Brad is fairly easily deterred, responding to your rebuttal with a ‘sure thing’ and a ‘see you around’ kind of text. You put this down to the fact he’s a laid back Aussie, rather than that he wasn’t all that interested anyway (or seething with rage about the bet). It makes you feel better.

You should have known Nita and Jay would put on posh food for their picnic – year after year the standard gets higher. This year they’ve excelled themselves, with cheese from La Fromagerie, and cold meats and cupcakes from Melrose and Morgan. You and Alice had planned on bringing good bread and quiche from the deli in Hampstead, but in the event are running late so have to make do with corner shop hummous. You think the fact you’re bringing Pimms and lemonade will compensate for the a paltry food offering.

So when Charlie arrives bearing a packet of scotch eggs and Doritos you’re pleased that someone else has lowered the standard. You tell him so but he defends himself on the grounds that he brought a bottle of Pimms.

‘Great minds think alike,’ you say, and toast to your likemindedness.

Alice, Charlie, you and Simon work your way quickly through the first bottle of Pimms and it’s just like the old days, you and Charlie laughing and flirting, surrounded by good friends.

‘So what happened to the Aussie?’ asks Charlie. ‘He looked pretty keen.’

‘Oh, I don’t know... he’s probably drinking in a Walkabout somewhere in Earl’s Court,’ you say.

‘You heart breaker, you,’ said Charlie.

‘I hardly think his heart was involved,’ you insist.

‘That’s what you think. Men’s hearts aren’t made of stone, you know.’

‘I know darling, I know,’ you say, smiling at him, ignoring the glances exchanged by Simon and Alice.

Charlie is about to open the second when Nita and Jay unveil a coolbox full of champagne. It takes Jay a good quarter of an hour to assemble 20-odd of those plastic glasses with the detachable stems – by the time everyone has a ‘glass’ of champagne in their hand speculation about what you’re toasting to is rife.

Jay takes Nita’s hand and proudly announces their engagement, to whoops of delight from the girls and shocked cheers from the boys. They’ve been together so long everyone had just about given up on them ever taking the plunge. For the sake of their parents (although he’s of the right faith, his surname is apparently from the wrong part of India for Nita’s famously fussy mother) they’ve been maintaining 2 flats, despite effectively living together for the last few years. And Nita’s so into her job it seemed increasingly unlikely that she’d ever really settle down and do the whole marriage and kids thing. Still, the girls at the picnic smile knowingly, at the inevitability of marriage.

Having taken on the mantle of a massive celebration the picnic gets even messier even quicker than usual. By midnight you’ve had more than enough to drink and head up the hill home, your bag with its dirty picnic blanket and squashed – unwanted – packet of Doritos dragging on the pavement. Without a word Charlie takes it off you and hoists it to his shoulder.

‘It’s not even that heavy,’ he laughs.

‘I know,’ you giggle. ‘But thanks anyway. I just couldn’t be bothered.’

You tuck your hand into the crook of his elbow and give Alice a warning ‘don’t say a word’ look behind his back as you do so. She replies with an exaggerated wink.

Just as you didn’t need to discuss that Charlie would leave with you and Alice and walk home with you, you don’t need to invite him in when you get home. You sit on the sofa with a cup of tea and Alice makes herself scarce, again with no discussion. You stretch your legs over his like you always used to. He leans forward and kisses you, very gently, and you respond (somewhat less gently, but you’re tipsy and he’s just as handsome as ever, so why hold back?).

Charlie pulls away, takes your hand, and gives you his very best earnest look. Now you know you can’t avoid talking about it any longer.

‘I really miss you, Sarah. You know that don’t you?’

You nod. ‘I told you you would.’

‘So you were right, after all. Don’t tease me though. I want to know if I’ve got a chance of making things up to you. If maybe we can give things another go?’ He bites his lip and looks genuinely anxious for your response.

You take pity. Who are you trying to kid that you don’t miss him just as much?

‘Yes. Yes, okay, let’s give it another shot.’

You seal your agreement with some fantastic sex, which sets the tone for the next couple of weeks. It takes you right back to those first heady few weeks when that’s all you did and all you thought about. Ah, happy days. Maybe it took some time apart to remind you what you really valued in this relationship: great sex and a kind handsome man in your bed.

 

Being so busy with Charlie it takes you a little while to make good on your bet. But as the week before payday looms, and Alice’s finances run low, she insists. You head to Marine Ices for a good catch up. It feels long overdue. Over garlic bread, pasta, and superb icecream you set the world to rights. Nita and Jay’s engagement, Toadfish’s failure to call her (and the spectre of Jamie the builder reappearing) are all on the table. Of greatest interest to you both is your reunion with Charlie. Despite the fact that Alice finds you so much more fun single, she has to admit you and Charlie seem very happy to be back together. She wonders what will be different this time though, how you’ll avoid those flaming arguments you have to have. You tell her of your serious intent to be more willing to compromise.

‘Good luck with that,’ she says, ‘Madam!’

Madam is her special name for when you’re being particularly stubborn (as she puts it) or consistent (as you prefer to see it). You laughingly concede it’s a change of attitude, but are quite sure – having been reminded of Charlie’s best qualities lately – that he is worth it.

 

It’s not long before your intentions are put to the test. During the aftermath of breaking up with you, Charlie booked a holiday – two weeks safari in Botswana. Now he wants you to join him.

‘I know you must have been feeling especially manly after you dumped me,’ you tease. ‘But did you really need to go as far as trying to live out some sort of Ray Mears fantasy? Most normal men would have gone for a week in Ibiza you know.’

‘But babe, I’m better than most normal men, you know that. And thank goodness I hadn’t booked a week in Ibiza. I’m not sure my body can take those sort of excesses anymore. And you’d hardly want to come for a week’s clubbing with me, would you now?’

‘Probably not, no. But I’m not sure I really want to come on a bloody camping expedition with you either.’

‘It’s not camping, I told you.’

‘You sleep in a tent though, don’t you?’

‘Yes, you do. But it’s pitched on top of your landrover, so it’s not like you’re sleeping on the ground,’ he gives you a cheeky grin.

‘Don’t try to get around this on a technicality, Chad. I read the website.’

He looks hopeful at this, it suggests interest from you at least. But you quickly disappoint him.

‘Including the page about safety. The thing about having to bring your own water with you because the camp bases have often been ransacked by monkeys and trampled by hippos.’

‘Rhinos, love,’

‘Rhinos, whatever, some great big killer animal. And my favourite bit of all was the thing about how you can’t even put a little finger outside your tent at night or you’ll be torn limb from limb by hyenas or lions.’

Charlie ignores your mocking tone, and your exaggeration, and calmly explains that if you follow the instructions you’re given it’s really very safe. And you won’t spend every night sleeping on the roof of a landrover. But the fact of the matter is that you have absolutely no desire to go on a safari. Your carsickness is at its worst in the back of a 4x4, bumping along, and you’re really not that excited about the prospect of spending hours sitting in silence waiting to see a blur of fur as an animal hares past in the distance. It’s expensive too, and you can’t help but think of the week’s shopping you could do in New York for the same amount.

You explain that your objection isn’t just fear of a night time hyena attack (though it plays a larger part than you’ll admit). And Charlie reminds you that, second time around, you had committed to doing more together, finding shared interests. Wouldn’t a fantastic holiday be a great place to start?

‘What about my interests? How about you cancel your trip and we go to New York for a shopping spree instead?’

You laugh as you say it, because it isn’t an entirely serious suggestion. But Charlie only gives a rueful smile. He doesn’t want to pressure you, he says. It’s just that he’d really like to have you with him, sharing this incredible experience.

You agree to think about it.

 What will you do?

If you decide to go on Charlie’s holiday with him go to Chapter Six XI to face the consequences

If you decide to gently decline and let him go alone, go to Chapter Six XII to face the consequences