Chapter Two – The Dinner

6.13 pm, Tuesday 3rd November:

Guildhall Street, Canterbury

Lana is about ten minutes late and I am beginning to give up hope, lingering out in the street in the darkness while the bitter wind steals the colour from my fingertips. Just as I turn to leave, she calls out "Wait! Becky! I'm coming!" and dashes out from her office with a clutch full of papers and her coat draped over her arm.

"Sorry sorry sorry!" she pants, dragging her coat around herself whilst trying to shuffle her bag and papers. "It's been a hectic day!"

I stop. "Let me hold your things," I command and hold out my arms. She hands her bag and papers over obediently and puts her coat on properly whilst trying to gather her thoughts.

"Thank you," She says, taking them back. We begin to walk down the cobbled streets to the pizzeria. "It's been one of those days where everything goes wrong, nothing flows right, everything breaks..."

"I know those days! Very well!" I smile, trying to remember a day that hadn't been like that recently. "Let's not talk about work! Let's take our mind off work! And the cold! Do you ever play the game where you have to pick a man out of a choice of two? Like... Michael Fish or... Michael Winner?"

The lights and smells of takeaways and restaurants drift around us, churning our stomachs with anticipation. Ahead, the pizzeria gleams brightly with newness, the striped canopy over the window bristling in the wind.

"Yep, I know the one! Erm... Michael Fish. Michael Winner just... urgh... I wouldn't be able to get the commercial out of my head! What about... Trevor McDonald or Jon Snow?"

"Jon Snow - is it wrong that I love the matching socks and tie?" I laugh as we make our way into the restaurant.

It is delicately lit and the scents of melted mozzarella, sundried tomato and barbecue chicken waft through the coordinated wrought iron tables and chairs. One wall is a mural of an Italian sunlit garden with iron railings and a balcony, and the supportive columns through the room are decked with ivy. Faint stereotypical Italian music meanders in the background. The effect is far from cheesy, it feels as though we've stepped from chilly Canterbury to a boutique restaurant on the continent.

We are seated with menus and the waitress, a young Italian girl with almost flawless English and definitely flawless skin, takes our drinks order while we decide on the food. We decide on a bottle of rose - I walk from my house in Canterbury and Lana catches the train in from nearby Faversham, so we don't have to consider driving and we both love wine.

"What are you having?" I ask, seduced by everything on the menu but knowing I will probably stick to my usual - margarita. Play it safe. Stick to what you know. These are the mottos I live by.

"I don't know... the Pizza Prosciutto e Funghi looks amazing! Yes, I think I'll have that. What about you?"

"Probably the Margarita. I always have that though! Is that boring?"

"Yes!" Lana laughs. "I won't let you have it. Have something different. What about the 'Pizza Vegetariana'? Or... wait... try this one! Pizza alla Bismark!"

"What's a pizza 'alla Bismark'?" I ask, trying to locate it on the menu. Lana snaps my menu shut.

"Just order it! Be different! If you hate it, I promise you can have half of mine!"

As we wait for our pizzas, we talk about life and love and careers. For some reason, talking to someone completely new is really cathartic. They don't know you, they don't know the people you're talking about. They have different experiences to what you know. They have an outsiders perspective.

"I just split up from my boyfriend," Lana explains, "that is why I was so distracted earlier. We'd been together for eight years. I thought he was The One - marriage, kids, mortgage, dog. I feel so humiliated."

She can't meet my eye and I feel uncomfortable, not knowing what to say.

"Don't feel humiliated. Clearly he's rubbish if he doesn't want to be with you! Eight years though, wow. That's such a long time!"

"I know! And now I have to tell my parents and my grandparents and my friends... it's so embarrassing. I feel so stupid for thinking it would be forever."

"You shouldn't be embarrassed... your family and friends will be supportive! Although I've never had to deal with it - I've never been out with anyone that long, I've just drifted in and out of relationships, so I don't know how I'd feel in the same situation."

"Have you never found a man that you thought "wow, this is the one!" about?"

"No, not really. When I was, like, fourteen I thought I was 'in love' with this guy. Jamie. You know, a teenage crush type thing. We never even went out, just shared a drunken snog or two down the park. But I've never found a guy that made me feel the way he did - you know, all those cliches like your heart beating faster and your cheeks blushing. I've only ever been like that with him! Every guy I go out with, I always wait to feel that moment where looking at them makes my heart skip a beat and it never happens...does that happen? Is it made up?"

"I don't know... it was like that with Tim, but now I guess he wasn't the one? God I hate men. They make things so complicated!"

"I agree!" I nod, before adding. "David Cameron or Nick Clegg?"

"Nick Clegg! No – David Cameron? No... Nick Clegg!"

And then the pizza's arrived.