The next arrivals were Amelie, accompanied by a tall guy with the figure of a cricket player (her boyfriend?), Ben, and Natalie, whose friend was a girl of Japanese origin.
Sandra detached herself from the group to go to talk to Amelie in case she knew anything about when Rhyley was coming: despite their relationship having ended, Rhyley still seemed to get on with her.
“Hey, Amelie. Have you heard from Rhyley?” she asked.
Amelie looked surprised to be asked.
“Um... no, I’ve not.” She looked around. “He’s the only one who hasn’t turned up, I see.” She frowned. “Well, I can’t tell you, Sandra. Sorry.”
Amelie’s date was hovering nearby, looking slightly awkward, so Amelie introduced him.
“This is Tommy, by the way.”
“Hi, Tommy,” said Sandra, half still thinking about Rhyley.
“Hey,” he said. “You’re Rhyley’s girlfriend, are you?”
Sandra was surprised that this stranger seemed to know her soulmate.
“Um, yeah. How d’you know Rhyley?”
“Physics. He’s one cool bloke.”
Sandra agreed internally, missing Rhyley slightly more.
Amelie sighed in exasperation.
“You pick your moments, don’t you?” She put a hand on Sandra’s shoulder. Sandra actually felt she needed the comforting. Everyone else who had a soulmate was with them. “I’m sure he’s coming, Sandra. But if you want anyone to have a word with him, just look for me, right?” She winked.
Sandra smiled slightly.
“No problem.” Sandra wandered off, not really having any concrete idea of where she was going. She picked up a can of Fanta from the bar where she couldn’t help but notice Darryn and Tamrita sharing the occasional glance at each other as though they were communicating silently in their own secret language. Her phone vibrated in her clutch bag and she pulled it out to find she had a new text from Rhyley.
‘I can’t make it tonight. I’m really sorry x Have fun without me.’
Sandra felt betrayed - and sort of lost and adrift at a party where the most important person in her world wasn’t there. She wandered to one side of the room and sat down on a chair against the wall, not sure if she could have fun without Rhyley.
She was soon joined by Jack Pinclaw.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
“No,” she told him honestly. “Rhyley texted to say he can’t come.”
“Did he say why?” Jack asked, frowning.
“Oh... I’m sorry. Would you like to dance with me?”
“Oh, sorry - I’m afraid all Sandra’s dances are taken up tonight.”
Sandra looked up, hardly daring to believe her ears. But, wonderfully, there was nothing at all wrong with her hearing.
“Rhyley!” she exclaimed, jumping up and hugging the guy standing over her and Jack. “I thought you said you couldn’t come.”
“Well, I considered it but I reckoned you’d miss me too much.”
Sandra leant back.
“You cocky so-...” But she didn’t have time to finish because Rhyley kissed her. Too in need of his kiss to resist even if he had made an arrogant comment, she let herself drown in it, wrapping her arms around her neck.
“Well, I um, suppose I’ll leave you two to it,” Jack said awkwardly and Sandra heard him moving away.
Rhyley leant back, grinning.
“Great, the guy who was flirting with you has gone. Who was he, anyway?”
“An Alpha’s son,” Sandra said quietly, looking down.
Rhyley’s eyes widened.
“Another one?” he asked incredulously. “Why does everybody think you’d make such a good Alpha’s partner?”
“Are you saying I wouldn’t?” teased Sandra, looking back up at him.
“Mm, 'tis I who bring out the best in you,” said Rhyley, putting on a wise tone.
“Oh yeah?” asked Sandra, crossing her arms.
“Yup. Is there a more private place we can kiss?”
“I’ve not looked,” said Sandra dryly.
Rhyley looked reproving.
“That was your role in the plan.”
“What plan?” asked Sandra, amused.
“The plan to find somewhere to run off and kiss as soon as possible,” Rhyley said, as if they’d agreed on it beforehand.
“I think I’ll go find Jack again,” said Sandra and tried to move Rhyley’s hands off her waist.
Rhyley hugged her tightly.
“No, don’t do that.” His hand travelled down her side until he was touching the bare skin of her right leg.
“Rhyley, that’s my leg.”
“No, I thought it was your arm,” he said sarcastically.
“Rhyley, please,” she said quietly. “I actually like discos.”
“I’m not going to kiss you for the whole evening,” he said into her ear. “Just for a while.” He lightly caressed her leg with his fingertips.
“Dammit, why did I wear this dress?” she moaned, burying her face in his shoulder.
“To tell me what you wanted, of course. I understand.”
“Is there a problem here?” It was Jack, back again, sounding serious.
Rhyley stepped back and Sandra lifted her head.
“No, no, there’s not,” she told him. “Rhyley’s just being affectionate.”
Jack looked unconvinced.
“He looks like he’s being persistent to me,” he said. Addressing Rhyley, he asked “Why don’t you come join in with the dancing?”
“I think other people would become insecure about their dancing ability,” Rhyley answered, quick to find a response that was arrogant. He nodded to himself in a mock-sage way.
Sandra rolled her eyes.
“I think dancing’s a great idea, Jack.” She suddenly smiled. “In fact, if Rhyley doesn’t want to, I’ll come dance with you instead.”
Sandra instantly found her hand taken by Rhyley’s.
“No. I do want to. She’s my soulmate.” Rhyley shot Jack a defiant look and led Sandra up to where everyone else was dancing ... just as a slow dance number was starting.
“Really?” Sandra asked herself, reacting to the music’s choice to become romantic at the moment when she and Rhyley were about to begin dancing. Yet in fact, she had always wanted a personal slow dance partner - and not just one guy for the evening (or even just for one dance as the case had sometimes been in the past). She put her hands on Rhyley’s shoulders almost shyly. As was customary, he put his on her waist and they swayed in time with the music as he looked intently into her eyes.
“Rhyley, quit staring at me,” she told him, as quietly as she could whilst remaining audible over the music.
“Why?” he asked softly. She saw the word form on his lips more than heard it and she thought she was going to fall, faint, or simply drown in his equally soft gaze.
“Okay, don’t,” she said unsteadily.