Incessant drops of rain hammer the carriage ceiling as you anxiously await your arrival at the Parsleys’ dinner party. If it weren’t for the prestigious nature of the event, and the fact that it’s your first invitation, you would’ve stayed home. The agitation of being hauled along a rough road in a horse-drawn carriage is enough to make you get out and walk back, were it any other occasion.
Why do the Parsleys live in such an inconvenient location? Considering their popularity around town, you figured the house would reside on a prominent street. No. That would be expected, and you always find yourself in peculiar situations that should be normal. Why would tonight be any different? Here you are: bouncing up and down on a disheveled road on your way to meet the notable couple who—until now—you were partly convinced didn’t really exist.
The carriage hits a large hole, sending the adjacent passenger into your lap.
“Why, I do say!” she gasps, reaching for an oversized blue hat that fell to the floor. Her voice reminds you of what a talking hen might sound like: full, motherly, and a little loud.
“You’d think they’d provide decent transportation!” the woman continues, although you have yet to speak a word in response. “They appear to have money, but that Regina has always been cheap! Cheap, cheap, cheap!”
The hen image comes back as you try not to chuckle. Collecting yourself, you politely respond: “Do you know Mrs. Parsley?”
“Regina?” the woman begins. “Of course! We meet in town for tea every other Thursday.” She throws a hand on her head, securing her recently recovered hat as the carriage lurches again. “She said she lives out this way, but if I knew we’d be dragged down this disgrace of a road, I wouldn’t have come!”
“You’ve never been here before?” you ask.
The woman laughs, “Neither I, nor anybody else! Regina and Theodore used to host dinner parties at their place on Broad Street—you know, three blocks down from the theatre. It was only a few weeks ago that the couple moved to the country. I can’t begin to tell you why!”
A surge of wind and leaves slap the door, prompting the woman to turn silent. You frown as she reaches for your hand, squeezing it with unexpected force.
“Relax,” a gentleman’s mellow voice declares. He is the third and final passenger traveling with you. Until now, you thought him asleep beneath his top hat.
“It’s just a little storm. This too shall pass.” With that, he crosses his arms and retires from the conversation.
You glance at the man, then back at the woman in blue. You want to ask her about his identity but realize you don’t even know her name.
“I’m sorry, but you are?”
“Betty…Betty Cronk,” her mouth quivers as she looks out the window. She seems nervous.
“Don’t like storms?” you ask. Although you’re trying to lighten the mood, you haven’t forgotten your own frustration or the irritating itch that’s engulfing your legs.
“Never have,” Betty answers. “My husband is the brave one. Give me a crowd, and I’m bold as can be, but give me some angry nature, and I’m cemented indoors.”
Another jolt shakes the carriage.
“Please tell me we’re almost there!” she pleads, tightening her lock on your hand.
You clench your teeth and exhale, trying to be polite amidst what feels like broken bones.
Suddenly, thunder roars as your trip comes to an abrupt stop in front of a white mansion. You can barley see any details through the curtain of rain covering your window. All you distinguish are a few small lights—which you assume are candles—flickering behind what you believe are windows. There’s a larger blur of light in the middle—that must be a door.
The carriage opens as its driver offers you an umbrella. You step down from your seat, take the umbrella, and patiently hold it for Betty. She frantically lifts the hem of her dress and cringes as her silk heels land in a puddle of dirty water. Together, you approach the house. The other gentleman—seemingly unbothered by the monsoon of rain upon his coat—trails behind.
As you brave the sidewalk, lightning flashes. You realize the Parsleys’ door is already open and quickly proceed inside. Before removing your coat, you observe your surroundings. Although a luxurious chandelier hovers over the entryway, the rest of the house is dark. Faint specks of light creep out of the neighboring rooms, creating all the comfort of an overpriced haunted house. As you process the unusual atmosphere, a tall man in a tuxedo slowly approaches from down the hall. You watch as he comes closer and closer.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
Option A: Turn and run after the carriage. You want to go home.
Option B: Step back and let the other two guests go first. Manners are of utmost importance.
Option C: Wait for the mysterious man to greet you. After all, this is a dinner party and you’re hungry.
Please cast your vote in the comments section below by midnight on Sunday, June 24, 2018. You can also vote on the Twitter or Facebook posts. The majority answer will dictate where the story picks up.
So, what would you do in this situation?