Keep It In The Family – Episode 14

In those same four weeks Alice had seen Rob more than a dozen times on a mix of dates, from theatre seats to a pub gig by an unknown band who were surprisingly good.“You’re amazing, do you know that? How come you know all about them when you’ve only just arrived in town, while I’ve lived here all my life and have never heard of them?” she teased Rob during the break in their session.Rob shrugged and passed her a glass of wine he’d just collected from the crowded bar.“I just heard two of the guys at work talking about them and thought they were worth a listen.”Alice looked at him as she sipped her wine.As she’d said to Rosie on the phone that morning, she had almost given up hope of meeting a man like Rob. He was funny, interesting, handsome, and wasn’t intimidated by the fact that she had her own business. He always phoned when he said he would, and sometimes unexpectedly, too. That was probably one of the best things about their relationship and yes, she was beginning to think she could call it that. They had the same sense of humour, laughing at the same ridiculous things.They’d been out for a few nice country walks, when Bart had satisfyingly shown that he wasn’t one of those dogs who was jealous of someone sharing his master’s attention. Rob had even expressed an interest in getting a bicycle when she’d mentioned hers.Things couldn’t be going better, she congratulated herself. What was more, he was doing most of the running, which was doing her morale no end of good.The band were assembling onstage again, and soon their music made conversation impossible, but Alice glowed when Rob moved closer to her and draped his arm round her shoulders. Yes, things were going perfectly.It was late when the music came to an end and the bar gradually cleared. Usually Rob picked her up at her house and dropped her home again after their dates, but tonight, because they were going to a pub and would be drinking, he had arranged to meet her there.“What do you think? It’s a lovely evening,” Alice commented. “Shall we walk back to my place? I can phone you a taxi from there.”“Sounds good.”As always they seemed to have a million things to talk about and the 20-minute walk passed in a flash.“Coffee?” she suggested as usual when they reached her gate.He glanced at his watch.“Thanks, but I’m giving a presentation to the board tomorrow so I’d better get home and look over it.”“OK.” She reached up and laced her fingers behind his neck. “Thanks for another wonderful evening,” she said, anticipating his kiss.He dropped a brief kiss on her lips, then eased out of her embrace.“I’d really better be off. Never mind that taxi, I’ll just walk. It’s not far. I’ll ring you. Night.”“Night,” she echoed, and stood at the gate as he walked away. He glanced back to wave once before he reached the corner and disappeared from view, and it was only as she walked up her path that she realised it was the first time he hadn’t said when he would ring her.Poor guy, she thought. He must be worried about this presentation. No doubt he would call tomorrow once it was past.Four silent days later she was on the phone to Rosie.“Just ring him,” Rosie was saying.“But I don’t want to come over all needy,” Alice protested.“Don’t be ridiculous! He’s the one who’s been phoning you every day. He could be ill.”“I never thought of that!” Alice exclaimed. “I just assumed . . .” Her voice tailed off, but Rosie picked it up.“You think he’s changed his mind about you? Why would he? There wasn’t anything on your last date, was there? You didn’t take him to meet your mum and have the ritual baby photos humiliation although I’ve seen your baby photographs and you were the cutest baby ever. He’d fall in love with you at first sight.“What I’m saying, Al, is just ring him.”“Really?”“Really.”So, since Rosie’s advice about love and life had always been pretty sound, Alice dialled Rob’s number as soon as her friend hung up.“Hi, you’ve reached Robert Collier. I’m not here right now . . .” Unprepared, Alice quickly rang off. She’d try again later.Alice managed to resist ringing for another two days, during which she was annoyed to find herself doing what she hadn’t done since she was a teenager, picking up the phone to check the dialling tone, and then she called him again. If there was no answer this time, she would accept that the relationship had run its course. Not that she would understand why it had ended so suddenly, when it had been going so well, but that was romance for you: when did it ever make sense?One ring, two, three and then he answered.“Oh! Hi, Rob, it’s Alice. Just phoning to say hi.”“Alice! I was just about to call you! Sorry I’ve been out of touch for a few days, but the board sent me overseas to give that presentation to the Mexico office. I’d no chance to tell you before I went, and then, over there, with the time difference and everything . . . Forgive me? I can’t wait to see you. Are you free tonight?”“Are you sure?”“Of course I’m sure! How about dinner? I’ll pick you up at seven-thirty. We can go to Romano’s and you can tell me what you’ve been up to since I saw you last.”She found herself agreeing, though she also found herself suppressing the feeling that something about his explanation didn’t ring true.


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