Tipples toppled down merry throats, the guests warming themselves by crackling fire—some slouched whilst patting their overstuffed tummies, others arranged their legs in lotus position, backs straight and eager to glean what adventures awaited them before dessert.
‘Charades?’ Maurice queried the group of eleven other warm beings sat around the skewed circle, an equal balance of men and women.
Jonty extracted vintage briar pipe from pursed lips, his other hand pinching the lapel of tartan waistcoat and proclaimed: ‘A champion idea!’
‘Indeed!’ The rest of the gaggle agreed.
‘Bunny is the charades champion!’ Boasted Maurice, Bunny’s fiancé who idled most at his days at Father’s vineyard, savouring liquid grapes before firing purple streams of wine into spittoons.
‘Good girl yourself, Bunny!’ Puffed out Pierre, circulating a stock of Montblanc pens and watermarked paper to his guests. ‘A champion girl!’
Bunny beamed with pride at this affirmation from her old school chums. She had never been champion of anything at school—hardly passed a subject each term—but Mother’s call to the Headmaster of Claridge’s Day School netted Bunny admission despite her universally-acknowledged inferior intelligence. Requiring little reminding to the Headmaster, Bunny was Bunny Richmond of the Richmond Richmonds, a family dripping with riches and titles. Whilst her brain was under no pressure to perform at school, Bunny had excelled to inspire fellow Claridge pupils in all matters of disguising provocative brassieres beneath cashmere twinsets and mastering the art of peeling curly lemon twists for martinis. She was a good-time girl.
‘Oh, Maurice! That was a million years ago at summer camp!’
‘Yes, but when you are crowned a champion you are a champion, m’dear,’ her fiancé clarified. ‘And if I remember rightly, you were the champion of strip charades!’
At his risqué disclosure, the ensemble tittered and guffawed, some tinkled expensive pens lightly against their lead-crystal flutes of bubbly. Bunny blushed at the yesteryear memory of late-night frolicking with fellow campers amongst the lush Welsh cabins on the lake. That was a summer to remember. There, the posh young teens assembled in secret when those in charge tucked into bed on 300-count sheets. There, the boys with exploding Adam’s apples enticed girls blossoming to womanhood to kick off the games with Spin the Bottle, then Truth or Dare. Strip Charades was the finale of the night and, like tonight, a youthful and rather bawdy Maurice had played compere.
‘A jolly good night that was! One to remember, Bunny. One to remember!’ Shouted Jonty, looking her up and down with obvious jut of his strong jaw, evoking a greater volume of guffaw from the guests.
Lord Harquest’s daughter, Angelica, tried to calm the throng sprawled out across the wall-to-wall Persian carpet her father had imported to match the floor-to-ceiling crimson curtains. ‘Shush now! This time we’ll keep our clothes on—we were kids then! These are the teams.’
Angelica reeled off the list of six names, followed by confirmation of the other six who would oppose them. Half a dozen then retreated to the drawing room with paper and pens, the other half remained in situ and began writing their charade clues—ones that surely the other team would never guess.
Fifteen minutes and three more bottles of Dom Perignon later, the full group reassembled and each team captain released their folded clues into shiny brass bowls atop either end of white marble mantelpiece. Jonty stoked the fire, illuminating the room further and reddening the guests’ cheeks.
‘The champion must go first!’ Christina heralded from her supine perch on chaise lounge.
‘Here, here! The champion!’
Butterflies fluttered Bunny’s belly and, were she not feeling increasingly squiffy from three hefty glasses of Barolo with the Beef Wellington and six flutes of champagne since, she would have retreated. But it was stirring to hear herself be proclaimed ‘a champion.’ Such victory had not been bestowed upon her bodacious and audacious self since life was a day of dreaming of her future.
‘And we have the perfect clue for you to start us off, Bunny.’
Antonia pressed a small, folded paper into Bunny’s manicured hand which Bunny unfolded, careful not to allow her team a glimpse. She stared at the word, written in neat and fanciful blue ink, gulped a weighty dose of oxygen then nodded to Pierre who clutched his gold Apple Watch, timer primed for countdown.
Bunny slid the folded paper up the inside of her left wrist, tucking it inside the her pink cardigan cuff. To her team of faces staring agog, Bunny clasped her hands together, making sweeping gestures over her head in celebration. Her team remained mute. No guesses.
Next, Bunny extended both arms out each side of her body, bending them at the elbow then crunching fists together to show off her muscles. No guesses, just silence staring back at her.
‘One minute left,’ chirped Pierre.
She decided acting out the word was a fruitless exercise. She would break the word down into syllables.
Then they were on a roll. Three syllables they guessed when she brandished three fingers from right hand on left arm. Bunny nodded affirmation.
Third syllable was an easy guess: she acted out various prepositions of place and, once the team shouted out a stream of ‘ins’ and ‘behinds’ and other guesses, they correctly nailed ‘on.’
The second syllable called for more brazen actions. Bunny squatted and mimed that she was unrolling loo roll from the wall.
‘Pee!’ Blared Georgina, smug look on her flawless face when Bunny nodded.
‘So,’ Maurice said swiftly. ‘Three syllables. Something-pee-on.’
‘Anyone?’ Maurice asked his team.
‘Fifteen seconds!’ Cut in Pierre.
Bunny was now desperate. How could her team be so dim? How could she lose this, lose her title? It may not be much, but she had her reputation to preserve.
In mad flurry, Bunny resorted to the only means for ensuring victory: she tore off her clothing until only the smallest of smalls shielded view from her most private of privates. The room fell collectively silent with twenty-two pairs of glassy eyes taking in the performance of Bunny’s lifetime.
Bunny ran to the mahogany coffee table which Jonty had pushed into the corner to make room for their game. Her long, bare legs leapt gracefully onto the wood. Upon landing on the table, Bunny extended her arms above head, imagining herself grasping a gleaming trophy, engraved clearly for all to see: ‘Bunny Richmond, the Charades—‘
‘Champion!’ They shouted in unison.
Indeed—Bunny was victorious!