Street Life (Part 16)

This is the sixteenth part of a fiction serial, in 1260 words.

Candy smiled at Jack as she lifted the cappuccino. “I’ve been looking for you all day, you bugger. Just as well you spotted me, cos I would never have recognised you. I thought you were quite old, but you’re not at all. What’s with the clothes and smartening up then?” Jack put his cup down. Her accent had changed again. Pure London, and very natural too. He had been almost right. All those other ones were just for show, but he had never guessed London as her home town. “I decided to go home, Candy. Back to Bristol, give it another try. I’ve got enough to tide me over for a week or so, and might be able to get a job, live straight again. Can’t do another winter round here, can’t face it. Oh, and I am old, compared to you anyway. Thirty-two. Old enough. What were you looking for me for?”

She wiped the foam from her mouth with a paper napkin. “You don’t look thirty-two. Not anymore anyway. I was looking for you for the same reason. I decided to get off the gear and move away too. I can’t stay around all the old faces, or they will just drag me down”. I haven’t made my mind up what direction to head in yet, but wherever it is, it has to be a long way from here.” Jack watched her talk. She was calm, seemed older, and self-assured. Looked like she had made her mind up too, and wasn’t just spinning him a line. He was waiting for her to ask if he could give her some cash, but she didn’t say anything about money. He tried some more questions. “Where have you been anyway? I haven’t seen you since you went for those two coffees. And where did you get the money for that coat? Do you have enough train fare? How are you going to get by, wherever you end up? Candy drained the last of her coffee, and wiped her mouth again. “What’s with all the questions? I didn’t ask you where you got the money to clean yourself up, did I?” Jack blushed, and she reached over to touch his hand. “It’s alright, Jack. I went to see my family, and my Uncle Brian gave me some cash. Just about enough to get away, and buy this new coat. He’s solid, my uncle. The lie tripped easily off her tongue, and she watched as Jack relaxed.

“Another coffee, or a cake or something?” Jack offered. Candy shook her head, holding onto the bag on her lap. “Nah, better get going, if I am gonna be somewhere before dark. What station you going to, Jack? Or are you getting a coach?” Jack moved his empty cup in a circle around the saucer, as an idea formed in his mind. When he looked up, she was still smiling, and her eyes were sparkling in the late afternoon light. I’m getting the bus to Paddington, then take the five o’clock train to Bristol. Be there in under two hours, and it’s not dark ’til after eight”. He took a deep breath before continuing.
“Why don’t you come with me? I’ve got enough for your ticket. Better than heading off on your own”.

Tash was fed up waiting around. They had finished their coffees, and were still chatting away. Acting like friends, or relatives. Who was that guy? Why wasn’t Candy making her move on him? Maybe he had offered her an all-nighter, sweet talked her into stopping over at his place. Her legs ached, and she moved from one foot to the other, trying to decide whether or not to just go over and confront her friend. The woman inside the shop had walked by the window twice now, and was giving her funny looks. But she was worried about the bloke with Candy. He looked too clean cut, the sort who might make a fuss, or kick off if he didn’t like someone else pitching up. Instead, Tash moved back one shop, wondering who wasted their money on all the fancy teas and teapots displayed in the window.

Jack was amazed when Candy didn’t hesitate. “Yeah why not, you can look after me down in Bristol, I reckon. We might make a good team”. He wanted to jump up and hug her, but knew better than to go over the top. “Great, let’s go down to Trafalgar Square and get a number twenty-three then. I will get us Oyster Cards from the shop on the way. Shall I carry that bag for you, it looks heavy?” Candy shook her head. “It’s OK, it’s not heavy at all. Just some old clothes I picked up from home. I can manage”. As they headed off, Jack couldn’t get the smile to leave his face. Candy turned and grinned back. “What?”
He shook his head. “It’s nothing, I’m just happy. Makes a nice change”.

Tash turned, and jumped in surprise. They had gone, and she had been looking at bloody teapots. She ran over the road between a gap in the moving taxis, and craned her neck along the side of the street the coffee bar was on. They were up ahead, she spotted Candy’s hair. Hanging back a bit, she kept the spiky hair in sight. Two streets later, they both went into a newspaper shop around the corner from Trafalgar Square, and she waited across the road until they came out. They carried on walking, until they suddenly stopped at a crowded bus stop. Tash had no option but to wait until they got on a bus, and jump on at the last minute. She might get a chance to talk to her on the way, pretend to the bloke that she just had bumped into an old mate by chance. Maybe even grab that bag, and jump off before they could stop her. Fishing the stolen Oyster Card from her jeans pocket, she held it in her hand, and waited on the corner.

They didn’t have to wait too long for a bus. Candy jumped on first, beeped her travel card against the module, and walked upstairs. Jack followed, and saw that she had found a free seat where they could sit together. She shuffled across to the window, put the bag on her lap, and looked out. Tash waited until everyone else had boarded the bus, and ran in before the doors closed. She pressed the Oyster Card against the module, but it made a double beep. The driver turned to face her. “Sorry love, no credit left on the card. You will have to charge it up with some more money”. She couldn’t believe her luck. The Dutch bastard had used all the credit up. Thinking fast, she showed him the camera dangling around her neck. “Take this mate. Look the other way. I really need to get this bus”. He shook his head, eyeing up the smelly, dirty girl. “No can do. For all I know, you might have nicked it”. He pointed up at the CCTV camera. “Better get off, love, don’t make me radio for the cops”.

As the bus pulled away, Candy placed her hand over Jack’s, and put her head on his shoulder. Bristol might not be so bad. And she would let him buy the ticket.

No need to let on that she still had the best part of five grand. Not yet, anyway.

The End.

52 thoughts on “Street Life (Part 16)

  1. Great post πŸ™‚ Sorry, I have been busy these past few days πŸ™‚ I think your ending is beautiful for these two characters πŸ™‚ Anyway, thanks for dropping by πŸ™‚

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  2. This was a terrific ending, Pete. Nail biter all the way. I didn’t know what was going to happen. And I do like happy endings, so whew! Well done! Thank you for an excellent serial.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hooray! I’m so happy for the happy ending Pete! I was worried there for a bit. A really great story. I enjoyed it so much. I know that takes a lot out of you, but I’m up for the next one (story)…when you are. Thanks for sharing your creativity and writing skills.
    –Pam

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks, Pam. I am very pleased that you enjoyed the story, and the (unusually for me) happy ending too. There will be more fiction, when I have had a break from it for a while. However, I intend to publish the alternative endings to this story over the weekend.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Good one Pete. I have enjoyed this series, though not commented on every part. Read and absorbed. I was still a bit nervous when Tash tried to get on that bus. Good job she had nicked a spent Oyster card! I somehow feel that Candy will do her own thing once she reaches Bristol, but hopefully Jack will sort himself out. Living on the street can’t ever be easy, no matter what circumstances force you there.
    Now you deserve a break from writing!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have made the whole series into one complete story post, if anyone wants to read almost 19,000 words! I will also publish the two ‘alternative endings’ over the weekend. After that, a break from fiction, for a while. Thanks for sticking with it, Jude.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I liked how a change in perception closed the age gap between Jack and Candy.
    Candy: “I thought you were quite old, but you’re not at all.”
    Jack: She was calm, seemed older, and self-assured.

    Towards the end, I thought maybe Tash would steal the bag, which would make her a happy camper, and that Jack and Candy, robbed of nearly “five grand,” would live happily together (misery loves company) on the streets of Bristol.

    It would be interesting to publish the alternate endings in a separate blog post. You apparently were swayed to choose a happier ending than previously imagined. To be honest, I felt Jack and Candy deserved a happy ending, and really didn’t have any feelings invested in Tash.

    Speaking of feelings, I noticed that a number of readers did get emotionally involved in the charactersβ€”especially Candy. That is a sign of good story writing. What impressed me the most, however, was the masterful use of multiple and interconnecting story lines. And, of course, the details that spiced up the compelling plot.

    I do think you could write another serial in which Jack and Candy struggle to establish themselves in Bristol. On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with letting the reader imagine how things might turn out for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much for your thoughts and kind words, David. I will happily disclose the two ‘alternative endings’ on a post this weekend, in the style of those ‘extras’ found on some DVD films. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Oh, thank you for not ruining my morning with one of your bad endings. This one was just right. Maybe next year you could let us know how Candy and Jack are getting on in Bristol? I’ve really enjoyed this.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s interesting. She’s certainly the one I was rooting for and has the most personality. I liked Jack but he seems a wee bit insipid compared to Candy. I’ve also found myself wondering just why I’ve been rooting for a young woman who, when all is said and done, has shown herself to be a thief, a liar, a drug dealer… And yet, we like her and want her to get away with it. I fear she’ll get bored with Jack in time.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I only vaguely hinted at it, but Jack has some issues with PTSD, since leaving the Army. He latched on to Candy because of her apparent confidence and teenage good looks. Candy is, for me, the female version of those ‘bad boys who girls always seem to want’. Her bad side is overlooked in favour of her prettiness, and sassy style. πŸ™‚
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 2 people

  7. On edge till the very end, brilliant Pete, even with a happy ending πŸ™‚ You are the short story master!
    Roll on more good weather and the extension of the world cup to keep your creative juices flowing πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers, Eddy. I got the impression that most people wanted a happy ending. At the 11th hour, I decided not to use either of my decidedly ‘bad’ endings, and please the readers. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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