Margot, my Uncle’s third cousin, three times removed, has the radio on. It’s playing Two Guitars. She’s already run through the extended song list for Carmen but the rain outside doesn’t even begin to sound like it might be waning. Rain doesn’t bother me: I’m all for leaving, but Margot insists we spare our clothes from dampness. And so we drink our wine.

Mum’s onto the port. Father sticks to scotch, straight. None of that ‘cocktails business’ young college students like to talk about. He’s a straight-laced man, damn straight, a thick filet mignon through and through. I agree with the thick part, at least. I look at my sister. She rolls her eyes ever so slightly above the smirk she buries in her glass and reclines gracefully on the green velvet sofa, a posture I mimic, but don’t seem to feel. “So what were you saying, again?” she asks our esteemed host.

“Oh, erm.” It seems even Margot hasn’t been listening to herself.

“About the man you met. Bill… Or Will,” I prompt her, wanting this conversation to end.

Margot tinkles a laugh. “Oh yes, him! Gil.”

Present company chuckles appropriately. I contort a smile.

“Well, you see, it wasn’t really proper. He was a drama student, you know.”

Yes, so she said before.

“And you know how they can be.”

Mother nods sagely. Before she met Father, she was fraternising with men many times worse than drama students.

“He was ever so delightful and fun, and he certainly loved me, but he just wasn’t the right kind of man for me. He was…” she grimaces, but not so much as to smear her make-up. Or to encourage wrinkles, God forbid. “He was… Well, too loving. He thought about me. Not his future. Our future.”

Our family hums commiseration.

“What happened with him?” I ask cautiously.

Margot sighs, waving a hand airily. “I’m afraid I had to tell him to leave. You have to think about the future, you know.”

Thankfully, we are spared the inevitable burgeoning lecture as the rain stops and we are, like Margot’s drama student, free to leave. Margot makes her final remarks, and we platitude our way to the door.

Back at my flat in Chelsea, I lie in bed with my boyfriend, Phil. He hasn’t met Margot. Or rather, she hasn’t met Phil as himself, I suppose. We’re celebrating his new mother lode.

He’s an actor and his most recent act – a loving but hopeless drama student of a boyfriend – has given us a pile of loot. Priceless antiques, jewels, electronics. Wine.

And the best thing yet, Margot will never suspect.


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