'So, you known Mike long, then?'
The younger man spoken to looked as if he was mulling something over, as he stared past the questioner. To the left of the tall, greying man, a female couple by the large fireplace were talking animatedly over their drinks. Finally, the shorter man sipped his own wine, smacked his lips appreciatively, then answered:
'Longer than this party, but not as long as I've lived,' he declared, finally. The elder of the talking couple looked a little nonplussed.
'Four years, actually.' The addition was accompanied with a disarming smile, and the man facing the speaker seem to relax. He took a gulp from his glass of beer, and licked the neatly trimmed strip of hair above his mouth.
'We met when I came to work at the same company, doing admin-oh sorry!'. The last two words were prompted as a middle-aged lady excused herself to get by, in the crowded front room.
'Thanks, John,' said the woman, as the man moved.
There was another pause, as long as the one after the last question. Mike's workmate regarded the blazer, shirt, tie and immaculately creased cotton trousers of the facing man and reflected it was really a rather formal get-up to attend a house-warming party in. He had heard the man before he saw him, as he had approached from behind, talking to Mike. Looking at him had just confirmed the second's picture formed by the carefully-enunciated posh plummy tones.
'Lived here long yourself?'
'Thirty years-actually, no. Make that thirty-one.'. There was a burst of laughter from a group by the table, where a small buffet sat. Hilarity and answer to John seemed coincidental, not connected.
'Must be happy here, then?'
'Oh yes. Lovely little street. Kept it's character. Not like a lot of other areas I could name.' A look of faint distaste appeared upon the speaker's face, and was audible in his tone.
'Mike joked that he'd be fighting off loan sharks and bailiffs after moving here!'. John laughed.
'Oh, I'm sure the property values are high, but you know the old saying, you get what you pay for.'
In the corner, John saw a short, roundly built, man with a tight head of strawberry-blond curls chatting to a young woman. Mike seemed highly jovial and animated. His interlocutor looked bored. Neither were particularly unusual events.