There were 20 of them at the Little Chef for New Year’s lunch, strangers whose paths had somehow crossed at a wayside restaurant on the very first day of 2017. Outside, it poured. Inside, under the electric mist that hung from red lampshades, it was warm, the red tabletops smooth and shining, and the strangers, who had spread themselves across seven tables, singly and in groups, immersed in their own worlds but connected too by an accident of choice. Occasionally one would catch another’s eye, then look away quickly without a smile or nod, acknowledging, but without acknowledgement. A waitress named Tanya was at the tables. She leaned to serve the blonde mother and child in the corner, revealing a pair of bright green and yellow socks, with a dash of red as well, jovially at war with her black shoes, black trousers, black top. The mother and child sat on the same side of the table. The child was talking, animatedly, without pause. At the next table, a family of four buried themselves in the menu; at the next, a man and woman cut into their all-day breakfast grimly. They were a big couple, spilling out of their chairs, both dressed in dark blue trousers and dark blue jumpers. The man had ‘JPS Ltd Print Engineers’ written on one chest and a name written on the other. They ate silently. A woman walked in just then, elderly, a squiggly black headband pressing her yellow-white hair into her crown. She considered cod and chips but ordered chicken tikka masala and a pot of tea. When the waitress left, she pulled out a notebook from a black handbag. The pages were covered with writing in blue ink. What was she writing? What had brought her here, today? Perhaps she was driving home, after spending New Year’s with the grandchildren. Where was home to the mother and child? That dark man, the one in the red fleece and hiking boots, where was he headed on this miserable day? And the family of three generations at the far end, all there but the grandmother, what was their story? All had their own stories, reasons that had brought them here, for lunch, to this particular restaurant, but for now they were part of another story, one in which 21 strangers shared a meal, preferring to be strangers but still wondering and curious about one another, wondering and curious at the beginning of New Year.