Since I first met Dorcas, on that day when she almost ran me over, my life had been so different to the safe and comfortable existence I had known before.
I felt energized and fresh, which was just as well.
Because October had been an exceedingly busy month.
We spent evenings packing up Dorcas’s house in Finchbottom and slowly moving her stuff either into storage or into mine, I mean ours.
Then on the weekends there was decorating, gardening and car booting.
And all of the above had to be achieved while keeping busy in our respective jobs as we were saving our holidays for something else.
So it was with some relief that I received and accepted an invitation from my best friend Gary to attend a games night at his place on Saturday night.
We had been best mates since junior school, Gary, Stix, Evan, Clive and me, and our friendship endured.
It survived all the ups and downs of childhood and adolescence.
It survived sexual awakenings and the continual distraction of women thereafter.
It survived higher education, marriages, mortgages, divorces and redundancies.
Women had come and gone over the years but the friendship had survived.
Our friendship endured in spite of everything and part of that were Games Nights.
Games nights consisted of a takeaway followed by board games or cards, the food and game decided by consensus.
“You know what that means?” Dorcas asked
“Yes a weekend off” I replied
“I have to meet your best friends” she said gloomily
“I know” I replied “They’re all dying to meet you”
Then I continued
“And the other halves are anxious to meet the girl who has won my heart”
“Oh Great” Dorcas said despondently
I failed to pick up on her lack of enthusiasm but as we got closer to the night Dorcas seemed to be getting more and more withdrawn.
On Saturday morning we lay under the duvet cuddling she was very quiet which wasn’t like her at all.
I was a bit worried about her as she seemed a bit down.
“What’s wrong sweetheart?” I said
“Nothing” she replied
“Well I know that’s not true” I persisted “So what’s wrong?”
“I’m scared” Dorcas admitted
I wasn’t sure I’d heard her correctly, she was such a confident gregarious girl, and being scared didn’t fit her at all.
“Scared?” I asked
“Yes” she responded and rolled over and hugged me, burying her face in my neck and then she started crying.
“What are you scared about?” asked
“Meeting your friends” she sobbed “Your best friends”
It seemed she was really worried about making a good impression in front of my oldest and best friends.
“They are going to love you just like I do” I assured her
“Really?” Dorcas asked
“Well not quite like I do obviously” I said and she lifted her face from my neck and smiled.
I did feel for Dorcas when I took the time to think of what I was putting her through, it was a daunting prospect meeting my friends.
I didn’t have to go through that with her best friend as that was my sister Helen.
So we spent the next hour cuddling up under the duvet as I went through my friends and their respective partners one by one and the best ways to make a good impression on them.
My mate Gary was something of a figure of fun within our group, a fact to which he seemed completely oblivious.
We had known him since school and we had always teased him.
He was the type of kid who had a new hobby every week and this habit followed him into adulthood.
He also thought himself a whizz at DIY and he fancied himself as a bit of an engineer. But the one thing he could do without fail which endeared him to us was that he could take a joke.
His wife Elaine did not have a sense of humour, at all and she was the vainest woman walking God’s green earth and the only thing that she loved as much as her own looks was for someone else to compliment her on them.
“Stix” so named because his surname was Littlewood fancied himself as a bit of a ladies man and liked to flirt, Kylie his second wife knew he was all sausage and no sizzle so quite enjoyed watching him flirt before he crashed and burned.
Evan Thomas and his childhood sweetheart Cerys were foodies so if you got them chatting on the subject of food you were in.
Clive White and his third or fourth partner Tina were ultra-competitive so if they won whatever the game might be they were happy.
After I had finished putting flesh on the bones of those expected to be present she seemed more at ease.
“I love you Ben” she said
“That’s handy” I replied “because I love you too”
Dorcas smiled and kissed me tenderly and we made love.
I thought as Dorcas was nervous about meeting everyone, rather than arriving to a houseful and totally overwhelming her I would take her over to Gary’s early so I could introduce her to the hosts before anyone else arrived and that way she just had to meet one couple at a time.
So when we got there we stood on the porch and I gave her a kiss for good luck before I rang the doorbell.
Gary opened the door.
“Blimey” he said
“You’ll never believe it Elaine” he called over his shoulder “it’s Ben and…”
“Dorcas” I said
“… Dorcas” Gary continued
“Are we too early” I asked
“No not at all” he replied “Lovely to meet you Dorcas, come in, come in”
“Thanks Gary, like wise” she said and squeezed my hand.
As we walked into the lounge he said to Dorcas
“You’re obviously a good influence on him, Ben’s never the first to arrive”
Then he introduced her to his sour faced wife Elaine.
“Dorcas?” she said “that’s a strange name”
“It’s biblical” I answered “nice isn’t it?”
“Hmmm” was her only response
I gave her hand another gentle squeeze and Dorcas said
“I love your dress, I wish I could afford designer label”
Elaine’s expression softened immediately and a hint of a smile could be detected when she continued
“And your hair’s a fabulous shade of red”
“Two down, six to go” I thought to myself
Stix and Kylie were the first to arrive after us and with Dorcas being gorgeous and Stix being a letch he took to her straight away.
There was a moment’s frostiness from Kylie but as soon as Dorcas gave her a wink and she realized Stix was being played she quickly warmed.
By the time Evan and Cerys arrived the gregarious confident Dorcas was there to greet them and within five minutes they were deep in conversation about a new Mongolian restaurant in Kiddingstone, so much so that she almost missed my introducing her to Clive and Tina.
Dorcas continued discussing cuisine with Evan and Cerys while we devoured a rather mediocre Indian.
The games element of the evening began with cards and due to some creative cheating by Dorcas, a skill I hadn’t previously experienced from her, Clive and Tina were the resounding victors.
Deftly played by my wife to be.
We went on to play Trial Pursuit next which was when Gary chose to reveal his latest fad.
As I said earlier he fancied himself as a bit of an engineer and with the help of the Internet and RS Component’s he managed to fashion his latest pride and joy.
“It’s an electronic Dice” Gary said proudly
It was brown in colour, made of plastic, about three inches long and two inches wide and the same in depth.
With two buttons and an Led display on the upper side.
“Wow” everyone said with varying degrees of sarcasm except for Dorcas who said.
“That’s really interesting, how does it work”
“Well” said Gary thrilled that someone appreciated his efforts
“You press this first button and the numbers start randomising”
“Oh yes, I see” said Dorcas
“Then you press the second button and it displays your throw” he continued
“Wow that’s so clever” she said still enthusing
“And you made that?”
“Yes” he replied proudly “I did”
“Can I have a go?” she asked
“Absolutely” Gary said and handed it to her
“So I press this button first” Dorcas said
“Yes” Gary replied
“Then this one?” She said
“Yes” he said again
“And that’s my throw” she said just before she shook it in her hands and rolled it across the table.
Gary’s jaw dropped and the room erupted with laughter and Dorcas said to Gary.
“Got you” and he roared with laughter
In truth at that moment she had them all in the palm of her hand.
She held my hand under the table and squeezed it firmly and as she turned and gave me a smile I fell in love with her all over again.