She reads a magazine, glasses pushed to the end of her nose in an effort to prove she has no real use for them. A brash, nonchalant gesture that I presume is designed to make her look younger, but which, in fact, has the opposite effect.

A dry cough, a flick of her hair and a self-important lick of her fingers before she turns the page completes the affectation of intellectual indifference – as though she knows that we are hateful, distasteful creatures and that it is below her to sit amongst us.

I imagine she believes herself to deserve the finer things in life – that she is used to money and the false respect it brings. I am undecided as to whether she is suffering a midlife crisis and wishes to recapture her youth here, or is undergoing a messy divorce and can not afford the sort of luxury she feels is her due. Her bitter-cornered mouth and steely glare lead me to believe she is jaded, sour and sore – it seems to confirm my suspicions of separation and I can imagine any husband being interested in a less venemous partner. A poisonous snake, perhaps? Or a scorpion?

As I flick my eyes in her direction, trying not to sigh too loudly, I realise that I am perhaps being unfair. All she has done is complain about the hospitality of our hosts. I can find no fault in them personally – indeed, I can’t imagine a more welcoming place than this – but she is obviously unimpressed. I imagine it would bother me less if she had made her discontent known in a more open way, instead of whispering behind backs and pulling miserable faces in the shadows.

She is an ugly person, though at first glance you may disagree with my assessment. The negative things she hisses to other guests eat away at the ghost of her once glorious looks. I remind myself to be warm, to greet her openly, lest I too become as ugly as she is. I don’t want to give her the impression we’re friends – that too would be false – but she has done me no harm and so when she passes my way I prepare to tip my pen in greeting and smile. She looks on in distaste,

“You’re writing?”

“Yes.”

“What about?”

“Ugly people.”

“Why would you waste your time writing about ugly people?”

She’s got me there.

Why indeed?

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