"A Friend From Home - Short Story"

"A Friend From Home"

© R. L. Brown 2005

The stampede in the corridor marked 5pm Friday more accurately than any clock, but Meagan waited until the elevator doors had swallowed the babble of voices before switching off the computer and slipping out of her office. Her long, dark hair was caught back in a neat bun, and her sombre skirt suit was as immaculate as when she’d started work early that morning.

The brisk cadence of her flat heels along the lino was the only sound on the deserted floor, and she caught her breath in surprise when she turned the corner and saw Simon, one of the Sales executives, leaning against the wall beside the elevator bay. His eyes glinted with amusement as he watched her approach, like a tiger lying in wait for it’s prey.

“Don’t tell me Little Miss Perfect is knocking off early enough to join us for a drink for once?”

Meagan let out her breath slowly. Simon’s persistent teasing made her intensely uncomfortable and she had no idea why he even bothered with her, when all the other single (and some not-so-single) females in the company were more than happy to return his flirting.

“Well, no, I wasn’t planning to,” she answered quietly, avoiding his eyes and staring at the floor numbers as they lit up above the lift doors.

“And, why not?”

The metallic doors slid apart and he took one step inside to hold them open for her, positioning himself so that she had to squeeze past him with barely inches between them. While she couldn’t fault either his appearance or his suave manner, something about him always left her cold and she dreaded times like this when she couldn’t avoid being alone with him.

As he followed her into the lift she heard Therese, the Personnel Manager’s secretary, call out for them to hold the lift, her stiletto heels tapping along the floor like a two fingered typist as she came down corridor.

“Thanks for waiting, Simon,” she said as she entered, tilting her face up to his and favouring him with a glossy red smile. Meagan retreated to the back of the lift, grateful for even her company.

“You’re always welcome, sweetheart. But it’s not like you to darken the office a minute past five, Terri,” Simon replied as the doors closed, “unlike some . . .”

He nodded towards Meagan, and Therese glanced briefly in her direction as he continued, “I was just trying to talk Little Miss here into coming across to the pub. It’s nearly forty degrees outside - perfect excuse to let her hair down.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t stop. I only finished up early tonight because I’m going out.”

“Really, Meagan,” Therese rolled her eyes impatiently, “you should make an effort and come across with us. We were all just saying at lunch that you’ll never meet anyone the way you keep to yourself.”

Meagan sighed. Even though they were both in their early twenties, Therese spoke down to her as though she were a child, and she felt unequal to explaining why she had no desire to spend any more of her life in the company of Simon and his colleagues.

“Thank you for your concern, but I really have got something on.”

“Really?” The high arch of Therese’s finely plucked eyebrows made her feel even more unsophisticated than ever, “What?”

Megan watched the lift numbers descending slowly and realised escape would not come quickly enough.

“A Tupperware party,” she admitted reluctantly.

“A Tupperware party?” Simon chuckled, “What are you doing spending Friday night at a Tupperware party?”

“It’s Sheree’s - she asked me to come.”

“Oh, Sheree! You still keep up with her? I haven’t seen her since she went on maternity leave - it’s been six months already and she’s applied to extend it again!” Therese lowered her voice to a not-very-confidential undertone as the lift doors opened, “And now she only wants to come back part-time - rumour is she’ll be demoted to the Call Centre. Looks like your long hours will pay off when you get her job permanently, Meagan.”

“I’ll be quite happy with my old position when she comes back,” she answered as they left the lift and crossed the foyer, relieved the conversation about her only work friend would be brought to an end.

If she comes back at all! Sounds like she’s become quite domesticated if she’s having Tupperware parties!” Simon said as the glass doors slid open, a wall of heat hitting them like a furnace blast as they stepped out onto the pavement, “On a night like this you’d be better coming across to the pub with us. Face it, who are you going to meet at a Tupperware party?”

Meagan’s clothes were soaked with perspiration, and strands of her dark hair clung like tendrils around her face as she wearily hauled herself up the concrete stairs to her flat. After growing up in the dry heat of the bush she still found the humidity unbearable and she hoped desperately that the predicted cool change would come through soon.

She had thought that there could be no place on earth hotter than the interior of her old Mazda until she unlocked the door to her flat, the trapped heat having turned the air into something like a solid mass of super-heated jelly. She sighed, and went inside, kicking off her shoes and dropping her bag down beside the door.

Deciding there was little point in trying to let the heat out, Meagan headed toward the tiny kitchen, winding her way through the piles of boxes she had never bothered unpacking since moving in several months earlier. Her flat had never seemed like a home, but merely a place to sleep when she wasn’t at work.

It was the first night she’d been home before nine all week, and while she enjoyed her work for its own sake, during the heatwave the office air conditioning had certainly provided an extra incentive to put in the hours and finally clear the backlog she’d inherited with Sheree’s position.

She opened her fridge door, standing in front of it and enjoying its coolness for as long as possible as she surveyed its dismal contents. She picked up a couple of carrots, but they sagged unappetizingly in her hand, so she tossed them back onto the shelf and closed the door, taking instead a can of tinned fruit from the panty. It wasn’t particularly appetising, but at least if she ate from the can it would save on washing up.

Opening it, she leant against the bar and flicked though her mail, a wave of homesickness rushing over her as she saw the thick envelope addressed in her mum’s handwriting. She looked slowly through the enclosed photos of her family celebrating her niece’s second birthday, the pictures of her niece feeding cake to the old cattle dog and sitting up proudly on Grandpa’s knee on the old tractor, and another of her parents surrounded by her brothers and their wives and girlfriends.

Meagan blinked hard, sure that she had never felt as lonely and miserable in her whole life as she had been since moving to the city for work. She had prayed about taking the job, and while she had been sure it was God’s will she had never expected the adjustment would be so hard. She felt like an alien amongst her workmates, knew none of her neighbours and although the people at her new church were friendly enough, she had never got past the Sunday service small talk with them.

She took a spoonful of the fruit salad, but it was repulsively warm and sickly sweet, so she covered it with plastic wrap and stuck it into the fridge for later. It was too hot to eat anything anyway, she decided, and headed instead for a cool shower.

The kids in the next yard were screaming as they ran in and out of the sprinker and chased each other with water pistols when Meagan pulled up outside Sheree’s hardiplank home a few suburbs away. Sheree’s husband Roger let her in the back door and directed her through to the bathroom where his wife had just finished bathing the baby.

“I’m so glad you’re early, Meg,” she said, handing her the squirming bundle of towel and chubby pink baby, “If you don’t mind dressing Janie, I’ll just have time for a quick shower. Her clothes and everything are ready on the change table. Roger will put her down to sleep, but he’s just watching out for Grant - he should be here any minute now.”

Meagan took her friend’s daughter into her arms with a grin. Although she hadn’t met him, she knew Grant was a workmate of Roger’s, and wasn’t surprised that Roger had called him in for moral support, probably to watch the footy together in the back room while the house was invaded by the Tupperware ladies.

She carried Janie through to the nursery, taking her time drying and powdering her, and making her smile and gurgle as she tickled her warm, clean skin. She’d just finished dressing her when she heard Grant arrive and the two men walk through to the kitchen, talking and laughing as they took cold drinks from the fridge.

Lifting the baby into her arms, her heart ached with love as Janie snuggled in against her chest, and Meagan decided to steal a few more minutes with her before handing her over to Roger. As she cradled her she could feel her tiny heartbeat like a bird fluttering beneath her hand, and she rested her lips against her silky hair, breathing in the soft scent of baby soap and powder.

Meagan stiffened as she felt a strange rumbling, but had no time to react before she was suddenly drenched with what seemed to be a bucketful of warm, curdled milk.

“Roger!” she called out, holding the baby away from her soaked shirt, amazed that the she was smiling contentedly, even as more milk dribbled onto her arms from those innocent rosebud lips.

“Hah - you copped it tonight, did ya, Megs? She always chucks up after her bath, must make her tummy all relaxed or something,” he said cheerfully, “You did well - I won’t even have to change her again - didn’t get any on her clothes this time!”

“No, that’s because it’s all over mine!” she said, handing him his daughter with a groan. He gave the baby a quick kiss on the head before turning round to the doorway, “Here mate - you take her for a bit. She’ll be right now, she’s done her chuck for the night. I’ll just go and organise another shirt for Megs.”

Meagan hadn’t even been aware that Grant was standing behind him in the doorway, but she was so taken up with keeping any more of the baby’s dinner from running down onto her shorts, that she gained no more than an impression of height and dark hair as she followed Roger through to the bedroom.

Several people had arrived by the time she’d changed and rinsed her shirt in the laundry and while she’d only laughed when Roger had tossed her one of his own shirts - and not Sheree’s - before racing out of the room, she now felt self-conscious in the huge polo shirt emblazoned with the logo of the auto parts shop he managed.

Reluctantly entering the crowded lounge room, Meagan chose a chair in the corner beside an oscillating fan which swept a gust of hot air in her direction every few moments as it swung past. She was surprised to see Roger and Grant in there too, chatting with Sheree beside a table piled with brightly coloured containers.

It was the first Meagan had properly seen of Grant and although she could only see him from the back, she couldn’t seem to pull her eyes away from him. She wasn’t sure whether it was the confident and uniquely masculine way he stood which held her attention - arms crossed and broad shoulders well back - or simply the way he was dressed so much like one of her brothers, in moleskins and a Gloucester shirt rolled casually to the elbows.

A few more women arrived and once they had taken their places she heard Grant remark that it was time they started. Meagan assumed he was talking about watching the football, until she realised that Roger and Sheree had taken a seat and that only Grant remained standing at the front of the room.

He introduced himself briefly and began handing around brochures, but before Meagan had comprehended what was happening he held out a sheaf of glossy papers to her, grinning as he recognised the logo on Roger’s shirt.

“I hope Roger’s paying you for the advertising!” he said as Meagan glanced up at his smiling face, her mind going blank as she stared up into eyes that glowed like polished mahogany, and the most attractive face she had ever seen. Just as she despaired of making an intelligent reply, the fan swept her direction again, blowing the brochures out of her hands.

She quickly bent down to retrieve them and when she looked up again Grant was already much further along the circle. It was only when he returned to the front of the room and began the first game that she grasped that it was actually Grant who was the Tupperware “Lady”.

“Just say your name and something about yourself that starts with the first letter of your name,” he explained the introductory game, “I’m Grant and I sell gearboxes.”

The game moved quickly around the circle and Meagan was relieved to have decided what to say by the time the woman next to her spoke.

“I’m Michelle, and I drive a Mazda.”

Oh no, there goes mine! Meagan thought, panicked by the expectant silence as everyone turned to look at her.

“I’m Meagan, and . . .” she blurted out the only thing that came into her mind, “and I’m from Munginbudala.”

“Mungin-what? Where on earth is that?” a girl sitting opposite her laughed and Meagan’s face burnt with embarrassment.

“Mung - in- bud - al - a,” Grant answered before she could reply, meeting her surprised eyes with a friendly wink, “best little town in western New South Wales. Born there myself.”

Meagan stared at him in amazement. There was something oddly familiar about him - but she knew she’d never seen him before – and Munginbudala was the kind of place where you knew everyone and their dog.

The game had continued on around the circle leaving Meagan behind in her thoughts, and she only tuned back in when she heard Roger heckling Grant, saying, “C’mon mate, real men don’t eat quiche!”

“Ah, but real men want good, home cooked food!” he replied, laughing, “Even you could do this, Rog, with the right equipment!”

Meagan watched intrigued as Grant brought out several different styles of storage containers each filled with a different fresh ingredient, expertly slicing, dicing and grating their contents before emptying each one into a large jug. Only minutes later he gave the jug a quick mix, poured the contents into a quiche dish, which he then handed to Roger to put into the oven.

“That’s all there is to it,” Grant said, setting his watch, “and I can guarantee you a tasty supper.” Continuing on with his demonstration he held everyone’s interest despite the unpleasant heat, his natural flair evident as he spoke knowledgably and humourously about the plasticware.

Meagan however, could not keep her mind on his words, her thoughts running in a completely different direction as she stared intently at him. Although she knew no rational reason for it, from the moment she’d seen him she’d felt an real connection to him – as though this stranger was suddenly an incredibly important part of her life.

Whether it was the smiling understanding in his eyes when they rested on hers or the genuine warmth in his voice, there was certainly something compelling about him. She gazed at his handsome face, aware of an illogical but growing conviction that he was the kind of kindred spirit whom she’d only imagined might exist.

The wind chimes composed a disjointed melody as the first stirrings of a breeze wafted through the house, bringing with it the tantalising fragrance of herbs and sizzling onions. Megan realised just how hungry she was as the golden aroma began to dominate the room and Grant began winding up his demonstration.

“I’ve shown you how simple life can be with Tupperware, but the proof is definitely in the tasting,” he said as his watch alarm sounded. “If you don’t mind bringing the quiche in, Roger - I’ll be interested to see if you can resist a piece.”

The cool change had arrived by the time the quiche was handed around during supper, lowering the temperature several degrees and injecting the room with a fresh lease of life. No longer able to watch Grant inconspicuously as he moved around the room, chatting and taking orders, Megan retreated into her corner and took a bite of the quiche which he had made.

She was sure that she had never tasted anything so delicious, and immediately felt the full force of her domestic deficiencies. If a guy could make a meal like this in ten minutes - on his feet in the middle of a lounge room - surely she could?

Meagan thought of her kitchen and sighed, wondering if the right equipment would make all the difference. She flicked through the glossy brochure, determined to start making a change in her life but overwhelmed by the many choices. Her heart began to beat rapidly as, still no closer to coming to a decision on her order form, she realised that several people were leaving and that Grant was making his way toward her.

“You enjoyed the quiche, Meagan?”

She barely dared to glance at him as he squatted down beside her, unnervingly aware of his close proximity.

“Yes, it was delicious. I can’t believe it was so easy to make - I watched you do it but it seems incredible.”

“Not incredible, impossible!” he laughed, then noticed her crossed and scribbled order form. “Are you having trouble deciding what you want?”

“Yes . . . I’m just not sure what I need most,” she began in embarrasment, wishing she’d been able to get her act together before he come over to her.

“Why don’t you hold your own party? That way you’ll have plenty of time to decide, and you can take advantage of the hostess bonuses as well.”

The suggestion flustered her, but even though she knew the impossibility of organising anything like that, she couldn’t bring herself to say no to the only opportunity of seeing him again.

“Sure,” she agreed with more confidence than she felt.

He flipped open a small, dog-eared diary. “I’ve had several bookings already tonight, but we might be able to slip it in sooner rather than later. Have you got a night free in the next couple of weeks?”

“Oh, any night.”

“I’ve had a cancellation for next Friday - does that suit?”

Meagan nodded, wishing she hadn’t made her complete absence of social life quite so obvious. He quickly went over the rest of the arrangements with her and she tried to ignore her rising panic.

“But . . . how many people do I need to invite?”

“As many as you like,” he replied with a smile that could have melted stronger reservations than hers, “but if only two or three turn up, that’s okay too.”

If even two or three people turn up it will be a miracle! she admitted to herself, unable to believe what she had committed herself to.

Meagan was so preoccupied with her dilemma the following Monday that she didn’t even notice Simon eyeing her with interest when she slipped past him to her usual seat at the back of the busy lunch room.

The more she contemplated Friday night, the more she dreaded the thought of it. She’d begged the old lady she sat next to in church to come and though she would look pretty silly when Grant arrived to find only the two of them there, Meagan couldn’t bear the thought of cancelling and never seeing him again. In desperation she’d slipped invitations into the mailboxes of all the other units in her block, but as none of her neighbours had ever spoken to her before she wasn’t holding out a lot of hope.

“So how was your big night on Friday, Little Miss?” Simon’s question made her skin prickle with embarrassment.

“Fine, thanks,” she replied, ignoring his teasing look and intently studying the catalogue in her hands. Maybe if she made a big order it wouldn’t matter that no-one else came.

“Oh, yes - you had that Tupperware party at Sheree’s! What did you buy?”

Meagan’s heart sank - she hadn’t even noticed Therese at the fridge - now everyone was looking at her.

“Nothing yet . . . I was, um, talked in into having my own party this Friday.”

“Pushy sales lady, huh?”

“Well, no, it was a guy actually.”

“What? I’ve never heard of a man selling Tupperware before?” Melanie, a supervisor from Accounts joined the conversation, “What was he like? Middle aged and balding?”

“No . . . quite young.”

“Huh! A Plastics Queen!” Simon snickered in an affected voice.

“No . . . I certainly didn’t get that impression. . .”

“A-ha! There’s something in this - look she’s blushing!” Therese shrieked in delight, “I’ve got to meet this man! When did you say the party’s on? Friday night?”

Meagan nodded apprehensively as several other girls in the lunch room voiced their intention of coming and she wondered if there was any way of extricating herself from this nightmare. It was hard enough fitting in at work, but the thought of these girls coming to her flat was terrifying.

“I’m in too!” Melanie said, “So this guy’s a bit of alright, is he?”

“I guess so . . .” Meagan tried to shrug it off lightly, fearful they might guess how strongly she felt about him, “You know the type: tall, dark and handsome.”

Everyone laughed and a girl who’d never spoken to her before asked for a catalogue and raised her eyebrows in interest.

“But if he’s that hot, what do you reckon he’s doing spending his Friday nights selling Tupperware?”

“Probably laughing all the way to the bank!” Simon answered, putting his magazine back into his briefcase, “Why go to the trouble of going to the pub and buying a girl a drink - look at you all - he’ll have a dozen phone numbers by the end of the night and a nice profit. All he’s got to do is wink at you and you’re all going to spend a small fortune on that plastic stuff.”

Therese laughed. “I’m sure you’re right - but it’ll be a lot of fun watching him operate!”

Grant’s not like that – you wouldn’t understand – but he’s different to all of you! Meagan answered silently, but the first seeds of doubt had been sown in her heart.

Meagan looked around her crowded lounge room with a feeling of incredible relief as Grant wound up the demonstration the following Friday night. She couldn’t believe how well things had turned out: the girls from work had each arranged to bring a plate of food and a number of her neighbours had brought along extra chairs.

The old lady from church had brought along several other ladies from the congregation, and Meagan felt as though she had spent every spare moment of the last week making arrangements and chatting with people she’d never had a chance to get know before.

Once Grant had arrived she hadn’t had a moment to feel awkward with any of the guests, his entertaining style and golden quiche had been a great success and he was now fielding questions as everyone tucked into the delicious supper.
Meagan had just poured herself a drink when she heard Grant replying to a question about fridge and pantry storage.

“The best way to explain would be to go through to the kitchen and show you in there. I’m sure Meagan wouldn’t mind.”

Meagan nearly dropped the bottle she was holding. She’d spent a few extremely late nights overhauling the lounge room - finally unpacking her boxes and making the place look more homely - but she hadn’t anticipated anyone going near the kitchen so she’d left it untouched.

“Oh no, that’s not a good idea! The kitchen’s . . . um . . . really disorganised.”

“All the better to demonstrate with,” he insisted, sweeping aside her protest with his disarming smile, “A disorganised kitchen is just what we need!”

“But Grant - it’s really bad . . .”

Meagan followed helplessly as everyone piled into her tiny kitchen, knowing there were worse things in store than the general grime and crusty benchtops. The embarrassed silence which descended on the group as Grant opened the fridge door was every bit as terrible as she had imagined and Meagan wished she could curl up and die like the cabbage leaf languishing at the bottom of the crisper.

Amongst several half empty takeaway containers and vegetables in various stages of decomposition, stood a jug of fruit juice that had turned a colour that couldn’t be bought in the shops.

“No wonder you always buy your lunch, Meagan!” Therese’s comment finally broke the tension and everyone laughed with relief, “I know I wouldn’t want to eat anything that came out of there!”

Meagan shook her head helplessly as Grant turned around to her and although he was biting his lip as he tried unsuccessfully to suppress a smile, his warm brown eyes held no hint of mockery.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered in mortification, “I tried to warn you . . .”

“Come here - it’s not that bad,” Grant said, taking her hand and pulling her towards the fridge, “Nothing a bit of organisation can’t fix. For starters, with this special crisper your vegies could last twice as long.”

“Great!” snickered Therese from behind her, “You could keep them for six months then!”

“Shut up, Terri!” Melanie from Accounts snapped back, “You know better than anyone the hours she’s been putting in doing her job as well as Sheree’s! If you’ve got half the influence you reckon, you’d remind your boss about his promise to get a temp in.”

“Yeah, he’s just being tight-fisted because Meagan lets him get away with it,” Therese conceded wearily, “I’ll have a go at him about it on Monday.”

Although she knew they meant well, Meagan could have cried with humiliation. Grant, as though sensing her thoughts, gave her hand a reassuring squeeze before releasing it and quickly resuming his spiel. Her pulse was still racing from his touch when he closed the fridge door and turned back to her.

“Is the pantry safe?”

“Comparatively . . .” she laughed shakily, and retired to the back of the group while he concluded the demonstration.

No-one seemed to be in a hurry to leave and it was while Meagan was watching several of the girls falling over themselves to book their own parties with Grant that she came to the cold realisation that Simon’s assessment had been right.

All he had to do was turn on the charm and dozens of women bought anything he wanted to sell them. She looked at the order she’d just written out for an entire fridge and pantry collection - Grant obviously knew that he was onto a winner with gullible girls like her - and tomorrow night it would be someone else fawning over him at their party.

She was just a silly girl who’d let herself become infatuated with a handsome face, foolishly endowing him with all the qualities she ever longed for in a man. She shook her head remembering the way he’d pretended he’d come from Munginbudala - he didn’t even realise that it was such a small town that they couldn’t have been strangers.

She looked up and saw him watching her, her heart throbbing as their eyes met for a fraction of a second before she looked away, hating herself for her susceptibility to him. She gathered the glasses and took them through to the kitchen, hoping he’d take the hint. Putting them in the sink, she realised that despite her feeling of betrayal, she was still grateful for the evening - her life had turned around during the past week.

Several of her neighbours had dropped in after receiving her invitations - the friendships she’d formed promising to be lasting ones - and by becoming involved with the girls from work she’d finally been accepted by them and discovered that they weren’t as different to her as she’d imagined.

She returned to the lounge room in time to see out the last guests, steeling herself as she sat down to go through the evening’s sales with Grant.

“I’m really sorry about what happened in the kitchen. I -” he began, but Megan interrupted.

“Forget it. No-one could expect to find something like that.”

He caught her eyes and smiled, “It sounds like you’re pretty busy at work.”

“Yes, it’s been chaotic lately!”

“But you enjoy it?”

“Very much, it’s just . . .” she stopped short, forcing herself to look away from his hypnotic eyes. Something about Grant made her want to tell him everything, but she reminded herself that no man could possibly be as sweet as he seemed to be, and quickly changed the subject back to the business at hand.

Meagan kept her responses brief as Grant began going over the orders with her, resisting his attempts to move the conversation into other areas.

“You look pretty tired,” he said eventually, “I’ll work the rest out at home and call you with the final arrangements. Just ring me if there’s anything else.” He scribbled on a slip of paper and she took it from him, following him to the door.

It was only when she’d unlatched the door that she glanced down at the paper in her hand, realising that she’d never known his surname before.

“Eddon . . .” she read aloud, looking at him thoughtfully, “I knew a lovely Mrs Eddon when I was little . . .she was the Scripture teacher at school. You wouldn’t be related, would you?”

He grinned, “That’s my mum - I told you that I grew up in Munginbudala too. Didn’t you believe me?”

She blushed with guilt. “But I didn’t know you . . .”

“Well, we left over ten years ago - when I finished high school. If I’m guessing right about your age, you would have been just finishing primary school then.”
Meagan did the maths and nodded.

“Then it’s not surprising we didn’t meet. But you knew Mum?”

“Oh, yes - I’ve never forgotten her - I can still see her sitting on the teacher’s desk, answering all our questions and telling us the most amazing stories,” she related, her mind filling with memories. “But it was only years later that I really had any idea of how much she’d shaped my thinking.”

Grant’s eyes crinkled at the corners as he smiled, “I know exactly what you mean, only I got Mum’s scripture lessons every day! There’s no escaping that kind of upbringing, but I honestly couldn’t be more grateful to God for it, especially since moving to the city.”

Meagan’s heart began to pound as she realised that everything she’d instinctively felt about Grant made sense now - although he had seemed too good to be true - he was exactly the kind of son her Mrs Eddon would raise.

“How is your mum?” she asked quickly, hoping he hadn’t notice her flushed cheeks.

“Not all that great.” Grant leant back against the doorpost, folding his arms across his chest, “Mum broke her hip a few months ago - she’s improving slowly, but she’s still fairly housebound. That’s how I ended up doing these Tupperware parties. I offered to fill in for the demonstrations she’d arranged before her accident, but at every party I keep getting more bookings - even though I never ask for them!”

Meagan nearly reminded him that he’d asked her, but she suddenly felt nervous. “I’m so sorry about your Mum - I’d love to see her again if I can.”

“I know she’d love that too - you’d be welcome anytime.”

He stared hard at Meagan for a few moments before continuing, the expression in his eyes making her breathless.

“Meagan - by all means come and visit Mum - but I’d love to see you again too. The only reason I suggested you hold a party was because I couldn’t think of any other way of getting to know you. Can I take you out for dinner sometime soon?”

She nodded, her pulse crashing like the sea in her ears.

“Tomorrow night?” he pressed, before shaking his head in annoyance, “No - I’ve got a party on then. Are you free Monday?”

“No - I’m filling in with the work’s indoor netball team.”

“And I’ve got another demo on Tuesday,” he pulled out his diary in frustration, “What about Wednesday?”

She shook her head. “Thursday’s okay.”

“Not for me. Next Saturday?”

Meagan began to laugh. “The lady next door has invited me for dinner.”

“Hang on, what’s going on here, Meagan?” He looked at her in amazement, “A week ago every night was free - now I can’t get to see you!”

“It’s all your fault! Somehow I had to make enough friends to invite to your Tupperware party!”

He grinned and took her hands in his, “Well, I’m not giving up - surely you’re free to come around for breakfast tomorrow?”

“Absolutely,” she smiled, a mischievous glint in her eyes. “Just promise me it won’t be quiche again!”

© R Brown 2005