The bar is all cement floors, its patio wood-paneled. But they are inside at the moment, and this place with its faux-American name is playing swing music, or music that you can swing to, she does not know the difference.
He is French, slim like her, and the crown of his head but an inch or two above her own, always in chinos and hand-stitched shoes. She has never properly danced with someone before. But old books had her convinced that this must be fun; when he asks her she leaps at the chance, and she is not disappointed.
She finds that she can follow him and he has no compunctions about how close they should be.
At the table, earlier, newly-minted friends testing each other’s waters over chocolate-coloured pints, someone had asked her if she was in love with her absent boyfriend. Several faces turned to look at her and they were intimate, serious; they had dredged up school scandals and dead parents, now it was her turn to share. She certainly loved her boyfriend, but with the intensity behind that question, the turn of the voice on in and the sense of being measured for all time, how could she know for sure at 22 years of age? How could she match the nakedness of that question? Why were they asking her such a thing?
She was nonplussed, embarrassed, tipsy. She didn’t have any prepared lies. Her skin prickled under all the stares and she answered with what first came to mind.
It is only as she is trying her first steps of swing dancing with her classmate, movement becoming delight becoming laughter, that she realizes honesty can amount to disloyalty.
And it is much, much later before she realizes that her boyfriend, who proves indifferent to her love of dancing, is the sort who does not like his girlfriend to dance with anyone else, even if he has no intention of dancing with her.