Not strictly speaking a ‘story,’ this is more a moment in time exercise for me. And who knows, maybe someday I’ll write something where I can use this. In any event, it makes me smile.
I rang Kara’s cell phone around 9:20 her time. I expected that she would be just getting off work at the little book store where she was employed part time in the evenings to help pay for college. Excuse me, for ‘university’ as they call it there, making more of a distinction between that and ‘college’ that most Americans would bother to do.
It was quite cold, and I tucked one hand under my armpit while I waited for her to answer. Finally, she did. “Robert,” I could hear the grin in her voice as her caller-ID gave her a hint about my identity, “How are you my darling?”
I joined her in a chuckle. My name isn’t Robert. “What are you wearing?” I retorted in as sleazy a voice as I could manage.
“Nothing at all,” she replied. Then, in a more distant voice as if she turned the phone away to speak to someone else present, she said, “Good night, Angus. I’ll see you tomorrow, yeah?” It wasn’t really a question, just one of those charming little habits Brits like her use. I imagine they do not feel the same way about ‘bro’ and ‘like’ and ‘yanno’ from us Yanks. Turning her attention back to me, she said “Hang on a smidge, I’m just locking up now.”
“Take your time,” I said, switching the phone to my other hand as I tried to keep at least the semblance of life in both extremities. I gave her a few moments to lock the door I remembered from my last trip over the Puddle to meet her: a big oak affair with window in the center and the name of the shop frosted into it at just below eye level for me. “What are you doing tonight?” I asked when I thought sufficient time had passed.
“What?” she said, then, “Oh. Not much. Home, homework, bed. The usual. Why?”
“I don’t know,” I tried not to smile too hard as I spoke, she might hear the amusement before I was ready. “I just had a strange thought. Say, do me a favor?”
“Look to your left.”
“Alright, I’m looking to my left. Why am I doing this?”
“Look up more. Down the street, about a block away.”
There was silence from her end for a moment. “There’s someone there,” she said finally, “waving at m….” she never finished the word. Instead, she began to run. The phone line cut off abruptly as she stuffed it back into the pocket of her great thick wool coat.
I also began to run. We met halfway, and she jumped at the last moment, slamming into me full length. Luckily I had predicted this based on previous, similar encounters, and I was braced for it. She wrapped her legs around my waist, her arms around my neck. It was a long time before either of us could speak again.
“You’re a liar,” I told her when we came up for air. I glanced down at her attire meaningfully.
She grinned, “And you’re a terrible, terrible tease. Why didn’t you tell me you were coming over?”
I laughed as I set her gently on her feet, and we began to stroll slowly back up the road towards the book shop. The closest way to her flat, at that time, was actually on the other side of the store. “I’m just in country for a little business,” I shrugged, “and wanted to surprise you.”
“Well, you did that!” She took my hand in hers as we walked. The scent of juniper was light and earthy in the cold, crisp air. Her strawberry curls glittered in the light of the streetlamps. “How long will you be here?” she asked with a soft, tremulous note in her voice.
“I’m not sure,” I told her honestly. “That depends on how the business I’m here for goes. If things go well, I may be here for as long as a week. If not, I may leave in a day or two.”
She squeezed my hand and we walked without speaking for a time, listening to the church bell peal the half-hour. “I hope you stay longer,” she said when the last note faded.
“So do I.”