"I write a sex blog too," I finally managed to say, "and it's because of you, mostly, that influenced me to... to start writing it. And that's really helped me express my sexuality."
I clutched the crisp, new, signed copy of Belle's Best Bits to my chest. Belle, having pressed it into my hand a few moments earlier, looked at me and smiled. Shamefully, I can't remember exactly what she said in response, but it was overwhelmingly positive.
It seems a strange thing to do, book £10 tickets to see a former call girl speak... to a Times journalist... at the Oxford Literary Festival. Whatever rule you want to apply, it doesn't exactly add up. But it worked. India Knight was a very good arbitrator (even if TD didn't like her shoes), the marquee was lovely and warm and bright, and the house was about as near full as you could get. Belle - or "Brooke", if you prefer - was frank, funny and sharp as a tack. Amid the intermittent bursts of laughter from the audience, many questions were asked, and answered. Including one of mine, in fact.
Plus there were the bingo cards (originally developed by Furry Girl, IIRC) that a few of us got to fill out every time a reference came up. Er, including me, again. Scratching the boxes with my nails for want of a pen. As I managed to get seven of them, despite not being in a row, that won me a signed book. Hey, I'm not complaining.
As I left the marquee, there was a generally uplifting feeling settling down upon that part of Oxford. Journalists were scratching notes into notebooks. H was texting me to tell me she was jealous. TD, clutching my right arm, was positively radiant, and I - a little starstruck but trying not to let it show - was absolutely buoyant.
But the real star of the afternoon was Belle. After a rather random weekend of must-have-it-now sex, watching The Big Bang Theory and feeling refined at eating tea and cake at a festival about intelligent writing, watching her speak was the most perfect, and most grand, grand finale.