‘I’ve arranged for you to have supper with some French evangelists. They’re really looking forward to meeting you. I’ll text their address. Got to go, my flight’s being called’.
‘Who? What?....’ but I was spluttering to dead air. What on earth was my brother playing at? He knew today was our last in San Diego. And now, an evening with some contacts of his I’d never heard of. It didn’t sound especially appealing. Would my rusty French be up to polite conversation? I imagined Billy Graham types, earnestly attempting to gain two converts before we left for the UK. My sibling had not sent their phone number; good manners, and the fact that we were borrowing his condo for our stay, dictated we go.
First though, we had a whole day ahead. The city’s much vaunted climate was living up to expectations yet again. Yesterday we had strolled through the shady colonnades in Balboa Park, admiring the creamy confections of the Spanish- Renaissance style museums and art galleries; we had watched entranced as hummingbirds shimmered in and out of the African aloe bushes in a small corner of what is justifiably ranked one of the best urban parks in the world. The previous day we had wandered round historic Old Town with its quirky mix of Wild West and Mexican influence. Each morning and evening the vibrant waterfront, busy with naval and pleasure vessels, street performers and joggers, had provided a pulsating backdrop to our explorations. We browsed quaint craft shops and watched the sun set over the Coronado isthmus from the terraces of cosmopolitan restaurants. In short, this lively, cultured city had kept us fully entertained but we had barely scratched the surface of all that it had to offer and I wanted to make the most of every minute that remained.
Today, we were off by local bus to one of the many beach resorts along San Diego’s seventy mile shoreline: La Jolla, the aptly-named ‘jewel’. As we walked along the cliff path, watching the antics of sleek seals and scruffy pelicans in the turquoise, foam-flecked sea, a part of me was still distracted with thoughts of the unasked-for, looming soiree; a cloud marring the perfect sky.
We found our way to the apartment at the appointed time. My greeting of ‘Bonsoir. Ca va? ’ was met with two friendly, if faintly puzzled smiles. ‘Hi. I’m Anna and this is Lou.’ No hint of a Gallic accent, I noticed. ‘Good to meet you folks. Guessed you might like to see a different side of San Diegan life to end your visit. I’ve gotten us tickets for the Padres baseball game at PETCO stadium, then we thought cocktails in the Gaslamp quarter. So, how is Angie these days? You see much of her?’
In that instant, all became embarrassingly clear. I realised my brother had done nothing more heinous than link us up with old buddies of our jet-setting cousin. Not ‘French evangelists’ but ‘Friends-- of Angela’s’