Get Away with Martha Hall

Artemis Callaghan

Disclaimers: This is a work of original fiction, so the characters are mine and I’m come to love them so would rather they didn’t get nicked.  Please don’t use without asking me first.

Warnings: It’s a British setting and British word usage and all that.  If there’s anything you’d like explained, please get in touch, or look it up.  Think of it as a learning experience. There is quite a lot of sex, not in this first bit, but to come.  Some of it is pretty graphic, so if you’re under 18 or you don’t like that sort of thing, probably best to avoid it.

Synopsis: Lauren Ray and Martha Hall were childhood best friends, but haven’t seen each other for nine years.  When Martha, now a successful and popular television presenter, returns expectedly to their home town, it acts as a catalyst in both their lives.

This is pretty much my first draft, and I would definitely welcome feedback.  Please get in touch at  Thank you!

Part one


Lauren yawned.  Even with the door propped open, there wasn’t enough of a breeze to dispel the stuffiness.  The air was heavy with sunlight and dust, the scent of yellowing paper and old glue.  She stretched.  Sitting in the battered leather armchair in the middle of the shop had been a bad idea: sleep was never far away, especially in August when people were disinclined to buy second hand books.  They’d rather spend their money on ice creams and cold drinks, another go on the arcades.  She sighed.  Really, her father would do better to shut up shop during the season.  Nearly all their trade happened in the off, people driven indoors by the rain that hassled the front, the sea throwing itself up against the pier.  Now it barely troubled the wrought iron of the supporting struts.  Her father could rent out the flat to holiday makers, spend the summer somewhere other than here.  And she could travel.

Lauren extended her arms above her head, pointing her fingers up towards the ceiling, before dropping them down onto the arms of the chair with a thud.  She’d spent a childhood in the shop, spreading the world in front of her in a bibliographic map, an atlas of longing.  Books open on finger print smudged photographs of the Golden Gate Bridge, Ayres Rock, Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Oblivious to the customers who stepped around her two dimensional world, she was with Laurence van der Post, Karen Blixen, with Amundsen and Scott; in the heart of the Amazonian rain forest where she hid with kinkajous in the canopy to escape with jaws of the jaguars, on the Northern ice floes with the black eyed seals and big pawed polar bears.  Where have you been today, Lauren? became her father’s daily joke.  Where have you been today, Lauren?

She looked round the shop.  Little had changed in twenty years, not even the stock.  If she went over to the travel section, she could still find the book on Japan that had mesmerised her for a fortnight when she was seven years old, the edges of the pages crumbling, the photographs and text outdated more with every day that passed.  She hadn’t looked at it for years but could still see a Shinto temple, its red tiled roof framed by green vegetation, the peak of a mountain behind it.  In the centre of the temple, a big verdigris bell that was rung not with a rope like in church, her father told her, but by a giant log that swung against it.  Lauren had run her fingers across the embossed title, feeling Japan seep through the tips, travelling the length of her arm up into her heart and brain.  Japan pounded around her body with every beat, jumped from synapse to synapse every time a neuron fired.  The little girl at the foot of Mt. Fuji was her.

Except it wasn’t.  The irony wasn’t wasted on Lauren Ray.  The little girl obsessed with travel had only ever got as far as Calais, and all she’d ever seen of France was the inside of a hypermarket, a hangar full of people from Kent buying cases of beer and wine, cartons of cigarettes that they loaded into the backs of vans with an economy of energy brought on by plenty of practice.  She’d never seen the Great Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon, and much as it would pain the seven year old buried inside her, she’d never swung the giant beam and heard the bell ring out, echoing off the mountain. 

Lauren rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands.  She slouched down in the chair and stared at the rough pine shelves that were packed floor to ceiling with books on every subject you could ever choose to think of.  If there was an answer to anything, it would be here somewhere in her father’s bookshop.  If only you knew where to start looking.  Rather than feeling liberated by that knowledge, Lauren was intimidated.  It was too much.  Far from expanding, her world had contracted until its boundaries were this shop in a side street in a small English seaside town.  She had no ambition beyond that, no life and no dreams.  She sighed and stared at her feet.  No point keeping the shop open if no one was going to come in, no point if she was going to sit here and depress herself.  She could do that somewhere much more convivial.

Pushing herself out of the armchair, she finally broke the ties of gravity and inertia, and used the momentum to carry herself over to the scarred oak table that served both as customer services and check out.  The till was old but not old enough to be charming.  It was squat and ugly and her father refused to replace it because it was surprisingly efficient, and he would never get rid of something simply because it was old.  Or just because no one else wanted it.  How they ever made a living was beyond Lauren.  She pulled a pad of paper out from under a pile of invoices, uncapping a pen with her teeth.

D – No point being open.  Am now depressed. If you want me, I’m in the Boatman – L.

She taped the note to the glass of the door before locking up, feeling the sun on the back of her head, warming her hair and her neck, before dropping the keys into the knee pocket of her shorts.

            Holiday makers didn’t use the Jolly Boatman despite its obvious tourist-trap name.  The last thing the Boatman looked was jolly: a bluff faced red brick building in the middle of a terrace, its windows stared glassy eyed and belligerent onto the street.  No children allowed, no food, it was set enough away from the main drag to be somewhere you had to actively seek out.  Inside wasn’t much more appealing.  An attempt had been made at some point in the 1980s to do the place up – an enthusiastic but naïve landlord, endeavouring to catch some trade other than the surly locals, had restyled it to a haphazard boating theme.  It was still possible for the uninitiated to trip over coiled ropes on the way to the ladies, to bang their heads on glass floats suspended from the ceiling in nets, to take the skin off their shins on the prow end of a rowing boat cut in half and stuck onto the bar.  To give him his due, he gave it a spirited go and lasted all of four months.  The last anyone had heard, he now ran a family friendly fun pub somewhere down the coast. 

            “Alright, Lauren, the usual?” She was greeted by Little Tony who was standing propped against the pumps.  Little Tony was a man of average height and weight and was only called “little” to differentiate him from the Boatman’s landlord, Big Tony, who stood six foot four in his socks and weighed twenty two stone.  His avuncular appearance belied a morose temperament, and that was just the way his punters liked it.  Weeks would pass without a sighting of Big Tony anywhere near the public bar.  That afternoon he was sitting on a stool, tufts of black hair fighting out of the edges of his vest at his back and shoulders.  He ignored Lauren and continued to flick through the channels on an over sized TV set above the door to the toilets.  Lauren watched as a life time of images flashed before her eyes at dizzying speed until Big Tony found a channel he was happy with.  A woman with frosted hair and nails the colour of blood but the texture of glass was demonstrating jewellery made of a mineral Lauren felt sure didn’t really exist.  Big Tony was mesmerised by a ring set with this fantastic stone; ten times larger than actual size up on the big screen, it glittered against the black background like a giant star.  The woman assured him that it was a bargain at only £99.99.


The woman, her hair, her nails and her fabulous ring disappeared in a white line as Big Tony consigned them to oblivion.  Lauren shook her head to clear it and then took her pint from the bar.

            Donovan and Mickey Flynn were sitting in the corner by the fruit machine, Mickey staring at the flashing lights, Donovan staring at the curtains.  Lauren had known the twins since the three of them were five.  First day at primary school, there they’d been, the two ginger haired boys, almost impossible to tell one from the other, finishing each other’s sentences if they ever bothered to speak at all.  The majority of people avoided addressing them by individual name, limiting the potential embarrassment of getting it wrong.  From day one, Lauren had never had such a problem.  Identical twins they might be, but she still knew which one was which.

            “Alright, boys?”

            She dropped into the seat opposite Mickey.  He momentarily pulled his eyes away from the spiralling red and yellow lights of the fruit machine but it caught his attention again with a series of musical blasts.  Its pleading was almost pathetic in its bravado but Mickey was managing to resist it.  The curtains held little appeal for Donovan.  His eyes were the same colour as his hair.  Lauren had never seen ginger eyes on anyone other than the Flynn twins.  He grinned at her.

            “Guess who we saw this after”

            “I have absolutely no idea”

            “Go on, have a guess”

            “The Dalai Lama?”

            “Nope, try again”

            “Pope Benedict the Sixteenth?”

            “Really cold”

“I give in, Don, you’re going to have to tell me”

Donovan looked disappointed that Lauren wasn’t trying harder but it was Mickey who answered her.

            “Martha Hall”

            “Martha Hall – ? You mean Matty Hall?”

            “One and the same”


            “Yup, down by the pier with a film crew she was”

            “Did she see you?”

Donovan shook his head.

            “If she did she didn’t say anything, didn’t wave or anything”

Lauren gulped down a mouthful of lager, trying not to choke as it fizzed down her throat.  Matty Hall.  Bloody hell.

            Television, according to Lauren’s father, was the invention of Satan himself, not that Alistair Ray was a God or Devil fearing man, but he knew it rotted the brain and enslaved the feeble minded, being a conduit for the control of the masses through a diet of soap operas, game shows and reality TV.  All news items were suspect, documentaries not to be trusted and political broadcasts to be avoided at all costs.  Consequently, he would not allow a set in the house.  It was only thanks to one of Big Tony’s cascades through the channels and his unpredictable choice of stopping places that Lauren had ever caught a glimpse of Get Away.  For a dazzling thirty seconds before Big Tony got bored, there had been that unmistakable face.  The hair was different, high lighted and expensively cut, the make up expertly applied, the smile regular and white, but Lauren would recognise those eyes anywhere, especially when they were larger than life size and above the door to the toilets.  The bluest eyes Lauren Ray had ever seen: bluer even than an August sky above a beach studded with day trippers; the only person they could belong to was Matty Hall.  All too quickly they’d disappeared into the white line of Big Tony’s disgust, Lauren left gazing open mouthed at a blank screen.   

            “Eh, Lauren?”

Lauren realised Donovan was still speaking.

            “Sorry, what was that?”

            “We were saying we should go down and watch”

“Nah, what do we want to watch a film crew for? It would just make us look like yokels with nothing better to do”

“Don’t you want to see her again?”

A quick glance at Mickey’s face revealed the innocence of his remark and Lauren swallowed the tightness in her throat with another mouthful of drink.

            “She knows where we are if she wants to find us”


The bell above the door tinked.  Lauren registered it but didn’t look up.  Her father had recently acquired several bound volumes of Health and Efficiency dating back to the mid ‘30s and Lauren was turning the pages with a faintly horrified fascination.  Black and white photographs of Marcel-waved women with artfully positioned beach balls gave way to Technicolor printed Brycreem quiffs posing by the pool that in turn moved aside so that glossy plastic beads could draw attention to nipples the size of saucers, baseball caps could cover encroaching bald spots.  The realisation that most of these naked people were now dead sent a ripple that made the fine hairs on Lauren’s arms stand up; she couldn’t contain the shudder as she slammed the volume closed and looked up.

            Martha Hall was watching her with an expression that was hard to read.  It wasn’t exactly surprise or delight or confusion, maybe it was a combination of all three, but her sky blue eyes were stretched wide and her mouth was slightly open.


            “Hello Matty”

Martha let out a small, disbelieving laugh.

            “I haven’t been called that in years”

            “Maybe you should come home more often”

            “Maybe I should. You don’t seem surprised to see me”

Lauren gave her a lopsided smile and turned her hands palms up.

“I have you at a disadvantage. I knew you were here. Donovan and Mickey saw you yesterday”

“Ah it was them then? I thought I saw them but by the time I got a chance to say hello, they’d disappeared”

“There was talk of a camera crew. Are you doing a piece for your programme? The rubbish seaside towns of Britain? That would be very post-modern”

            “You’ve seen my show – ?”

 “Only thirty seconds of it, to be honest”

The eyes returned to something close to their normal size, though still slightly large and the pupils seemed to have dilated, black holes against the pale irises.

“No, it’s not for that. I’m doing this programme, it’s part of a new series, where celebrities go back to their home towns and film the places that were significant, the people that were important – ”

A wash of red swam over Martha Hall’s chest, up her throat and across her cheeks, her voice faltered.  Lauren sat and watched her.  The moment past; Martha cleared her throat and gave a professional smile.

“And that’s why I’ve come in. This is one of those significant places and I was wondering if your dad would mind us filming in here”

            “I’m not sure he’d approve”

A nervous flutter crossed Martha’s face.

            “Approve – ?”

Lauren laughed and let her off the hook.

“Don’t you remember how dad deplores telly? I think the same goes for anything TV related. If I told him you were back I’d probably have to lie and say you were a high class call girl down here with a client”

How could she have forgotten the sound of Matty Hall’s laugh? Her own died in her throat but it died happy. 

“Do you think you could ask him for me? Here’s my mobile number, you can ring me any time you like. I mean it, Lauren, not just about using the shop. It would – it would be really nice to see you properly, you know, catch up”


Lauren moved the business card from hand to hand, her fingers tracing the slightly bevelled edges.  There were the words printed in black ink on thick cream paper: Martha Hall, and under it her telephone number.  She tapped the card against her teeth and tried to think about what had just happened but all she could recall was that Matty Hall had been in the shop, standing less than three feet away from her.  And once she started to think about that, she was assaulted by her image.        

            No one ever wore clothes the way Matty had done, the way Martha still did.  No matter what it was, a Versace gown or a scruffy pair of supermarket jeans, she could carry it off.  There she’d stood, wearing a V necked white T shirt that on anyone else would’ve looked ordinary but on Martha Hall showed off a light tan, arms that were gym toned to just the right level of definition.  Stone coloured clam diggers stopped mid calf to show the same amount of tan and muscle as her arms.  She was stunning.  In comparison Lauren felt like a nine year old boy.  Habitually in shorts and Converse from 1st May to 31st September, that day she’d been wearing a T shirt she’d had since childhood.  Wonder Woman was fading and disintegrating like Captain Kirk in a transporter beam, and where the shirt had once been loose fitting it now clung snugly to her, stopping short of the large square buckle of her belt by a good couple of inches.  Lauren was so used to wearing it, she thought nothing of it until she realised that Martha’s gaze had drifted down to where the soft cotton pulled across her breasts.  Lauren had been tempted to push back in her chair, causing the fabric to pull even tighter, but something had stopped her.  Instead, she’d folded her arms across her chest, aware that she was closing her body language but feeling slightly easier as Martha’s eyes flicked away from full contact with Wonder Woman’s stretched and smiling face.

            “What’s that you keep playing with?” Her father peered at her over the top of a bashed about paperback copy of Bravo Two Zero.  Alistair Ray’s resemblance to a slightly bewildered academic although striking was misleading: there was nothing he liked more than a good pot boiler, the trashier the better.  The shelves of his shop may have been lined with an array of books that verged on the arcane, but the shelves in the upstairs flat were jammed with Harold Robins, Alistair McLean and Hammond Innes.  Dashiel Hammet rubbed covers with John Grisham, Ken Follett with Patrick O’Brien.  He ate his dinner with one hand, a book in the other, ordinarily oblivious to Lauren’s presence, but for some reason she was fidgety and it was distracting him.  She sighed and dropped a piece of cream card onto the kitchen table.

            “It’s a business card”

            “I can see that. Who’s been giving you their business card?”

            “Martha Hall”



“What’s little Matty up to that she has a business card?”

Lauren gave him a half smile.

            “She’s a television presenter”

He took off his glasses and glared at her.

            “She’s a what?”

            “A television presenter”

“I always thought her rather flighty but I didn’t think she’d sink so low”

Lauren linked her fingers behind her head and looked directly at him, her expression cautious.

“Actually, Dad, there was something I wanted to ask you, in connection with Matty. And the television”

She paused.  He waited. 

“Matty’s making a programme about being back home and she asked me – she was wondering if you – well, if you’d be prepared to let them film here. In the shop”

His eyebrows shot up, not quite believing what he was hearing.  She held eye contact with him for a second more before sighing her resignation.

            “Will you at least think about it?”

He considered his dark haired daughter, trying to remember the last time she’d asked him for anything: beyond the childhood longings for ponies and bicycles, he couldn’t recall a single thing.  He’d always admired her self sufficiency, taken pride in it; his Lauren was a girl who could look after herself and her own needs.  What he’d seen in her eyes, the simplicity of the request, had surprised him.

            Alistair Ray remembered Matty Hall clearly.  A small but unremarkable girl who he supposed was pretty; he couldn’t understand what his daughter saw in her but the two girls were inseparable: you couldn’t slide a fish knife between them.  Had been inseparable, that was; something had happened one night when they were about eighteen.  After that, things were different: Matty didn’t come to the shop or the flat anymore and Lauren would never tell him why.  This was the first time in nearly ten years he’d even heard her mention the girl’s name, the first time in her life she’d asked him any sort of favour.  He sighed.  Principles were all well and good but sometimes you had to be a little flexible.

            “Don’t expect me to be nice to them”

            “I miss the sea, you know, when I’m in London” From the upstairs bar you could see down to the beach and beyond that, the salve edge where the dark blue of the sea met the sky blue of the sky.  Everything on the horizon was hazy as the heat finally started to leave the day, sun down wasn’t far off; groups of people were beginning to mingle and start their evenings, ignoring the tight pull of sunburn across their shoulders and chests.   Lauren generally avoided the town centre at night but she hadn’t thought Martha ready for the Boatman, nor the Boatman ready for Martha.  Instead she chose a bar she’d never been in but had walked past countless times.  A converted furniture shop, it was still stuffed with sofas, the interior painted brown and orange, broken up with large prints and original pieces from local art students.  This early in the evening, the music was unobtrusive, aural wallpaper, but Lauren knew the volume and tempo would pick up as the hours progressed, segueing the punters from the bar to the club four doors down.  The staff, comprising of beautiful Eastern European girls and handsome Australian boys, were friendly enough but if they recognised Martha they were too cool to acknowledge it.  The same could be said of the clientele.  Occasional glances were thrown their way but eyes were quickly averted if contact was made, followed by a sudden burst of chatter and laughter to show Martha that they didn’t care who she was.  Martha, in turn, acted as if it was completely normal and that she and Lauren were the only people in the place.

            Lauren had made an effort.  She had enough sense to realise that her uniform shorts and T shirt would not be appropriate dress for the Breeze Bar and Lounge and she’d dithered in her bedroom for an uncharacteristic thirty minutes before deciding on something she was afraid still looked as if she’d thrown it on without thinking.  Black jeans and a white long sleeved buttoned shirt, top three left undone and showing a quick flash of cleavage.  She’d even put on shoes.  Running her fingers through her hair as she’d waited for Martha, Lauren had been too nervous to notice the curiosity of both men and women, had thought the blonde bar man with the shockingly white teeth was professionally friendly as he brought her an ice cold bottle of imported lager.  All she was aware of was the heavy sensation that was pooling in the pit of her stomach, threatening to make her puke.

            And then the door swung open and there was Martha in a pale blue silk shirt that brought out the colour of her eyes so much it was breathtaking.  Lauren slid off her bar stool and met Martha half way.  Martha’s eyes were soft as they swept over Lauren’s face and body, registering the shirt open at Lauren’s chest; colour flooded her face as she reached over to give Lauren a quick kiss.  She’d been aiming for her cheek, but Lauren had moved slightly and Martha’s lips brushed the corner of Lauren’s mouth.  They leapt apart, Martha covering her embarrassment with a short, bright laugh, taking Lauren’s hand and giving it a squeeze.

            “You look nice”

            “You too, that colour really suits you. It brings out your eyes”

Surely Martha had had compliments before, surely Lauren couldn’t have been the first one to remark on the blueness of her eyes but Martha had blushed again and she smiled with real pleasure.  When she spoke, her voice was a whisper.

            “Thank you”

They took their drinks upstairs, Lauren said for the view but mostly because it was filling up downstairs and it was hard enough adjusting to Martha without being in the middle of a scrum.  Logic and Martha’s blue eyes told her this was Matty Hall but on the surface it was hard to find the girl she knew.  Boot cut indigo jeans fell to just above five inch heels, heels that made her the same height as Lauren.  Hair that had once been what Matty self deprecatingly called dish water was now properly, multi-tonally blonde: high and low lights, blending seamlessly, you would think it natural.  Absently, she caught a loose strand and tucked it behind a small, pink ear studded with a tiny diamond.  She was looking out of the window towards the front as she spoke.  Lauren laughed.

            “All those exotic locations and you miss that sludgy old thing?”

Martha’s eyes only momentarily met Lauren’s before staring down at her drink, but Lauren couldn’t help but notice the sadness in them even though Martha was smiling.

“It’s ironic, isn’t it? You were the one who was always going to see the world and yet it’s me, the one who never wanted to go any further than London, who jets all over the place. I’d much rather be here. At home”

“So why do it?”

“That’s a question I ask myself all the time. I guess didn’t want to be a weather girl all my life. I felt a fraud at that too. I’d stand there talking about areas of high pressure, cold fronts coming in off France, and I hadn’t got a single clue what the hell I was talking about, hoping to God that no-one knew I couldn’t point to Shetland on a map”

She let out a small laugh.

            “It didn’t matter as long as I was pretty”

Lauren was at a loss what to say.  Her father not allowing a television in the flat, she’d not followed Martha’s career, had never seen her on the local station before moving to a satellite news broadcaster, only to be headhunted for a national morning programme; fast moving and garish to the point of crassness, celebrity scandal and toothless interviews running alongside hard hitting international news. 

Half way through her second year, at just before 7.30 on an unremarkable morning, Martha had stood in front of her blue screen as images of bloody and torn bodies, huge eyed, pot bellied refugee camp children, flickered across the studio monitor.  The director’s voice buzzed in her ear piece:

“And we’re with Martha in ten, nine –  ”

Suddenly the show’s female anchor turned to Martha, contempt twisting her beautifully made up face.

“I swear to God you get fatter every day”

“ – three, two, one”

“You’re watching Good Morning World, it’s half past seven and here’s Martha with the weather”

She sat in her dressing room, tears slipping down her face knowing this was it.  In the moment between her resolve to leave and the phone ringing, she saw mote filled summer sunshine, a room stacked floor to ceiling with books, and in the middle of it, a dark haired girl sitting crossed legged on the floor surrounded by pictures.  The insistent ring tone pulled her back.  It was her agent, she had been offered the new series of Get Away, and had accepted with something close to desperate relief, the image of the dark hair girl evaporating. 

The public, it would seem, loved Martha Hall: audience figures shot up after only a matter of weeks.  Fresh faced and genuine, they trusted her.  If Martha Hall told them that an ecologically sound diving holiday in the Maldives was a must do then they were down at Thomas Cook the next day booking it.  What they didn’t know, and Martha would never let on, was that she hated travelling.  She got seasick on a cross channel ferry, was so terrified of flying that she had to be sedated and sat gripping her director’s hand for the entire flight.  She couldn’t eat anything that they didn’t bring with them.  This had been discovered the first trip out for Get Away, a short break in Algeria.  Martha ate Casbah couscous and lamb for the camera and proceeded to spend three days throwing up the contents of her stomach even when there was nothing left in there.  The make up girl bronzed her white face and dark rings and the camera man did all he could to film a jeep safari into the red sanded desert before Martha spewed down the side of the vehicle.  It was a lesson learnt the hard way. 

            Now here she was, looking down at a sea that she always remembered as dirty grey and cold, in a town she couldn’t wait to escape, a part of her life that at eighteen she’d been so anxious to put behind her.  No distance had been great enough: she could’ve been on the Moon and that would have been too close.  Here she was in a pretentious bar wondering what the hell she was doing with her life.  She should’ve stayed here, got a job giving change in the arcade, selling ice creams, hiring out deck chairs, anything that meant she’d stayed in the same place as Lauren Ray.  She looked up straight into concerned brown eyes, her heart contracting as she remembered how much she’d missed them.

            “Lauren, do you remember Jemma’s party – ?”

            “Ah there you are!”

The sudden interruption of a male voice startled them both.  Lauren gawped open mouthed at a man with a shaved head whose moustache, beard and cold eyes made him look like a Conquistador.  She hadn’t a clue who he was but Martha, it would seem, did.  She smiled weakly up at the man and then at Lauren.  He spoke with a brittle, forced and loud jollity.

“At last, somewhere in this God-forsaken place with a bit of class. Aren’t you going to introduce us?”

Martha’s smile was frozen.  She spoke with difficulty.

“Of course. Lauren, this is Marco, my producer”

Marco dropped into the seat next to Martha and put his arm around her.

            “Come now, darling, I’m more than just your producer”

Much to Martha’s discomfort, he kissed her on the mouth, not that Lauren noticed Martha’s expression.  All she saw was the kiss.  Her body tensed as she drank flat, warm lager.  She sat for five minutes as Marco verbally destroyed her home town, casually rubbing his thumb up and down Martha’s neck, all the while keeping unswerving eye contact with Lauren.  At the sixth minute she pushed her chair away from the table so abruptly the screech of its legs against the wooden floor caused other drinkers to stare over at her.  Martha reached out and grabbed her arm, her face stricken.  Lauren stopped herself from throwing it off, not out of politeness, it was too late not to make a scene, but because the warmth of Martha’s hand against her skin shocked her into stillness.

            “Please stay”

            “I’m sorry, Martha, but I never was one for playing the gooseberry”

Marco was still watching her, his eyes hard and appraising.  He gave her a smile devoid of warmth.

“Do you have to go? Just when we were getting to know each other”

“Some how I think you’ll cope with the disappointment”

She refused to look at him, her eyes fixed on where Martha still held on to her arm.  When Martha spoke, her voice was shaky.

“Lauren, thank you so much for coming out tonight. And – and thank you for clearing things with your dad. I will see you again, won’t I?”

Lauren couldn’t bring herself to speak but found she was nodding her head.  Finally Martha loosened her grip and Lauren managed to pull herself away.

            Downstairs, she pushed through the crowd that had congregated around the bar.  If there were shouts and laughter, she was deaf to them.  Head down, she made her way to the door only to have it blocked.  All she could see was a pair of shoes; she looked up into the face of a man red with drink, the smell of his aftershave overpowering.  He leered down at her.

“Where you off to in such a hurry, sweetheart?”

Lauren didn’t answer but her attempt to get round him was thwarted as he moved with her: one step to the right and then one towards her until they were almost touching.

“Why don’t you stay and have a drink with me and my mates?”

He tipped his head towards two men standing at the bar.  All three were wolves in Yves St. Laurent polo shirts and Top Man trousers.  She shook her head.  His smile sharpened.

“Go on, darlin’, one drink won’t hurt”

“Will you just get out of my way?”

He moved a couple of inches but when Lauren tried to squeeze past, he closed the gap again, his face so close to hers she could feel the alcohol and cigarettes on his breath.  Fury overwhelmed her: she placed both hands on his chest and shoved him hard, slipping away from him as he staggered backwards.

“Fucking lesbian!”

She made it through the door and into the fresh air of the street, blood pounding her head.  Outside on the pavement, she kicked a plastic municipal rubbish bin until it crumpled.

Continued in part two

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