This is the ninth part of a fiction serial, in 712 words.
On the Thursday, I sent a polite text message, hoping the funeral had gone well. I had resolved to not ring her again until she rang me, and my mind was racing with all the possibilities of why she had not contacted me as she had promised. My first thought was that she had got back with her ex, drawn together by the family bereavement. And I had that other earlier phone call on my mind too. This was a new experience for me, a combination of concern and jealousy resulting in an emotion I had never had before.
By the time I got in from work, my ideas were getting more and more random. Perhaps she was connected with the Russian Mafia? You read about how they got people involved in trafficking for prostitution, even drug-smuggling. The Justina I had already become so close to didn’t seem to be the sort of woman who would do anything like that though.
But you never know.
When I got up on Friday, I was more upset than worried. How hard could it be to phone me? How long would it have taken to just say hello? If we were going to be together long-term, then surely we would have to discuss things like her family, and even the prospect of me travelling over to meet them. I walked into the office having resolved not to become some sort of doormat boyfriend, and phoned Luke during a coffee break to arrange a visit to his flat that night. He was pleased to hear from me, and talked about food deliveries, lots of beers, and a new computer game.
Luke had done so well at university, companies were contactng him based on his degree and the projects he had been involved in. He didn’t have to apply for a job, just choose from the ones on offer. During his time at Warwick, he had invented some innovative apps that could be used on mobile phones, as well as a PC. One time, he had even been featured on a BBC News report about the bright young things of British computer science. American companies had come calling after he graduated, but Luke was a home bird. He took a job with a new app developing outfit starting up in Shoreditch, and had a salary package as well as a share in the company.
Very soon, he was earning a mint, and had bought the small flat not far from where he worked. Like many of those techy nerds at the time, you would never have known from looking at him just how successful he was.
Unless you saw him driving around in his seventy-grand car.
After work, I jumped a cab to his place, and overcame my objection to the mess and smell to have a boys night in. We drank too much beer, played computer games I soon tired of, and stuffed our faces with pizza, garlic bread, and dough balls. He was still trying to finish a level when I passed out on the sofa.
My phone woke me up. I had turned off the answerphone function earlier that week, so it kept ringing until I answered it.
Justina sounded a little upset, speaking quickly. “Francis, I will be home tonight, landing at Stanstead. Can you pick me up?” I wanted to launch into a barrage of questions, and tell her off for not contacting me. Instead, I asked her to text me the flight number and arrival time. She could obviously sense I was deliberately being off with her. “I will tell you everything when we get home, darling. We will have a long talk tonight, I promise”. I stayed frosty, and just said I would meet her at the arrivals.
Not bothering to wake Luke, I just left, still in my crumpled suit, and yesterday’s shirt. I managed to flag down a cab in Shoreditch High Street at the junction with Bethnal Green Road, and had to get the driver to stop at a bank machine on the way to get the money out for the fare. After a shower and a change into something less formal, I checked my phone.
I had four hours to kill before her flight landed.