This is the bad news. But we’re only 15 minutes into a 45-minute conversation. I’m not feeling great, obviously, and he’s sounding increasingly uncertain to the point that he wants to tell me – he does tell me that he’s confused in his own feelings. He really likes me, and tells me so several times. He thinks I’m witty and beautiful. If I can’t do what we’re doing could I find a way to being friends at some point? But no, he says in answer to his own question, you’ve said no to friends.
The idea of being friends with someone I fancy as much as I do VP makes me shudder. I can barely refrain from kissing him when we are together and it’s OK for me to do so; the idea of making polite chit-chat over herbal tea doesn’t bear thinking about. No, this has to be a clean break, for now anyway. Perhaps, I find myself thinking, when I’m happily married to Tristan with three children, and the back catalogue of Country Life in the downstairs loo (joke), I would be able to see VP. But even I know that’s a terrible idea. We were never friends. I love the way he kisses me, the way he invades my personal space, how he says ‘tell me’ when I begin a story, at once fierce and gentle. The things I love about him are what lovers do, not friends.
So I say no to friends. And no when he asks if we could speak again soon.
‘Do you think at some point in the future,’ he says, ‘when you’ve got five kids and you’re incredibly wealthy… and successful… and happy, we might be able to have a peppermint tea together?’
What is it with him and herbal tea?! He doesn’t even like tea! And neither do I.
‘That’s a lot of hypotheticals,’ I say, again thinking of Tristan. ‘I don’t know… maybe….’
This is when I start thinking about how to shut down the conversation without resorting to When Harry Met Sally sound bites. And I’m assuming from his mutterings that he’s doing the same thing. There’s a pause, then he says in a different tone of voice, clear and precise:
‘I’m moving back to London.’
I half-laugh. ‘What?’
‘Early next year.’
He tells me about the new job and his plans for the intervening months. I let him speak, prompting with the occasional question. I don’t know why he’s telling me, or what to feel.
A short while later and again I’m casting about for suitable parting words.
‘We’ll see…’ I begin. The sentence peters out.
‘Yes, see you.’
He must have misheard, must have thought I said ‘I’ll see you’. I want to put him right, I want honesty and truth to carry through right to the end. But I stop myself. Perhaps this way is better, a white lie.