Seventh Circle (Chapter 3 - Alison, page 1 of 4)

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Molly Campbell removed her daughter's books from the dining room table and turned towards her. 'Your father's guests will be arriving soon. We have to get ready for them.'

'More of daddy's boring friends,' Alison moaned. 'I suppose they work at the hospital with him.'

Molly picked up a duster. 'Dr Duncan-Brown is an important person in the medical association and he's got something to do with Tom's university.'

'I know I won't like them,' Alison pulled a face.

'Now you listen to me, young lady. I want you to be on your best behaviour. We'll have none of that silly sulking we had last time.'

'Stop treating me like a child. I'm eighteen.'

'Almost eighteen,' Molly corrected.

'It's not fair.' Alison pouted. 'Just because I'm small, people think I'm not grown up. Some boys at the dance said I looked thirteen.'

Her daughter's outburst struck a sympathetic cord.

'Och, lassie. Don't fret. I was small too but that didn't stop me marrying your father and he's over six foot.'

'I should have taken after daddy's side of the family,' Alison moaned. 'The boy's don't want to go out with me. I'll never get married. It's not fair.'


Molly surveyed her guests. Tom was staying with them and the Duncan-Browns had been invited to dinner because Patricia Duncan-Brown wanted to meet him. She and husband, Theo, had spent the afternoon watching Tom and Colin perform experiments in a muddy field.

Patricia had enjoyed every moment of it. Theo hadn't. He arrived for dinner, cold and wet, and was standing stiffly, with a glass of sherry, watching his wife as she gazed admiringly at Tom and asked endless questions about his archaeological investigations. She was an ardent follower of his TV programs and claimed to have seen all of them.

Alison brought in the first course and the pair sat down opposite one another at the dinner table. Molly watched with growing unease. A certain sort of female found Tom irresistible and Patricia Duncan-Brown was one of them. She hung on to his every word and leant across the table, fingers caressing the stem of her wineglass in a way Molly found disturbing.

The main course was served and she hoped Tom would turn his mind to eating and stop talking. It worked for a while but he was soon chattering between chunks of salmon and gulps of wine. The conversation turned from sex and religion to the seemingly innocent subject of transport technology.

'The Celts were particularly skilled in the manufacture of carts,' Tom said. 'Our word for car comes from their word for a wheeled vehicle via Latin. The Romans even dropped their word feles for cat in favour of the Celtic cattus.'

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