So you call in sick, enjoy a leisurely breakfast and get ready for the park. With your shorts on, and a baseball cap for disguise, you’re all set. You pack a rug, a copy of an Ian McKewan, and some factor 8 in your bag. The book and the factor 8 are just token gestures really, for you’re too lazy to read, and you don’t believe it’s possible to burn in England. Plus you’re of that school of thought that says if you do burn, it’ll ‘turn’ brown anyway.

Lying on the slopes of Primrose Hill hiding under the peak of your cap you watch the joggers and skaters, the nannies pushing buggies, and the cluster of photographers waiting to catch some celeb unawares. Everyone except you seems pretty busy. Well, it is Monday after all. You don’t suppose you’re missing much at work. There’s nothing that can’t wait till tomorrow – which is good, because chucking a sickie is one thing but making others pay for your laziness is unacceptable. You can get in nice and early tomorrow and get on top of stuff then. And you’ll have a nice healthy glow after today’s tanning – that lovely shirtdress will look great with brown legs. You could have that chat about budgets with Mark, the fit finance guy, tomorrow. Careful, Sarah – you don’t want to look too glowy, or it’ll blow your migraine story to shreds.

You think a bit more about Charlie and the texts. What’s going on in his head? Is he about to beg you to return? And what about you? I hope you’re not just going to wait around till he decides what he wants. It’s not good to be so passive in these things. You need to think about what you want.

You definitely miss him. But do you really want him back, or do you just want him to want you back? I suspect the latter but I might be doing you an injustice. After all, you had some good times with Charlie. You were great together. Not so much lately, when you argued about everything from what to see at the cinema to his penchant for action sandals. It had all become a bit joyless, and you had been at worst, a nag, and at best, a bit of a madam. But before it all went pear shaped, when it was all about mucking about, chilling out, having great sex and laughing at each other’s jokes, enjoying exploring each other with uncritical minds. Ah, those happy days.

Maybe some time apart is just what you need for you both to see the error of your ways, and the value of what you had. Time will tell (and three weeks just isn’t long enough).

After demolishing an ice cream and adjusting your straps, you mull over your plans for the week ahead. It’s a busy week. Monday night is laundry and Top Model night. Wednesday you’re going over to Nita’s for dinner with her and her lovely boyfriend Jay. You and Alice had planned to go to Pilates on Thursday. Friday night will be post-work drinks (now more appealing since the arrival of Mark in Finance) and you’re out on Saturday too. Phew, Sarah, it’s a social whirlwind. You need today off just to stay fresh and fit for the fight.

That’s how you justify it to Alice, when she comes home at six.

‘You’re home early,’ she says.

You smirk and wait while she takes in the evidence – the beach bag, the topped up tan, and the shorts you clearly didn’t wear to work.

‘Hang on... have you been to work today Miss Sarah? You monkey! Chucked a sickie? You could have told me, I’d have done one too.’

‘It wasn’t a proper sickie. I mean, I did feel very tired this morning. It was a bit of a big weekend, after all. And I’ve got a busy week ahead. I needed to be rested and fresh to take on the rest of the week.’

Alice rolls her eyes in mock disgust. You know she’s just jealous really. You put the kettle on. It’s the least you can do.

‘Speaking of the busy week ahead – what are we doing this Saturday? I know Simon’s having this party...’

‘Right. That’s what I thought we were doing. Are you not keen?’

‘I don’t know. I know it’ll be fun, but I just feel like we’ve had enough nights of girls and gay boys. We should be out trawling the bars for fresh talent, shouldn’t we?’

‘I suppose... but Simon’s parties are always fun. Nita and Jay will be there, and all those silly gay boys –‘

‘All those smug media bitches that hang around though –‘

‘Yes, that’s true. What about invoking the 45 minute rule?’

‘Oh Sarah, it is good to have you back on the scene. You’re so much more fun – so much more focussed on fun – when you’re single. You’re just the thing I need to get Jamie out of my head and a new man in my bed.’

‘I aim to please.’

After a moment’s thought Alice points out that the 45 minute rule might not work. ‘Simon’s place is in the middle of the Queen’s Park wilderness. So if there is no talent after 45 minutes, and we bail out, we’ll have to traipse all the way into town, or over to Camden – and I know what you’re like, you’ll just want to head home if it comes to moving on. Won’t you?’

You admit that has happened in the past. As you pull your washing out of the machine and start loading the clothes horse, you consider the merits of Simon’s party. There’s a slim chance Charlie might be there. It’s not really his scene but you have enough mutual friends to make it a possibility, and of course he might think that you will be there. Is that a reason to give it a wide berth? Not really. After all, it’ll bother him more than it’ll bother you, if last weekend’s texts are anything to go by. It might be kind of satisfying to bump into him looking your best. Then again Alice might be right. What you should really do is go out and do something different, something involving new exciting people, not the same old same old crowd.

‘Whenever we come up through Camden on our way home we always say how fun it looks these days. And how long it’s been since we went out drinking there – all these great pubs practically on our doorstep we never take advantage of. All those cute Euro boys, those sexy scruffy kids that think they’re in a band –‘

‘All those star fuckers and all those bloody smack heads – ‘

’I think we can fairly easily avoid the smack heads Sarah. We’ll be in the bars, not sitting on the towpath, I promise you.’


What will you do?

If you decide to go to Simon’s party, go to Chapter Three III to face the consequences

If you decide to go out in Camden, go to Chapter Three II to face the consequences