one "Table for McGregor?" "Let me see . . . Ah, yes, just for two?" Amy nodded and we were led through the restaurant to a table at the back, next to the toilets. "I thought I'd better book," she said as we sat down. "It can be tricky to get a seat in the smoking area at lunchtime." I glanced around as I shuffled my chair in and saw that, apart from a squashed little ghetto of smokers at the tables around us, the restaurant was entirely empty. The waitress gave us a couple of menus, an ashtray, and a free, complimentary smile, and then turned to leave. "Excuse me!" Amy called after her, arching back on her chair. "Could we have a bottle of red and a bottle of white, please?" She turned back towards me, questioningly. "Sorrydo you want anything?" "No, I'm fine." "Just the two bottles, then," she confirmed. "Certainly," replied the waitress, and headed towards the bar. Amy scrambled a cigarette out of its packet, chopped her lighter aflame with her thumb, and pinched her face up with the effort of a long, determined draw. With a slight pop, she pulled the cigarette from her mouth and let her hands fall down to the table, at which point she stopped completely. She sat there, eyes unfocused, without breathing or movingas though she'd simply switched offfor a tiny eternity. Even though I was used to her doing this, it still unnerved me and I was just about to reach over and investigatively poke her forehead with my finger when she finally relaxed and expelled the smoke with a noisy, swooping whoosh, like the valve on a pressure cooker releasing steam. "So," she said, "how are things?" Amy was my agent. "Oh . . . you know," I replied. Once Amy is your agent, there's no going back. I don't mean that in a bad way. I'm not suggesting that Amy's contract specifies 10 percent of earnings and your immortal soul, or that trying to untangle yourself from Amy would mean her pursuing you, shrieking, through the night. I mean, well . . . I don't have a dishwasher, but everyone I know who does says that you can happily go for most of your life without a dishwasher but, once you buy one, that's it; life without one becomes unimaginable. Amy is like a dishwasher. "I read the piece you did for Working Mother," she said. "The 'How to do your tax return' thing." "Yeah. I just paraphrased the Inland Revenue's booklet, really." "No, you're selling yourself short again. The way you were struggling to run a small, ethnic-rug shop while raising four children with eczema? I really felt for you. And your husband . . ." "Brian." "Aye, Brianwhat a dickhead. I'm telling you, when you were filling in the section on provisional figures, I was there with you." "Thanks." "And Hugh's really pleased with the way Only the Horizon is selling, by the way." This was the last book I'd ghosted. It was for a guy, Justin Lee-Harris, who'd sailed a small yacht between Ireland and New Zealand. I forget why. Lee-Harris was always doing this kind of thing. I'd only met him once because, by the time everything was agreed and I'd been brought in, he was just about to jump aboard another one-man yacht to do something admirable and vague in theMillington, Mil is the author of 'Certain Chemistry', published 2004 under ISBN 9780812966671 and ISBN 0812966678.