By Jan Snook
Some friends one can do without. Take my oldest friend, James. (I’m Pete, by the way).
James has been my taller, better-looking, funnier and altogether more attractive friend since university – a good few years ago now. And he’s got a sports car and a fantastic job, so he’s always been in a different league where girls are concerned.
Which is precisely why, a couple of years ago when we were having a drink together, I asked his advice.
“I don’t understand what the problem is,” James said, frowning at me over his pint. “You’ve been talking about thingummy…”
“Abby,” I supplied patiently.
“OK, you’ve been talking about Abby for weeks without doing anything about it. Now you finally have. Well done. So what’s the big deal?”
“I’ve invited her out,” I said carefully, as if speaking to a child. “Next Wednesday. What’s she going to make of that?”
“Well – nothing. Sounds a good choice to me,” he told me. “Suitably far off that you won’t sound desperate. Wednesday’s cool. Sort of casual. Not a big-deal Saturday night date. And places won’t be too crowded. No, if you ask me you’ve hit just the right note.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Wednesday,” I repeated. “The fourteenth of February.”
The penny dropped at last.
“Ah! Valentine’s Day,” James said hollowly. “And you’re wondering what she’s going to think?” He began to laugh. “She’s going to think you’re very very keen.”
It’s just a date …
He looked at my woebegone face and carried on mercilessly. “She’ll probably have bought a sparkly new dress by now that cost more than she could really afford, she’ll have an appointment at the hairdresser and have booked a… a facial, or whatever it is they do.
And,” he added with a huge grin, “She’s probably having a manicure in case you decide to buy a socking great diamond to put on her fourth finger…”
“Will you just shut up?”
“For goodness’ sake, Pete, get over it. It’s just a date.
If you’re that worried, ring her and cancel it.”
“What if she has?”
“Bought a dress? Booked all those appointments?”
“Well… don’t go in your scruffiest jeans then.”
“Where are you taking her? Wherever it is, they’re bound to have some Valentine’s Special going on, which will justify them charging you an arm and a leg. And they’ll shame you into buying her a single red rose. It should be a great night.”
I put my head in my hands.
Getting married? Are you mad?
A year later, he was just as helpful. “What? You’re getting married? On Valentine’s Day?” He looked at me with real concern.
“Pete. We’ve been friends for a long time. Take it from me, getting married on Valentine’s Day, that would be the mistake of your life.”
“Well – thanks a lot, pal. I was thinking of asking you to be my Best Man.”
He was shaking his head in despair. “Absolute disaster. Don’t get me wrong. She’s a lovely girl. And I’m impressed that you’re moving so quickly. But Valentine’s Day?
“You do realise it’ll be your anniversary? Flowers will cost more than any other day of the year. Forever. Are you mad?”
I was regretting the Best Man remark. And worrying about his speech already.
You’ve really done it this time!
We’re creatures of habit, Abby and me. So James shouldn’t have been surprised when, a year later, I handed him the invitation.
“You’ve really done it this time,” he said mournfully. You do realise this is the end of life as we know it? No more nights out with the boys, no more driving round in that two-seater of yours, and you’ll have to start saving… weddings are expensive, and you have to plan ahead.”
As I said before, he’s my oldest friend, but that doesn’t stop him doing his best to wind me up.
But as we both looked down at my new daughter asleep in her cradle, whose christening is on Friday, he looked, for the first time in our relationship, envious.
He turned to me. “A christening on Valentine’s Day? What is it with you both?” Then he grinned. “But for once you’ve got it absolutely right. I’m besotted with my goddaughter already. And my card will be her very first Valentine.
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