The Trial and Judgement of Laura Edwards
The phone rings. It rings, not once, not twice, not even thrice. It keeps ringing. I tap my crimson manicured nails on the receiver, waiting for an answer.
"Hello, Oxford admissions. My name is Hannah; how may I assist you?" The voice is low and bored. Too many hopefuls who turned out to be hopeless.
"Ah, good morning," I sing to her, keeping my soprano as pleasant as possible. "My name is Laura Edwards. I made an application, but this morning received a rejection through UCAS."
"Let's see… Laura Edwards…" Her voice is as flat as the dialling tone. There is a silence on the line, a muffled clacking of keys. "Okay Laura, I've got your file here. Twenty, received a D, C and a B. Bridgeford Abbey. Well, I'm afraid you were rejected because that's not Oxford standard--"
"Edwards," I interrupt her. I no longer sing. "My name is Edwards."
She goes quiet. When she speaks again, her voice is no more than a wisp of noise.
"As in Adrian Edwards?"
"My father," I say, and I can tell the cogs are whirling. She clears her throat.
"Very well, Miss Edwards… I think an interview can be arranged."
"I don't think that's necessary."
"No, I don't think so either."
When it comes to getting what you want in this world, name and creed are most important, money a close second. Brains and wit rarely lift the latch on the window of opportunity, but I speak my father's name and a dozen servants are all quite willing to prise it open for me. I cannot tell of Adrian Edward's infamy, only that his tendrils of influence stretch far and wide in this nation, burrowing and corrupting. Judge me as you wish, but our name is spoken either with reverence, or with fear.
I can get whatever I want. However, my life is not only rest and relaxation. There's a penalty to be paid. A debt. I must keep my father sweet.
I take a car back to our main house, our mansion in Somerset. This is where I grew up, a vulgar monstrosity of French chateaux and gothic architecture. Wine dark vines wrap around our lives. Ugly gargoyles sit atop the rafters flirting with even uglier angels. Huge wings sprout from their backs, but the halos have fallen from their heads.
A servant holds the door open for me, his eyes downcast. He looks familiar, but I can't be expected to remember names.
"Where's my father?" I ask, snapping my fingers at him. I don't have time for time wasters. Best get this over quickly.
"In his study I believe, Miss Edwards."
I march up the stairs, past the Tudor tapestries that don't quite match the plasma TV, the carpet dyed with blue blood, to knock on the study door.
"Who is it?" the voice from within calls. It's impatient and irritable.
"It's Laura," I say. "I've got some good news!"
"Oh. Come in." His tone is ever so slightly brighter. He always used to call me his sunshine, that I brightened up his day. The position used to make me happy, to be raised above my other siblings, but the last few years its felt more like community service. Don't get me wrong- it's not as though I've ever had to do such a thing.
The study is furnished with velvet curtains and silk cushions, settees that you don't sit on, but sink into. It's gaudy and disgusting, just like my father, who lounges like a walrus with his feet up on the coffee table, his slight, blossoming beer belly rising like small hill. I slip into a shy smile.
I tell him about my acceptance into Oxford and he beams, lifting me into his lap as though I were still his little girl, his favourite girl, with red ringlets in ribbons, the colour matching his balding nest exactly. Nobody could doubt my parentage.
"I'll buy you a house in town," he tells me, whispering the promise into my ear. "You'll be able to study in peace. And I know how those boys in Trinity behave. You'd enjoy university too much, my little whore."
I giggle, a little simpering giggle, the sound he loves. My father, jealous. I'm sure his spies have told him all about my nightly liaisons.
"Thank you father. You're so kind to me…" I shift in his grip, pressing myself against him.
"Don't call me that," he groans. "Call me-… call me-"
"Daddy," I murmur, and fevered with lust he crushes me under his lips.
Odi et amo. I hate him and I love him. I love the things he gives me, the person he's made me into. But I also hate him for it; for the whore I've become, the dependence he's hooked me on. I hate him and I hate me.
I can hear someone crying. The noise reverberates through my skull, till I can hear and feel nothing but sobbing and screaming. It's my son, Malcolm upstairs, throwing a toddler tantrum. Brat. He's quickly hushed and coo'd by the nanny.
I'll leave him with my father when I move. He won't complain. He's his, anyway.
The world can be bought by money. Happiness and content cannot. But I keep moving; partying and shopping and fucking. All in the hope that when I move, the world will move with me. In the knowledge that when I stop, I'll fall. Yes, I'm a cheat. Yes, I'm a whore. But who here has the right to judge me? Do you? You, reading this and proclaiming me guilty. I'm talking to you. Yes, you.