The mystery man winds his way through the house into the living room; he seems to know his way, which is surprising because I have never met him despite the number of times I have been to Jo’s house. As soon as he walks into the living room all the excited chatter from the girls falls silent.
“Looks like I arrived a little early,” he booms in his deep voice. I wander in behind him and watch as Fatma and Mariam stare at him, slack-jawed. Indeed, he is a stunning-looking man.
Jo rises from her place next to Mariam, who has been swiping through her phone showing off her dating app. “Joseph!” she yelps. “So good to see you! I didn’t think you were going to make it. Didn’t even know you were in the country,” she beams. Then she takes him by the arm and turns to the rest of us. “Ladies, this is a friend of Johann. Joseph. He travels a lot.”
“We guessed as much,” Fatma says, rising to shake his hand. She introduces herself. Then he leans over to shake Mariam’s hand, who also introduces herself. Then he turns around to face me.
“And you are…?” he asks with that cheeky smile on his face. I start to giggle and blush before I say my name. This man does make me truly nervous. “Liz… that’s a beautiful name,” he says.
“Ok, ok, break it up you two!” Jo cuts in, taking Joseph’s hand. “Come with me to the kitchen, you can help me open up a few bottles of wine before Johann gets back from the supermarket.”
They head off, leaving the three of us in the living room. “Liz and Joseph, sitting in a tree,” Fatma starts to trill, laughing.
“Oh, shut up!” I yell, throwing a pillow in her direction. She ducks and catches it, and then I plop myself down next to Mariam. “Ok, tell me more about this app. How does it work?”
About an hour later, the party is house-full. Johann has arrived from the supermarket with supplies, and in addition, two more friends of his have joined us. We’re all having a merry time, eating our finger foods and drinking copious amounts of wine as we play a variety of party games.
“I think we should try Charades next,” Joseph says when there is a lull in the games.
“I second that,” Johann says. Then he proceeds to put us into teams. I end up on the same team with Joseph, Mariam and one of the other gentlemen, Brian. For the next hour or so it’s a raucous good time as we all try to guess which movie or song titles our team-mates are illustrating with their actions.
“Bathroom break, methinks,” Jo says, catching her breath that’s filled with laughter after one particularly funny episode that involves Joseph crawling around the floor on all fours. “I knew it was a good idea getting you to attend,” she says to him as we disperse to fill our snack bowls or our glasses or just catch some fresh air on the balcony.
“Well, I am certainly glad I came otherwise I would have never met the lovely Liz,” he says, his eyes drifting towards me. I can hear everything he says because he is sitting right next to me. I blush and tell him that I am off to the kitchen to open another bottle of red wine.
“I’ll come with you,” he says, jumping up onto his feet and following me, despite my protestations. “You might need a man to twist that cork out,” he says.
“I’ve been opening wine bottles for years,” I laugh.
“Well, now you don’t need to any more,” he says with a wink as I pull a bottle out of one of the kitchen cabinets. He grabs it and inserts a corkscrew as he keeps talking. “So I hope you know that after this you are going to give me your number and we will have dinner very soon, don’t you?”
I laugh. “How presumptuous,” I say.
“I haven’t presumed wrong, have I?” he asks with a cheeky smile. That remains to be seen.