‘You’ve made a wonderful meal, Mr Wilkinson,’ I said, trying not to get my nose too brown.
‘Daddy cooked for Prince William at University, didn’t you?’ Nikki added from across the table, delicately dabbing at the corner of her mouth with a napkin.
I looked at her, a perfectly poised paragon, and thought about the first night we met. I’d nipped out to Ged’s garden for a break from the party, and there she was. Her yellow dress was so ripped it barely held on. She knelt in the boggy ground astride the chest of some girl she had pinned. There was mud splattered to her elbows and a thick streak across her mouth where she’d wiped the back of her hand. She had a pair of scissors in one hand, a bottle of tequila in the other, and she cackled as she hacked chunks of hair from the head of her victim, who at this point was simply sobbing into the night.
‘He always said I should marry a prince, isn’t that right?’ Nikki doubled down on her Daddy’s Girling. Mr Wilkinson looked toward me with disdain as he laid a cheese player on the table.
Lightning had the next moment in that garden, and the dark clouds burst, which Nikki took as her cue to end the assault. She grabbed a handbag from the mud, packed the scissors and a fistful of severed hair into it, and walked directly towards me. Five minutes later we were destroying Ged’s little sister’s bedroom, ruining her Frozen™ bedcovers with mud, red wine, and at least three different bodily fluids. I’ll never forget the look Olaf gave me as Nikki screeched and bit deep into my shoulder, his snow-white body now matted with Merlot and soil.
‘You don’t need a prince, dear,’ her father spoke as he led the delicate adding of cheese to cracker. ‘A lawyer or a doctor will do just fine.’ He laughed, the way I imagined a horse might.
‘What about a dentist, Daddy?’ Nikki said, clacking her teeth together as if to clarify what she was talking about.
‘So long as they’re private!’ Mr Wilkinson answered in a beat, which, judging by their joint reaction, was quite hilarious.
I took a knife to help myself to cheese as I thought about how only twenty-four hours before I’d seen this Victorian doll order a steak blue and proceed to pick it up to eat directly out of her hands, pink blood dripping over her chin as she did.
I felt the room go cold as the memory dissolved, it happened so quickly I froze with it, freshly cut cheese still on the end of my knife.
‘I think you should leave,’ Mr Wilkinson said, and it didn’t sound like a joke. I looked to Nikki, she dropped her eyes to the table in what looked like shame.
‘I will not have the sort of savage who cuts the nose off cheese at my table, or anywhere near my daughter,’ he added flatly, before rising to show me the door.