“So, who’re you going with?” Savannah asked her question with the air of someone happy and willing to share.
“I’m not going.” Her cousin Arin smiled and kept eating her sundae.
“That’s not fair. I told you who I’m going with.” Savannah pouted.
“I’m really not going,” Arin licked her spoon. “I don’t have a date. I’m not seeing anyone and it’s a Valentine’s Day Ball. They are selling tickets in pairs.”
“Everyone’s going. I’m sure you could get a date with just a bit of effort.” Savannah was being earnest. “It’s the Valentine’s Day Ball after all – you don’t want people to think you can’t get a date.”
“But I don’t want one,” Arin ate more ice-cream.
“Nonsense,” replied Savannah. “Kathleen’s has got this dress that’d be perfect for you and I’m sure Harry’s got a friend you could take pity on. I’ll ask him.”
“Please don’t bother on my account,” Arin’s spoon poised mid-air.
“No bother at all. Now I have to fly.” Savannah air-kissed at her cousin and hurried away. Arin sighed and went back to her dessert.
Saturday night, a week later, Arin went to her parents' house for a family dinner. It wasn’t an occasion but her father had won a turkey at his club and the bird was too large to conveniently keep in the freezer until Christmas. That being the case, Arin’s mother was cooking it now and rallying the troops to help her deal with the monster. The troops included Arin, two sets of parental siblings and a mixed double brace of teenage cousins. Collette, a sixteen year old with good skin and straight teeth, complained over lemon and lime mousse, “Well, I don’t see why I can’t go too. I mean, you said yourself, Aunt Olivia, everyone’s going.”
Her mother said prosaically, “You’re too young yet.”
Simultaneously Arin pointed out, “I’m not going.”
“Of course you’re going,” her mother corrected her. “Savannah’s getting you a date. Besides, Charlie’s going with some girl from Canberra. Now, what’s your dress like?”
“But I’m not going,” Arin counter-corrected without heat, “and why should I care what someone I went out with four times is doing? I hope they have a great time.”
“Fine,” her mother replied grumpily, “be like that.”
Arin sighed and went on with her pudding.
Two weeks later at ten o’clock on the night of the Valentine’s Day Ball, Arin opened her front door to find her parents, resplendent in ball gown and black tie, standing on her front verandah. She was wearing a summer dressing gown over a night gown. “Why aren’t you two still at the Ball? Is something wrong?”
“You weren’t there,” her mother replied. “We were worried.”
“Nothing’s wrong.” Arin shrugged. “I said I wasn’t going and I didn’t.”
“I thought you were prevaricating!” her mother protested.
“No, just saying what I meant,” Arin smiled. “Now, you two should go back to the Ball and I’ll go back to my Marvel movie marathon and the company of Dr Banner, Agent Coulson and some excellent chocolate.”
“We’ll see you sometime tomorrow, honey,” her father smiled at her and took her mother by the hand. “Come on, Olivia.”
Arin watched them drive off in their car then went back to her remote control, her chocolate and the Marvel men.