The Gin O'Clock Club - Rosie Blake

Chapter 1

Love is knowing someone’s faults but loving them anyway


My hand slipped on the pole as the Tube juddered. Shirt sticking to my back I shifted, awkwardly pulling out my mobile, arms squashed at strange angles, to check I was definitely late. The carriage jolted and my phone flew from my grasp.

‘Oh, for . . . ’

Going to crouch I slithered down the pole, past a yellow print dress and a man’s navy T-shirt, focusing on not planting my face in his denim crotch as I felt around for my mobile. I touched flesh as I grabbed the foot of the girl in the print dress. Sweat pooled under my arms, beaded at my hairline.


Locating my phone I re-emerged, hair plastered to my forehead. Pressing at the screen again I groaned. A new crack had sliced across one corner.


A man opposite looked up from his newspaper, eyes sliding over to me, a frown already on his face.

I didn’t have the energy to apologise or smile. I looked back down to examine the new crack, just next to the last crack, currently covered with a strip of Sellotape. Jabbing at the screen I could see the phone still worked and I was still late. Carefully I put it back in my jacket pocket.

Why was I even wearing a jacket? Did I have a death wish? I didn’t have the room to shrug out of it, bodies pressed up against me at every angle. The girl in the print dress looked away as my hand closed over hers on the pole.

‘Oh, sorry. Sorry. Again.’

Her eyes rounded in fright; it was the second assault on her body in as many minutes, so her reaction was fair. In the early years of being in London I might have made a joke, struck up a conversation with her. Now though I didn’t even blink, just wanting to get out of this oppressive heat, away from these sweaty strangers and on to the platform and away.

It had been the longest day: three trains, a walk through Reading town centre to the courthouse, a sobbing client, a judge who seemed to think a female barrister was still an exotic creature, and a delayed return journey. I shifted my weight, briefcase heavy in one hand, my wig stuffed somewhere inside, a thick wad of paper, a brief for a case the next day. I was going to have to work into the night to prepare for it. Closing my eyes I breathed out slowly: one stop left.

People pushed past to get on and off. A young guy appeared next to me clutching a crisp packet, the smell of Cheesy Wotsits immediately filling the confined space. Staring at him with narrowed eyes I cursed him in my usual silent custom: hoping next time he went to his wardrobe he found a small but deadly infestation of clothes moths: all his T-shirts just a tiny bit chewed.

Why had I agreed to go tonight? It seemed like such a good idea when Luke mentioned it the previous week, on a day when I had some energy left. The graphic design company he worked for always threw great parties. I’d been to loads of them, and liked his colleagues. He’d been with them since leaving university over ten years ago, worked from home when it suited him and had a fancy title I always forgot when people (my mum) asked. This was their Midsummer Party, an excuse to get everyone out on to their roof terrace in Pimlico with some canapés and cold beers.

I pictured a perspiring bottle of beer. What I wouldn’t do to be dressed in white cotton, fresh-deodorant spritzed, an ice-cold drink raised to my lips. The girl in the print dress looked across at me in alarm as I licked my lips. The Tube juddered again and my hand slipped once more.

Oh God, why was I here? I didn’t want to be on this packed Tube at 8.30 p.m. on a weekday night. I thought of the journey home I’d need to take in a couple of hours, the work I was going to have to do back in our flat. Someone nudged me and I felt a flutter of fresh anxiety.

When I finally shoved my way out on to the platform, a wave of warm air lifted my hair as the train trundled away through the tunnel. Placing my things down I was finally able to remove my jacket, and breathe out. Pulling my shirt out of