"Are you coming to the last night party?" Techie Chris asks, a marked snigger on his lips. From opposite us N laughs.
"No, I am not" I retort with as much dignity as I can muster. "I already have plans".
N mumbles something I can't quite hear.
"That's what?" I ask.
And though I know I should probably walk away at this moment, with the last shreds of self respect still intact I still ask the question: "Why?"
"[C]'s not attending either".
I am a little confused as to how long the subject of C and I has remained gossip worthy. I had expected some degree of mockery, a remnant of everything they didn't quite get chance to say last year after our rather public display. But the joke? It is beginning to wear thin.
"He's going to film in Morocco" Techie Chris offers.
"Right". I am not quite sure what they expect me to say to this.
"You'll be able to get a tan" N responds.
"Yes; it'll be nice for you".
I wonder if I have stepped into some parallel Universe.
"Morocco. It should be nice this time of year".
I glare at them, knowing they are deriving altogether too much fun out of this.
"I had a great conversation with [C] about Little David" N says, lighting another cigarette.
I have a horrid feeling as to where this is going.
"Little David. Your baby".
The relief that C is being ribbed about this as much as I am mingles with the horror as to what N might have said, supremely convincing make-believer that he is.
"He was quite indignant; saying that it wasn't his baby".
The horror wins out.
"That is mean" I splutter, playing the conversation round in my head. I remain unable to detect exactly which bit is funny for either C or myself.
"I think he had visions of the Child Protection Agency catching up with him".
Both myself and Techie Chris do a double take.
"You mean the Child Support Agency, the CSA, not the CPA" Techie Chris asserts.
"Well, this is [C] you never know..."
I glare. N looks directly at me; I wonder, for a second, how much he understands.
"He has matured a lot in the last year".
I sense that for the first time when it comes to discussing C, N is being honest.
"And he's no longer the whipping boy - that's [Well Scrubbed Actor]"
I realise that we have been joined by Well Scrubbed Actor. I know from the look on his face that he hasn't been here long.
"Yes" he says "I've taken [C's] mantel this year".
There's that split second of silence before laughter erupts. Even I cannot help it. Well Scrubbed Actor looks bemused at our collective mirth.
"[Well Scrubbed Actor] " N says deadpan "Have you met Corinne?"