not realise she had not paid attention to anything she had been saying.
“Why, organise the party of course,” said grandam.
Of course! How could Isabel think grandam had forgotten? She had asked, very tentatively, in the April if she could hold a birthday party for her 21st. Her 21st, and Eleanor’s, she thought begrudgingly. Grandam had replied that she would think about it, and no more had been said. Until now. Of course, there wasn’t long to go, today was the 15th of August, and her birthday was the 31st…
“You’e such a good girl,” said grandam. “Young Eleanor will love it.” It still rankled with Isabel that grandam referred to Eleanor as ‘young’ Eleanor. Eleanor, named after their mother who had died shortly after childbirth with her only children, loved it of course.”I’m named for my mother,” she would tell strangers, then, bottom lip a-qivering, would tell them, “she lives with angels now.” There was no chance of Eleanor ever being confused with her mother, as her mother was long dead, but grandam still stuck the prefix ‘young’ onto Eleanor. Isabel wasn’t sure if that was just to remind her that she was the older one.
With Isabel’s birthday being the 31st of August, and Eleanor’s being the 1st September, they had been in different year groups at school. As such, they had different friends, and different experiences of the place. Isabel remembered being the youngest in her form, struggling to keep up with the ones born almost a year before her, whereas Eleanor had breezed through school, along with all the lucky autumn babies.
It was Eleanor’s good fortune to be that one day younger that had secured her a place at finishing school in Switzerland. Not that Isabel would have wanted to go to finishing school – all those elocution lessons and walking around with books on your head left her cold – but she wouldn’t have minded leaving grandam’s company for a year or two.
“I’ll like it too, grandam,” argued Isabel. Grandam smiled at her.
“Of course you will, dear. But it will be dear Eleanor who will be the belle of the ball. Imagine! She might meet her future husband at this party,” Grandam’s eyed twinkled at Isabel.
“I might meet mine too,” said Isabel, objectionably. She disliked Eleanor being referred to as the ‘belle of the ball’.
“Organising such a big party in such a short time will be difficult, you know,” warned grandam, but Isabel’s mind had run away with her. She would have a circus-style party, with jugglers and tightrope walkers and fire-breathers. Everyone would be dressed up as clowns, but she would wear an elegant ballgown, to show it was her 21st, and…
“Young Eleanor’s debut is a very improtant event,” continued grandam. Isabel’s face fell. Oh. It was a party for Eleanor. Of course. “I thought we could have it on the 31st of this month, what do you think?”
“But that’s my birthday,” wailed Isabel.
“It will be a joint party, for both of you,” said grandam sharply. Isabel felt depressed. It was her birthday on the 31st, Eleanor’s was the day after! It was her special day in the year, and now it was ruined ruined ruined by having to have a stupid party for stupid Eleanor, returning from stupid finishing school.
“Stupid,” muttered Isabel, but was saved from having to explain herself by the arrival of Eleanor.
Eleanor stood in the doorway of the orangery, perfectly erect. She had on a green linen sundress, and white lace gloves. She carried a small attaché case and smiled meekly towards grandam, who came flurrying over to embrace her.
Eleanor was stock-still while grandam pawed at her, and only when she had been released did she incline her head slightly towards Isabel.
“Good afternoon grandam,” she said, in a voice that rang high and clear. “Good afternoon Isabel. Is it not a fine day? I do believe I shall take a nap. Travelling does weary one so.”
“Oh, darling, I’m so happy you’re back!” enthused grandam, taking the attaché case off her and holding her by the gloved hand. “It seems to have done you a world of good.”
“Why, I believe it has,” said Eleanor. “Please be a dear and take my case to my suite. I wish to talk to my sister.”
Grandam, trembling with excitement, left the room with the case.
Eleanor sat down next to Isabel.
“Hello sis,” she said, in her usual voice. Her voice wasn’t rough or common by any means – they lived in Regents Park – but it didn’t have the sonorous tone that she had used before. “I hear you’re organising my debut. Jolly sporting of you.”
“Shut up,’ scowled Isabel.
“I’ll shut up,” said Isabel in a low, threatening tone, “when you make me the star of the party. Everything is to be about me, you hear me? I want pictures of me everywhere, and everyone to talk about me. You make that party the best party there’s ever been. It’s such a shame it’s on your actual birthday but – “ she levelled her face next to Isabel’s. Isabel could see the powder on her nose. “May the best granddaughter win.”
It was then that Isabel decided Eleanor should die. She would kill her, and at her party. There would be no more young Eleanor.
Grandam sailed back into the room.
“Everything going well?” she trilled.
“Fine, thank you,” replied the twins in unison.