Siobhan nudged Simon.
“She’s gone again! That’s the third time in 10 minutes!”
Simon chewed rapidly, mopped at the corners of his mouth with his crumpled napkin and suppressed a belch before replying.
“Perhaps she’s calling a taxi? Wouldn’t blame her!”
Siobhan prodded the congealed mass of tagliatelle on her plate. She sighed and set her fork back down on the table.
“I’m worried about her Simon, she looks …”
Simon elbowed Siobhan’s arm and whispered.
“Change the subject. Here she comes.”
“Becky!” Siobhan exclaimed “We thought you might have bailed on us. First Christmas works do, not everyone’s idea of a good night out eh?”
Becky blinked in reply and sat at her place setting. Her meal was still there with the knife and fork slightly elevated from the plate’s surface as they balanced on a pile of pasta. She took a sip of water and gently sluiced it round her teeth. A silence stretched across the table, broken by Simon.
“Nice perfume, Becky!”
Siobhan turned to glare at Simon.
The question was almost lost to them as he shovelled another spoon of red sauced rigatoni into his mouth. Still chewing, he spoke.
“I was just saying, I like Becky’s …” He paused and stared at both women, registering in that moment, the disparity between their ages of 37 and 17.
“Oh for God’s sake! I didn’t mean anything by it!”
Siobhan hmp’d and watched Becky’s face and neck redden.
Becky lifted her right hand casually to her chin and inhaled. She could smell, almost taste, the acidity beneath the jasmine notes of the restaurant’s deluxe hand wash.
“Are you going to finish that?”
Becky shook her head and watched as Simon took her untouched garlic bread. Well done, Becky! said the voice in her head.
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