Several things happen. In the cloakroom, I bump into Hannah.
‘I saw Freddie’s mother yesterday,’ she says, ‘and she was telling me about the time she rescued you or something?’
I roll my eyes. ‘Oh God. She always goes on about–.’
‘And she was saying how she thought you’d be the perfect husband for him.’
‘Wife, sorry – the perfect wife for Freddie.’
‘Oh – right.’ I frown. ‘She always talks about the time – it was very kind of her – basically I’d locked myself out of my flat and it was freezing and she came and picked me up. But she always mentions it, every time I see her!’
Hannah laughs. ‘She always will.’
‘I know you’re right.’
Freddie’s mother will still be telling that story when we’re old and grey, have five children and a house full of dusty books. Oh wait…
‘How goes your mission?’
The official challenge might be over, but my dating days hopefully are not; and Rachel and I have set ourselves the task of finding a date in the course of the evening.
I look past her, towards Hannah’s table. ‘Hmm. I just bumped into a friend of Freddie’s. Apparently his mother thinks I’d be a good wife for him.’ I laugh. ‘Now all we need is for Freddie to come round to her way of seeing things!’
Rachel frowns. ‘Do you like Freddie?’
I think for a moment. ‘I used to, a lot. I think I’ve accepted that he doesn’t see me that way, but well, at one point it looked like he did – no he did, judging by his behavior, but when we talked about it he said…’
The music comes on for the next dance.
I shrug. ‘I think we’d be good together.’
We go off in search of our partners.
Passing one of the tables, I notice a guy I’ve never met, but who I feel like I know. There’s a spark of recognition in his face also.
Then there’s Todd. Who I know I have chemistry with. And who I know knows it. I join him in the breakfast queue. I say ‘in it’. He’s accidentally on purpose jumped to the front.
‘Do you think it’s OK if I join you here?’ I say.
The couple behind us look amenable enough, whilst pointing out that they are not the end of the queue – it snakes back some way. Todd feigns innocence, and we thank the couple for letting us in.
‘Sorry do you mind…?’
This time it’s Todd who is amenable, and lets the guy get to the scrambled egg.
Laughing, I say, ‘We’d be hypocrites to say no, being queue-jumpers ourselves.’
‘I’m very stealth, aren’t I?!’
He scoops egg onto his plate. ‘You’d be a rubbish spy!’
I laugh. Plates in hand, we make our way back to the table. I liked him when we met, two years ago now. And I like him still.
‘There’s a guy here, and it’s a bit weird, cos, well, we have a bit of history…’
By which I mean, I added him on Facebook after we met at a party (the hostess kept introducing us to each other, and each time we pretended we hadn’t met before), and he struck up a conversation… before going MIA.
‘… that is, I think he liked me at one point – no I know he did, a bit – but well, he’s engaged…’
‘No. Just no, Anna. You don’t want to be that girl.’
Rachel’s been abroad for a bit. I’ve missed her no-nonsense manner.
‘No,’ I say.
‘Wait til he’s married, then you can be that girl.’
We dance, Todd and I, and I try not to flirt. Because, well, his fiancée is next to me in the set, and, well, he has a fiancée!!!! Suddenly a guy ‘having a girlfriend’ doesn’t seem like that much of a big deal.
On the stairs, I see the guy from before. I know who he is – I knew immediately on seeing him. He’s a bit shorter than I expected, and looks quieter, nicer. We exchange faint smiles.