Naila got dressed. She wondered if Ibrahim was awake yet. He’d come home late from his shift at the hospital, and gone to sleep in the spare room. He’d slept in the spare room every night since they moved in.
She made the bed. Her mother had stressed the importance of keeping a clean and tidy home. Whatever was keeping Ibrahim from wanting to share a bed with her, it wasn’t a messy flat.
Naila had been disappointed, but not surprised, when they hadn’t had sex on their honeymoon. They’d spent a fortnight in Mauritius, sharing a suite with Ibrahim’s parents. Naila had appealed to her parents to object to this arrangement on her behalf, but they hadn’t wanted to offend their new in-laws. She’d assumed that Ibrahim, like her, had felt too shy to have sex while his parents were in the next room. But they’d been back from honeymoon for two weeks, and still he hadn’t shown any interest. Naila was beginning to think there was something wrong with him. Or her.
Angel spent her first day as ‘Assistant Sales Agent, Women’s Accessories’ running in and out of stock rooms and up and down escalators. After her lunch break, she was sent to get a steam iron. She found herself on a corridor lined with doors, unsure how to get back to the shop floor.
The first door she tried was a toilet. The second door opened into a room filled with hanging rails and display dummies. In the corner, a woman was bent double, retching into a bin.
‘Oh,’ Angel said, when Holly stood up, wiping her mouth. ‘I didn’t know you worked here.’
‘I didn’t know you worked here.’
‘I just started. In Women’s Accessories. Are you OK?’
‘I’m OK. I’m pregnant.’
‘I know,’ Angel said. ‘I follow Jemma.’
‘Of course,’ Holly muttered, shaking her head. ‘Well, since you’re here, I need help with these rails.’
Under normal circumstances, it would suit Sergio just fine if a waitress he’d had sex with decided to ignore him. But Katie knew about his stealing, and he owed her money he couldn’t pay back. After her last shift, when she’d talked to him only when absolutely necessary, and in the snippiest tone, there was only one thing for it.
‘I think we should fire Katie.’
Mateo sighed. ‘Is that right?’
‘Yeah,’ Sergio said, trying to sound casual. ‘She’s sloppy, she’s…’
‘Do you think I’m going to let you fire that poor girl,’ Mateo interrupted, ‘just because your dalliance with her has gone sour?’
‘She’s a fine waitress. Maybe the best waitress I’ve ever had.’
‘You say that about every waitress,’ Sergio whined. ‘You don’t mean it.’
Mateo smiled and shook his head. ‘Get out of my office, son.’
Aidan saw his phone flash with a new message from Holly, and cringed. Her texts to him, recently, had all been about Jemma—had he seen her, did he know how she was, could he pass on a message. He had, he did, and he could, but he couldn’t tell Holly that. Jemma had told him not to.
But this message was different. I’ve got an appointment for my twelve week scan, it read. A little noise of happiness escaped Aidan’s throat.
John, who was at the kitchen counter, chopping vegetables while Colette stirred a pot, gave him a questioning look.
‘It’s Holly,’ Aidan said. ‘She’s got an appointment for her twelve week scan.’
‘Ah, lovely,’ Colette said. John rolled his eyes.
‘She says,’ Aidan said, looking at his phone, ‘she says she wants me to go with her.’
‘Lovely,’ Colette said. ‘That’s lovely. Of course you’ll go. We’ll all go.’
‘Mammy, no,’ Aidan said, laughing. ‘I’ll go on my own.’ He bent his head to reply to Holly. He could feel distaste radiating from John.
The hammering coming from James’s flat was so loud that Erin could hardly hear Andy’s parents say goodbye. They’d babysat while she saw her psychologist, an outing they seemed to disapprove of as much as their son.
Her session with Camilla hadn’t gone well. She’d struggled to be honest—about her marriage, her infidelity, her children’s paternity—and Camilla had noticed. ‘You don’t need to tell me what’s troubling you,’ she’d said, ‘but while you resist being open with me, Erin, you’re wasting your money, and my time, and you will, I suspect, find it hard to maintain sobriety.’
Erin had no sooner closed the door when there was a knock. Assuming Andy’s parents had forgotten something, she opened the door. A man—a handsome man, Erin noticed—was standing on her doorstep, smiling. Holding a bottle of wine.
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