The thing about Karen--although no one called her that, it was always Kaz, unless she had behaved even more badly than usual, in which case the diminutive was extended to an incredulous 'Kazzer!'--The thing about Karen was her laugh. It characterised her completely.

It came from deep in her belly, a sexual laugh. It was a hard, cynical hyuck hyuck hyuck, a smoky, boozy laugh that belonged in a bar, a man's laugh. Imagine a guy making a too loud assessment of the breasts of a too young girl and the laugh that would accompany it.

Karen's laugh told you a lot: she would never buy a drink, she would always be late, and you could lose yourself in the curl of her finger.

She was a determined hedonist and told stories of excessive drug taking and the hapless antics of guys in thrall to her. These stories were edgier than she knew, reflecting a cold hard light on her, not the warm flattering light she imagined.

A typical tale concerned an African student, Friday, with whom Karen was sharing a flat. She had stashed her 'shrooms in the refrigerator, enough for several trips. Friday, thinking they were ordinary mushrooms, cooked them up in a stew. Later, found wandering with excruciating stomach cramps, and hallucinating, he was hospitalised with a supposed mental illness. Each time she told the story she was freshly surprised by the notion that she could have told the doctors what he had accidentally taken, rather than making a speedy exit. Skyward eyes told us that people who knew the score would not make such stupid suggestions.

There was another side to her, though, that most didn't see. It was in her laugh too; sometimes, fleetingly, she would close her eyes, and for that moment she seemed so achingly vulnerable, like a sleeping child.

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