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Chapter no 56

Then She Was Gone

When Laurel gets to the office she finds she’s the only one not wearing a Christmas jumper.

“Was there a memo?” she asks Helen.

“Yes,” says Helen, who is wearing a jumper with flashing fairy lights somehow built into it and has red baubles hanging from her earrings. “Last week. It should be in your inbox.”

Laurel sighs. She’s sure it was. She’s sure she must have read it. And then edited it out somewhere in the tangles of her life.

“Here.” Helen throws her a piece of tinsel. “Put this in your hair.” Laurel twists the tinsel into her hair and smiles. “Thank you.”

There are carolers in the shopping center today; she can hear them from her desk. They’re singing “Good King Wenceslas.” The management have invested in a job lot of mince pies from Waitrose and at 5 p.m. there’ll be Secret Santa and sherry.

She can’t wait to get home.

She goes into Waitrose on her way to her car that night, buys two bottles of champagne, two scented candles, and two boxes of chocolates. She’ll work out what to give to whom tonight when she’s wrapping them.

Everywhere she goes that day she hears Blue’s words of doom echoing portentously around her head. When she’d been talking to Blue this morning she’d fully believed all she’d said. Yes, she’d thought, yes, this all makes perfect sense. Of course Floyd has a dark aspect. Of course he’s pretending to be someone he’s not.

But as the hours pass and Floyd sends her silly, festive text messages adorned with Santa Claus emojis and bunches of holly, as the carolers’ repertoire sinks into her psyche and the sherry softens the edges of her consciousness, her fingers push the blades of the scissors back and forth through the shiny paper on

her living-room floor, and the lights of the neighbors’ Christmas trees flash their reflections on to her windows, it starts to seem bizarre and dreadful.

What a strange girl Blue is, she thinks to herself, turning off her lights, slipping off her clothes, untwirling the tinsel from her hair. What a very strange girl indeed.

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