8 | A Beginner's Guide to Murder

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Finn left shortly after Harriet, and he took the remainder of the spicy cauliflower pasta with him because as always, I'd cooked far too much

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Finn left shortly after Harriet, and he took the remainder of the spicy cauliflower pasta with him because as always, I'd cooked far too much. He reacted as though it was an offering from the Gods when I handed it to him; I didn't think I'd ever seen anyone respond so gratefully for something so mundane, particularly given he ate the smallest portion out of everyone. He nearly refused my offer, but I shrugged it off by saying the food would only end up getting wasted, and told him to think of it as a thank you for being my fake date for the night.

Harriet returned to Leamington the following Sunday, and when she left, normality returned. Well, semi-normality. Fake dating Finn for a week had led to him greeting me every morning when he stepped onto the tube, although not once did he refer to me by my correct name. In fact, he'd progressed to referring to me by various double-barrelled surnames which didn't sound remotely like my actual surname. On the bright side, he was no longer using stick figure pornography as bookmarks, although when questioned, he told me it was solely because he had no more scenarios left to draw.

Casper and I remained strictly professional at work, which he was admittedly better at than I was, but things were slowly but surely progressing between us. We were texting frequently outside of work, were in the midst of planning another date, and I was already noticing myself spending less time on dating apps. I'd not felt this way since Harry, only the two men were incomparable. They were worlds apart, on completely different ends of the spectrum from one another.

Maybe I was getting carried away, but I was beginning to believe A Suitable Gentleman might have existed outside the realms of poetry after all.

The Wednesday following dinner with Harriet, Dharsheni and I were grabbing our routine morning coffee before parting ways for work. We were in the midst of seeing who could consume a whole croissant the quickest when her face washed so pale that I legitimately thought someone had died. Reality was far worse.

'Is tomorrow the twenty-seventh?' she said slowly, her lips covered in pastry flakes as she stared at the black phone in her hand.

'Yeah, why?'

Dharsheni dropped her head into her hands, and groaned so harshly that it sounded animalistic. I asked her what was wrong several times as she sighed, then finally lifted her head to meet my eyes.

'My parents are visiting,' she mumbled.

'Ah, shit.'

'I just-Ugh, I was going to use this as an opportunity to break the news about me and Belle, but it feels too soon. Where the hell has the time gone?' she asked accusingly, as if I was in sole control of time and reality. 'It's fine, I'll tell them. I'll just, ugh, I'm going to hate it.'

I reached my hand out onto the small, metal table, and per the rules, she mimicked my movement and took it in hers. I squeezed, but it did little to lift the frown on her face.

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