Turn taken

One evening a couple visited the home of another couple. Socially the guests were equal to their hosts, and neither couple outranked the other to any uncomfortable degree. The hosts’ house was not grander than their guests’. The wife of one couple was not more beautiful than the other, nor one husband more dashing. The meal that the hosts prepared together was homely but tasty, and the wine, which had been jointly selected and brought along by the guests, went down easily. After dinner they all repaired to the lounge for more drinks, more conversation and livelier music. When the record played through to a song the women both adored – they went way back, these two – they rose and began to dance, laughing. Their husbands watched from the sofa, grinning. The women beckoned them. After a little manly show of reluctance, the husbands got up; each automatically joined his own spouse. The song concluded and was followed by a slower number. Now the host wife suggested that they swap dancing partners. The husbands exchanged tentative looks and jokey comments at this, obeying the rule that a gentleman shouldn’t appear too keen on such a thing. But an agreement was reached, the partners decoupled and recoupled, and in their new configuration they danced. It was all very politely and respectfully done, yet one husband saw a degree of transgression in the act that he found agreeable. Later the moon was up and this fellow suggested that they swap partners again, that he might be paired with the other man for a time. That was the evening that the lives those couples had been cultivating were brought to an end.

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