Your great underwear is turquoise with little pink ribbons and embroidered roses. So it looks gorgeous when your outerwear is strewn across the floor. But you have to wear something fairly loose fitting over it. You opt for a sweet, flimsy little top and a denim skirt. The denim is thick enough to prevent VPL from your cute boy pants. Perfect – and worth running slightly late for.

Curiously, Zac has nominated the Tiroler Hut, which you had always thought of as an Austrian theme restaurant. He just thinks of it as an Austrian restaurant. You would go there for a laugh, like on a hen or something (well, you wouldn’t personally choose to go there – but you imagine others would choose to and make you, in that hen diktat way). Zac chooses to go there because he genuinely likes bratwurst and sauerkraut. You shouldn’t be surprised by this oddness really. After all, this is the guy who chatted you up on the bus.

Zac is already there and halfway through a Coke when you arrive. He is the model of American good manners, standing up when you get to the table to pull your chair out.

‘I’m sorry I’m late,’ you say.

‘Hey, that’s okay.’

‘The traffic was horrendous.’

‘Horrendous? That’s a word you don’t hear very frequently.’

‘Mm,’ you assent, and order yourself a beer. Oh dear. Is this going to be a long night? And not in a good way...

But no. As he finishes his Coke and joins you in a Dortmunder, and you give him some of your best quality chat, Zac loosens up and stops with the weird observations. You talk rubbish about Austrian culture – what it’s given the world. Being fairly ignorant of classical music you only really have cuckoo clocks (which it turns out are Swiss), the Von Trapp family, and Hitler to draw on.

‘That’s so English of you!’

You give him your best butter-wouldn’t-melt smile and say ‘Really? I wouldn’t have thought that was a particularly English thing to say. Is it?’

Zac is full of theories about the English, and their ignorance about other cultures, among other traits. Obviously you enjoy this conversation, giving you as it does the limelight. And a chance to use your most clipped, Keira Knightley-esque accent. You play on your (limited) idiosyncrasies and say ‘bloody’ far more than you usually would. You’ve heard Americans find that amusing.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t always seem to catch your drift. He responds seriously to your rhetorical questions, and looks embarrassed rather than amused when you say something deliberately shocking (perhaps it was a mistake to roll out the C word so early on). You wonder whether there is a loose connection in his brain somewhere, if you are fundamentally ill-suited, or if this is just those famous cultural differences coming to the fore.

Well, Zac might not ‘get’ you, and he isn’t all that witty, but he’s very cute, at least. You’re quite happy to gaze at him across the table, and smile when he smiles. Actually, on noticing his incredibly perfect teeth you stop smiling quite so widely. Still, there’s a nice vibe at your table.

As a table laden with cow-bells is wheeled out, and the lederhosen-clad host starts tinkering with them and warming up his accordion, Zac sits up. Now you start to suspect that it’s not in fact the food that he likes so much here, but the entertainment. Heaven help us.

‘Ah, here comes Joseph, to introduce a bit of levity to the evening,’ he says.

‘That’s so American of you,’ you retort.

‘What?’

‘Saying levity instead of fun. Honestly, you Yanks love to make a word take longer to say. Like, what’s the deal with calling a vet a veterinarian?’

‘Oh yeah. We do do that, don’t we?’

‘Yes you bloody do! You know what Zac, I’m not sure I can sit through the cow-bell cabaret without another drink. Let’s have a shot, eh?’

You beckon the waitress over and order a jaegermeister. Zac looks sceptical. The waitress suggests something called a unicum, which she claims is good for an upset stomach.

‘I don’t have an upset stomach,’ he explains. ‘I just don’t drink a lot of hard liquor.’

Jeez, you think, not for the first time that evening. He settles for a half of Dortmunder and you neck your shot alone. You realise this doesn’t look good for you, but you’re just conforming to the national stereotype Zac already has for you English: hard drinking, ignorant and foul mouthed.

What the hell, you’re sure you’re not going to see him again. You might as well have a good time. You sit back and enjoy – or endure – the crazy Austrian show that Joseph and his team have put on. As you do so, you think about your fabulous underwear. It’d be a shame to take those gorgeous knickers off unaided, and drop them in the laundry bin unseen. Since you’re not going to see him again, and you want to have a good time, and you’re wearing your great underwear, you’d better do something about it to make sure this isn’t a completely wasted evening.

You slip your foot out of your ballet pump and begin rubbing it up and down his calf. Well, everyone knows English girls are easy. Zac looks bemused at first, but as he doesn’t complain, you don’t stop, and as your foot moves higher, you think he’s starting to enjoy it. But you can’t hold your leg at that angle for long, so you let your foot drop, and return your attention to your beer.

‘Two more Dortmunders please,’ Zac mouths to the waitress.

Ah good, you think. He’s starting to get the hang of this. ‘Hey, come and sit by me,’ you suggest.

He’s difficult to read. Is that trepidation, or excitement, on his face as he obeys and takes the chair next to you? He puts his arm around your shoulder and you put your hand on his thigh, and you decide that after those beers you’re going home and you’re going to have sex. Whether he likes it or not.

Your dad’s maxim, ‘you can’t write your own script’, is not true tonight. Just as you wanted to, you head to Zac’s nearby flat and he sees your gorgeous underwear, and you have sex. Quite good sex, as it happens. And the chat in the afterglow is a little stilted, but he’s sweet enough. So it’s all good.

When you leave in the morning he waves a sleepy goodbye. He says he’ll call but you’re absolutely positive you won’t see him again – and you don’t mind one bit.

Once you get home you swap the ‘Thanks for a great evening, must do it again soon,’ courtesy texts. Over a pot of tea and a stack of buttered toast, you tell Alice the story of the date. She congratulates you.

‘You’ve finally shagged someone other than Charlie. That’s bloody brilliant.’

Clinking your mugs of tea, you toast to your ‘moving on’ shag.

‘Shame I’ll never see him again,’ you say, smiling so she knows you don’t really think it’s a shame.

‘Hey, you’ll always have that night at the Tiroler Hut,’ she says, ‘And the cow-bell cabaret.’

‘Ah yes. It’s the tragic story of a doomed transatlantic love – fuelled by jaegermeister – that could never be fulfilled.’

‘That’s right. So it’s a good start. But next time, find a more suitable candidate – someone you might actually want to see more than once, okay? Which reminds me, what’s happening with that guy in the office?’

You roll your eyes and tell her for the millionth time that you’re really not that interested in the guy in the office.

So it’s something of a surprise when, the following Friday night, you see that a message from Zac has arrived in your phone. It’s just a question mark. Literally, ‘?’.

You know exactly what he means. He’s bored, he’s horny, and he thinks you’re an easy lay. Which, let’s face it, you were last weekend. So you could respond with a ‘there in 30’ and get some more of that all American action. Why not? You’re only going to finish your pint and head home with Alice otherwise.

The sex was good enough to merit a second attempt. But he’s clearly not going to be a keeper. And do you really want to respond so easily to his booty call?

 

This is your final choice.

If you respond, go to Chapter Seven XI to face the consequences

If you ignore it, go to Chapter Seven XVII to face the consequences