year after a regular degree. Anyway, I decide I’m going to use the time abroad to build up a really decent portfolio so someone might actually want to employ me. For a while everything’s peachy. Then we hit Paris. Ever been there?’
I shook my head.
‘You’d like it – lots of art galleries. Anyway, I’ve got a great angle on the Eiffel Tower when this bloke trips over me – he’s been walking backwards looking through his camera. He apologizes and we joke about it and get talking.’ Hugh shook his head. ‘Paris, the most romantic city in the world, and I meet Graham there. You couldn’t make it up.’
‘What happened next?’
‘We have a drink and a laugh. He’s looking for a place to stay so Bri and I take him to our hostel. Turns out he’s on a photography tour too, financed by a wealthy aunt who was fond of him as a kid, only he’s pissed the money up the wall and is trying to get by on a shoestring till it’s time to go home. Starts sponging off us the moment he can, the bastard.’
‘Starting to see why you don’t like him now,’ I said.
‘The real crunch comes a few nights later,’ said Hugh. ‘I come back to the hostel to find that someone’s been through my stuff. See, I’ve been storing my photographs on memory cards and copying them on to my laptop, only the piece of junk hasn’t been working properly, so not all my stuff’s backed up. And guess what, the memory cards have been nicked. Three weeks’ work gone, just like that!’
He paused to take a drag on his cigarette. ‘I had it out with Graham right away. He denied it – said he was in his room with a headache – total shit. I reckon he knew he was a crap photographer and was panicking about having something to take back to dear old auntie, who’s arty and knows how to tell good from bad. Want to hear the best bit?’
‘I think you’re going to tell me anyway.’
Hugh laughed. ‘Sorry, am I boring you? Graham’s a bad subject to get me going on. Anyway, he gets it into his head to pin everything on these two Polish girls in the next room, probably cos they’re easy targets. So we have this ridiculous showdown, with him going on at them, while all the time I know he did it. We nearly got chucked out of the hostel.’
‘Did you find the memory cards?’
‘No; Graham didn’t have them on him. But I know he nicked them, cos when we got home he entered my shots into a competition.’ He shook his head. ‘Won a thousand quid I could really have done with. It sucks.’
‘Didn’t you say anything?’
‘Got no proof, have I? We were both hanging out in Paris, taking photos of the same things. It’s my word against his.’
Hugh finished his cigarette. I wasn’t quite sure what to say. I wondered if these guys thought Claudia, Abby and me were ‘easy targets’ too. I shook my head when Hugh offered me his beer can.
‘No, thanks. I’m too cute to get drunk.’
He rolled his eyes. ‘You know what you are, Ros? Uppity. And, if I’m not mistaken, just the slightest bit bitter.’
I folded my hands behind my back, a little embarrassed. ‘I’m not uppity. I just like to know where I am and right now, I don’t.’
‘Nah, you’ve got issues. Parents smack you about or something?’
I wasn’t sure if he was teasing or not. ‘My mum walked out on us. Does that count?’
My pocket vibrated and I took my phone out. Jonathan had texted me: OK?
I quickly replied: think so.
‘Boyfriend?’ asked Hugh.
‘What makes you think that?’
He pointed to my cheeks. ‘Gone pink. I’m happy for you.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I was beginning to think you were a total killjoy.’ He winked. ‘Whether you’re afraid of being hurt, or protecting yourself, whatever, way too controlled isn’t healthy.’
Thinking of the lies I’d told Jonathan, I said, ‘If anything, I’m out of control. I’ve dug myself into a hole I can’t get out of.’
‘Long as it’s not a hole a coffin goes in, you’ll get