Another extract from my novel.
After a year of speed dating, dining clubs on-line dating, Xanthe remains single. At a friend's party in New York she met the man of her dreams, but all she has heard from him since is silence...
The best thing about having your own party is that you can surround yourself with your favourite people, even if some of them are a bit crazy. Maggie and Jerry turn up first, as Maggie has brought along some food, and she helps me with a few last minute things while Jerry organizes the drinks’ table. Lawrence and Evie arrive next, thankfully minus food offerings, although Lawrence has brought some of his home-made wine which is his latest hobby. Even Evie seems to have doubts about it. Jerry bravely attempts a taste of his potato and parsnip vintage.
‘Jesus! It’s just like paint stripper,’ he declares, when Lawrence is out of earshot. ‘Not that I’ve actually tasted paint stripper of course, but I’m sure it’d be softer on the tongue, let alone the stomach. Perhaps I should try it on those old doors of mine.’
Maggie takes a tentative sip and coughs. ‘What a waste of potatoes and parsnips - they would have been much better in soup.’
Lawrence insists we all taste the elderflower wine, which is not too bad, although it tastes horribly alcoholic, and as the flowers were picked locally I wonder how much heavy lead from Finchley’s pollution is included.
Gradually everyone else turns up and Maggie, Jerry and I take it in turns to warn people about the potato and parsnip. Jerry manages to pour most of it down the sink, which leads to Lawrence beaming with joy that everyone is sampling his hobby and generously offering to run home and get a few more bottles. We manage to persuade him not to miss out on the fun while I hope it doesn’t melt my kitchen pipes. At least it should help clean out any gunk.
‘It probably combats the germ warfare of their kitchen,’ splutters Karen gagging on a sip to see if Jerry’s claims were true.
We have a fest of sixties and seventies music, and I relax into enjoying the company. At just after eleven, Becca and Sam turn up. Their other party turned out to be so boring they beat a hasty retreat to come and join us. They seem to be enjoying themselves, and at least they aren’t the only young ones as Barney’s latest girlfriend looks barely out of her teens. She looks very relieved at their arrival, and she and Becca make everyone dance. Just as well my neighbour downstairs is away because the noise is probably appalling as several guests – led by Jerry and George - have embarked on a kind of line dancing to Queen! They are attempting to make formal bows, hitherto unknown in the mid-west.
‘I can only presume Jerry imagines he’s dancing in front of The Queen,’ mutters Maggie. ‘He’s so drunk he can’t tell the difference. He had rather more of Lawrence’s stuff than was wise.’
I stop for a breather and for just a moment feel a little bit blue. I look at everyone enjoying themselves and realise I am the only one here without a partner. Maggie and Jerry, Becca and Sam, Karen and John, Mart and Simon, George and Sylvie, Barney and Sasha, Lawrence and Evie, and…Xanthe. I know I’m so lucky to have these friends, my little flat, work I love, a terrific daughter. I know all that, but someone special would be good. I think about Harvey and wonder where he is and what he’s doing. Has he thought of me at all? Is he getting ready to celebrate New Year with someone? Let’s face it, even Lawrence, single for so long, now has Evie. Paul and Shelley have probably made up and James will no doubt be tucked up in a Scottish hotel with contender for Wife Number Four. Graeme will be snogging some stupid, desperate woman when his wife isn’t looking. I bet even the Fabulous Fifties men, Geoffrey, and the rest of the speed daters, except perhaps poor Mr Carpet, have all found someone! But not Xanthe.
What will next year bring? I don’t think I can hack more speed dating, dining clubs, or on-line dating. It’s too much like hard work. I think about Jane. Does she feel she has made a good move? Would she ever admit it if she hasn’t? Am I just like her in my quest for that someone special, after all? Or am I capable of being happy on my own? Of course I am, and yet…
It’s getting near to midnight and I’m checking that the CD of Auld Lang Syne is ready in the second player to be switched on for the crucial moment, when I hear the phone ring. I pick up and at first cannot hear anything – probably a wrong number - and I’m just about the put the phone down when a faint voice reaches me.
‘Xanthe, is that you?’
After a brief exchange, I replace the receiver and press play on the CD and lower the volume on the existing music so there is no pause and the old song fills the room. The countdown is chanted and as everybody kisses somebody else, I suddenly don’t feel quite so lonely. Even though there’s no-one for me to kiss, I can’t help the smile on my face and my heart beats just a little faster as I re-live the brief conversation.
‘Happy New Year! It’s Harvey. I have some great news, I’m coming to London…’