Thirty-one years after they had last stood in the hall as pupils, thirty-one years, almost to the day, since they had pushed through the crowd to pick up their A Level results, the school threw open its doors for another lunch. Tariq, the first to arrive, was waiting for the others by the long table on which stood glasses, filled to the brim with wine: red, white or rosé; or water: sparkling or still.
He separated out four glasses: still water for himself; sparkling for Ben, who would be driving straight back to London; red wine for Neil, who would be travelling by train; and white wine for Jim, who would be staying overnight with his mother. That was another of their rituals; one of them would always have the drinks ready, as if there were somehow a chance that the caterers wouldn't have filled enough glasses for everyone. The task kept Tariq's mind off his personal ritual, his hand drifting down towards the opened pack of Benson & Hedges in his jacket pocket before he stopped himself by picking up his glass of water.
Tariq had never been much of a smoker, other than socially, and even that had been stopped early in his first marriage. His wife had disapproved a little, but her mother had been positively tyrannical in her stamping out of all Tariq's bad habits. He'd thought about taking up the habit in earnest, along with alcohol and gambling, when the Decree Nisi came through, but having an ex-wife was expensive enough.
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A SERIES OF ORDINARY ADVENTURES:
A wander down a country pathway, a cruise vacation in the Mediterranean, a school reunion, a sandwich eaten in the park – in the stories of Stevie Carroll, the mundane becomes tantalizingly magical. A footballer’s mistress gets more than just an apartment when her lover tries to keep her in style; a rock-and-roll bass player finds out that second chances aren’t all they’re cracked up to be; something sinister lurks beneath the trappings of a travelling carnival.
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