The door opened behind us, letting in a draft of cool air and the smell of wet pavement, and the unpleasant expression on Sarah’s face immediately vanished as she switched into hostess mode. “It’s a free bar,” she told us, beaming, “so please help yourself, and if you want to dance, just follow the music! Just do try to stay off the tables,” she said with a titter, and then brushed past us with a “Good evening!” as she captured the newcomers in a hug.
“‘Just do try to stay off the tables’,” Faye mimicked under her breath. “God, I always forget how much I dislike that woman.”
“I think the feeling’s mutual,” I said, watching as Sarah tilted her head and laughed. “You have to admit, though, she’s got the social mask down pat.”
“I never could work out what Alex saw in her,” Faye said. “I mean, Christ, I see Sarah practically as much as he does and the cow drives me up a wall.”
“Chemistry is a funny thing,” I replied.
“What chemistry?” Faye demanded. “They don’t have any. They’re just a…I don’t know, a pretty matched blond couple with pretty blue eyes and pretty smiles.”
“Wow,” I said. “Alex would be hurt at your assessment of him as such a shallow creature.”
“Oh, you know what I mean.”
I shrugged. “Anyway, they must have some chemistry.” I watched Sarah for a moment and then added, “They’ve been together for almost six years now, and seeing as neither of them is exactly floating in money I think you’d be hard-pressed to say either of them are sticking with the other in the hopes of marrying rich…”
“They’ve only been together six years if you count the ‘off’ parts of their relationship as well,” Faye objected. “And there’s been a hell of a lot of the last six years that’ve been ‘off’.”
“Meh,” I said. “I want booze.”
Faye twirled her hand and pointed with a flourish. “To the bar!” She offered me her arm with a grand gesture. “My lady?”
Laughing, I slipped my arm through hers and allowed her to escort me through to the bar, which was full of masked individuals who were clearly already well on their way to drunk. Dinner had obviously come with plenty of drink.
Having successfully battled our way through the masses to the bar, we retired to one of the couches by the window to watch as people milled about, armed with two large glasses of Sauvignon Blanc. The members of the dining party had already lost any inhibitions and awkwardness incumbent in the wearing of the masks, but it was entertaining to see the others trying to work out how to interact with unidentified individuals. Certain unspoken rules seemed to apply; clearly it was a social faux pas to ask any identifying questions. Names were off-limits, as were questions about occupation if they might give away the person’s identity. For some time as people continued to arrive, Faye and I played a game of ‘spot the wedding ring’, which grew more entertaining as we began to spot those individuals guiltily sneaking their rings off their fingers and into their pockets once they realised others had already done so. Emboldened by the anonymity afforded by the masks, there were several bold flirtations occurring, several of which involved individuals who were very definitely married, and not to each other.
Eventually Faye grew bored of people-watching and sprawled back on the couch. She eyed up a passing man, her eyes lingering on his arse, and then asked abruptly, “Do you think if I shaved my head Simon would notice?”
Bollocks. We were back to Simon. We always came back to Simon. If I’d had a choice, I would have challenged him to a duel, not to the death, but rather to the pain. Ah, The Princess Bride, the things you taught me. I think I’d take off his dick to start with…
“Probably not a great move, babe,” I said, ruffling her hair. “I have a feeling he’d probably run from Britney as fast as he could.” I considered. “Actually, on balance, that’s a brilliant idea…”
Faye swatted my hand away. “Maybe if I went ginger…”
“Oh good, now you’re willing to give up your soul,” I teased. “Well, I guess to be fair I always knew Simon was the devil…”
“I could find myself another man?” She stared intently at the mask of someone standing in the doorway to the lounge.
“Definitely the best idea you’ve had all day,” I said cheerfully. “Far sight better than bald or ginger. And definitely better than baiting Sarah.”
“But baiting Sarah is so fun.” She sulked for a moment. “Anyway, I mean to make Simon jealous. He has to notice if other men suddenly want me, right?” She considered and grinned. “Although a bit of man fun wouldn’t be so bad.”
“Oh.” Rats. We were still hung up on Simon, although far be it from me to object to man fun… “Well, if it’s to make Simon jealous I have to disapprove. He is a selfish, emotionally manipulative prick who’s only interested in himself and what the rest of the world can do for him. And you know as well as I do that dragging Simon’s attention back to you is a bad, bad idea. By all means go for a bit of man fun…but for god’s sake, Faye, please don’t do it because of Simon!”
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Faye muttered, pulling herself up off the couch. “We can’t all have the perfect relationship.” She tapped her glass. “Another?”
“Please,” I said fervently.