You decide the eye-candy doesn’t bear much closer inspection. This party’s outlived its fun for you, if not for Alice. You’re tired, and feel very happy to be getting into a cab with Charlie.

The Mercedes speeds up the hill, Magic playing quietly on the stereo, and you snuggle into Charlie as he puts his arm around you. The smell of his shirt, Bold overlaid with Comme des Garcons, washes over you, a wave of familiarity. It’s the easiest thing in the world to turn your face to his, and invite a kiss. He responds eagerly, and it’s just like old times, kissing Charlie, his hands on your hair.

You pull away before him. ‘Sorry,’ you say.

‘No, no, I’m sorry.’

‘I didn’t mean that to happen.’ You smooth your hair.

‘Right, right,’ he nods vigorously. ‘I thought...’

When he doesn’t continue, you prompt him. ‘You thought what?’

‘Oh, you know, just...’ and he smiles ruefully, ‘I thought for a second you were going to be forgiving enough to let me kiss you.’

‘No chance,’ you smile, ‘You need to grovel some more first.’

So Charlie grovels till you silence him with a kiss. This time you don’t pull away. When you pause for breath you snuggle closer into him, and the whole cosy familiarity of the moment sweeps you away. Going home alone is unimaginable.

You don’t talk about it, what you’re doing, as you fumble at each other’s clothes on your doorstep. You don’t pause for thought as you get down to it on the sofa, and stumble intertwined into the bedroom. Or as you shower together, and start over again, all soap bubbles and hot water. Nor as you drift off into sleep, his hand idly playing with your left breast, your hair fanned across his chest.

It isn’t till the next day, after brief, glorious, morning sex, that the elephant in the room is finally identified.

‘What are we doing here?’ Charlie says.

‘I know, I know. Didn’t you just brutally dump me?’

‘Yes. You drove me to it, remember?’

‘You were impossible. We shouldn’t be together.’

‘Ah Sassy, don’t! Come on, babe, how can you say that, lying here with me? How can something that feels so right be so wrong?’ he croons.

‘Shut up, Chad,’ you say, as you belt him with a pillow. ‘I’m serious. You broke up with me for a reason. Can’t you remember all that stuff you said. Isn’t it still true?’

He reflects, and looks a little crestfallen as he says, ‘I don’t know. What about you. What do you want to do?’

‘I don’t know, love. I can’t think about it with you lying here, distracting me. I need some time out. Let’s meet for a drink in the week.’

‘Good idea. You were always the brains of the operation.’

 In the period of calm that precedes Britain’s Next Top Model on a Monday night, you and Alice go about your usual routine. She sits in her dressing gown, combing her hair, freshly washed. You make a big salad, heat up some garlic bread, open a bottle of wine. It’s your turn to cook, and Top Model Monday nights call for a certain type of dinner. Ice cream will follow.

‘So,’ she says, as you settle on the sofa next to her. ‘What are you going to say to Charlie when you see him?’

You give a big sigh. ‘I don’t know Alice. What do you think I should do?’

‘Surely you know what you’re going to do? It’s just a question of how you break it to him, isn’t it? I mean, he obviously wants to get back together.’

‘Do you think he really does?’

‘Yes! You know it madam. God, Sarah, you look like you’re actually considering it. Are you?’

‘I don’t know. We had a pretty good time on Saturday night. And Sunday morning.’ You smile at the memory, and then shake your head to dismiss it. ‘You obviously don’t think I should be considering it.’

‘Don’t get me wrong, you know I love Charlie. He’s a great guy. It’s just that I think you two split up for a good reason. You weren’t that happy together, half the time.’

‘No, you’re right. We really rubbed each other up the wrong way. We couldn’t agree on anything, I loved winding him up, and we argued all the bloody time. But I miss him.’

‘I know you do, love. Everything could just go back to the way it was – I can see it would appeal. But that’s just laziness, admit it.’

You agree. ‘The other thing at the back of my mind is that I was so gutted, being ditched out of the blue like that, that I kind of just like the idea he might want me back. Which is even worse. It’s not a nice way to treat him, is it?’

As the credits of Top Model roll, and you tuck into your dinner, you fall into silence. You resolve to be strong. Calmly, kindly, you’ll remind Charlie that you are better off apart. And then you’ll work on being friends with him. It’s the only way.

The thing about making that sort of resolution is that you let your guard down. You’re so comfortable with your position, so sure of your plan, that you relax. You’re two drinks in, and having a great time with Charlie, laughing at each other’s jokes, before you remember that you have a speech prepared. Then he suggests another drink, and you think, maybe it can wait till the end of the night, when you’re saying goodbye. So far it’s all been very platonic. Maybe he’s even come here tonight with the same thought – that you guys are best off as friends.

Several drinks later and Charlie is regaling you with an update on his work colleagues. You’ve missed his stories, his impression of the obese HR manager, the Man Who Runs Everywhere, and the other characters his fusty old bank harbours.

‘Stop it!’ you squeal, as he gives you an assessment in the manner of the HR manager, all Roy Hattersley-style sprays of spit.

‘Your attitude desssparately needed improvement, you never disssplayed any of the valuesss, and all thingsss conssssidered, Ssssarah, I was very disssappointed.’

‘Yuk,’ you say, and mime wiping the saliva from your face.

Charlie reaches for a napkin and helps out. You submit, as he holds your chin in one hand, and pats your face gently – unnecessarily – with the other. And when he moves in closer, to kiss you, you submit to that too. It’s irresistible.

The next morning you wake up before Charlie. Your first instinct is to slip off before he wakes up. But he shifts in his sleep, and throws an arm across you, so you roll over and think for a while.

 

Time to make a call

To try again with Charlie, go to Chapter Five VII to face the consequences.
To nip this in the bud right now, go to
Chapter Five VIII to face the consequences.