Last week we were invited to our good friends, Alex and Sam’s new place for dinner. We’d known them for a couple of months and had helped them move into their new place. They were friend’s of my brother’s who contacted us when they planned their move to the area. They had promised some good food, good wine and as ever amazing company and suggested that we get a cab there and back as we would probably be getting through quite a lot of their ‘wine-cupboard’, so we did. We never like to arrive empty-handed for dinner or parties and this time was no exception. We grabbed a bottle of Aldi’s best cava and a box of those special sea-shell chocolates and set out.
On arrival Sam met us with cocktails he’d invented at a previous dinner party the two of them had given. They were quite the rocket fuel and half-jokingly I told Sam I hoped he wasn’t trying to get us drunk and engineer a foursome, a situation we had got embarrassingly caught up with before, happily not with these two. Not that they’re not attractive, it’s just I don’t like to feel coerced into group sex, and Alex was still a bit on the young side for me.
Steve joined Sam on the sofa as they discussed a recent project in which they’d both been interested. Feigning a very noticeable yawn, it wasn’t something I was interested in, I joined Alex in the kitchen for a moment.
“Something smells good,” I commented as I crossed the culinary threshold.
“That’ll be me,” Alex laughed turning round to give me a peck on the cheek. “Now get out and relax, everything is under control and I’ll be in in a minute.”
I took the hint and returned to the living room. Behind the sofa was a huge plate glass window with a view of the town and out over the ocean as far as the eye could see. I’d seen the view before when we were helping them to move in but with the darkness and twinkling lights of the town, and occasional ships passing the headland it looked spectacular. Out over the sea I could see the occasional flash of lightning. The drizzle had started just before we arrived and was causing gentle cascades down the windows.
“Where’s Danny?” I asked. Normally their dog greeted everyone with overwhelming joy.
“She’s in her bed. Firstly because she’s wary of the coming storm, and secondly because we’re trying to keep her away from the table at mealtimes.” Sam explained.
“Awww, but it’s us and I miss her, can I go let her in?” I pleaded in my best whiney voice.
“Alex will have a fit, but it’s fine with me.” Sam said.
I crept past the kitchen into the side room. Danny was sitting there wagging her tail excitedly, but was clearly under orders that she was obeying not to move.
I went closer and on my haunches scragged her neck and back. She was in heaven. “Come on girl, tonight I’ve got you a get out of jail free pass.” I said as I encouraged her back to the living room to sit beside me on the other sofa.
At just that moment Alex came from the kitchen bearing a tray of delightfully smelling vol-au-vents. “I wondered how long it would be before she got in here.”
“I hope you’re referring to my furry friend here and not me,” I lisped back, to shared laughter. I tipped my glass in salutation. Sam rushed to fill it. The cava we had brought was going down a treat.
“Danny, you’re a disgrace, but just for tonight you can stay.” Alex told the dog who almost leapt forward at the mention of her name to see what was on the tray that had just been left on the coffee table, “But none of those for you, young lady. Your diet isn’t over yet.”
I winked at Danny and helped myself to a couple of the tasty morsels, slipping half of one of them to her. “Tell on me and our lifelong friendship is over,” I whispered.
“I saw that,” Sam also whispered from the other sofa. “But it looks like you got away with it this time,” he nodded in Alex’s direction with a half wink.
“Starters in two minutes,” came a call from the kitchen. “Take your places for a gastronomic feast.”
We all got up to move and as we did so there was an almighty clap of thunder. Danny dashed past us all and cowered under the table. Although I loved a good storm, I hated how it affected some animals. I slipped onto the chair closest to the dog and stroked her head hoping to calm her some.
“I hope you like this,” Alex said laying an incredible salad before us. “I know it’s not quite the weather, but I figured you wouldn’t mind as it is a little different to the usual green salad as served at ‘Tate’s’.” The reference was to a cafe we all used from time to time, that had probably the least imaginative menu, meaning salad was almost always a foregone conclusion there.
Once Alex had joined us, for a few moments all that could be heard was the clattering of knives and forks on the plates, and an occasional light rumble of thunder, though nothing like the thunderclap of a few moments before. Danny had her head pressed hard against my leg. Conversation gradually started again as we talked about the town and the new opportunities we were all making the most of.
Once we’d finished Alex cleared the plates, refusing any help, and returned them to the kitchen. “The main will be ready in about five.” we were told.
Sam recharged our glasses. We were now on a delicious Chablis, apparantly a good vintage bottle, as if I would ever be able to tell.
As promised the main course arrived about five minutes later. Sam had joined Alex in the kitchen for a moment to return with our plates which he served with a flourish. I looked down at my plate and my heart sank. On my plate was a piece of meat that I neither could nor wanted to identify. I looked at Steve and got a mirrored expression back. I raised my eyebrows. He shrugged almost imperceptably. I was sure we had told them we were vegetarian. We’d eaten together at Tate’s a few times; hadn’t they noticed? On my plate was a veritable nightmare. I had no idea of how to get out of this embarrassing situation. Trying to sneak it to Danny bit by bit was a possibility, but I couldn’t eat anything on the plate. It was all in contact with the meat.
Seconds later Alex followed Sam with two more plates. “You two look like you’ve lost a tenner and found sixpence,” he said smiling.
“Well…. ” I didn’t know what to say.
Alex looked at our plates and laughed. “Sam you got them the wrong way round,” he said.
I felt a glimmer of hope.
“Swap them over,” he told Sam, who obeyed swapping my plate for Steve’s and visa versa. Alex then placed a similar plate in front of Sam and one for himself. “Shall we begin?” he suggested sitting down.