‘How do I look?’ Wendy appears in the bedroom doorway, dressed in lilac, the colour of old age. Her hat resembles the light shade his mother had on the standard lamp in their front parlour. A fusty room for entertaining the guests who merited the best china, and where he would sit in polite formality wishing, he were anywhere else.
‘You look nice.’ What else can he say? He misses her ethnic prints and the bold palette of colours she used to wear. Now she favours the bland tones of safety and respectability.
His smile fades as he escorts her along the greeting line. She simpers and air kisses with the best of them.
He remembers a time when Wendy drew attention with her shine and dazzle, and how she moved among people not caring if she said the wrong thing or wore the wrong clothes.
Now she tries too hard, her smile is brittle, her laugh is too loud, and they brush her off like a fly from honey.
She bows her head, and he moves to her. ‘Don’t cry, Wendy.’
‘I am not crying; I’m angry with them and with me. What are we doing here?’
‘You insisted we come because making new and better friends was one of your conditions for us to start again.’
‘I was wrong.’ The sun disappears behind a cloud and Wendy shivers.
‘Do you want to go home?’ He struggles to contain a burgeoning hope.
‘I want to go back.’
‘Stay here. There’s something I need to do.’
He finds a dark corner in the bar and strips to his underpants, letting his clothes fall to the ground. A waiter approaches him.
‘Sir, are you all right?’
‘Never felt better.’ He takes a drink from the tray and steps outside.
A woman screams and drops her glass. The throng of people stop talking and stare at him in silence, except for two children who giggle and point.
He winks at them and hands his drink to the woman. ‘There you go, enjoy!’
He strolls over to Wendy. ‘Are you ready?’
She nods but does not look at him.
He crooks a finger under her chin and lifts her face to his.
The sun comes out, and Wendy smiles with a radiance that is blinding. His heart bursts with love.
She rips off her hat, takes his hand and they run, laughing, down to the sea.