I remember everything he’s ever told me. In fact, the whole time we’re talking, it feels like we both already know everything the other person is saying. A smile plays around both our mouths. We look out over the water.
The bit I regret most is, as I left, putting a hand on his arm.
Tonight I would ignore the guy. Not in a rude way, just that I wouldn’t seek him out, strike up a conversation, or even be found in his general vicinity. I spend the first half of the evening dancing with Ryan (and inevitably therefore thinking of Tristan who, true to form, isn’t there). Matthew’s in the other room, drinking. He might not even dance. It would probably be for the best.
I see him enter the room, but pretend not to notice. I feel his hand on my shoulder and feign surprise. We’ve been here before.
‘Not since Christmas. I haven’t seen you – since Christmas!’ he says.
He’s pretty hammered, that much is clear.
We look out over the water.
‘So,’ he says, ‘you went to Oxford?’
‘Yes. How did you know that?’
I give him a look. It’s a running joke between VP and I – as much as anything can be a running joke between two people who barely ever see each other – the hourly sweep we make of each other’s profiles. Of course, VP’s joking (I think). Matthew – Matthew I don’t think is.
He laughs again. ‘Fortunately I regularly delete my search history!’
OK, in hindsight, this is appalling. He has a girlfriend, and when the power of speech comes back to me I remind him of this fact. He doesn’t deny it, only smiles and changes the subject.
Back on the dance floor…
‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ he says.
‘No. But you have a girlfriend.’
We dance on. I can see Beatrice out of the corner of my eye.
‘What do I do?’
Matthew’s gone ahead for a smoke, cue summit meeting.
Beatrice, smiling, spreads her hands. ‘Is he still with his girlfriend?’
I have my answer.
‘You could ask how his girlfriend is.’
‘Did that. What do I do?’
‘Well… you can get with him…’
‘No! No no no. That’s not even – no. I shouldn’t follow him.’
I follow him. Which is my first mistake.
(TO BE CONTINUED)