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Turbulence chucked everyone out two hours early, at 1am. Sooz and I were laughing, clutching onto one another, the insides of our heads still glittering with the pill we’d split on the dance floor. Ejected clubbers thronged the pavement, vexed by the curtailment of their fun. A hundred drunken conversations thickened the air.

‘Taxi or walk?’ I asked.

‘Walk,’ Sooz said, sidestepping a sweaty-faced lad who looked in danger of hurling.

We headed to the chippy for fortifications. It was closing when we got there – the man had keys in his hand.

‘Please don’t be shut,’ Sooz entreated. ‘We’re starving.’

‘Sorry, miss,’ the man said, grim-faced. He tried to close the door, but Sooz stood in the way.

‘Just some chips,’ she said. ‘Go on, be a darling.’

The man sighed. He called to the guy who was clearing the food from the counter. ‘Do chips for the lady and gent, quick.’

We were presented with two cartons of warmish chips, doused in salt and vinegar.

‘But I wanted curry sauce,’ said Sooz.

‘Beggars can’t be choosers,’ said the man. ‘Now scram.’

‘We haven’t paid you,’ I said, unfolding my wallet.

‘Free gift,’ said the man. ‘Lucky last customers.’ He shut the door in our faces, and locked it.

‘That was … weird,’ I said. ‘Aren’t they normally open later?’

‘Who cares?’ shrugged Sooz. ‘Free chips!’

We wandered along the middle of the road, munching and chattering. Sooz ate from my carton as often as she did from her own. ‘Taxes,’ she said, when I complained. ‘You’d have no chips at all if it weren’t for me.’

At one point, she tripped and grabbed my arm. Her dark fingers braceleted my elbow. For the thousandth time, I imagined turning towards her. Taking her face in my hands.

‘Sooz …’ I began.

‘Shit!’ cried Sooz, and shoved me, hard. We crashed to the ground, chips hailing everywhere – and a car roared past, so close that the exhaust scorched my face.

‘What the hell,’ I coughed, ‘was that?’

‘That was me saving your life,’ said Sooz, dusting herself off. ‘You all right?’

‘I guess…’ I sat up tentatively. My glasses had fallen off. I felt around until my hand closed on them. Both lenses were cracked.

We clambered to our feet, turned the corner – past The Walrus and Carpenter– onto the high street. And stopped.

‘Holy …’ Sooz breathed.

Hundreds of people were queuing for cash points. They filled the street, standing hunch-shouldered against the night. They were not clubbers. They wore overcoats, anoraks. Tense faces. Some were crying. Some carried sleepy, bewildered children. There was an air of quiet desperation.

There was a line of policemen shouldering firearms.

Sooz slipped her hand into mine.

‘What do you think’s happened?’ she asked.

‘We should ask someone,’ I said.

But we didn’t. We stood on the pavement and watched, as if it were some kind of newsreel. We stood on the pavement, waiting to find out what would happen next.

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Gabrielle has recently begun writing again after a long hiatus. Prior to the hiatus, she won first prize in the Mere Literary Festival Short Story Competition, and was runner-up in the Sean O’Faolain Short Story Prize.

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