I was feeling surprisingly at ease in the beginning. Usually, I am so aware of Shoes' resentment at being dragged along, that I tend to spend most of my time watching him out the corner of my eye for signs of panic / excessive drinking / glaring shyness (which is often misconstrued as an air of disinterest), and frantically trying to bail him out of awkward situations. The first and most welcome icebreaker was Luna, GBF's 2 year old staffie puppy. I had already heard everything about Luna, from her eating and sleeping habits to what she got for her birthday (a £100 pound swarovski crystal collar and 2 x £50 fancy plastic food bowls), but I had yet to meet her. Shoes' dream dog is a staffie, and he frequently talks about his longing to own one when we eventually go back home. Luna was the best kind of therapy for this newp event - she provided conversation of mutual interest, she was boisterous and made us laugh, and when there was a lull in talking, GBF made her show off all the tricks she can do. Soon after we got there, D and Zen arrived. They are the other couple I have met through my volunteer work at the RSPCA, and they are absolute gems. Very quickly I realised that something was missing. That sense of constantly being on edge, worrying that Shoes was going to look pointedly at his watch one too many times... it wasn't there!
I've mentioned before how I am a little obssessed by this freebie website where I get free movie tickets and the like. D was the one to first tell me about this, and I knew she and Zen shared my love of cutting corners in entertainment costs. What I didn't know is that these people are professionals. They could write a book on how to get things for free. Movie tickets and mini samples? Pah, they've got two laptops, a tv and even a weekend away! I won't go into the how to right now, except to say that it's all legit and there's no theft involved, but suffice it to say, once the conversation turned to this topic and we realised just how much they take the piss, we were all in stitches for the rest of the evening.
Shoes appeared to be genuinely comfortable, and not once did I need to bail him out of a social faux pas. We'd agreed on an exit time before we came - 10pm. Finally, at 11:15pm, Shoes looked at his watch and gave me the eyes. I was nothing short of relieved; the wine and rich food had made me sleepy, and I could quite happily have left half an hour before!
As we all said goodnight and made promises to hook up again in the future, Shoes and I started in the direction of our flat and I asked him the all important question: "That wasn't so bad, was it?" His reply? "Not at all, it was cool. They are actually very cool people." And that, right there, is the highest compliment that Shoes can give. :-)