***This is the concluding part to a serialised story. If you have not read the previous episodes, please do so first, or it will make no sense.***
This is a fictional short story of 1200 words.
Gary waited until the tea break to check his phone. After almost being late, he didn’t want to be seen looking at it at his desk. Sure enough, there was a message from Andrea.
Morning gary i hope you u had a good night i woz so excited i could hardly sleep
just today 2 go then we r out on friday i really cant w8 i hope im busy today so it goes by fast and friday comes sooner love andrea xxxxxxxxxxxx
He replied in his usual polite but restrained fashion.
Me too Andrea. Love Gary. xxx
Gary looked again at the new photos Andrea had sent him. He didn’t mind her short hair at all. There was a time when he thought girls with shorter hair were more attractive anyway. And what if she looked at least the same age as him? That was better than her looking too young, wasn’t it? He switched off his phone and dumped his half-drunk plastic cup of tea into the bin. Old man Wilcox was on his case this morning, and arriving back early from tea break would look good.
Not for the first time, Andrea was wishing she had someone to talk to about Gary. In most offices, girls would chatter on about boyfriends and dates, she was sure. But she was the youngest in her department, and the two other ladies were a little distant. Edna was really old, so old she was a widow. And Dorothy only ever talked about her son, who was a successful lawyer. Neither of them ever asked Andrea what she did with her spare time, or even if she had a boyfriend. She was annoyed with herself for forgetting to bring the tote bag with her high heels in it. She would have to try on the new dress wearing the flats she had on for work. Never mind, she would go on tiptoe, and simulate the effect.
When Mr Wilcox left early that afternoon, Gary was smiling. That meant that they would all get off on time, and he could get across to the new shopping centre, and buy that shirt. When he had checked his phone at lunchtime, there was no message from Andrea. He was a little put out by that. Funny how soon you get used to getting regular messages, even though they seem a pain at first. He smiled to himself, wondering how he could miss someone he had never met, or spoken to.
Andrea picked up the dress in her size. She took all three colour options into the changing room, just to be sure. The dark red had been the first one she had spotted, but finding the same style in midnight blue and sea green had made her doubt herself. She would try them all, and then she would be left in no doubt. As none of them would look right with the grey tights she was wearing with her business skirt, she stripped down to bra and pants, going with the red dress first. The changing cubicle was quite large, and the mirrors on each side allowed her to see the full effect. A few inches above the knee, and just low enough at the front to be suggestive, but not revealing. Quarter sleeves suited the design, and it fitted well, without being too clingy. But after trying on the other two, she was torn. The midnight blue really looked the part, much dressier. She decided on that one, and changed back into her work clothes before heading over to the cash desk.
Gary found the shirt, and quickly flicked through the rail, in case there was one he liked better. But he knew his mind well enough, and stuck with his first choice. After paying for it, and being handed back the shirt in a bag, he realised he had plenty of time. He would go down to the food court to get something to eat. As he approached the escalator, his phone went off in his pocket, and he stopped to look at the message.
O gary i just got the best dress for tomorrow its a gr8 colour and i think u r gonna luv it just 1 more sleep and 1 day at work then we will b meeting up at the chinese i cant w8 love andrea xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Gary smiled, stupidly content that she had sent a message after all. He slipped the phone back into his pocket and walked onto the escalator, failing to notice that he had walked straight in front of a lady who was just going around him. She tripped over his leg as he stepped out, tumbling straight down the moving stairway, head first. Her handbag and shopping bag went flying as she fell, and she continued almost to the bottom, until her fall was blocked by the body of a big woman lower down. Gary ran down the left side of the stairs, and before he could get to the lady, a crowd had started to gather around her, with some shop staff talking urgently into hand-held radios.
Andrea felt rather silly. She was lying on her back with her legs sprawled wide open and her skirt around her hips, displaying the comfort gusset of her tights to everyone around. Her elbow hurt, and as she tried to get up, a woman in the shop uniform told her to lie still. “Help’s on the way” she shouted, as if Andrea was deaf. Someone had pushed the emergency stop button on the escalator, so at least that had stopped moving under her leg. A serious young man pushed through the people around her. He was carrying a first-aid bag, and had a radio clipped to a tab on his shirt. “Lie still madam, that’s a nasty cut on your face. I’m just going to put a dressing on it. An ambulance is on the way”.
Andrea nodded, wincing as he pushed a bandage of some sort onto her chin. Looking over his shoulder, she could see a man a few steps further up. He looked strangely familiar, but she couldn’t immediately place him.
Gary couldn’t get down to the lady he had inadvertently tripped up. Shop staff and first aid people were around her, but she looked up and caught his gaze. Her hair was very short, and the long lines either side of her nose ran down to the edges of her top lip. Before he could stop himself, he blurted out a name. “Andrea?” The serious first aid man looked up. “Do you know her? Are you together?”
Andrea answered. “Yes we’re together. His name is Gary, and he’s my boyfriend”.
Years later, they would still laugh about spending their first date in the emergency department of the local hospital. They never did get to that Chinese restaurant. And Andrea never mentioned his height, not once. Just as he never mentioned the huge scar that ran right around her chin.