All thoughts of salvage and sculpture from the remnants of the garage had been abandoned. Pete had ordered a skip and Joe had shovelled his studio into it. Then he’d trimmed the hedge and pruned some of the trees and thrown the branches on top. The skip was still only half full. Joe was looking for new things to throw into it.
Rachel arrived before he found any new junk. She gave the skip a wide berth, and stepped back from Joe when she saw his soot stained hands.
“You’re looking at On The Wall’s new Manchester shop manager.”
“Cool.” Rachel’s smile seemed a bit forced. “Not cool?”
“I was talking to Hugh. I think he wants to come up here and castrate you.”
“Oh I can deal with your brother.”
“Yeah. I know loads of places to hide.” That got a genuine smile. “Should I talk to him? Tell him my intentions toward you are entirely honourable. Or, at least, only as dishonourable as you’ll allow.”
“I’m worried I’ve upset him. I don’t want to upset him. He’s the most important man in my life. Yes, more important than you. More important than my father, or my step-dad. He’s the only one who’s been there all my life.”
“Okay. I won’t make jokes.”
“Don’t be silly. Make jokes. Be yourself. Remember that you were his friend long before you started sleeping with his sister.”
“I can do that.”
“Did your friend take the money?”
“Sarah? Yeah. She didn’t want to. I sat there and let her tell me all the reasons she wouldn’t. I learnt some stuff I’d rather not have, and will never repeat. Then I just slid it across the table. She looked at it for a while then picked it up. God knows what she’ll tell her fiancee.”
“Nothing. I wouldn’t.”
“I’ll remember that.”
“Can we stay at your place tonight?”
“I only have a single bed.”
“So we’ll have to snuggle.”
“Okay. You’ve convinced me.”
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