Marylou had it all worked out. The only thing she hadn’t considered was the flu. It was going around. She’d split the couples, but not too far apart because couples always talked to each other across the table. Enzo and Sonja were the conversation starters. Harriet and Fillip were the brainiacs—good to have around for dispute resolution. Lexie and Shona were comic relief. Bill and Paul evened up the numbers—they’d do their urbane routine until they were tipsy and then they’d fire up. Which left the singles. Pamela was studying law after three years on an aid project in Nigeria. Sean was a producer of documentaries. Perfect!

But on the afternoon of the dinner Sean apologized. Then Harriet phoned to say she’d have to miss out. So Pamela ended up sitting next to Phillip. They talked about African politics and when the party unwound, in the early hours, they arranged to meet at a cafe near the university. Six months later Harriet had still not forgiven the party’s host, who seemed to spend half her life avoiding Phillip and Pamela as they floated around the cafe’s of their suburb with new love in their eyes.

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