Another chapter of something I’m working on at present. It’s set about twenty-five years ago, as you might realise from the smoking reference…

“Do you know when he’s coming?”

Alfie observed her as he asked the question. In a moment of weakness earlier that week, Katrina had told him she’d had a postcard from Mick, and that he was coming to London.

It was the first time she’d ever mentioned a guy, and Alfie had stilled the second his name left her lips. He stopped what he was doing—the ever-necessary sweeping up of chopped-off hair—and looked at her.

“Who’s Mick?”

About to reply, Katrina paused. She recognised the tone. It was the sound of someone asking something they thought was crucial, and Katrina couldn’t stand the thought of anyone knowing too much about her. Her secrets were her own. If she wasn’t prepared to share how she felt about Mick with Daisy, she certainly wasn’t sitting down to a confidential with Alfie.

She bent to the floor with the dustpan and brush. “He’s this old friend from back home. Nowheresville, remember?”

When she had started at Chevelure Chic last year, Alfie had cosied up to her straight away. The salon was miles apart from Dulcie’s, the hairdressers where she’d started her apprenticeship at the age of sixteen. There weren’t pensioners’ specials for a start, where little old ladies could come in and get their hair washed and set for less than the price of one of the glossy magazines that littered the low-slung coffee tables of Chevelure Chic’s waiting room.

No, this salon catered for what Daisy called “famouses”, the rich, the great and the good of London came here to be pampered and flattered. It had taken Katrina one or two tries to get the flattering bit right, but a few terse words from Chevelure Chic’s owner had done the trick. Nowadays, she simpered with the rest of them.

Alfie, one of only two young male apprentices, waited for her outside the salon after her first day.

“Want a fag?” He held out a packet of Marlborough Lights.

Katrina wrinkled her nose up. “No. I only smoke menthols.” She hadn’t expected him to produce those too, but he did so.

“Where are you from, love?” Alfie was a Londoner through and through. She thought his accent ugly, too harsh for someone so young. He was about her age, she guessed, and slight, another contradiction to the voice.

Like everyone who worked in the salon, he took advantage of the freebies on offer, and his hair was incredible—thick, dark and shaved in at the sides, with the top of it artfully curled and hanging forward on his face.

His hair was the best-looking bit of him. The rest Katrina didn’t care for, not when the vision of perfect maleness she held in her head was tall, blonde and blue-eyed.

“A wee place in Scotland. You’ll no’ have heard of it.” She lit the cigarette and held it to her mouth. Moving on was something Katrina was experienced at. The best way to get through it was to keep talk of where you’d come from before to a minimum.

“I might have done.”

“You won’t,” she said flatly. The denial was a waste of time anyway. When she came in the next day, he smiled at her triumphantly.

“Kirkcudbright! I bribed Michelle to let me check your records to see where you’d worked before.”

He pronounced it the way all English people did. Kirk-cud-bright.

She poked her tongue out. “It’s Cur-coo-bree, smart arse. And up yours.”

“Want to go for a drink after work?”
“No.”

Nevertheless, she did go out with him a week later. In the company of the other young hairdressers, admittedly, but out. After a while, she began to like his company. He was sarcastic, and he did a great impression of the boss, Rick Javeson. Alfie didn’t push her either, seemingly content to have her to talk to, the two of them bitching about their boss and colleagues.

“I dunno when he’s coming,” she said now. Katrina and Alfie stood outside, in the narrow alleyway that ran by the side of the premises, taking a fag break. It was now a regular routine where one of them smoked a Marlborough Light, and the other a Menthol. Rick didn’t allow smoking in the salon, although his richest clients could do it while they waited for their highlights to take.

“You should meet him.” Again, she was careful, making sure she didn’t sound excited. Allowing Alfie this contact with her past life was a biggie, and the hand behind her back crossed its fingers he would say no.

“Alright then,” Alfie said, blowing out a stream of smoke into the frosty air. “Someone needs to show the country bumpkin the big smoke.”

“He’s not a country bumpkin,” Katrina said. “Not anymore. He’s been working in Edinburgh for months. He’s used to big cities.”

Alfie rolled his eyes, dropping the butt of his cigarette to the ground and grinding it out with his heel. “I went there a couple of years ago. It’s tiny.”

She argued with him about that. She couldn’t contradict the tininess of Edinburgh as he kept coming up with facts, the size of London’s population compared to Scotland’s capital, and where the seat of the UK’s power lay. But it wasn’t all about size, was it? At that, she faced him and deliberately looked him up and down. Alfie was self-conscious about his height.

“Cow,” he said, and walked off. Another feature of their relationship was trading insults that sometimes went too far. She’d make him a cup of coffee (black, three sugars) in the afternoon, and they’d be friends again by closing time.

Later, as she made her way back to the Walkers house via the noisy, crowded Tube and the pavements that you shared with hundreds of others, Katrina allowed herself one of the daydreams that had appeared in her head ever since the postcard had arrived.

In this particular one, Mick told her the telly thing was an excuse. He’d come to London, he told her seriously, watching her as carefully as Alfie had watched her earlier.

Will you marry me, Katrina? I now know that you are the –

She stopped the thought. It might only be a daydream, but even thinking that way seemed stupid; the kind of thing Daisy would probably do. “I’m no’ Daisy,” she said it out loud, and those around her in the Tube carriage drew back in alarm. Speaking to yourself was a well-known nutter alert, the horror being that the self-speaker might then address you.

She got out at Highgate, surging out of the station with the thousands of other people. There was the beggar who always tried to catch her eye. This time, she smiled at him and dug in her bag for the loose change that always fell out of her purse.

“God bless ye, ye wee sweetheart!”

Aye, of course, he was drunk. And yes, he had to be Scottish.

To her surprise, she spotted Daisy, waving frantically at the top of Archway Road. Her mouth was open and her eyes round. She waved both hands and then held both fingers out, pointing at the spaces next to her.

Katrina blinked, her eyes closing and opening as if to confirm what was in front of her. On one side, Daisy’s dad. On the other, Mick.

©Emma Baird 2017

The Girl Who Swapped

Coming Soon – The Girl Who Swapped

The Girl Who Swapped

Bespoke book cover art example from coverness.com

As you might have gathered from the title, I have a book that I’m about to inflict on the public and hope that they like it. The book is called The Girl Who Swapped (a shameless attempt to capitalise on the popularity of ‘Girl’ in book and film titles), and here’s the blurb for it…

What do you do when you find yourself in a strange body and a different life?

Lottie and Charlotte are not having a good morning. They’ve woken up in unfamiliar beds. Not to mention, unfamiliar bodies. What is going on?

At least Lottie’s boyfriend, Josh, is by her side. If only Lottie didn’t have this nagging feeling that something important happened last night, but she blew it…

Charlotte feels terrible. She’s woken up with a hangover of gargantuan proportions. And where the hell are her husband and children?

The two heroines must work out what is going on. Along the way, there will be tempting encounters, full-on flirtations, Hollywood stars, riotous parties, blackmail and far too much champagne.

Come along and enjoy the adventure!

My keywords are summer reads, Sophie Kinsella, holiday reading, life switches, chick lit, Bridget Jones and Shopaholic – hopefully that gives you a rough idea of what the contents are like.

Fingers crossed the public could, y’know, think it’s worth buying. Having done that, they might enjoy it enough to consider penning a quick review for it.

Sufficient numbers of them buying it might mean I make a profit – oh, heavenly day if they do. In my head, I’ve spent that profit already on face cream, Prosecco and premium cat food, donating some of my yet-to-be-realised profit to charity to feel better about my shallow spending. I idled away half an hour* working out how many copies I’d need to sell to put me in the black. It’s roughly six hundred copies. Well-established authors will scoff at this, but it seems like an insurmountable number to me.

Are there many writers who enjoy self-promotion? I hate it, but it’s a necessary evil. It’s all very well writing, but if you don’t tell people about it, how are they going to know? So, if you WOULD like to buy it, it’s now available on Amazon for pre-order, here (US) and here (UK).

Thank you!

 

 

*Maybe it was closer to an hour. I’m s**t at maths.

Wakey, wakey Sleeping Beauty…

Another chapter from a book I’m working on at the moment. It does contain adult content and swear words, so please don’t read on if you don’t like that kind of thing…

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lesmemorables/16524725715Kippy resurfaced slowly, his awakening senses taking account of what he could see, hear, touch, smell and feel.

He wasn’t in his own bed, the single mattress in his room in the student halls. This bed was far more luxurious, twice the size and covered in clean sheets, for a start. The room was large-ish too, spacious enough to hold not only a bed and wardrobe, but a sofa, a desk and chair, and an exercise bike draped with clothes. The view from the bay window told him he was in a flat some three or four storeys up. The sun was high enough in the sky for it not to be early morning.

His mouth felt furry, his tongue sticking too closely to its insides, and his head ached. Next to him on the cabinet beside the bed was a glass of water. It wasn’t very cold, but refreshing nonetheless.

The door to the room opened slowly, a face peering cautiously around it.

“You’re awake then, Sleeping Beauty?”

The face was joined by its body, the man letting himself into the room and closing the door gently. To his dismay, Kippy didn’t recognise him. He’d have guessed the guy to be in his late twenties, perhaps even his early thirties. He was sporty looking, wiry and muscular arms under a black tee shirt and powerful quads encased in Lycra shorts. Also very much on view was the outline of his genitals.

He heard his cousin Katrina, her mocking wee voice singing in his head: “God almighty, that would poke your eye oot wouldn’t it?” and he stifled a smile at the thought of it.

The man sat down on the bed, plonking himself down on Kippy side. Kippy had to force himself not to pull away.

“How are you feeling?” the man asked.

“Rough as a badger’s arse.”

No-one could possibly know what a badger’s arse felt like, but the saying had been enthusiastically taken up by students everywhere of late. Kippy, a mature student compared to everyone else, felt he had to stay on top of modern slang in case he stood out.

“Not surprised,” the man said. “I’m John, by the way, in case you’d forgotten.”

He had a nice face. His nose was too long and crooked, and his eyes too close together for him to be handsome, but there was kindness in the way he looked at Kippy.

“I got you this,” he held out a bottle of Lucozade. Now that was ice-cold, and the sweet fizziness of it made Kippy feel one hundred percent better. He drank the whole bottle down in three big gulps and laid back on the propped-up pillows.

“Did we…eh…do anything last night?” Kippy was still in that pristine white tee shirt Lillian had insisted on last night and his Calvin Klein boxers, so any night-time derring-do seemed unlikely.

The Lucozade gave him confidence, though. Maybe last night he’d fully embraced gayness and was no longer a homo virgin. It would be a relief to be rid of it, the burden of not knowing what to do, and at the same time coping with the lustful imaginings that ran rampant through his body, and overwhelmed him at times.

John’s elbows were on his thighs, his hands clasped together and his backside touching Kippy’s legs, which were covered by the duvet. What did you do in these situations, Kippy wondered. Did he put out a hand and touch the back of the man sitting on the bed?

John turned his head sideways, so he was looking at Kippy. He had dark brown eyes, almost black in colour—eyes that would be a challenge to paint.

“No. You were too drunk. If I’d done anything, I would have felt like a rapist.” He smiled as he said it, a soft, sweet smile that took the sting out of the too-drunk sentence.

“You’re only just out, aren’t you?” Again, it was said kindly, but the question felt like an accusation. Kippy sat up, mustered all his courage and placed a hand on the back of John’s head, pulling it to his. He pressed his lips on John’s, noticing at once how different the mouth felt to the last one he’d kissed, a firmer, harder, rougher feel.

John closed his eyes, and moaned softly, the lips opening slightly. Kippy couldn’t stop now. The pent-up and frustrated desire that had dogged him all through his pre-pubescent years and into his adolescence, the want that he’d always tried to ignore fired up through his torso into his head, his mouth and his tongue, the tongue that now pushed itself into John’s mouth, tasting coffee, toast, bacon and more.

The heady rush of want had made its way back down his torso, and he felt himself stiffen. Eyes closed, he patted the bed around him, trying to find John’s hand. He must, must, must place that hand on his cock, and have it encircle the hardness of him, work its way up and down the shaft until he–

John pulled away. “How old are you?”

“Twenty-one. Well over the age of consent.”

Some years ago, he’d asked Daisy that same question. He’d been stalling then, using her youthfulness as an excuse not to do anymore to her. John stood up, running a hand through hair that was lightly flecked with grey at the temples. He blinked several times, glancing out of the window.

This might be the same excuse.

Or it might not. Evidence of his body’s approval for what he and Kippy had just been doing was apparent, the front of those Lycra shorts straining to contain him. Kippy’s own body quivered in response.

“I’m more than fifteen years older than you. You’re a student, you’re young, you’re just out. I don’t think we want the same thing.”

Fuck knew where the bravery was coming from this morning, but Kippy recognised ethics when he heard them. Here was a man trying to talk himself out of something Kippy now wanted more than he’d ever wanted anything in all his life. More than he’d ever wanted to go to art school, maybe even more than he’d wanted…

Well, now was not the right time to be thinking about HIM.

Danny had said last night that he was pretty, aye?

He closed his eyes and took the tee shirt off, stretching his arms to the ceiling slowly as he did so, making sure John got an eyeful of naked chest. Kippy had always been lean, ribby-looking in his teenage years. Slight physical changes had taken place in the last six months or so. He was still slim, but now the pecs, shoulders and biceps were padded so that you could see the muscles under the tight stretch of skin. There was even—finally—a neat smattering of hair starting an inch or so below the clavicle and covering him to just below the nipples.

He opened his eyes. John hadn’t moved, his cheeks puffing up as he blew out air and a heartfelt sigh.

“Oh, God…”

Who knew Kippy had it in him? He pushed aside the duvet, and lay on his side, one hand supporting his head, and the biggest, brightest smile on his face.

“C’mon then. I wannae know what’s it’s all about.”

 

*Photo thanks to J@YGS on flickr. Shared through Creative Commons.

Rip it Up and Start Again

One of things I struggle with as a writer is revising and rewriting. When I finish something, I want to move on to another project or idea. The thought of going back to a manuscript, reading through it and working out what’s wrong never appeals.

I decided to try something different with one of my finished/unfinished projects – Two Slices of Carrot Cake. Writers tend to get wedded to their own words. It’s difficult to detach. I’m editing a book at the moment for someone else and it’s easy for me to strike that red line through unnecessary text, or see what needs to be rewritten.

Some years ago, I read an interview with the writer, Elizabeth Buchan. In it, she said when she writes a book, she writes it three times. Her first attempt gives her the ‘bones’ and from there she starts again and improves the original story. I’ve decided to try this, albeit I’ll just be writing the whole thing one more time, and not two…

The Creative Stuff

Although it seems daunting, writing the story again appeals because it’s about doing the enjoyable, creative stuff again. I know the plot, I know the characters and what they are like, how they speak and I know what happens to them afterwards, seeing as I wrote another book that featured them.

I wanted to change the angle of the story slightly too. After I wrote my first book, Katie and the Deelans, I sent it to agents. It was rejected by all of them, but I was contacted by one after I’d published it through Comely Bank Publishing, who said that he liked my ‘voice’ and was I working on anything else?

When I told him I was working on Two Slices of Carrot Cake, he said I could send it to him when I’d finished it. I did, and he rejected it, saying the ‘issues’ thing in it (eating disorders) didn’t work for him, but he did like the ‘voice’ and he thought a better idea would be to concentrate on the teenage girl using multiple personalities online and the trouble that results. Keep the eating disorder, but don’t make it the main focus.

The Flow Trap

When you try to shift the focus of a story by going back to the existing document, it’s hard. Sentences, paragraphs and chapters flow in a certain way. You get caught up in that flow – if I change this, then that won’t work, etc. If you start writing again, the existing flow isn’t an issue.

I’ve started it. I’m excited about it. I’m feeling creative once more. Keep your fingers crossed for me…

The Power of the Postcard

“Look what I’ve got!”

Daisy’s face was triumphant. She waved the postcard in front of Katrina’s face.

“It’s from Mick!”

No way on this earth would Katrina ever take that postcard from her hand. Even though she wanted to. Daisy knew this, which was why she dangled the card, wafting it in front of Katrina, that annoying half-smile on her face. Theirs was a relationship that depended on the to and fro of power. Postcard drifts up to Katrina’s nose, the advantage. Away, the ball back in Daisy’s court.

Debbie had come into the kitchen. She snatched the postcard from Daisy and handed it over to Katrina.

“Here, you go. Take no notice of my cow of a daughter.”

Debbie and Daisy’s relationship never ceased to surprise Katrina. Her own mother was a mystery to her, a weird, unknown quantity who smoked, watched TV, spoke seldom and rarely expressed an opinion. Since she’d moved down south and in with Daisy, her mother Debbie and brother Toby, Katrina’s mum had been in touch twice.

Aye, Mum. Full of loving concern, right?

I do not care. She said this over and over.

Mick’s postcard was something else. He wrote me a postcard! She hugged the thought to herself, skipping up the stairs to her room. The Walkers lived in a big house. They kept telling her it wasn’t, but for fuck’s sakes, this place had four bedrooms! And a dining room. A kitchen with a table in it, so they could all sit around it and eat! It smelled permanently of lavender, thanks to the potpourri Debbie littered in every room.

Aye, posh. Right enough.

“Catty, I’m coming to London!”

When she’d got to the age of thirteen, Katrina had hit upon the idea of people calling her Kit-Kat. Why not? Mick never listened. He’d called her Catty from the first time he’d met her when she was twelve, and he was fifteen.

His mum, Morag, was an old schoolfriend of her mum’s who ran the local hotel, the Star Tavern. When they’d left Katrina’s dad, Morag had taken them in for a while, giving them a free room in the hotel. Katrina’s first sight of Mick came the day after they moved in.

She heard voices downstairs, a whispered conversation where one party sounded aggrieved.

“They’ve nowhere else tae go, Mick. Think of it as a good deed. Jesus wants you for a sunbeam, aye?” At that, Morag laughed, the sound of it dark and dirty. Her words made Katrina uncomfortable. She and her mum were or had been, Jehovah’s witnesses. Morag’s words held a mocking edge to them.

Katrina made her way slowly downstairs, treading heavily so that they heard her coming. Stood in the doorway to the lounge bar, Morag grinned at her.

“Wee Katrina! D’ye want some chips, or are you down here on the scrounge for vodka?”

That deep, dirty laugh again. Morag had said a few things along those lines since Katrina and her ma had moved in.

“No thanks, Morag, but your vodka needs replaced. The bottle’s just aboot empty.”

Morag started at that, ducking back behind the archway and checking the optics behind her. When she came back, she looked at Katrina differently, appraisingly. She hadn’t expected a smart mouth or the bossiness.

But any thoughts of Morag vanished. A second figure had materialised, taking up space beside Morag. Katrina fell in love. It had to be love, right? Her stomach flipped over, the blood rushed to her face warming it uncomfortably, and her legs appeared to be glued to the spot.

Mick was the most beautiful boy she had ever seen. He was taller than Morag, though he shared her blonde hair and blue eyes. His hair was a lighter blonde than his mother’s, and the ends of it touched his shoulders.

Katrina hadn’t known many men with long hair—Jehovah’s Witnesses tended to favour conservative hairstyles—but this was the best hairstyle she’d ever seen, she decided. A little mousse and some scrunch drying would make it perfect. The thought of being allowed to run her hands through that hair made her shiver.

“I’ll order him to let me do it,” the thought leapt into her mind. “I’ll just go into his room with my mousse and tell him he has to let me style his hair.”

Two days later, she did as she’d promised herself. Mick had returned from catering college, his beautiful blonde hair greasy and messy after having spent its day covered by a bandana.

Katrina knocked on his door. Her hand shook as she held it out, so she knocked extra hard. There was no answer. She knocked again.

Mick opened the door and peered around it. “What d’ye want?” He glared at her.

“I’m gonnae do your hair,” she announced, pushing past him into the room so he couldn’t shut the door on her.

His room was covered in posters, film posters in the main and the odd band she didn’t recognise, though given her upbringing that was no surprise. It smelled different too, antiperspirant layered over sweat and something else, something sharp and salty.

Mick ran a hand through his hair. He looked flustered and irritated.

“What’s wrong wi’ ma hair?”

“I can make you look like a film star,” she said and watched various emotions chase their way across his face: irritation, calculation, want…

Who didnae fancy the thought of resembling a film star?

“Aye, alright then.”

The postcard she held now showed the statue Greyfriars Bobby, the wee dog that had sat next to his master’s grave in Edinburgh for years. Flipping it over, Katrina read the words again.

“Catty, I’m coming to London!”

The next bit said words that were surprising and at the same time, not so. “I might be going on the telly!”

Hadn’t she told him years ago that she’d make him look like a star? Here was the proof she was right. Wee Katrina Allan, forecaster of people’s careers and fortunes.

This being Mick, your typical lad, the postcard lacked any further detail. Like, when he was coming. All it said was, “Maybe I can come and stay with you? Mick x’.”

Katrina hadn’t written anything much to Mick over the years, the odd birthday card, and a good luck card when he moved to Edinburgh to take up that sous chef position at the fancy-pants restaurant. She never put a kiss, too frightened he’d see it and think she was coming on too strong.

Of their own accord, her fingers moved to the cross after his name, tracing the tiny lines of it.

There was a soft knock on her door. “Can I come in?”

To be honest, Katrina was astonished Daisy had managed to hold off barging her way into Katrina’s room this long.

“Aye. If you must.”

Daisy’s eyes sparkled, and she clapped her hands a few times as she came in, like some kind of demented clown.

“Mick’s coming to London! My mum says he can stay here, by the way!”

She sat down on the bed beside Katrina. The Walkers had given Katrina their spare room and told her to do with it as she wanted. Katrina had bought herself some cushions and posters, and a noticeboard. Mick’s postcard was about to have pride of place there.

Daisy’s offer on behalf of Debbie irritated and gratified Katrina at the same time. They’d read the postcard and discussed it! On the other hand, the thrill of Mick coming to London and being able to stay here…

And then on the other, other hand… bloody Daisy, knowing that Mick meant so much to her when she’d never so much as admitted anything.

“Who says I want him to?” she said. “He’ll be a bad influence on Toby.”

Toby was Daisy’s little brother, and Katrina was very fond of him.

Daisy rolled her eyes. “What, and you’re not?”

It was a fair point. Only the other week, Katrina had brought the thirteen-year-old Toby a porn mag, saying his boys-only school kept the boys in ignorance of what women looked like. Possession of the said magazine increased Toby’s popularity at school ten-fold.

“You can tell me,” Daisy wheedled now. “Dead exciting, isn’t it? Mick coming here? What do you think he’s going to do on TV? Be a presenter, or maybe he’s an actor and has been one all along. How exciting!”

She didn’t need answers, Katrina reckoned. This stream of consciousness questions thing was something Daisy did all the time. Mick was yet another of those distractions the Walker family loved.

Something that took their mind off the fact that their husband/father was in prison.

Katrina leant back, letting her elbow support her. Daisy was still sat upright, and she turned her face so that she could look directly at her.

“Say thanks to your ma.”

“For what?” Daisy smiled. The to and fro of power.

“For saying Mick can stay here. That’s awfy nice of her. I’ll write to him and say that it’s okay.” Sometimes, you just had to give in to Daisy.

Daisy beamed, triumphant. “Good-o!”

Her face changed, comedic acting at its finest as something appeared to dawn on her.

“But we don’t have any other spare rooms! Where’s Mick going to sleep?”

©Emma Baird 2017

 

The Modern-Day Super Power

And today’s challenge is… I listened to a podcast earlier, where the guest was Tim Ferris known for books such as The Four Hour Body/Working Week and others.

During the podcast, which centred on self-improvement, he quoted someone who’d come up with the line that in today’s world, if you are able to focus on one thing only for two to five hours, it’s the modern-day equivalent of a superpower.

What do you get if you focus solely on one thing for two hours, then? I’m on a mission to find out. When I write, I seldom, if ever, complete any piece of writing without doing something else at the same time.

Mostly, I’m listening to the radio. But I’m also watching the email icon, and if I get a new e-mail, I’ll come out of Word and read it. Then, I might write something and feel the need to look stuff up—whether it’s fact checking or the thesaurus as I seek an alternative to a word I keep using. Or I’ll just look up anything random that pops into my mind.

There’s one piece of work I do every week that I never manage to write without doing something else. I wander off to see if my cat wants attention, or I check on the washing hanging outside. I fold up clothes or change the sheets on my bed. As I don’t find the work inspiring at all, it’s an effort to finish it. It would be much less of an effort if I just concentrated, wrote the whole lot at once and got it over and done with.

Ah, procrastination… thine embodiment is the writer.

The radio? Switch it off. My inbox? Close the mail app. Checking things—highlight them as a reminder to verify or refine after the words have been written. Housework? It will wait.

Here goes…

 

Pic thanks to Topher McCulloch on flickr

 

A Meeting

Here’s a little flash fiction…

A Meeting

The tutor looked familiar. It took her ten seconds to remember – the sofa in her flat, ten years previously.

Did he recognise her? Hopefully not. She made sure to look at him when he talked, the way someone who has no history with another person would.

Maybe she waved her left hand about a bit too, waggling the fourth be-ringed finger. His own left hand was bare.

Nonetheless, when he said ‘good’ in response to a point she made, she glowed. At the end, she thanked him – glad that his attention was taken up by others anxious to talk.

Exes.