Excerpts from The Curry Club
Emma’s pale grey eyes wandered over to the clock in the corner of the stuffy board room for the third time in the last 10 minutes. It was still only 4.30pm. Who organised departmental meetings on Friday afternoons? Emma sighed, and rolled her bitten pencil between her thumb and forefinger gently, as Mr Jarvis continued to explain, in rhythm with the falling rain tapping on the window, the latest campaign strategy. She caught her colleague Stella’s bored gaze across the table, and quickly looked away suppressing a tired giggle, as Stella – ever the comedian – poked her tongue out and mimed having her throat slit.
Emma knew she should be concentrating on what Jarvis was saying. He was an old-school Campaigns Director and he didn’t take any nonsense. In the three months that Emma had been at Starling Communications, she knew she’d made a good impression on Jarvis and she wanted to succeed here. It was a small family-run business on the up, and she felt she had finally found her niche. Emma had never really been a career girl, easily tiring of jobs and changing direction pretty much every other year to the despair of her parents – and her smug younger brother, already a partner in a medical surgery in Northampton. After university her friends had seamlessly glided into their professions: the ever youthful Will was working for an achingly cool record label in East London, Carys was holding her own at a well-rated primary school in Walthamstow, and Natalie seemed to live a very glamorous life doing something-or-other for the BBC.
The bitter drill of the alarm clock broke into Carys’s restless sleep. She moaned softly and reached over to her mobile phone, quickly silencing the shrill call. She pushed herself up onto her pillow with her elbows, and felt Matt shift slightly in the bed next to her. Carys rubbed the sleep out of her right eye with the heeled palm of her hand. Another night had passed crammed full with anxiety dreams. She never normally had a problem sleeping – in fact Matt joked she could sleep anywhere – on the sofa, bus, train, and for five hours straight on a plane once. In Carys’s wilder days back at Leeds University she’d even fallen asleep under a table and on top of a speaker – although alcohol may have had a part to play in those days! Carys smiled. While she hadn’t been drunk like that in years, they’d been like that most nights as students, especially in the first year.
But that had all changed now. The sanctity of easy sleep evaded her. Falling pregnant seemed to unlock some very colourful, vivid and quite often disturbing dreams for her and she always felt tired these days. ‘Maybe this is preparing me for all the sleepless nights to come,’ she thought dryly.
Will let out a slow, long groan. He felt terrible. His mouth was bone dry, his jaw ached, and he wasn’t sure whether his pounding head or his overwhelming sense of nausea was worse. ‘Ugh,’ he groaned again, lifting a hand to his head and opening his eyes. Will felt completely disorientated. What time was it? What day was it? And then as he began to come round he noticed the pale pink duvet cover for the first time and was washed with a sense of foreboding – where was he?
Will saw a shock of blonde hair on the pillow next to him and felt a nagging trepidation that was becoming pretty familiar. He looked at his watch – 10.30am. He recalled it was a Saturday. Luckily he wasn’t supposed to be in the studio today. Will tried to piece together the preceding evening’s events, but his memory wasn’t quite playing ball. He remembered starting the night in the White Horse pub next to the studio. There had been beers – and then tequilas. After that a bar, a few lines of coke, and then another bar, a pill, a club… it was all quite hazy and he couldn’t quite work out where the blonde girl fitted in. He ran his tongue over his dry lips and looked over towards her as she slept soundly, her eyes hidden by her long fringe. She had full, Cupid’s bow lips and a beautiful cherub-like face – a veritable fallen angel. She didn’t look very old. He looked around the room, clothes strewn all over the floor, bright jewellery hanging over the side of a mirror propped up on a desk, with what looked like university text books standing beside them. He began to remember vague conversations about the pointlessness of Friday morning lectures, and Will started to feel a familiar sense of guilt seeping into his alcohol-sodden veins.