Marylou had it all worked out. She’d split the couples, but not too far because couples always talked to each other across the table. Enzo and Sonja had been invited as the conversation starters. Harriet and Phillip were the brainiacs—good 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 druink 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 the flu was going round and both Sean and Harriet phoned to apologise. Pamela ended up 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 still hadn’t forgiven her host who, for her part, 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.

(this is an edited version of the story Dinner, published on this day, 2010. See about small stories about love)

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