The Rosie Project Page 41

\You want to come up?\ said Rosie.

I was feeling overwhelmed. Meeting Bianca, dancing, rejection by Bianca, social overload, discussion of personal matters - now, just when I thought the ordeal was over, Rosie seemed to be proposing more conversation. I was not sure I could cope.

\It\s extremely late,\ I said. I was sure this was a socially acceptable way of saying that I wanted to go home.

\The taxi fares go down again in the morning.\

If I understood correctly, I was now definitely far out of my depth. I needed to be sure that I wasn\ misinterpreting her.

\Are you suggesting I stay the night?\

\Maybe. First you have to listen to the story of my life.\

Warning! Danger, Will Robinson. Unidentified alien approaching! I could feel myself slipping into the emotional abyss. I managed to stay calm enough to respond.

\Unfortunately I have a number of activities scheduled for the morning.\ Routine, normality.

Rosie opened the taxi door. I willed her to go. But she had more to say.

\Don, can I ask you something?\

\One question.\

\Do you find me attractive?\

Gene told me the next day that I got it wrong. But he was not in a taxi, after an evening of total sensory overload, with the most beautiful woman in the world. I believed I did well. I detected the trick question. I wanted Rosie to like me, and I remembered her passionate statement about men treating women as objects. She was testing to see if I saw her as an object or as a person. Obviously the correct answer was the latter.

\I haven\ really noticed,\ I told the most beautiful woman in the world.

18

I texted Gene from the taxi. It was 1.08 a.m. but he had left the ball at the same time as I did, and had further to travel. Urgent: Run tomorrow 6 a.m. Gene texted back: Sunday at 8: Bring Bianca\s contact info. I was about to insist on the earlier date when I realised that I could profitably use the time to organise my thoughts.

It seemed obvious that Rosie had invited me to have se* with her. I was right to have avoided the situation. We had both drunk a substantial quantity of Champagne, and alcohol is notorious for encouraging unwise decisions about se*. Rosie had the perfect example. Her mother\s decision, doubtless prompted by alcohol, was still causing Rosie significant distress.

My own se*ual experience was limited. Gene had advised that it was conventional to wait until the third date, and my relationships had never progressed beyond the first. In fact, Rosie and I had technically had only one date - the night of the Jacket Incident and the Balcony Meal.

I did not use the services of brothels, not for any moral reason, but because I found the idea distasteful. This was not a rational reason, but, since the benefits I was seeking were only primitive, a primitive reason was sufficient.

But I now seemed to have an opportunity for what Gene would call \ o-strings-attached se*\. The required conditions were in place: Rosie and I had clearly agreed that neither of us had an interest in a romantic relationship, then Rosie had indicated that she wanted to have se* with me. Did I want to have se* with Rosie? There seemed no logical reason not to, leaving me free to obey the dictates of my primitive desires. The answer was an extremely clear yes. Having made this completely rational decision, I could think of nothing else.

On Sunday morning, Gene met me outside his house. I had brought Bianca\s contact details and checked her nationality - Panamanian. Gene was very pleased about the latter.

Gene wanted full details of my encounter with Rosie, but I had decided it was a waste of effort to explain it twice: I would tell him and Claudia together. As I had no other subject to discuss and Gene had difficulty in running and speaking concurrently, we spent the next forty-seven minutes in silence.

When we returned to Gene\s house, Claudia and Eugenie were having breakfast.

I sat down and said, \I require some advice.\

\Can it wait?\ said Claudia. \We have to take Eugenie to horseriding and then we\ e meeting people for brunch.\

\No. I may have made a social error. I broke one of Gene\s rules.\

Gene said, \Don, I think the Panamanian bird has flown. Put that one down to experience.\

\The rule applies to Rosie, not Bianca. Never pass up a chance to have se* with a woman under thirty.\

\Gene told you that?\ said Claudia.

Carl had entered the room and I prepared to defend myself against his ritual attack, but he stopped to look at his father.

\I thought I should consult with you because you\ e a psychologist and with Gene because of his extensive practical experience,\ I said.

Gene looked at Claudia, then at Carl.

\In my misspent youth,\ he said. \Not my teens.\ He turned back to me. \I think this can wait till lunch tomorrow.\

\What about Claudia?\ I asked.

Claudia got up from the table. \I\m sure there\s nothing Gene doesn\ know.\

This was encouraging, especially coming from his wife.

\You said what?\ said Gene. We were having lunch in the University Club as scheduled.

\I said that I hadn\ noticed her appearance. I didn\ want her to think I saw her as a se*ual object.\

\Jesus,\ said Gene. \The one time you think before you speak is the one time you shouldn\ have.\

\I should have said she was beautiful?\ I was incredulous.


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