Chapter Eight

Tim invited me to a dinner party at his place. This was a week after our bowling date. We had met up every evening since then. He wanted his friend Gordon to meet me. I hoped it wasn’t because he needed his friend’s approval. May be instead I should have been flattered that he thought enough of me to show me off to his best friend.

Although it was a Saturday Chakka was going to be there as well. I asked Tim if he wanted any help with anything or if I should bring anything but he declined my offers. He was very secretive about what he would be cooking, saying he wanted to surprise me. I wondered if it would be a vegetarian dish as I wasn’t sure whether he ate meat. I thought he said his parents were veggies.

Chakka opened the door when I rang the bell. I hadn’t really taken much notice last time I’d seen her as I was so surprised that she was Tim’s housemate, although I did notice how attractive she was. This time I studied her more dispassionately, now I knew she and Tim weren’t an item. She was very black, her black hair was a mass of tint plaits and her teeth, as she smiled, were dazzling white offset by the bright red lipstick and blue eyeshadow. She was dressed in a long African kaftan dress with matching head wrap. She welcomed me by kissing me on both cheeks and hugging me.

“Come in. Lovely to see you again. Tim’s still busy in the kitchen.”

“You look great. I love your outfit and what a wonderful smell. Oh, I’ve brought this,” I said thrusting a gift bag containing a bottle of ice cold champagne I’d pinched from the fridge at home.

Chakka took it from me and pulled the bottle out deftly.

“Ooo lovely. I don’t think we’ve any champagne glasses but I’ll dig out something. Tim, look what Sophie’s brought.” She disappeared into the back, where I presumed the kitchen was, leaving me standing in the lounge with my coat on feeling bereft. Just then the door bell rang. I went to answer it as neither Tim or Rebecca appeared. A tall, swarthy man with a black moustache was standing a bit back from the front step.

“Hi,” I said, “you must be Gordon. Come in.”

“And you must be Laura, Tim’s girlfriend.”

“No, I’m Sophie, Tim’s new girlfriend. Laura is no longer with him, I hope.”

Just then Tim appeared in an apron, looking a bit hot and flustered. He came across and kissed me, shaking Gordon’s hand at the same time.

“Sophie, this is Gordon. Gordon this is Sophie. Make yourselves at home. I’ll be with you in a minute. Oh you can put your coats on my bed, at the top of the stairs on the right.”

Gordon then asked me if I minded taking his coat up with mine. I didn’t think too much of it at the time but afterwards I found his request fitted into a pattern. He loved to get everyone else waiting on him. Most men would have offered to take my coat with theirs.

Chakka appeared with four odd wine glasses filled with bubbly and we all sat down, three of us on the low tired sofa and Tim on one of the dining chairs that he turned round away from the table. Gordon made it obvious he fancied Chakka without actually doing anything out of order. I think I have a sixth sense for this kind of situation. Tim also must have sensed it.

“Chakka, show Sophie your engagement ring,” he said, making a point to let Gordon aware to back off I suppose. This didn’t, however, have the desired effect and Gordon was more attentive to Chakka than ever. Apparently she was originally from Malawi but, as her father was a diplomat, had been to Abbots Bromley school in England since she was 13. She studied social science at South Cheshire College, doing her work experience with Cheshire County Council and they were so impressed they offered her a full time job when she qualified. Having established that about her Gordon went on to question her about her work, her fiance, her fiance’s house, her plans for the future. Tim and I exchanged glances as we were sitting there like a couple of lemons. Tim had cooked a casserole of chicken thighs with all the vegetables in with them. It was lovely. After the champagne a bottle of red wine appeared. That disappeared quickly with Gordon drinking most of it. Chakka had done a pudding, a chocolate mousse with a dollop of cream and a strawberry on top. As soon as we’d finished eating Chakka excused herself, saying she had work that had to be done before the morning. A second bottle of red wine disappeared almost as quickly, again with Gordon drinking most of it. He became obviously under the influence. His voice got louder as he continued to dominate the conversation. He was entertaining and quite funny but because it was like he was showing off I just wanted him to shut up and give someone else a turn. Eventually Tim said something – told Gordon he was drunk and that he’d become a bit loud. Gordon seemed to take it on board. I was impressed didn’t take offence but his behaviour didn’t really change for long. I decided that the only way out of it was to go myself. So I made an excuse and left. Tim came out to see me off and apologised for Gordon’s behaviour.

He told me next day that Gordon didn’t go home that night. Tim sat listening to him, feeding him yet more booze, until the early hours. He went off for a pee and when he came back downstairs from the bathroom, Gordon was fast asleep, with his head back, his mouth open, snoring loudly. So he went off to bed and when he came down in the morning Gordon had gone.

I was curious about the friendship as somehow I didn’t see why he would choose Gordon as a friend. Apparently they were school friends at primary school. They went to secondary school together too and they’d holidayed together, going camping round Wales at 15 and hitching round the continent the following year.

“Drink doesn’t do him any favours. I keep telling him. He’s a lovely guy, it’s just he was spoilt as a boy, his mother thought the sun shone out of his backside, if you’ll excuse the expression, and he can be overbearing at times. He loves to be the centre of attention. He’s very bright and quick witted too and he’s very fond of me and doesn’t take offence when I tell him when he’s out of order.
“We’re both keen sailors and he takes me out on his yacht. At the moment he’s having a hard time. His wife has just thrown him out, having practically bankrupted him and he’s lonely and depressed so I feel I have to support him when I can.”

“Well he was very amusing even if he did rather over do it. I could see why Rebecca left in a hurry though. He was a bit over attentive. I suppose you can excuse it in the circumstances. You don’t always behave as you should when your relationship has cracked up. Talking of which, when did you finish with Laura? That was Gordon’s opening gambit, calling me Laura.”

“Well, Laura and I finished last summer as Gordon well knows. I think he did that deliberately. He’s like that. Tries to be clever and tries to unsettle people with his comments. Sorry about that.”