Draining the glass, Danny placed it on the bar, debating whether to have another pint, or stroll home and have a glass of wine while he prepared dinner. The plan was just one pint, but he needed to tell himself that twice; once when he went into the bar and again when he'd finished the drink. He knew if he did have a second pint the hunger might go off him, and he might get chatting to someone. Then he'd end up with a kebab on the way home instead of the chicken curry for which he'd ingredients waiting in his kitchen.
And then he saw her.
She stood quite near, surrounded by a tight knot of people at the edge of the dance floor that had parted momentarily. She wore a cotton summer dress that showed the sweep of her shoulder blades and spine. The dress was floral, red with splashes of black and dark blue. She wore soft brown leather sandals that were almost invisible against her tanned feet. Her toenails were painted red, but her fingernails were French polished. A silver or white-gold bracelet hung from her right wrist, and on her left she wore a silver wristwatch, which a discreet look later told him was a Patek Philippe. In her ears, she had diamond stud earrings, and on the ring finger of her right hand was a silver ring with a blue stone he couldn't identify.
He didn't see her face straight away, yet something deep inside him said it had to be her.
In college, he'd often stared at this girl's long blonde hair from a few seats behind in the lecture theatre, while far below them a maths professor droned on about matrices. He knew the shape of her head and neck, had observed her tie up that hair, amazed at the beauty of the fine, straight filaments, the way the strands slid like silk over one another, yet held as one tight rope. When she was an infant her mother had clearly decided ever cutting such hair would be a sin, and she’d concurred. She plaited it, put it in a ponytail, tied it up around a clip made of what seemed to Danny like a piece of wood and two chopsticks, or simply a spare pencil. Sometimes it splayed out across her shoulders like a cascade of spun gold. Now it was pulled up in a silver clasp, to reveal the nape of a long, fine neck, and soft-skinned shoulders.
Those shoulders had been bared before, in a hot September of their freshman year, and later, during the intense study month when the cherry blossoms bloomed and fell across the lawns of campus. Danny had fantasised about slipping off that shoulder strap, letting the silky string fall down her arm, trailing his fingers along her collarbone and ribs and pushing aside the top to expose her breasts. They'd be in a quiet aisle of the library, between leather-bound journals on archaeology or Greek architecture, which nobody referenced anymore and were only visited once a week when the librarians dusted. The tall volumes would shield them from the view of other students researching papers or studying for finals.