Excerpt: 'One Day' by David Nicholls

'And there's this woman next to you in sunglasses, your third, no, fourth wife, very beautiful, a model, no, an ex-model, twenty-three, you met her while she was draped on the bonnet of a car at a motor- show in Nice or something, and she's stunning and thick as shit-'

'Well that's nice. Any kids?'

'No kids, just three divorces, and it's a Friday in July and you're heading off to some house in the country and in the tiny boot of your hover car are tennis racquets and croquet mallets and a hamper full of fine wines and South African grapes and poor little quails and asparagus and the wind's in your widow's peak and you're feeling very, very pleased with yourself and wife number three, four, whatever, smiles at you with about two hundred shiny white teeth and you smile back and try not to think about the fact that you have nothing, absolutely nothing, to say to each other.'

She came to an abrupt halt. You sound insane, she told herself. Do try not to sound insane. 'Course if it's any consolation we'll all be dead in a nuclear war long before then!' she said brightly, but still he was frowning at her.

'Maybe I should go then. If I'm so shallow and corrupt-'

'No, don't go,' she said, a little too quickly. 'It's four in the morning.'

He shuffled up the bed until his face was a few inches from hers. 'I don't know where you get this idea of me, you barely know me.'

'I know the type.'

'The type?'

'I've seen you, hanging round Modern Languages, braying at each other, throwing black-tie dinner parties-'

'I don't even own black-tie. And I certainly don't bray-'

'Yachting your way round the Med in the long hols, ra ra ra-'

'So if I'm so awful-' His hand was on her hip now.

'-which you are.'

'-then why are you sleeping with me?' His hand was on the warm soft flesh of her thigh.

'Actually I don't think I have slept with you, have I?'

'Well that depends.' He leant in and kissed her. 'Define your terms.' His hand was on the base of her spine, his leg slipping between hers.

'By the way,' she mumbled, her mouth pressed against his.

'What?' He felt her leg snake around his, pulling him closer.

'You need to brush your teeth.'

'I don't mind if you don't.'

'S'really horrible,' she laughed. 'You taste of wine and fags.'

'Well that's alright then. So do you.'

Her head snapped away, breaking off the kiss. 'Do I?'

'I don't mind. I like wine and fags.'

'Won't be a sec.' She flung the duvet back, clambering over him.

'Where are you going now?' He placed his hand on her bare back.

'Just the bog,' she said, retrieving her spectacles from the pile of books by the bed: large, black NHS frames, standard issue.

'The "bog", the "bog"...sorry I'm not familiar...'

She stood, one arm across her chest, careful to keep her back to him. 'Don't go away,' she said, padding out of the room, hooking two fingers into the elastic of her underpants to pull the material down at the top of her thighs. 'And no playing with yourself while I'm gone.'

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