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The Girl Who Might Have Been

She watched him cross the floor, trying hard to enjoy the moment and not to speculate on his intentions in bringing her here. He fitted neatly enough into the scene, a little hard, a little flash, a little too conscious of being seen himself to enjoy the attractions on display, but that in itself was curious.

He reached their booth and set two glasses in front of her. She gave him an absent, automatic smile of thanks, but did not try to fight the insistent throb of the music with conversation. Instead she toyed with her glass as he slid along the faded plush banquette, and once he was facing her spoke quite softly, knowing he could read her lips. That might make them conspicuous in a room of brayed conversation and ad hoc sign language, but he had not warned her against attracting attention. She was starting to wonder about that, and it made her phrase her question bluntly.

“What are we doing here? It doesn’t seem quite your usual taste, and even if it were,” she paused, and let her glance sweep round a dozen underdressed young women, “I’d only be cramping your style.”

She could usually make her cousin blush that way. She did now, but he must have expected her challenge, because he answered casually

“I thought you might like a look on your own account.”

She raised her eyebrows, took another look around the room, faced him squarely, and with icy deliberation asked

“Why?”

That one did make him uncomfortable, but he persevered.

“Sometimes … ”

He took a gulp of his drink, but it didn’t seem to help him.

“Sometimes you seem to wonder about the girl you might have been.”

She understood, and wished she had not.

“You think I want to undo what’s been done to me, unpick what I’ve become? You think finding a nice boy might put me on the right track?”

Her gaze swept the room once more, this time with contempt.

“I’m not sure we’ve chosen the right place for that.”

She was grateful to see a shadow of relief cross his features, so slight that anyone who knew him less well might have missed it. She knew it was only for form’s sake that he protested

“There’s plenty of nice boys here.”

She grinned suddenly, wickedly. There were plenty of nice boys at that, so long as she defined ‘nice’ as ‘able to afford the membership fee’. Her mother might have done but she – the thought came with a familiar overtone of regret, but no desire to change – she did not.

She finally took a mouthful of her drink, and the innocent flavour gave her a final confirmation of her suspicions. When she looked up again her eyes were sparkling with possibilities.

“C’mon, give. What are we here for? What’s the job?”

Another outing for you know who, prompted by Flashmobwrites

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