"You realise you're our secret weapon."
Ailish raised her eyebrows at her new flatmates and took a sip of her wine.
"What sort of weapon? I'm a lover, not a fighter."
Jax leaned in closer, resting her elbows on the sticky surface of the deal pub table.
"A knowledge bomb," she whispered dramatically.
Ailish laughed. "I think you might be overestimating me." She looked around the busy pub for the barman, who was distributing pencils from a beer glass to go with the question papers.
"No way. I've watched University Challenge with you, remember. I can't believe how many of those questions you got right. You could be on that show."
"Except I'm not at university."
"Well, when you were at university then." Jax turned to the other two girls on the team. "Seriously, she knows everything. This quiz is in the bag, girls. What's the winner's pot tonight?"
"A hundred quid," said Karen.
Ailish took a pencil from the barman and twiddled it nervously between her fingers, hoping she wasn't about to disappoint her new flatmates. A new job, a new town, new people--she was keen to make a good impression with her colleagues at the advertising agency. Losing them a hundred pounds might not do the trick.
"So down to the Manhattan Lounge after this, then?" whooped Jax, in high spirits, then her face fell. "Shit. I thought he wasn't coming. Fuck it. We've got competition."
Ailish followed the line of Jax's eye, watching a tall, lean man in dark-rimmed spectacles pick up a pencil and a question paper from the bar before seating himself alone in a corner alcove.
"The Scientist," said Jax, all gloom and doom where sweetness and light had once sat.
"He wins this every week," Karen added.
"Wow." Ailish tried to get a closer look at her intellectual rival, but he had picked up the question paper and was holding it close to his face, as if it might give him a clue what he should write there, despite its revealing nothing more than some category headings and numbered lines. "Just on his own? He doesn't have a team?"
"Nope. Just him."