I can't afford the tickets for the dance...



"Then we'll be around to give encouragement and victuals," I added.

"Thanks."

We stayed in the pub for a couple of hours before rolling back to the flat for communal coffee.

Cathy and I kept our word. Martin was able to work uninterrupted. Anything he wanted or needed was supplied as fast as we could. He was up to date on his work by Friday morning and could leave for home on Friday evening with a clear conscience.

Our work had suffered slightly. We worked together all of Friday evening while most of the others were out pubbing and clubbing.

We had one last task to do for Martin. He hadn't been able to contact Hannah before he left because she had been out of the country for a couple of days visiting relations in Paris. Martin hadn't thought to ask for contact details because he knew she would be back on Friday. He'd left a voicemail asking her to talk to us. During Friday evening she rang and we arranged to meet her at the flat on Saturday morning.

The rest of our flatmates were away from Saturday morning until late Sunday night. Normally we would have had Martin with us. When Hannah came her presence seemed to fill the kitchen. She is a very definite personality, a match for Martin's. We had seen Hannah before, but not to exchange more than a couple of words before Martin whisked her off in his car to some event. We settled down around the kitchen table with coffee.

"So, what is Martin up to?" Hannah asked bluntly.

"I don't know," I replied. "He doesn't really know either. He received a text message from his father. That was very unusual. Martin rang home and was summoned for an urgent family conference. His father didn't give any reason, just said that it was vital that Martin came home this weekend. Martin wants us to apologise to you for his unexpected absence and says he'll be back as soon as he can."

"His father can be dictatorial but if he said it was vital, he probably meant it. He knows how hard Martin has to work if he is going to get his predicted First. I suppose I'll just have to wait. I wish..."

"What do you wish, Hannah?" Cathy asked.

"I wish... I'm not sure how to say this." Hannah paused. "I wish our relationship was slightly more developed. Although we are distantly related I don't know Martin's family that well. If I were to ring him at home I'd probably cause him some embarrassment and perhaps questions about how serious our relationship is. We're not ready for that."

"Why not?" Cathy is sometimes less tactful than I am.

"You should know," Hannah retorted with a raised eyebrow softening the impact. "You two have been pussy-footing around the problem of the Valentine's Dance. If your relationship had been more definite there would have been no need for either of you to be bothered about a dance. It's the same with Martin and me. We're friends who might become something more but haven't yet. I'm not aware of his secrets. He doesn't know mine."

"Do you love him?" Cathy persisted.

"You are probing deep, aren't you?" Hannah didn't seem to mind despite her words. "Possibly. Probably? I wouldn't kick him out of my bed if he were in it. We have a lot in common but neither of us is as demonstrative as you two."

She looked pointedly at our entwined hands.

"That's a new development, isn't it?"

"Yes," I replied. "Thanks to Martin. He gave us space and time to sort out what was worrying us about the dance. Now it doesn't matter whether we go or not because we want to be together."

I squeezed Cathy's hand. She squeezed back.

"I see," Hannah said. "Martin and I haven't got to that point yet. We might. We might not. I hope that we do."

"Anything we can do to help?" I asked.

"Help what?"

"Help you two to decide whether or not you want to go further," I replied.

"I don't think so. Isn't that up to us two? Wait... There is something. You two have shared this flat with Martin for over a term. Is there anything I should know about him?"

I looked at Cathy. She looked at me. Cathy nodded.

"I don't know anything that is to Martin's detriment. He is neat, tidy, helpful..."

".

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