The Englishman didn’t seem at all fazed by the idea of meeting my father. ‘You’ve met all my family,’ he said and put his arm around me. He’d just arrived from London and we were walking up from Mannerheim Street tram stop to the bus station to catch the number 105 to Espoo. The year was 1982.
The place was decorated with dark red and blue colours, the table cloths looked like satin, the wallpaper velvet. Lamps were slung low over the tables. As we sat down my Father nodded to an unseen waiter who brought a round of clear vodka.
‘To the Finnish Ladies,’ my Father said and lifted his glass. The girlfriend giggled.
I took a sip of my schnapps, the girlfriend drank half of hers and both the Englishman and my Father emptied their glasses. His eyes did not leave the Englishman’s face. The waiter came around with the bottle to refill the glasses. My Father nodded to the man, who was dressed in an old fashioned Cossack’s outfit, to leave the bottle of Koskenkorva on our table. I glanced over to the Englishman at my side. He put his hand on my knee under the table and gave it a little gentle squeeze. ‘I’m fine,’ he whispered in my ear.
‘So, you like vodka?’ My Father said and lifted his glass again. We hadn’t even looked at the menus yet.
My memory of that evening is a little hazy. But if I recall rightly, no-one fell under the table. No-one had as much as an argument. The food was excellent. Beetroot soup, rare spiced beef with dark sauce, garlicky potatoes, cabbage of some kind. We laughed a lot. My Father bought both his girlfriend and me a long stemmed red rose. He wanted us go dancing together. When instead we decided to leave, he looked sad and embraced me as well as the Englishman warmly.
‘I think I passed,’ the Englishman laughed outside the restaurant. My Father had insisted on giving us money for a taxi and ordered it for us. It was as if the past ten years hadn’t happened. It was as if the Englishman had resurrected my old Father. During the evening he’d even called me ‘My Best Girl’ again. I curled up against the Englishman on the strongly smelling leather seat of the taxi and fell asleep.