Prologue: When you least expect

Five years ago

When Jamie Jolina had first had a cocktail in the morning, she’d thought it decadent and somewhat ludicrous. She’d looked around the bar, not quite believing that people weren’t staring at her and judging her. But now a cocktail to celebrate the end of a night shift had become common practice – and she had long reasoned away any fears she might have had that this was a potentially worrying trend – after all, that was what normal people did after a work shift, wasn’t it? It was what she did after a day shift herself, and that wasn’t a big deal. Of course, then she was in here with her colleagues rather than by herself, but the stigma of being a lone drinker had also long abated – after all, everyone in this dive of a bar at this time of the day was a lone drinker.

The sweet pomegranate mixed with a kick of rum was just the trick – she would sleep well this afternoon.

Rowan Moss had only intended to buy a Coke. Lessons were over for the day and he was at a bit of a loose end. But then he saw the beautiful young woman at the end of the bar knocking back a cocktail and he figured if it was good enough for her, it was good enough for him, and so he ordered a long cocktail, with a shooter of JD for Dutch courage.

He knocked back the whiskey with a grimace as the sweet burn coated his throat. He took a deep breath, picked up the cocktail glass by the stem and got up.
‘Drinking alone at eleven in the morning? Never a good look’
The young woman looked at him, and he wasn’t sure if she was offended or not.

‘Always looks much better with two people drinking themselves silly at some stupid hour, don’t you think? Can I join you?’

Jamie was somewhat disarmed by this and had no real response. Nobody had ever interrupted her post-night-shift haze before, and all she could muster was a ‘sure’.

‘Rowan’

‘Jamie’

‘So, you a student as well?’

Jamie inwardly groaned. Oh God, a student. She knew a good looking guy taking an interest in her had to come with a catch.

‘No. I’m a doctor. A junior doctor, newly qualified’.

‘You work at the hospital?’

‘Yeah, nights. Just finished’.

‘Sucks’.

Jamie nodded. Yeah, it sucked alright. It sucked that she never saw her friends. It sucked that she had very few friends to even see. It sucked that she worked long hours and spent the rest of her time asleep. It sucked that she was reduced to drinking in the morning to help her sleep in daylight.

But she didn’t say any of this to the poor boy sitting next to her.

Instead, she smiled sweetly.

‘What are you studying?’

‘Material design’

‘Which is?’

Rowan grinned ‘posh name for CDT. Woodwork, metalwork, that kind of thing. I want to set up my own carpentry business one day. Or, you know, whatever’.

Jamie smiled. He reminded her a lot of the boys she’d known at university on other courses. Medical students never mixed that much with other students – the world of lie-ins and a few hours a week of lectures that the rest of them enjoyed had always been alien to her and her cohort, and she’d never been sure if she pitied or envied the other students.

‘So, a doctor. You must be what, 25?’

’24. Just. And you’re how old?’

‘21’

That wasn’t so bad, Jamie thought, and then stopped herself. He was still just a boy.

Rowan indicated the football tables on the other side of the bar. ‘You want a game?’

It had been a long time since anyone had asked Jamie to do something fun and she found herself acquiescing.

Conversation began to flow freely – about work and study, about the people they knew, about TV and books and sports – and Jamie found herself laughing more than she had done in years. She wasn’t sure how much they’d drunk, but she knew two things – one, it was way past her bed-time, and two, she was starving.

‘You like pizza, Rowan?’

‘I love pizza, Jamie’.

‘Well come on then, let’s go get pizza’.

Jamie flagged down the nearest cab and bundled Rowan into it. During the short taxi ride, she called for an extra-large Margherita. They emerged at her place, to be greeted soon after by a pizza deliverer.

Rowan found his head spinning – this beautiful woman, this beautiful older woman had invited him back to her place, and now she was buying him pizza and it was only… he looked at the time on his mobile phone… two in the afternoon.

‘So, Mr Rowan’

‘Mr Moss, actually’

‘So Mister Moss, what do you do for pleasure?’

A huge string of cheese started to dangle from the pizza slice. Jamie caught it in her fingers with a goofy grin, spiralled it round with her fingers and popped it in her mouth.

Rowan decided he was in love.

‘Well, I drink in bars at eleven in the morning, play a bit of table football, eat pizza in the houses of beautiful strangers…’

Whether it was the alcohol, the sleep deprivation or simply the power of pizza, Jamie suddenly felt emboldened. ‘You know what I like to do for fun?’

‘What do you like to do for fun, Ms…’

‘Jolina, and that’s Dr Jolina, actually’

‘So, what do you like to do for fun, Doctor Jolina?’

‘Come here and I’ll show you’.

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