It was not Phillip’s job to pay attention to the guests.
His sole duty was to patrol the grounds surrounding the house and prevent anyone from passing through the gardens.
He tried not to pay attention to who arrived, how they were dressed, or how many entered through the large doors.
Despite his attempts to ignore the guests, Phillip heard their laughter as they approached the house. He saw the invitations held tightly in the hands of beautiful people and heard laughter and familiar conversations about who would be there and how long the party might go for.
He had done this job for decades, night after night. His pay had not risen in all that time. The same amount delivered as a cheque in his mail box every day, regardless of whether the post had arrived. He never saw who delivered it.
It was 7:02 and Phillip made certain that he was around the side of the house, hidden from view by the immaculately trimmed bush. He heard her laughter, heard the scuff of shoes on gravel as she nearly tripped in unfamiliar heels. If he stepped out, she would greet him cheerfully. She would be wearing her mother’s red dress and the necklace he bought her for her birthday. But he refused.
His daughter had been invited to the party.
Once all the guests arrived at 7:30, the main doors would be closed. The sounds of music and frivolity could be heard until 9:30, when sudden panic would be heard. The windows would light up with flame, smoke pouring from the chimneys, and then the screaming. But worse than all of that would be the smell as the guests…
No one would escape. No one would come to rescue them.
No one, besides Phillip spoke of the party any more. His wife had left years ago, wanting to move on from the tragedy. She had begged him to move on, to stop haunting the house where it had happened. But Phillip stayed and watched because, even for only a few hours a night, his daughter was alive and having fun at a party.
Phillip locked the gate and turned to begin the lonely walk home, his steps watched by a weeping figure in the window, wearing a tattered red dress.