The week seemed to go by in a blur for Kevin. He had a haircut after work on Tuesday, and on Thursday, the late shopping night, he went into town and bought some new clothes and shoes. Mum had cleaned every inch of the spare room, and opened some new bedding she said she had been saving for ‘guests’. She was worried about what to offer Alice for dinner. “She might be a vegetarian, Kevin. Even a vegan. You should ask her, you know. I want to be sure what to buy, when I go to the supermarket on Saturday morning”.
He had sent Alice more messages of course, but her replies had been short, and a little formal. He put that down to the fact that she might be nervous about Sunday, and decided to stop reading between the lines too much. When he got home from work on the Friday, he went straight up before dinner, to send her a message about what Mum had asked.
Dear little Alice, Mum is worried about what to give you for dinner, and wants to know if you are a vegetarian, or there is something particular that you don’t like. She is also worried that you might be allergic to something. Can you let me know tonight please, as she has to go to the shops in the morning. I would also like to ask if I can have your mobile number, just in case of any delays, or if some emergency crops up. I have already sent you my number of course, so you can ring me if you miss the coach, or don’t feel well enough to come. I’m so excited to see you, and I am so sure that I really do love you. Kevin. xx
Rather than set Mum off again, he went straight down to eat his dinner. When he got back up to the room, she had replied.
My dear Kevin,
I will eat whatever your Mum wants to prepare for dinner. I am not vegetarian, and have no allergies. I won’t be able to eat a very big portion of anything though, so please tell her not to go to too much trouble. I am sorry to tell you that I will not be giving you my mobile number, at least not until we have met. I have had problems after doing that in the past. Rest assured that I will contact you if anything should happen to stop me arriving on time.
With love from me, to you. Alice. xx
Kevin would have liked a better reply. He couldn’t understand why she was so short, and to the point. After all, it wasn’t as if she had anything else to do. He had suspected that she wouldn’t disclose her mobile number though. After what she had already said about past difficulties on dating sites, he thought she would be wary, at least until they met up.
Mum was like a woman possessed on Saturday morning. She made Dad cut the back lawn, and crawled around on her hands and knees cleaning every skirting board. When she was sure that you could happily eat off of any surface in the house, she got Dad to take her to the supermarket. As they were leaving, she threw a pile of clean bedding at him, with a stern instruction. “Get your bed changed, son. I know she probably won’t be going into your room, but I want everything perfect”. He smiled as Dad backed the car off the driveway. She seemed more stressed about Alice’s visit than he did.
After checking the arrival time of the second coach from London online, he set off for the walk to the bus station in town. He would be there stupidly early, but he was too tense to hang around the house any longer. It took him less than twenty minutes to get there, and he perched on the edge of a metal bench outside, so as not to crease up the new clothes. Checking his watch, he knew it was going to be a long wait.
Alice watched him arrive from her well-chosen vantage point. She smiled to herself that he was so early. But she had guessed that he would be.
Gloucester had been a lie, of course. She had never left this seaside town, never moved away almost two hundred miles. She would not need the bus ticket he had so carefully chosen for her, and there would be no delays because of traffic. Watching him shuffle his feet, careful not to scuff his obviously new shoes, she felt that familiar warm glow of satisfaction.
Let’s see how long this one waits, she thought.