Last night Lanying told me some more details about her dinner date with Orlando. I should explain that before Orlando went to Shanghai she had only met him once for lunch. She arranged his itinerary and put him in touch with her friend, Maisie, who lives there. She didn’t know him very well and she found out more from Maisie than she knew herself. Maisie called her with her report last weekend and nearly made us miss Lanying’s appointment with the optician. I have never heard Lanying laugh so loud. Maisie is a manic depressive. Her calls are usually no laughing matter. But Lanying was in stitches this time.
“I think Orlando’s visit was good for her,” I said. “It doesn’t matter that she thinks he’s weird. At least she found something to laugh about.”
When Maisie called for him at his hotel, he came down, saw that it was raining, and went back up to his room. “He kept me waiting for twenty minutes,” Maisie said. She couldn’t believe it. “Twenty minutes deciding what to change into. He’s like a woman,” she said. “He’s really like a woman!”
Lanying found this hilarious and kept repeating it on the way to the optician’s. I wasn’t laughing. In fact I was a bit cross because I’d been sitting at the bottom of the stairs waiting for the phone call to finish and then had to drive like a maniac through Saturday lunchtime traffic. Driving in London is no joke. It’s very stressful for a dreamy, diffident person like me. I’ve had to train myself to be aggressive and quick.
But back to last night. “He said he’d brought back some presents for his girlfriends,” Lanying said, “but he hadn’t brought any for me.”
“Oh, that was mean!”
“Not that I want a present. I don’t. But I said, ‘You’d better be paying for the meal!'”
“And what did he say to that?”
“He didn’t answer. Instead he said: ‘You eat a lot. How come a slim person like you can eat so much?'”
She was furious. “I didn’t order a lot of things,” she told me. “Just one fish dish, some green vegetables and some rice.”
Then she told me how he’d put a glass of orange juice on her bill when they’d met for lunch last time. She was unemployed back then, while he had a good job in the City. He was in insurance so he was very well-heeled. She was still smarting from the meanness of his act.
“He even let Maisie pay all the taxi fares in Shanghai,” she told me. “I tell you, he doesn’t stand a chance with those Chinese women. What does he expect? That everyone will fall in love with him because he’s so so charming? Not a chance! No wonder he’s 48 and still single!”