The guy looks surprised.
‘I know!’ I say. ‘You’d have thought my parents would’ve called a halt after him.’
It occurs to me that I’m effectively talking about my parents’ sex life to a complete stranger. He laughs, and introduces himself.
‘That’s an unusual name,’ I say.
‘There’s a Bollywood star with the same name.’
‘Oh right. I’ve only seen one Bollywood film, and I’m not sure it really counts – Bride and Prejudice?’
No surprises there.
‘My brother was in that,’ he says.
‘Yep – as an extra in the wedding scene. He had to dance like this… ’
I’m treated to a demo.
We go on to discuss the local neighbourhood (shabby), the pros and cons of single-sex education, and our respective flatmates. We’ve been chatting for some time; any longer and I’ll be, as Austen would say, ‘in some danger’ of liking the guy. He gives me a nudge, and nods in the direction of a girl standing by the window.
‘Do you know Maria?’ he says.
‘Err, well, sort of. We met earlier. Why?’
‘I know Maria.’
I smell a rat. Not literally, which is surprising given our surroundings.
‘What do you think of her?’ he says.
‘She seems lovely. I mean – we only spoke briefly, but I’d like to have chatted longer. Why – are you… ?’
‘There’s something about her,’ he says, distractedly.
I look from him to Maria, then back. Something – the wine perhaps – makes me ask,
‘Is she – your girlfriend!?’
And it’s probably the wine which makes him say,
‘No – well – we’re lovers!’
‘There’s something about her…’ he says again.
‘Well, she’s very beautiful.’ My voice has hardened.
‘No, that’s not it. There’s something – I can’t put my finger on it….’
‘Well then you’re not a very good lover!’ I say, laughing, and turn away.