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Tick tock! Time’s gin oan, as my dad would say. 

Here’s the very next story from 365. I wrote lots of “January” within a couple of days. (When was it? 2012? 2013? Already, it’s zooming past…)

I thought I was ahead of the game. But with time, you never are… 

January 1st

They waited there, the zombies, the undead. They helped to clear the glasses and wash the cutlery, to sort out the wreckage. But Miranda couldn’t wait for them all to be gone. Him especially.

There was something ceremonial about it, the washing, the drying, the cupboards. So many bottles, a formal drake’s-collar green, some of them dry as a bone and polished by the light of the new year’s day.

There had been a row. Everyone there – Stu, Stu’s girl, Emma and Paul, they all knew it: Miranda had fallen out with Jack.

They both acted like nothing had happened. It had been bad. It might have been Miranda’s fault, but once the shouting had started and the grievances were marched out it was irrelevant.

Awkwardly, gently, like dislodging a stone from the sole of a good shoe, the others had worked their way around the couple. He’d been like a wild animal, sure, with the shouting. This had been roundly criticised – until Emma had reminded Miranda that she had lifted her hands to him. No-one could remember why. Some other guy at the party, the bloke from the scheme, the Barra Boy, they had called him; he’d gotten upset about what Jack said, and Stu had had to ask him to leave.

Back in the new year, after half an hour of Trivial Pursuit, someone had yawned and suggested lunch. All Miranda wanted was for them to go home – to their homes, their families, to no-one. To have her space back to herself. But they lingered. Blank faces, bloodshot eyes. And always, there was Jack, the look of dumb fright in them, that clinginess. It was past 3pm on New Year’s Day. Another year, another life.

Finally, as darkness fell, most of them sought some heat and light. Miranda did not have to feign the smiles and the heartfelt wishes, although they were mainly offered in thanks that her house guests were leaving. She even pressed drink and shortbread upon them, parting gifts. “Clear it out, use it up,” she’d said.

Soon only Jack was left, and they came to it at last. It had to be said. Why had Miranda been so cuddly with that guy she’d known from school? The same question he had asked the night before.

No row this time, though. She asked him to leave – to spend time with his parents – and he’d acquiesced, that same liquid, puppy look in his eyes, the pleading, the thing that had made her lift her hands. The worst of it was that he loved her.

She slipped into an old jumper and spent a little time on the internet, clicking on all the pictures people had uploaded from the party. All smiles, foaming champagne, faces squeezed together and eyes crinkled with mirth. Another new year. Same as the last one. She clicked “like” on them all, impassive as the Sphinx, and stared long and hard at the glowing green face of her mobile phone as the text messages came in. She did not answer any of them, and sleep came at last.

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