Ted Ellis-Clarke had brought a beautiful giraffe with him apparently. She was too tall to be a supermodel, and the animal print dress just served to heighten the effect that she might feel more at home browsing the upper leaves on some sparse dry tree in the Serengeti.
Nate got a crick in his neck just trying to look at the girl, but when he did he could see that she was really very young indeed, still a schoolgirl probably, and she looked absolutely terrified. He smiled, and she grinned back, displaying her retainer; then as if she suddenly remembered the retainer, the smile died instantly and her lips closed once again. She flushed deepest red.
“Hello!” said Nate, trying to put the girl at her ease. “I’m Nate, and you are…” his voice tailed off as he looked to Ted to provide the information for the formal introduction.
“Oh goodness, yes, Nate, this is Blaze Avery. Blaze, this is Nate Barzeh. Nate, Blaze plays an alien in the new Star Trek movie. She has a few other things in development as well. I already told her all about you Nate so I don’t need to do that bit”
“Hi Blaze” said Nate, “I don’t get to look up at many women…Basketball?”
The girl looked so relieved.
“Yes! I am hoping to try out for the USA Women’s National Team” she said, with a great deal more enthusiasm than she had displayed on hearing Ted recount her single movie credit as a nameless alien in a movie that hadn’t yet premiered.
At that point, Sally rejoined the party.
“Sally darling!” Ted Ellis-Clarke leaped forward to give Sally a big hug. “I’ve not seen you in forever. Nate, you have to stop hiding her away from the world! Sally, my love. I’d love you to meet Blaze Avery. Isn’t she just gorgeous?”
Poor Blaze was as red as a beetroot, and stammered out a rather feeble greeting as Sally looked at Ted in astonishment,
“I don’t mean to be awfully rude Ted, but surely Miss Avery is, um…” Ted looked surprised for a moment, and then roared with laughter.
“Oh wow Sally, I think you have the wrong end of the stick entirely there. Blaze is Tina’s daughter. I thought the name gave it away. You did go to Tina’s wedding you know, remember Tina, my sister, Mrs Avery? Blaze is only fifteen for god’s sake. What do you take me for?”
Everybody turned to look at Blaze, who looked on the verge of tears now.
“Oh Teddy, you are such a monster. That poor girl” Sally hissed into his ear.
Everyone rallied around to try to make the child feel more comfortable. It was bizarre calling Blaze a child as she was the tallest person in the room by half an inch or more, and considering that Martin and Nate were both over six feet tall, that was quite an achievement.
Sally couldn’t recall ever seeing such a tall woman before in her life. She sincerely hoped for the child’s sake that she had done all her growing already and there was no more to endure. She was already of circus freak proportions and Sally felt so sad for her, and it pained her to have caused the girl so much embarrassment. The plus point was that there had been a method to Teddy’s madness. He knew that the loft was a large space, and he knew his friends would be lovely to her. He had reckoned without Pierrette, La Duchesse de Maupentier and her escort being present though, but Martin seemed very nice and happy to join in.
Gleefully, all the men seized the opportunity to take off their formal jackets and challenge the girl to run rings around them at basketball skills in the large minimalist space, which she was more than happy to do for twenty minutes, by the end of which time, Blaze was firm friends with all of the men and they all looked flushed but happy.
It turned out that Blaze Avery was the most extraordinary person; just phenomenal in every way. She had been raised by her English mother, Tina, a journalist and author, and her American father, Professor Willard Avery who taught at an exclusive boarding school in New York, and who wrote articles that had been printed in every major newspaper and periodical in the United States.
It was obvious from the first that all of the men were hopelessly smitten with the girl; not in a creepy sexual way, but rather as if a fairy princess had appeared from nowhere and had asked them all to be her liege men. Sally found it completely hilarious that she and Péri had been so utterly upstaged by this gawky kid and that all the men were so entirely captivated by her.
Blaze looked as if she’d be the most beautiful girl in the world, if it wasn’t for that damned retainer. She was relaxed now, happy, smiling and chatting easily. It was even more difficult to believe she was just fifteen.
She was discussing the political situation in Chechnya with Sir Martin and she was incredibly well informed on the subject. She appeared to excel at everything. She knew music and literature as well as pop culture and TV references. Of course she could paint and draw, yes she played the piano, guitar and saxophone, she was the editor of her school’s newspaper, she was a prefect, she was on the basketball team, of course, and she played tennis and chess, and made a lot of her own clothes
“The stores never have my size, I am just too tall”
Blaze was a reader, she read anything and everything. She kept a detailed journal and had several pen-friends in different countries all of whom were teaching her things about their customs, country, language and beliefs.
As the meal got to the dessert stage, Sally found herself once more in the kitchen with only Péri to talk to.
“There was a girl just like this at my finishing school in Lausanne” Péri confided
“Oh that’s nice, were you friends?”
“Not really, I punched her in the cunt”
Sally dropped the tiramisu dish to the floor in an explosion of near hysterical laughter. Péri started to laugh too. The dish bounced, splattering the tiramisu out, covering both the women with cream and chocolate as the men came running to find out what had happened.