My mother‘s advice: make sure you leave with someone.
Isn’t that always the plan? And it nearly came off. It would have perhaps, if I’d liked him less.
The occasion is a dinner party. My mother’s up for the evening and drives me to the door.
‘If you walk back to the station,’ she says, ‘make sure you go with someone – or take a taxi.’
There’s one behind us, waiting to get past. I say a hasty goodbye, jump out and enter the building.
It’s the best kind of evening: relaxed, unpretentious, filled with laughter. I arrive to find three guests already sitting at the table. Introductions follow. I take a seat next to the only man present. Conversation is polite and pleasant, if a little stilted. The doorbell rings.
He’s dark, casually dressed, and looks confident, walking ahead of the hostess. We’re introduced and fall into easy conversation. He doesn’t reel. He does sail, but would enjoy it more if the boats had fewer holes in them. Which brings us, somewhat inevitably, to Rebecca, other novels by du Maurier, Atonement (via characterisation), the short story genre, his burgeoning legal career. He’s fun, funny and smart, and I’m glad when, supper being ready, he takes the seat beside me. This is, again somewhat inevitably, when paranoia sets in: the desire not to appear too interested, not to ask the kinds of questions which I could only possibly be interested in hearing the answers to because I’m contemplating spending the rest of my life with the person.
Fast forward a couple of hours. The hostess is telling a long story, which is entertaining because I’ve had some wine, and impossible to follow because she’s had some wine. Fun, Funny and Smart (FFS for short) is sitting back in his chair, brow furrowed, mouth set in a smile. I’m no expert – as evidenced by this blog – but the way he looks at me, the way our eyes meet whenever I glance his way, the fact he keeps offering me chocolates, his reaction when I get up to leave: it all suggests he likes me.
I pull on my coat.
‘Are you getting the last tube?’ he says, making as if to get up too.
The guy to his right gives him a friendly shove. ‘You can walk home from here!’
Shyness and paranoia (see above) stops me saying anything more than ‘Yes’. I follow the hostess through to her room, find my bag. She’s about to show me out.
‘I’ll just say goodbye….’
I go back through to the dining room. FFS rises from his seat; we kiss on the cheeks.
Work the next day is a struggle, but I drift through it wearing the silly smile of someone who’s met someone they like who might, just might, like them back. Lunchtime, my smile broadens (standard) when the guy in question adds me on Facebook (not standard).
Two days later, I’m on the blower to Beatrice complaining that I haven’t heard from him.
‘And it’s been, what, nearly 48 hours!’
Silence: the phone equivalent of an eye roll. Then we laugh.
‘Fine,’ I say, ‘but…’
So not fine.