The moment of truth

“Are you married?” she says.

She’s verging on middle age, with a severe fringe and a fake tan. Her sparkly LBD has a neckline that would be risky at any age, but positively reckless at hers. A teardrop pendant pends in her cleavage. Her eyes dazzle with predatory glee. A woman on the prowl.

She’s not talking to me, but my neighbour, P2.

P and I are at a wedding reception. It’s Johannesburg, in the early 90s. An upmarket Italian restaurant overlooking rolling koppies just north of the city. Through the open window, candles dance in the inky darkness by perfectly clipped lawns.

On the face of it, P2 is the perfect prey: witty, well dressed and apparently single. I also happen to know that he’s independently wealthy. There’s just one catch, as Tan Woman’s about to find out.

P2 smiles, and his steely blue eyes twinkle naughtily. She thinks her luck’s in.

“I’m gay,” he says.

Tan Woman stares, transfixed. Autopilot pulls her mouth into a forced smile.

“Anyone special?” she asks weakly.