Surprise Me - Sophie Kinsella Page 0,1

getting over another relationship, and wasn’t really ‘out there’.

Also: we have slightly edited this story when we tell other people. Like, the low-cut hooker top. No one needs to know about that.

Anyway. Rewind to the point: our eyes met over the barbecue and that was the beginning. One of those kismet moments that influence your life forever. A moment to cherish. A moment to mark, a decade later, with lunch at the Bar.

We like the Bar. It has great food and we love the vibe. Dan and I like a lot of the same things, actually – films, stand-up comedy, walks – although we have healthy differences too. You’ll never see me getting on a bike for exercise, for example. And you’ll never see Dan doing Christmas shopping. He has no interest in presents, and his birthday becomes an actual tussle. (Me: ‘You must want something. Think.’ Dan (hunted): ‘Get me … er … I think we’re out of pesto. Get me a jar of that.’ Me: ‘A jar of pesto? For your birthday?’)

A woman in a black dress shows us to our table and presents us with two large grey folders.

‘It’s a new menu,’ she tells us. ‘Your waitress will be with you shortly.’

A new menu! As she leaves, I look up at Dan and I can see the unmistakable spark in his eye.

‘Oh, really?’ I say teasingly. ‘You think?’

He nods. ‘Easy.’

‘Big-head,’ I retort.

‘Challenge accepted. You have paper?’

‘Of course.’

I always have paper and pens in my bag, because we’re always playing this game. I hand him a rollerball and a page torn out of my notebook, and take the same for myself.

‘OK,’ I say. ‘Game on.’

The pair of us fall silent, devouring the menu with our eyes. There’s both bream and turbot, which makes things tricky … but even so, I know what Dan’s going to order. He’ll try to double-bluff me, but I’ll still catch him out. I know just how his mind weaves and winds.

‘Done.’ Dan scribbles a few words on the page and folds it over.

‘Done!’ I write my answer and fold my own paper over, just as our waitress arrives at the table.

‘Would you like to order drinks?’

‘Absolutely, and food too.’ I smile at her. ‘I’d like a Negroni, then the scallops and the chicken.’

‘A gin and tonic for me,’ says Dan, when she’s finished writing. ‘Then the scallops also, and the bream.’

The waitress moves away and we wait till she’s out of earshot. Then:

‘Got you!’ I push my piece of paper towards Dan. ‘Although I didn’t say G & T. I thought you’d have champagne.’

‘I got everything. Slam dunk.’ Dan hands me his paper, and I see Negroni, scallops, chicken in his neat hand.

‘Damn!’ I exclaim. ‘I thought you’d guess langoustines.’

‘With polenta? Please.’ He grins and refreshes my water.

‘I know you nearly put turbot.’ I can’t help showing off, proving how well I know him. ‘It was between that and the bream, but you wanted the saffron fennel that came with the bream.’

Dan’s grin widens. Got him.

‘By the way,’ I add, shaking my napkin out, ‘I spoke to—’

‘Oh good! What did she—’

‘It’s fine.’

‘Great.’ Dan sips his water, and I mentally tick that topic off the list.

A lot of our conversations are like this. Overlapping sentences and half-thoughts and shorthand. I didn’t need to spell out ‘I spoke to Karen, our nanny, about babysitting’. He knew. It’s not that we’re psychic exactly, but we do tend to sense exactly what each other is going to say next.

‘Oh, and we need to talk about my mum’s—’ he says, sipping his drink.

‘I know. I thought we could go straight on from—’

‘Yes. Good idea.’

Again: we don’t need to spell out that we need to talk about his mum’s birthday gathering and how we could go straight on from the girls’ ballet lesson. We both know. I pass him the bread basket knowing that he’ll take the sourdough, not because he likes it particularly, but because he knows I love focaccia. That’s the kind of man Dan is. The kind who lets you have your favourite bread.

Our drinks arrive and we clink glasses. We’re both pretty relaxed this lunchtime, because we’ve got the afternoon off. We’re renewing our health insurance, and so we both need a medical, which is slated for later on today.

‘So, ten years.’ I raise my eyebrows. ‘Ten years.’


‘We made it!’

Ten years. It’s such an achievement. It feels like a mountain that we’ve scrambled to the top of. I mean, it’s a whole decade. Three house