Not cycling isn’t so bad. You’ve started walking down to Camden, to get a better bus in the morning. Today you had a salad for lunch. A much more civilised way to live healthily than sweating it out in lycra.

Since you don't have to hop on a bike at the end of the day you're as receptive as ever to Joan’s suggestion of a drink after work. She and her rather unlikely friend from IT, Keith, have tickets to what they claim is the hottest show in town. The fact it features Elaine Paige hasn’t discouraged them. Joan, all excited about her night of light entertainment, puts the word out around the second floor, stopping by Finance especially to invite Mark. As you step out into the sunshine you smile to yourself. What could be better than London in the summer, drinking on the pavement in the sun, with hours of daylight stretching ahead of you? You text Alice and Nita to make plans for later, and listen to Joan and Keith work themselves into a frenzy about tonight’s show.

‘I hope it’s as good as Stomp,’ says Joan.

‘Are you winding me up? Stomp was good?’ You and Joan have a candid, almost rude, familiarity from driving your desks alongside each other all day.

‘Are you a cultural snob, Sarah?’ asks Mark.

‘She is! She is! She gave me hell for the Blue Man Show.’

You snort into your drink at the memory of Joan at the height of Blue Man Show fever. She saw it twice in three weeks. You roll your eyes and shrug in sardonic apology, as Joan and Keith mount a strident defence of crap theatre. Mark listens, doing a good impression of someone who’s interested. His finance buddies are by the bar, but you suppose he’s outside so he can smoke. Surely he can’t be here to hang out with Joan and Keith (though you find them pretty good value, you know they’re not exactly known as dynamic).

 Either that or he’s there for you... Is it your imagination or is he eyeing you up? You think his sunglasses are masking a predatory look, and turn away, the better to present your profile to him.

As Joan and Keith say their goodbyes Mark says ‘Shall we stay for another drink?’

‘Sure, why not? I’m in no hurry. It must be my round – what are you having?’

‘A half, please. I like to stay just on the right side of the limit.’

As you watch the barman assemble your third vodka tonic you notice it’s a double, and wonder if your first and second were doubles too. If you’d had a more substantial lunch you wouldn’t feel so lightheaded. Heigh ho.

‘Off they go, Statler and Waldorf,’ says Mark as you return.

‘Who?’

‘You know, those two off the Muppet Show.’

‘Ah, don’t be mean. They’re sweet.’

‘Sweet?’

‘Well, okay, they’re neither of them especially sweet as individuals. But Joan is good value. And I think they’re very sweet together, going off to see a show all excited. It’s nice. And they’re a lot more positive than Statler and Waldorf.’

Mark looks you up and down and smiles. ‘You’re an interesting girl, Sarah Smith.’

You giggle. It’s the best response you can think of.

‘You look all butter-wouldn’t-melt but I bet you’re a real dark horse.’

How remarkable. You barely know him, you work with him for goodness sake, but he’s perfectly at home insinuating you’re an animal in bed. Is that acceptable? But the vodka effect means you’re finding it all too acceptable. I’d go so far as to suggest you’re enjoying it.

‘I can’t think what you mean. I’m an absolute angel,’ you say, and laugh your dirtiest laugh.

‘Are you doing anything tonight?’

‘Mm, not much. I need to eat something – I might pop to the pub. I can’t be bothered to cook.’

‘You’re a North London girl, aren’t you?’

You nod, and wonder how he knew. He’s taken an interest in you. The shirt dress worked, despite the latte stain. Brilliant.

Buoyed by this, you receive his offer of a ride home with a smile. The thought of wrapping your legs around Mark and clinging on tight as you zip along on his vespa is really tempting. But as he drains his glass you realise that he must be quite close to the limit. And your last experience on a scooter was not good. You and Alice both still bear the scars from that road rubble in Corfu. Maybe the smart thing to do would be to say good night now, and hop on a bus, with your ipod to play you home.

 

You walk to Mark's scooter with him, and make a decision

If you say ‘Thanks, but I’m going to make my own way home,’ go to Chapter Four I to face the consequences

If you say ‘Thanks, I’d love a lift,’ go to Chapter Four II to face the consequences