"To individuality," I declared, and four glasses of wine clinked together as my three greatest friends in the world repeated the words of the toast.
I watched Sean as Laura started a conversation with him about the latest happenings at the restaurant. He was listening (attempting to seem interested), nodding now and again to show he'd heard her, and so didn't notice my gaze. As always, my heart stopped then commenced beating twice as fast and I felt dizzy from looking into his eyes which always gave me a falling sensation. He was absolutely gorgeous. I had thought the same thing the day we met. It was a shame he was off limits, though. I respected his homosexuality, of course I did, but my daydreams of him declaring a change in his preferences just for me revealed how much I longed for him to be merely able to return my feelings for him.
Finally, I had to stop as he looked across the table and caught my eye.
I blushed and looked at the untouched food on my plate. He knew I was attracted to him - I had made that pretty clear through some outrageous flirting the first time we'd gone out together - but being caught in public was embarrassing because it meant that everybody else probably noticed it too.
I turned to Vikram and randomly started asking him how things were going. He looked briefly surprised: he was used to my long silences; but then he began telling me about his job, university and general everyday things which helped take my mind off Sean.
I couldn't help sneaking a glance in Sean's direction from time to time, though - I was almost obsessed with him. It hurt to think he'd never feel the same but there you go, that was life.
Suddenly, the conversation opened up to the whole table.
"Which girls do you like, Vikram?" Laura asked.
Vikram looked startled, then grinned. "Which girls do you like?"
Laura stuck out her tongue at him. Then began a lengthy summary of the qualities and flaws of every single one of her female colleagues at the restaurant.
Vikram looked relieved, for some reason. Perhaps he liked someone and didn't want anyone to know...
Laura got to the end of her monologue and then, seeming to forget she had asked Vikram about who he was interested in, asked Sean "How's your friend? Have you contacted him recently?"
"Yeah, I emailed him the other day," Sean replied (in his amazing accent which never failed to draw me into him more). He looked slightly sad. All of us knew that he felt unrequited love for a guy back in America. "He says he's fine."
"I think he's a fool not to like you," I told Sean.
Laura chuckled. "You're slightly biased."
"I was trying to comfort him!" I said defensively. "I wasn't talking about my feelings!"
Laura grinned at my defensiveness. "Whatever," she said, rolling her eyes.
Sean gave a faint smile. "Thanks, Lavender."
I smiled back - it always made me feel warm inside when Sean was happy, even if only slightly.
"Anytime," I replied.
"What, the comfort or a kiss?" Laura asked. She laughed. Sean's smile grew. Vikram was grinning too.
I glared in mock anger but then smiled too. It was hard not to when surrounded by the people you knew would always consider you a friend and see something in you that no one else would. I was grateful for them. I smiled inside as well.