at the ends, and it is loose down her back. ‘Fine,’ she adds. ‘How are you? Aren’t you working in London these days?’
‘Yes, that’s right.’ I do not want to go into details. ‘Back for the weekend. How about you? What are you up to?’
She smiles. ‘Oh, nothing much. Working. Staying at home with my cats. Dancing round the kitchen. Nothing as interesting as you.’
I remember that she has a boyfriend whom she described as ‘a recluse’, and that the two of them rarely leave the house.
‘How’s your partner?’ I ask.
‘He’s great, thanks. He’s well. I miss London, actually. Occasionally.’
Sam snorts. ‘Yeah, right! You live here, in the best place in the world.’
‘I know. Easy to miss city life from a distance. Hey, Sam, it must be nice having Lara back?’
He nods. ‘Certainly is.’
‘I won’t barge in any longer,’ says Iris, getting up. ‘I’ll leave you two to it.’
‘Are you sure?’ I ask. ‘Join us for a drink.’
Sam starts to stand up. ‘What can I get you?’ he asks, in a tone that clearly conveys that he wants her to insist on leaving.
She takes the hint and waves her hands theatrically. ‘No, absolutely not. Thank you, though. I need to get going anyhow. Can’t be drunk in charge of a bike again. Hey, have fun. Enjoy London. And if you’re ever in Budock, look me up.’
‘Thanks,’ I say, and I watch her weaving her way through the crowds and disappearing. I wish she’d had her boyfriend with her: they could have sat with us and we could have had a drink together and the intensity of everything would have been diluted. We would have been like a normal couple, with friends.
‘Enjoy London?’ Sam looks confused. ‘Weird thing to say.’
‘Oh, she was just being nice. Hey, Sam, do you want to come to London one weekend?’ Getting him a surprise trip for Christmas suddenly doesn’t seem like a very good idea after all. ‘We could drink cocktails and go to the Globe Theatre and things like that. Stay in a nice hotel. How about you do the reverse commute one weekend? Christmas shopping and stuff.’
‘Hmm. Could do.’
He hates the idea.
‘Don’t worry. It was just a thought.’
He looks up. ‘Oh, here we go again. Bloody hell. Adrian.’
A man in a pale blue V-neck jumper is standing between us.
‘You two! Nice to see you out. Hey, Lara. Thanks for putting a smile on this one’s face. He’s been moping about since you left.’
‘I didn’t leave,’ I tell him. I have never liked this man, one of Sam’s colleagues. ‘As you can see, I’m here.’
‘Yes, yes, but he’s quite the moper during the week. He misses his wife. Sweet. The rest of us would jump at the chance, you know what I mean, but not our Sam. You’ve got a good one here.’
‘I know,’ I say, turning away, forgetting to pretend to be polite.
‘Yes,’ says Adrian. ‘Well. Have a happy weekend. Have lots of fun together. You know what I mean.’
As soon as he is out of earshot, I say: ‘That man is such a twat.’
Sam looks hurt. ‘He’s all right, you know. Him and his wife keep inviting me to dinner.’
‘You should go, then. Since you like him.’
I watch a seagull landing on the recently vacated table next to ours, and extracting crisps from a ripped-open packet that instantly blows away.
‘No. You hate him.’
‘I won’t be there.’
‘You want me to keep myself busy?’
I look at him. ‘Of course I want you to keep busy, you idiot. I don’t have a moment in London to pause. Then suddenly it’s Friday. I want you to do the same. It makes it easier.’
Sam tries to swirl his pint around, but a bit slops over the edge of the glass and on to his hand. I watch him lick it off, relieved to find myself overwhelmed, at last, by tenderness.
‘Shall we go to the cinema tonight?’ I ask him, remembering the day we met.
‘The cinema?’ He thinks about it. ‘Is there anything on?’
‘There’ll be something.’
‘And we can afford