It took Marina an hour to get through those first three days of her acquaintance with Luke, allowing for several offshoots. In truth, she was putting off coming to the end of the story. To its sorry, rootless end.

‘And so, we went to the desert,’ she said, feeling a great weight lift from her belly where the story had been sitting, undigested, for four days. ‘We left at seven, in a sort of bland early light, the sky empty, the seagulls coasting. There are no cars in the medina, so these lads wheel your luggage out to one of the babs – gates – in carts, and even though I only had a small bag, a guy duly came to take it and showed me the way. There was hardly anyone around and walking through those waking streets made me feel like a character at the end of a film, leaving town, whereas I wanted to feel like someone at the beginning of the film, setting off on an adventure. I wondered if I should back out, stay put, but when we got to Bab Marrakech, the jeep was there, and Luke appeared, and oh, Suze, it was … sort of devastating. Here was this divine-looking man, coming towards me with his overnight bags, and we were heading off to the Sahara together, and he threw me a smile, sort of intimate and close … That’s when all was revealed: why he was never available for dinner and always looking at his watch.’

Suzanne gaped. ‘Don’t tell me he was with another woman.’

‘He was with another woman.’

‘Shit! Not his wife?’


‘Please tell me it was his … niece?’

‘He’s an only child.’

‘Who, then?’

‘His mother. And that’s not all.’