‘Thanks!’ I take a seat. ‘There’s a reason.’
‘I want to hear it.’
We order coffee.
‘Do you have a d-?’
‘Well, you do. You look good, but not like you’re trying.’
I laugh. ‘That’s exactly what I was going for!’
Hostess of Carrier Pigeon fame opens the front door to me. ‘Hello!’
We kiss on the cheeks.
‘You’ve got cold hands!’
‘Oh it’s fine,’ I say. ‘I took the scenic route from Victoria – but at least it was actually scenic!’
She’d changed the start time at the last minute, so I had twenty minutes to kill in the West End. That, or risk arriving early and finding myself forced to make awkward conversation with FFS.
‘Could I put my…?’
‘Of course.’ She shows me through to the bedroom. The last time I was in here, I was gathering together coat and bag.
‘Walk me to the station?’
‘That’s an order,’ I said jokingly, putting my hand on FFS’ lapel.
I don’t think he liked being told what to do, even in jest.
The night air was cold, and we walked close, my hand in his, tucked into the pocket of his coat for warmth. He tried to persuade me to stay at his, but I would go home. We kissed on the pavement. I nearly missed my train.
I can hear a man’s voice coming from the sitting room, but it’s not his. Perhaps he’s late. Perhaps he’s not invited. Unlikely: they’re very close, in every sense.
The doorbell rings. Voices on the stair. A girl I know well comes in. We chat about balls, past and future. I’m going to one the following week with a guy I don’t know very well. ‘He’s a dreamy dancer though and he knows ballroom so I can’t wait!’
The hostess’ phone vibrates at my elbow. A familiar name flashes up on the screen, and she answers it. Talking, she goes to the door. Moments later, a guy – he must be mid-twenties – comes in. He’s casually dressed in jumper and trousers. We’re introduced.
‘You’re Maria’s cousin, is that right?’
‘No, well, we have a mutual cousin,’ he says. ‘Have you met Will?’
I learn in the course of the evening that Will’s abroad, presumably on holiday. His cousin is pleasant enough, and a shrink would probably say I was guilty of transference. It’s obvious though that whilst Will thought me sexy, funny and attractive, this guy is indifferent. Which is fine, but by the end of the meal I’m feeling a bit sad. I’ve worked my arse off to keep the conversation flowing and I haven’t laughed once, not really, not the way I laugh with Will. I know, and I’m not ashamed to admit it, that I wanted him to be here. I miss the jokes, the irreverence, the laughter. It doesn’t grow on trees, that kind of chemistry. He said it himself.
‘I liked you, and I thought we had chemistry.’
That’s why he got in touch in the first place.
He added. ‘We have chemistry.’
The cousin and I leave at the same time, something Will and I failed to achieve the night we met.
‘Nice to meet you,’ he says on the doorstep. ‘Have a good week.’
He mounts his bike and sets off in the direction of the river. I cut through the backstreets heading for the station, hands tucked into my pockets for warmth.