Noreen wasn’t a party person. One thing she was though was neighbourly and a party to welcome a neighbour’s friend sounded as if it might be alright. “Mexico? Where Evie lives? Does she speak English?”
“Pretty sure she does,” Noreen’s husband had assured her. “Sounds like fun, shame I’ll miss it.”
“Steve wants me in for a few hours.”
“Brian! I can’t go on my own.”
“Why not? You’ll know everyone there. It’s just for the street.”
“But I don’t speak Mexican.”
“You know I’m not good with languages, Brian.”
“But you’re good with people, dear. Just speak slowly, clearly, with lots of hand gestures and you’ll be fine. Practice for when your sister visits.”
“But that’s six months away and she’ll still be able to speak English.” Noreen paused. “She will, won’t she? Twelve years isn’t long enough to forget, is it?”
Brian shook his head so Noreen turned the conversation back to the party. “And they’ve given us no notice. I haven’t really got anything to wear.”
“How about your anniversary dress? That’s pretty.”
“But that’s just for us.”
“And the other diners in the restaurant.”
“I suppose so, but…”
“You go, dear. You’ll have a great time. Think of me, stuck in front of a boring computer.”
“And what about food?”
“Just a sandwich will be fine. I can make it, while you get…”
“No, I mean to take with me. Won’t they expect me…?”
“It’s normally bring a bottle but if you did want to…”
“There’s a Banoffee pie in the freezer.”
“Perfect. My favourite, but perfect.”
“I can find something else.”
Brian laughed. “You’re worrying about nothing. You’ll go, take the pie with you and I’ll end up coming to find you because you won’t want to come home. OK, maybe not. Well, you go and get changed while I make my sandwich. I’ll dig out the pie so it can be defrosting. Don’t be surprised if there’s a piece… it’s OK, I’m only joking, although if there is some left…”
“Then I’ll bring a piece home with me.”
So Noreen went upstairs, put on her ‘anniversary’ dress; a delightful floor-length red number with intricate birds of paradise embroidered into the heavy silk.
She walked into the kitchen just as Brian was putting his sandwich into a clear food bag. The pie lay on a plate by the kettle.
“I can’t wear this,” Noreen said, just as he opened his mouth to speak.
“I’d forgotten how beautiful you look in that.”
“But it’s too much.”
“Maybe you’re right.”
“You’ll be the belle of the ball, that’s for sure. Make an impression.”
He put his sandwich into his rucksack, walked over to his wife, took her hand, palm-down like an old-fashioned royal, and kissed it. “OK now?”
“Excellent. Well, I’m ready too so why don’t I walk you there?”
“Brian, it’s three doors down.”
“We can’t have you looking like that with no escort, even if it is for five seconds. Besides, with the pie and a bottle of wine, how are you going to ring the bell?”
“I don’t think they have one.”
“You do have a point.”
“Exactly. I’ll get the wine, you get the pie, I’ve put it on a plate.”
“Are you sure I shouldn’t get changed?”
“No, love, you look lovely. A knockout.”
She blushed, a shade lighter than her dress.
Brian locked the door then followed Noreen to number 17. She still looked nervous as she approached the front door. From the noise inside, it was evident that the party was already in full swing.
As she was about to knock, a grinning Roger opened the door. “Brian! Noreen! I’m so glad you could make it. Do come in and meet my temporary houseguest.”
“Brian can’t stay, I’m afraid, Roger.” Noreen said. “He’s been called into work but…” She stopped talking as a tall, tanned svelte figure walked down the hall towards her. Brian, anticipating his wife’s reaction, handed Roger the bottle of wine and Banoffee pie then shut the door just as she screamed at her sister.
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