When Charlie wakes up he suggests a deal. He’ll go out and pick up the News of the World and some bacon and eggs, if you cook it up. Your relationship was founded on such equitable arrangements. The fact that you haven’t talked about what happened last night has given Charlie licence to fall back into the old patterns of the relationship. And while you’re still a little uncertain about what you’re doing, you don’t feel ready to have some sort of summit. So you keep shtum and enjoy the presence of Charlie in your life, and in your bed, again.

The day of Nita and Jay’s annual picnic arrives, with blue skies and bright sun to wake you. You should probably get up and head to Borough Market, as you’d planned, to buy goodies for the picnic. But instead you and Charlie have fantastic, familiar, fun sex all morning. The Market will have been closed for a couple of hours by the time you finally emerge from the flat. Instead of delicacies you make do with some corner-shop crisps and chocolate (fortunately Charlie’s corner shop stocks Kettle Chips and Green & Blacks) and decide to redeem yourselves by taking Pimms and lemonade.

No-one raises an eyebrow as you and Charlie arrive together and unpack your shared provisions. No-one comments, or even looks twice, as you lie with your head on Charlie’s stomach while he feeds you grapes. They’ve either been well-briefed by Alice, or else you two getting back together was seen as absolutely inevitable by everyone... except you, that is. How annoying! Still, it’s easier than facing the usual Spanish Inquisition.

As Jay opens a coolbox full of champagne and Nita starts assembling those plastic wine glasses with the detachable stem, you sit up. They’re giving you all something to toast with – but what will you be toasting to? Providing everyone with a full ‘glass’ of champagne takes a good fifteen minutes and in that time speculation is rife. But no-one is really surprised when they finally come out with it.

‘We’re engaged!’ says Jay, proudly, planting a proprietary kiss on Nita’s cheek.

The girls squeal their congratulations, the boys cheer, and Simon leans behind Charlie’s back to mouth ‘will it be you two this time next year?’ with a wicked wink.

‘No!’ you whisper, bulging your eyebrows and wrinkling your forehead in your best warning look.

‘Wassup?’ asks Charlie.

‘Nothing...’ you smile vaguely.

It’s all a bit vague really, this reunion with Charlie. You’re certainly not about to get engaged. But it is very nice. You know what he’s like and what he wants – and most importantly, he knows just what you like.

 

‘Oooh, love, engaged, isn’t that nice!’ coos your mother down the phone line. She’s always liked Nita.

‘Yes, it’s nice. And you should see the ring!’ As soon as you say it you regret it, for now you have to describe the ring – and how he bought it, and whether she liked it, and did it fir or not – in elaborate detail for your mother. She’s starved of this sort of information from your own love life so, you suppose, the least you can do is provide it from your friends.

‘What about you, love? You’ll be left on the shelf if you’re not careful!’

‘Mum! I’m 28. I’m not going to worry just yet.’

‘That’s right, that’s what your dad says, you’ve plenty of time. Though I had two of you under the age of 5 at your age. Ah well. Now then, what’s this I hear about Charlie? Back on the scene is he?’

You curse the sibling grapevine. ‘No, not really. We’ve been out of a couple of times lately but it’s nothing serious.’

You can tell from the tone of her silence that she doesn’t believe you. You can also imagine the conversation she’ll have with your dad when you hang up. She’ll pretend she thinks it’s nothing serious all the while worrying about the cost of a wedding and badgering your dad to make sure he’s good and friendly to Charlie next time you see him, in case he’s any important question to ask. You sigh, and try to change the subject before ringing off.

 

Sitting in the pub with Charlie a few days later you’re puzzled to hear him turn down an invitation from Jay.

‘I’d love to mate, I haven’t been to Lord’s yet this year. But I’m away that weekend.’

He sees your quizzical look and gets up, saying ‘I know, I know, the tickets are like gold dust, but I’m going to be in...’ his voice becomes inaudible as he reaches the door of the pub.

When he returns you wonder why he looks so uncomfortable.

 ‘So why can’t you go to Lord’s with Jay?’

‘Oh. I’ve been meaning to tell you. I’m going to Africa actually.’

‘What? When?’

‘On the 25th. I’m going on a safari in Botswana.’

‘Why didn’t you tell me you were going away?’

‘We’ve only just got back together, give me a chance!’

Your heart flips, and not in a good way, as you hear the words ‘back together’. Take deep breaths, you tell yourself, don’t panic.

‘Okay then, Charlie-boy, now’s your chance. Tell me about it.’

‘It’s going to be incredible. I’ll be roughing it for a bit, camping in these little tents on top of the landrovers, and just following these trails with a guide. It’s proper wilderness too, quite dangerous almost. Apparently the wildlife is just amazing out there – I’m pretty much guaranteed a look at the Big Five.’

You have no idea what the Big Five are, and no interest in finding out. You pout, sulkily.

‘Hey, Sarah, don’t be mad with me. I booked it after we broke up – I didn’t know we’d be seeing each other again so soon.’

‘I’m not mad,’ you lie. ‘I’m just suspicious. I think you haven’t told me because you don’t want me to come with you, and the later you leave it the less likely it is I’ll join you.’

‘That’s not true! I haven’t told you because... well, I wasn’t sure what to say when I did. I know this isn’t exactly your cup of tea and I didn’t know if I should ask you to come or not. I don’t even know if it’s practical – if there’s room in the landrovers or not.’

‘That’s what I’m saying. You don’t want me there,’ you say, petulantly.

 

The fact is, Charlie’s right. Camping out on the roof of a landrover, spending hours sitting in silence waiting to catch a glimpse of a blur of fur in the distance, is absolutely not your idea of fun.

But as he makes some enquiries, it becomes clear not only that there’s room for you on the trip, but that Charlie would really like you to come with him. He sells it in by telling you about the nice lodges you’ll stay in at the beginning and end of the trip. It’s an expensive holiday, but would be a nice gesture of your ability to compromise, after all those times in the past when you didn’t.

You see it as a test. If you’re going to make a go of it with Charlie, you should demonstrate your willingness to compromise. If you’re not going to make a proper go of it, better that he holidays alone.

What will you do?

To go with Charlie on his holiday go to Chapter Six XIII and face the consequences

To stay at home without him, go to Chapter Six XIV and face the consequences