Roll two sixes

Roll a one and a three.

1. The night of Jack’s 11th birthday. Mum left in a hurry after what dad did. She shouted for Jack to come with her, but he stayed in his bedroom, too scared to move. A while later Jack came downstairs and sat in the living room with dad. It was really quiet. Every so often dad told him that everything would be alright and that he loved him. That nothing bad was going to happen any more, because he’d be there for him (properly, from now on). That he was sorry for what he did to mum. He brought Jack fizzy drinks and crisps, even though it was way past bedtime. He kept going to the window, and Jack didn’t dare ask who was coming. Looking at the stack of Disney videos next to the TV, Jack swore to himself he’d have a happy family someday. Then the police arrived.

3. Mel’s childhood home, when she was nine years old. She felt shame as she laid in another wet bed. Worried what her parents would say in the morning, she buried her head between the pillows and pulled the duvet right up to her chin. Then she heard something. It sounded like a distant firework. Mel sat up — and saw the moonlight shining through her window from the night outside. It cast a bubbly glow on the wall next to her bed. Without even thinking about it, she reached out and touched it. It felt warm. When she did this, she tried to imagine what her life might be like in the future. Friends who would never leave her. Boys who would find her attractive. Children of her own, who she wouldn’t attack for wetting the bed.

Roll a two and a five.

2. When Jack broke up with his girlfriend, right at the three-month mark. The girl asked Jack what he would do if she came running back to him. He said he’d say no and move on. She rolled her eyes and said it wouldn’t happen anyway. Then she gave him a hug — one of those “I’ll miss you” hugs. Over the next month or so, sometimes a nostalgic memory of the warmth of her skin would come to Jack, and he’d be on the verge of picking up the phone. But he never did.

5. At the cinema, where Mel was watching Spiderman — the first one, with Tobey Maguire. She was there with two couples, and found it hilarious that she was playing not third, but fifth, wheel. She looked away from the screen during the upside-down kiss scene, and saw the light from the film flicker on her friends’ pathetically expectant faces.

Roll a three and a four.

3. A restaurant in Alacati, Turkey, where the waiter brought Jack his second beer before he’d finished his first. His plate was empty, apart from the skeletal remains of the fish, and some of the sweet peppery sauce. Jack’s newspaper was paying for him to be there, but it didn’t feel like luxury to him, because he was alone. Outside the restaurant, a boy had his arms wrapped around his mother’s middle, and was leaning into her, as they sped by on a moped. After they’d disappeared around the corner, Jack lost his gaze in the middle distance, holding his pen over his notepad.

4. Bologna, Italy, where the sound of Mel’s heels echoed between the medieval stone walls. She was running away from the drunken shouts of “ragazza!” and creepy falsetto laughter. When she got to the corner she pushed open the heavy iron gate and felt for the apartment doorbells at the building’s entrance, her heart racing. “Please be home… please be home…” she muttered to herself, pressing hard on the buzzer for apartment 5, where her friend lived. The moonshine and the streetlights combined to make the street cobbles look like rippling water in twilight. It gave Mel’s moment of panic a filmic quality.

Roll two sixes.

6. When rain was battering the roof of the cottage, and Jack made sure the girls were warm in bed. Camille had her rag doll and a million and one cushions and pillows, while Jena was happy with a hot water bottle. When their eyes started to close, Jack kissed their foreheads and left the room, closing the door behind him. Downstairs in the kitchen, he poured himself some tea from the pot. He looked out at the rain, invisible in the dark outside, and caught his reflection in the window. In the background, Jack saw Mel sat in the living room behind him.

6. Mel by the fire, reading. She’d been turning the pages, but not taking much of it in. For once she was living completely in the present, and she was distracted by a wonderful thought: that everyone she loved was safe. Jack in the kitchen, the girls upstairs, their dog Buzz asleep on the beanbag by the door… She always wanted to remember that thought, and the feeling it gave her. She closed her eyes and felt a tingling rise from her spine to her shoulders, up her neck and into her cheeks. When Jack came to sit next to her, she leaned on his shoulder and watched the wood explode in the fire, blinking trickling tears from her eyes.

Toys were scattered around where Buzz was sleeping — and it was hard to tell which ones were his and which were the girls’. One of the toys was a furry dice, connected by a thick pink thread. Buzz was whimpering and twitching. He was having a dream. Around midnight he wagged his tail and the hit the dice, rolling them over again.



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