'Why did you invite him?' I protested in hushed tones, hiding in the kitchen.
'You said invite anyone. And you've invited your friends-'
'Yes but I didn't think you'd -...!'
'-Actually get him to come? Me neither! Isn't it great?!' I sighed at my boyfriend's childish glee. Sure, this was one of his (ludicrous) heroes, but nonetheless. He was perfectly aware of my pure, unadulterated hatred for this particular guest.
'Hah! And now you've already made the lasagne, so you can't exactly slip any arsenic in or anything!' he jested.
'I could always sprinkle it on top,' I replied, deadpan. 'Or better yet, in his Champagne...' Tom raised an eyebrow rather pointedly, and handed me a glass.
'Offer him a drink for goodness' sakes. And... be nice!'
I knew I was probably staring. But I didn't care. How the hell had it come to this? Ian McEwan sat at my dinner table, demoting me to a mere Scullery maid! I could feel my blood frothing beneath my skin. With every snobbish nasal utterance from that man, it threatened to burst through. If I were sat here haemorrhaging, I wondered, haemorrhaging because of all his vainglorious spiel, would Tom actually take my side then? Would he be so devastated and angry that he would throw him out, or swear at him, or, or, throw all of his books out, or-'
'Hannah?' Tom said expectantly.
'What?' I realised every pair of eyes were fixated upon me, so I tried to repress the smile from my daydream.
'We were just asking about more wine? You bought some, right?'
'Oh. Oh! Yeah. I'll go and get it. I hope you like it.' I directed my acerbic gaze at McEwan.
McEwan's was the last glass I filled. I planted it in front of him with a kind of impatience. The rubescent liquid licked at the walls of the glass. It were as though I were Wesley and He Vizzini from 'The Princess Bride,' and I were measuring his wit. He held up the glass, swirling it with a dubious expression plain upon his face, as though scrutinizing it for poison. He sipped, then proceeded to turn down his lips.
It was glaringly obvious McEwan deemed himself to be above any such beverages. The rest of the table seemed to notice, remained silent, eyes boring into their empty plates. I could feel Tom's look of fawning adoration, still radiating towards his idol. But finally a nasal tone cut through the silence.
'Not abhorrent, I suppose. It would have been better if-'
'Yes, yes, perhaps you could tell us about wine? I'm sure you know loads about it.' I felt my words clinging to my throat with their serrate sweetness.
'Why yes, yes, I suppose I cannot profess false ignorance, if you will. Well, wine origi-'
'I mean, fill us in on any information you have, you know, ingredients, locations, etymology... Please, don't scrimp on any details!' By now, I was smiling so much that my jaw was aching. He seemed unfazed.
'Well. The word wine derives from the Latin-' This was it. I had him. I could feel the excitement twitching, tingling within my fingertips. I knew he wouldn't be able to resist the opportunity of flexing his intellect. And his ego. But this, this is where he would stumble. Oh yes, what a tragically dreadful peripeteia that would befall him. It would be so glorious as I had to, graciously, of course, interrupt and so modestly correct his deplorable mispronunciation. Yes, he would know the word, but, bless, like so many others, would be thrust into that frightful trap of pronouncing the 'V' as it is in English. How could he ever be expected to know that it should be pronounced almost as a 'W' ? The rest of the table would be consumed with awe. Imagine that, little old me possessing a piece of knowledge that was yet to reach poor McEwan's grey matter. He himself would be brimming with resentment. Anger. Shame. He'd be so disheartened and thrown off balance at the shattering of his complacency, that he'd never write again. Or maybe he would, but each novel would deteriorate and deteriorate until people only ever flicked through them in depleted libraries in their free periods for a much needed laugh...
'Vinum. Of course, the Greeks had a word for it too...'
It didn't happen.
How had it not happened? How was this possible? I'd been preparing for this. Preparing to rescue the rest of the night's conversation from his insipid clutches. But this was it. The remainder of the evening was to be perpetuated with a lecture, on wine, from the most bleakly pretentious man I could deign to envisage.
I don't even drink.
As Tom embraced me that night as we lay in bed, I became aware of him looking at me wiith a bemused expression.
No answer. Just a shaking of his head. 'What?' I repeated, irritated.
'Nothing... I just... I don't really understand why you hate McEwan so much. That's all.'
'You're kidding. You're kidding me. Please tell me that you're kidding me.'
'No. It doesn't make sense. At least, not to me.'
'Why? Why is it so ludicrously inconceivable for me to despise that man's very breath?!'
Tom flicked the light switch; we were blinded by the dark.
'Because you're really... quite similar.'