I was sure of it. Some­where there was a per­fect part­ner for my friend

My Weekly Special - - Contents - By An­d­rina Con­nell

Get­ting a date for Kate has been my life’s work. It be­gan way back in the school play­ground. “Olly Brown asked me to give you this,” I told her, push­ing a small bun­dle cov­ered in crum­pled birth­day wrap­ping pa­per at her.

Kate stepped back. The bun­dle fell to the ground and a slice of birth­day cake lay at her feet.

“You have it please, Susy,” she said, smil­ing as she flicked her blonde pony tail over her shoul­der. “I don’t like jam and cream to­gether in a sponge cake.”

Well, I did. I bit into the gooey sweet­ness and licked my lips. PoorOlly, I thought. His birth­day would not be as happy as he had hoped.

As teenagers, we went round in a group. Ta­ble ten­nis and bad­minton at the youth club saw us change part­ners with lit­tle thought of ro­mance. We joined the ten­nis club and sat around drink­ing le­mon and lime, so much more so­phis­ti­cated than cola, when we weren’t play­ing mixed dou­bles.

The next sum­mer was the year we be­gan part­ner­ing each other with no points to score.

Tony Ross and I be­came an item but Kate didn’t have any stay­ing power.

Then Tony’s pal Tim got four tick­ets for a pop gig and of­fered them to us if we could get Kate to go as his date.

She seemed pleased and we made a light­hearted four­some… un­til Tim went to Bristol Univer­sity and Tony went to Ed­in­burgh.

There were phone calls back and forth and we even­tu­ally did meet up at Christ­mas. By then Kate and I were also busy study­ing. We started col­lege and that brought new ex­pe­ri­ences, new peo­ple. Kate lost touch with Tim but

Tony and I still saw each other when we could. We got Kate a few dates but she seemed to get bored very easily.

“What could pos­si­bly have been wrong with that one?” I asked af­ter a par­tic­u­lar dishy guy got dumped.

“He was a plane spot­ter.” She groaned. “Would you stand for ages at the end of a run­way in the pour­ing rain?”

Hank – hon­estly! – a coun­try and western fan, com­plete with heeled boots, got her in­ter­ested in his kind of mu­sic for a lit­tle while. All too soon she sent him rid­ing into the sunset.

Then there was the guy who didn’t be­lieve in go­ing to the cin­ema. He read film re­views on his lap­top. When a film was deemed watch­able, it was viewed in its en­tirety on the same lap­top. That was usu­ally on a park bench.

“I’d rather see them on a cin­ema screen,” Kate told him as the clos­ing cred­its rolled for their re­la­tion­ship.

With our de­grees gained, fol­lowed by teacher train­ing, we got posts in schools ten miles apart. Kate bought a small flat over­look­ing the park.

I was still at home and sav­ing hard. Tony had qual­i­fied and had a flat quite near my school. I spent much of my time there.

“How do you stick with the same guy?” Kate wanted to know one night as

“Kate’s a big, grown-up girl. She’ll find a man when she’s ready”

we ate toast and cheese in her flat. “I love him,” I ad­mit­ted. “Does he love you?” “Oh yes.” “What does it feel like?” She looked at me in­tently. “Fan­tas­tic,” I sighed, hug­ging my­self. Kate sighed too. “I think there’s some­thing wrong with me. I must lack a but­ton that tells me I should stick with a guy. Keep him in­ter­ested in me.”

“You’ll meet him one of these days,” I as­sured her. “Just keep look­ing.” I re­solved to keep look­ing for her too. One day my older brother emerged from be­neath the bon­net of his latest old banger to ask, “That friend of yours, Kate – has she got a boyfriend?”

“Not at the mo­ment” I frowned. “Are you go­ing to ask her out?”

“Might do.” He smiled that lop­sided smile he reck­oned was sexy. He rubbed his oil stained fin­gers down his over­alled thighs. Fan­cied him­self some­thing rot­ten, did my brother.

Tony heard all about it that night.

“I’ve been try­ing to get Kate dates for years and there’s my own brother, right be­low my nose, fan­cy­ing her.”

“Kate’s a big, grown-up girl,” Tony said. “She’ll find a man when she’s ready,” and he pulled me closer as we sat to­gether on the set­tee in his flat. “Leave her to sort out her own love life. Let’s con­cen­trate on ours,” and he kissed me. I kissed him back and for­got Kate. She never did go out with my brother. Ac­tu­ally I don’t think he ever got round to ask­ing her.

When Tony and I got mar­ried ev­ery­one said what a beau­ti­ful cou­ple Kate and the best man made. They’d be walk­ing down the aisle soon, they reck­oned con­fi­dently.

Then the best man was posted abroad – and Kate had no no­tion to walk as far as that with him.

Then she fell in love. She phoned me in a great state of ex­cite­ment. “Susy,” she breathed. “Oh, Susy, this is mar­vel­lous. It was love at first sight. I don’t be­lieve I could be so lucky. Can you come tonight to in­spect it?”

“In­spect it?” My head was reel­ing. “What is he, a ro­bot?”

“It’s not a he,” Kate laughed hap­pily. “It’s a cot­tage. There’s a stream at the bot­tom of the gar­den and fruit trees and roses and it has a wood burner, the floors are…”

“OK, OK.” I stopped her guided tour. “I’ll see it for my­self tonight.”

I did won­der if it had a gar­ret, and whether she would ac­quire a cat to com­plete the pic­ture in my mind.

The cot­tage was all she had en­thused about. Not con­tent with buy­ing it, she had plans to ex­tend it. Just like the cot­tage ad­join­ing hers.

When a gleam­ing BMW pulled in next door, I thought I had found the rea­son for the en­thu­si­asm. But the hand­some form emerg­ing from the car was greeted at his door with a kiss from a pretty lit­tle brunette. Foiled again.

Once Kate sold her flat, Tony and I helped her move into the dream cot­tage. Over the weeks her eu­pho­ria in­creased – she had a glow I’d never seen be­fore. Even Tony no­ticed her new hap­pi­ness.

Pre­par­ing a chilli for our supper one night, she told us an old friend was com­ing to share our meal.

My eye­brows rose. Wha­told­friend? I won­dered.

“His fa­ther did the build­ing work next door but he’s re­tired and now Oliver has come home from work­ing abroad to take over the fam­ily busi­ness.”

She was smil­ing, oh, such a smile and her eyes sparkled. I frowned. “Oliver?” My sixth sense twitched. Kate was pos­i­tively beam­ing. “He won­ders if you still like jam and cream in a sponge cake?”

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