“And this,” announced Joan, “Did not come from Father Christmas.”
She sliced into the snow-and-robins wrapping paper with an antique letter opener, making the appropriate show of a present for the whole family. “Highway robbery, mind, that John Lewis. But ‘tis the season, and all that.”
There was a low-key clamour of approval as she drew out the box within.
“See Bernie, I told you, didn’t I? Trivial Pursuits. Brand new, that is.”
“Pursuit,” said Bernie.
“Trivial – never mind.”
The cellophane was unwrapped and the table cleared. Fresh tea was made.
Millie, her fingers interlocked with David’s on the sofa, had first dibs on a question. Joan asked her which species of human lived in Europe 450,000 years ago and died out 40,000 years ago.
Millie was widely assessed to be a know-it-all, and continued her run by correctly asserting Tashkent to be the capital of Uzbekistan, and (for a pink wedge) knowing that Julian Cope was the man behind The Teardrop Explodes. Her turn ended when, much to Bernie’s seasonal merriment, she failed to name Pol Pot as the murderer of two million Cambodians.
Play continued through two pots of tea and enough Quality Street to be naughty, but not enough to be rude.
Joan drew a card and had a chuckle. “Oh, you’ll know this one, David. Which style of Caribbean music was popularised by Harry Belafonte in The Banana Boat Song?”
“No idea, sorry Joan,” said David.
There was a pause, during which Bernie shifted in his armchair and a magpie chattered noisily in the front garden. Millie frowned. “Why would David know that one, Mum?”
“What do you mean, he’ll know this one?”
Joan looked to Bernie for help, opening and closing her mouth as if unsure whether to say any more. “Well, I mean - he - I mean, you know, they -”
“They? David’s not Caribbean, Mum, he’s Nigerian.”
Bernie breathed out through his nose. Joan was looking down at the table now, fidgeting with a teaspoon, straightening coasters. “I - I -”
Then David was up, and crossing the room to perch beside her on the sofa. He put an arm on her shoulder. “My surname’s Adamu, Joan.”
“I’m sorry David, I didn’t -”
“No, no, It’s okay. Hey. Do you want to be the first to know something?”
She nodded, her shoulders loosening a little.
He whispered, just loud enough for them all to hear: “Soon it’s going to be Millie’s name, too.”
And now Joan lifted her face for the first time to look into David’s eyes, and then to Millie, who smiled. The waters broke.
“Oh my dears, oh my darlings. Oh, I’m so -”
David said: “I don’t know much about calypso, Joan, but I’m pretty good at a waltz.”
They stood and held out tentative arms. And in the fading afternoon - framed by the sunset through petunia-patterned net curtains - he took his first dance with his future mother-in-law, anticipating the rhythm of unheard music.