“YOU sure about this, love?” The woman behind the counter gave Paul a concerned maternal look that made him feel about twelve years old. “You a student, are you?”
“Not anymore.” Paul glanced down at his Green Day T-shirt and the jeans he’d been wearing for at least a week. He’d really have to smarten up if he was going to get a decent job.
“Well, if you’re sure.” Crimson-lacquered fingertips picked the crumpled notes from Paul’s hand. “So that’s fifty pounds at 20-1 that it’ll snow on Christmas Day. You know it has to snow in London, don’t you? They can have ten foot of the stuff in Scotland, it won’t count.”
“I know.” Paul took his receipt and put it into his wallet. As he made his way out of the betting shop, past the old men who seemed to spend their whole lives there, he wondered what the hell he’d just done. Fifty pounds was almost all the money he had, and he couldn’t remember the last white Christmas in London. For the hundredth time in the last three years, he asked himself why he’d listened to Steve Roedean.
He’d met Steve on his first day at uni. They lived on the same corridor and shared passions for loud music and late-night drinking, which weren’t appreciated by their neighbors. No one could make Paul laugh like Steve, and they got into more scrapes than was good for their academic careers. It amazed Paul he hadn’t fallen for his friend, but it was also a relief, as Steve was irretrievably straight.
Steve always had a girlfriend on the go, with his easy charm and striking green eyes, not to mention the fact he was never short of money. His family wasn’t rich and he didn’t have a part-time job. His relative wealth was entirely due to gambling. Horses, dogs, football scores, the names of celebrity babies—Steve made a small fortune and gave Paul some good tips, although he rarely dared risk more than a pound or two. So why had he bet his last fifty quid on such a far-fetched wager?
Steve had looked so sincere as they staggered home from their final night at the union bar. “Paul, mate, it’s the safest bet ever. I know for an absolute certainty that it’s going to snow on Christmas Day. You could put your last penny on it.”
And so he had. For old times’ sake. For friendship’s sake. But as he walked out into the July sunshine, he truly wished that he hadn’t.