"I don't really know," I said, eventually, "and I suspect that Debbie has a rather different take on things, but ... there was just so much expectation around ... at least for me ... we'd both got into expecting that somehow we were going to get together that it would all be really simple and easy and stuff and, somehow, it just hasn't been. I mean, since her ex-partner died, she's been up here, then I was in hospital, then we had the Big Crisis meeting and ... well, after that it was all going to be OK, wasn't it?"
I paused while Kath waited, looking a trifle exasperated, thinking back to the evening we'd spent with Carla's Hal, immediately after he'd pitched up at our big confrontation with our other funders and saved the day. How we'd all gone back to the office, then on to a pub, finally to a restaurant ... as you do. And it had been good between the two of us Debbie and me, I mean at least for the evening. But come the end of the night, we'd both gone our separate ways, which was just odd, in retrospect. I mean, we'd just announced to the world that we'd be living together and yet we still hadn't even slept together ... like we were saving ourselves for something or the other.
I tried to put that in words, finally sort of lamely concluding, "And I think that may not be that far from the truth I mean, by the end of the evening, we'd both had a fair amount to drink, someone I had to take Hal back to his hotel while Debbie ended up helping Naz get Seffi back to their place and, you know, it just wouldn't have been special, if you see what I mean ..."
"Well," she said, in a serious but amused tone of voice, "I've known you to be a little more articulate, but ... yes, I can see how that could have happened. What I can't see is how the two of you both sensitive, intelligent human beings couldn't have sorted things out the next evening. Or sometime in the past couple of months, at least, for god's sake ..."
"Yeah, well," I conceded, moodily. "Maybe that's another point I mean, our relationship has always had a sort of undercover quality I think the world of the woman, I really do, but all the time I was getting to know her she was, of course, looking after Phil, so it was never really appropriate to discuss the 'us' stuff ... and I think it just got to be a habit."
I waited for her to say something something helpful, something consoling, something ... whatever. But she didn't, so eventually I went on.
"And then, of course, the problem with making a lot of tacit assumptions about a relationship is that you're never quite sure whether they're shared assumptions ... which then makes it really risky to articulate them in case you are wrong. So we've never really talked about the future even though we're committed to sharing a flat in the new place. Hell, we're supposed to be sharing a flat this evening and somehow I don't think that's such a brilliant idea, given the way things are."
That got me a nod, and a comment on how it was sometimes a good idea to go back a bit before you tried to go forward.
"Oh, I know," I said, after a while, "the problem is more how far back to go. I mean, things have been sticky for a while right back to her paranoia about Niusha, which was ridiculous yeah, OK, maybe not from her point of view and then the last couple of months when I've been away most of the time, Debbie always seemed to be away or otherwise engaged when I was around ... until, now, we can't even agree on work stuff. I mean, the first thing she said to me after we'd got most of the vans unloaded this afternoon was something about the fucking budget projections on the first night in our new 'home', you know? I mean, how fucking romantic is that?"
"Romantic?" she said. "Well, no. But Debbie is a business manager its what she'd good at, its what she knows and its hardly surprising that she wants to get that side of things right. But maybe its also her way of trying to engage, too. I mean, what did she just say to you about it being typical for you not to care about things? Was she really referring to the stuck van, do you think? Or was she talking about you showing more care for the business ... or maybe more care for her?"
I rocked a bit at that one, not being completely incapable of recognising my own pig-headedness, and nodded my acknowledgement.
"OK, I see your point. Also, yes, obviously, there are things I could have done better myself so, no I don't think she should have made a point of going to return Phil's stuff to his parents when I was due back in London ... but then I probably didn't really need to be in Hamburg quite as consistently as I actually was. Call it a priority failure, perhaps ... or a way of deferring dealing with the issues between us. More to the point, what do we Debbie and I, I mean, do about it? How do we get back to where we want to be? Assuming that we do actually want to be in the same place literally or otherwise..."
Kath said something reassuring about Debbie having been really into me and something scathing about what an idiot I'd have to be not to be really into Debbie then, with a quick glance at her watch, suggested that we should probably rejoin the others. Slightly reluctantly, I agreed, and so we did. Except that the others had become another: We found Linda on her own in the main bar, talking quietly to the barman until she noticed our return, after which she gave us both a slightly querying look and joined us at our original table.
Debbie, it appeared, had decided to stay the night with Rosie, who had asked Kath to give her a ring later on.
I didn't know what that meant.
So I ended up going back to the timeshare complex with Linda and Kath the roads back to Bowmere being impassible where we sat up a fair amount of the night, rehashing the same general conversation. Well, Kath and I did Linda, having presumably been privy to Rosie's talk with Debbie, kept diplomatically quiet, except to offer her opinion that there were a lot of idiots in the hi-tech business world.
Eventually, we all found our ways to entirely separate beds well, I did, I couldn't vouch for Kath and Linda and I spent a fairly sleepless night. The comment that kept spinning through my head was something that I'd unintentionally overheard Kath say when she had rung her sister, right at the end of their conversation.
"Yeah, OK, that might work."
I had no idea what that meant, either.