Quarter-life crisis

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Tamara had noticed him for the first time at the fundraiser for the art show. He must have been twenty-five years her senior, but there was a twinkle in his eye that she couldn’t resist. They chatted for hours as they dipped in and out of Emma’s homemade guacamole and drank Sally’s sangria-inspired punch. When he left, he patted her arm and kissed her cheek and the hairs on her body stood to attention.

Emma had warned her to stay away, that he was a married man, that he had kids, that he had form. But Tamara knew only one thing – no man had got her as turned on as this one and she was determined that things would go further…

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Kenji had hoped that night would be his chance to tell Tamara how he felt. But she spent all evening talking to Mortimer Goth. When Kenji was a student there were all kinds of rumours about Mortimer, and he didn’t doubt that they were all true.

He knew Tamara was the kind of girl who could take care of herself – but he wished it could be him taking care of her.

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Emma told him to steer clear, that Tamara was clearly capable of making her own decisions and her own mistakes. He knew Emma thought he wasn’t Tamara’s type. But you can’t help who you fall for…

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Burned dinner for one again. George knew there was an irony in a firefighter burning his own food on a regular basis. Fia had always been the one who could cook, whilst he was the one who was good around the home.

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The wall art she’d created when they were students sat mocking him. It had all been so different when they were at university, before the pressures of work. She was stil the most dazzling, most captivating, most heart-thumpingly exciting girl he’d ever met. But he wasn’t sure he could cope with exciting much longer.

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Two days until the show. Her work just wasn’t good enough, it just wasn’t what she wanted. She could call it a night, go home, see George. The thought made her feel sick and she didn’t even know why. She didn’t want to be here, she didn’t want to go home. She wished she was back at university. No. She wished she was… she wished… tears rolled down her face and splashed onto her sketch. Fia had no idea what she wanted.

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Anger. It had never been one of Anita’s motivations. Her paintings were usually a riot of colour, but since her sister had come to stay, all she saw was red. Carlotta had said she was just going to stay for a week or two until the army sorted her out with some digs. It had been two months. Anita felt bad – her sister had come back from Gaza, she was trying to adjust to life back home, it couldn’t be easy – but the flat was her place, and it wasn’t very big. Carlotta took over the whole place – her mess, her insistence on exercising in the lounge, the stupid cop dramas she liked to watch.

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‘So why don’t you just ask her to move out?’

‘It’s not that easy, Hailey.’

‘Sure it is. It’s your flat.’

‘She’s my sister.’

‘And?’

‘And… I don’t know. I think something’s wrong – she came back from duty early, the army haven’t sorted her a place out yet. I think she’s having problems – she just won’t tell me what they are.’

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‘I’m so glad you’re here. She’s in the living room, come in.’

Personal trainer to a teenager whose mother thought she needed ‘discipline’ wasn’t something Carlotta had ever dreamed of – and the money she was going to get from it was small change. But she had to take work where she could find it. She had to do what she could to stop Anita finding out the truth.

And so Carlotta Lobos went in to meet River McIrish.

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Tori was nervous. It was the first party she’d ever thrown. What if no-one came? The other girls she shared a house with had told her not to be silly, but she couldn’t help it. She’d always been a worrier.

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It seemed so easy for them. Olenski was confident, outgoing and funny. She’d come from a large family and so she was up for anything. Emma was a great chef, Tamara was never short of admirers, but she? She was just a ghost compared to them, just background, just… nothing special.

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They’d invited lots of people from around town. Serena turned up with kimchi pancakes. Becky turned up empty-handed – as usual.

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George arrived without his partner…

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…as did Rowan.

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Tamara saw her chance. Rowan was one of those guys who didn’t know just how attractive he was. She never understood why he was with Jamie Jolina, but if Jamie hadn’t come tonight, maybe that indicated all wasn’t rosy. Besides, she was sick of waiting for Mortimer Goth to text her – she was a free agent, she could pursue whatever and whomever she chose to.

Emma watched her friend and sighed. One day Tamara might actually set her sights on someone she could have. One day Tamara might actually see herself as being worth someone’s complete attention rather than feeling the need to compete with other women.

But as Tamara inched closer to Rowan and he to her, she could see that day wasn’t going to come any time soon.

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