A Good Runner: Part Nineteen

This is the nineteenth part of a fiction serial, in 749 words.

After two more nights in the hotel, Adrian was beside himself with boredom. He certainly didn’t want to travel alone to France, and the thought of going back to Kings Lynn and his parents was too dull to contemplate. But he knew he couldn’t just hang around wasting time in Dartford indefinitely. Angry at himself for being so weak as to let Sally use him like this, he advised the manager that he would be leaving the next morning, and paid his bill.

Back in the room as he was packing, the phone rang.

She was so casual, so innocent. He should have raged at her, but of course he didn’t.

“Hi, Adey. Hope you have enjoyed seeing Dartford. Pick me up early tomorrow and we can go to the travel agent and book the ferry for the following evening. We can get an overnight sailing, and arrive fresh”. He was confused. “But the ferry from Dover to Calais doesnt take that long, why do you say overnight?”. She answered in that way of hers, making him feel stupid. “We’re going to Normandy, so it makes sense to travel from Portsmouth to Cherbourg. That takes eight hours, but cuts down on hundreds of driving miles”.

Seeing her the next morning lifted his spirits. Her flowing dress and long wavy hair made her look so feminine, so desirable. The travel agent could get them on a car ferry the next night, but no cabins were available. they would have to do their best to sleep in the lounge, he told them. Before he could suggest an alternative route, Sally took over. “That’s okay, I can sleep anywhere. We will take it”. Turning to Adrian, she smiled. “I’ll wait in the car while you sort it out, can I have the keys?”

Although he had intended to pay, he thought she could have at least offered to contribute, so he could have gallantly turned down that offer.

Back at the house, she didn’t even invite him in. “You have your room until ten tomorrow? Okay, pick me up after that and we can have a slow drive to Portsmouth, stop somewhere for lunch on the way”. Not so much as a ‘thank you for paying’, or a kiss on the cheek.

When his car pulled up outside her house the next morning at ten-thirty, Sally must have been watching for it. She emerged from the front door carrying a huge rucksack, and Adrian opened the boot so she could dump it next to his suitcase. As they settled into the front of the car, Sally produced two ten pound notes. “My share of the petrol, that should cover us to Caen easily, and more besides”. For a second, he was going to refuse the money. But he thought twice, and slipped the notes into his blazer pocket.

Her choice of lunch stop was a cafe just outside the city of Portsmouth. It was a rough-looking place, the kind used by lorry drivers and men on motorbikes. As soon as they had sat down, Sally went over to the jukebox in the corner. She put the record ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’ on to play three times. Smiling at Adrian, she asked, “Don’t you just love this?” He nodded, not bothering to tell her that he hated it, and preferred Classical music.

Sally ordered steak pie with vegetables, and though Adrian couldn’t really find anything to his taste on the limited menu, he settled for egg and chips and a cup of tea. They sat in that awful place for ages, Sally playing rubbish on the jukebox, and ordering an ice cream sundae and numerous frothy coffees. When she had finally eaten her fill and run out of music to listen to, she smiled at him. “See you in the car, Adey. Can I have the keys?”

He went up to the counter, and paid the bill.

On board the boat that evening, Sally bought duty free cigarettes and a bottle of vodka, then suggested dinner in the buffet restaurant. “Can you lend me the money please, Adey? I only have a little cash, and didn’t have time to get French Francs or traveller’s cheques”. That time, she leaned forward and kissed him gently on the cheek. He felt a buzz from that, and paid up quite happily.

Sally slept soundly all night, her head in his lap.

But when they docked at seven the next morning, Adrian was exhausted.

First Line Fiction

I have just read Maggie’s great short story responding to a First Line challenge. Someone gives you the first line of a story, and you have to work from that.
https://fromcavewalls.wordpress.com/2021/07/30/first-line-friday/

That gave me an idea for this blog.

Send me a first line about anything, and I will try to write a short story of less than 1000 words based on it. You can add your line as a comment, or send it by email to petejohnson50@yahoo.com

Over to you.

Weekend Anticipation

Scrolling through Twitter, and reading some blog posts, I notice once again that build-up of excitement concerning Fridays, and the anticipation of the coming weekend.

People are posting about their plans to do something on those two days off, what they are going to eat, and looking forward to drinking some alcohol in many cases. There are mini-breaks planned, trips to major cities, shopping sprees, even doing nothing but staying in casual clothes and binge-watching Netflix.

My life in retirement takes no notice of weekends at all. They are just two more days of the week. Even the shops are open as normal, though only until 4pm on Sundays. I can do something different if I want to, but why would I? I am able to see things or to go to places during weekdays when everyone else is at work. Why go to the coast or tourist sites when everyone else is crowding there on their only two days off?

For me in Beetley, a Saturday and Sunday might just as well be a Tuesday and Wednesday. It has been that way since 2012.

Refreshingly liberating, I assure you.

A Good Runner: Part Eighteen

This is the eighteenth part of a fiction serial, in 757 words.

After arranging for his tea-chests of books and a few bulky possessions to be taken to his parents’ home by a local removal company, Adrian packed his clothes into a suitcase, and said goodbye to his rented room. Stopping at the bank, he drew out a large part of his savings, exchanging most of it for French Francs and traveller’s cheques. Then he headed east, to Sally’s parental home in Dartford, Kent. Just after three that afternoon, he eventually found the house on a sprawling council estate, where every house looked depressingly identical.

The man who opened the door was wearing a British Rail uniform. Adrian was polite and chirpy. “Mister Brooks? I have come to collect Sally. We are off to France, as I expect she has told you”. The reply left him confused. “France? I don’t know anything about France. Sally isn’t here. She left a few days ago. Some student friends of hers picked her up in one of those Volksagen camper van thingys. I would ask you in, but I have to go on shift soon, and my wife isn’t home from her job until seven”. Adrian was flummoxed, to say the least.

“Did she say when she might be back? We had plans to leave today or tomorrow for France. It was all arranged before she left Oxford”. The man shook his head. “Sorry, she doesn’t say much to me, tends to do her own thing. Why don’t you come back tomorrow and speak to my wife? She isn’t working then, and Sally usually tells her what she’s up to. You will have to find somewhere to stay I suppose? Try the Royal Victoria and Bull, in the High Street in town. They have rooms above the pub. I’m going to have to go to work now I’m afraid”.

Adrian mumbled his thanks, and walked back to the car in a daze.

It was easy enough to find the hotel, and they had a room available. It was one of the refurbished double rooms at a premium rate, but Adrian was in no mood to search the unfamiliar market town for a better deal. He sat on the bed wondering what to do, and becoming more annoyed that Sally could be so irresponsible and selfish. Imagine leaving like that, when she knew he was coming as arranged? He resolved to speak to her mother the next day, then went down to the bar for a beer and a meal.

After a below average breakfast the next morning, he arrived back at the house just after ten. Mrs Brooks answered the door, and he was immediately relieved to discover she knew who he was. Eyeing the plain-looking young man with his double-breasted blazer and neatly trimmed hair, Charlotte Brooks was wondering how her daughter had hooked up with someone so unlike all her other friends.

“Yes, Adrian. She told me you were giving her a lift to visit my relatives in Normandy. That’s very kind of you. Then she went off with some of her old friends who came to see her. I think they were going to see Stonehenge. I’m sure they will be back in a few days. Would you like a cup of tea?”

Her accent was very French, but after so long in England, her English was flawless. Over tea, she chatted in a friendly manner. “I met my husband during the war of course. He was part of the army that liberated Caen, where I lived with my parents in a village outside the city. I was a young impressionable girl then, and he was very handsome. He drove a tank, you know. Now he drives trains, and maybe he’s not so handsome any longer”.

Adrian had the uneasy feeling that the woman might be trying to seduce him. He had no experience with girls or women, not so much as a kiss, and he felt uncomfortable around this lady, who seemed to be much younger than her husband.

Standing up, he remained impeccably polite as he produced a piece of paper with a phone number written on it. “Thank you so much for the tea, and your kindness. This is the phone number of the hotel where I am staying. I am in room six, and would be grateful if you could ask Sally to call me when she gets home. I am keen to get started on our trip to France”.

She took the paper, and he couldn’t help thinking that her smile was a knowing smile.

A Good Runner: Part Seventeen

This is the seventeenth part of a fiction serial, in 718 words.

Adrian and Sally.

Trevor put the car up for sale that September, placing an advertisement in the Exchange and Mart weekly newpaper. He was aware that the car would be five years old the following year, and his taxi driving had greatly increased the mileage. However, it was in great condition, and new cars were getting more expensive to buy all the time. So he asked three hundred pounds for it.

Adrian Lexham had just finished his degree at one of Oxford Univerity’s minor colleges. It was a passable qualification in French, but he had no real desire to start adult life as a French teacher in a private school, something arranged by his father.

As luck would have it, his maternal grandmother had died in July, and left him two thousand pounds in her will. Against the advice of his concerned parents, Adrian decided he did not want to return to the family home in Norfolk. His plan was to buy a car and tour France in it. Perhaps getting down as far as Spain. So he stayed on in Oxford, and began to look for a car to buy before he had to give up his room at the end of the month.

One reason why he was so determined to spend his inheritance seeing Europe was Sally. She was the object of his desire, and had been since he started at university. But she was attractive, popular, and definitely out of his league. Sally Brooks was one of those young women who seemed to break all the rules and get away with it. From a working class background in Kent, she had got into Oxford to study French with a natural flair for the language, and a wide knowledge of the country.

Of course, the fact that her mother was French had helped a great deal.

When she had been chatting to a group of admirers in the local pub one evening, and telling everyone how much she would love to spend a year travelling in Europe, Adrian had heard himself saying, “Actually, I am taking a year out to drive around France, and I may even go down into Spain”. That was the first time such a trip had ever entered his head, but he wanted to impress the girl. She had put down her glass, and called his bluff. “Well if you want a travelling companion to help with the cost of petrol, look no further”.

Unwilling to back down now, Adrian stood up. “You’re on, Sally. My round I think”.

After seeing the advertisement for the Cortina and making an arrangement to view the car, Adrian asked his friend Sammi Singh to give him a lift to Witney. Sammi’s dad was filthy rich, and had bought his son an MG roadster to run around in while he was studying at Oxford.

Arranging to see the potential buyer at his house, not the taxi office, Trevor wasn’t about to mention that it had been used as a taxi, as that would put off too many prospective buyers. The well spoken young man who arrived that Saturday afternoon didn’t even look at the mileage counter on the dial. He just walked quickly around the car, asked to look in the boot, and then suggested a test drive with Trevor driving. After ten minutes driving around the town, Adrian was nodding. “Seems like a good runner. Three hundred you say? If I can use your phone to arrange the insurance, I will take it today”.

The phone call was obviously to the man’s father, asking him to add the Cortina to his policy, and insure the car for his son to drive. He heard some mention of Europe, and that the car had to be insured to drive over there. Then he hung up. Trevor was handed three hundred in ten pound notes. Keen to hand over all the paperwork with the keys, Trevor started to tell him about the service history, the spare wheel and tools and such. But the excitable young man waved away the carefully-prepared folder. “Just the MOT certificate please, and the logbook. I’m not concerned about all the rest”.

Thirty minutes after he had arrived, Adrian was driving off in the car. He didn’t even notice Trevor waving goodbye.

A Good Runner: Part Sixteen

This is the sixteenth part of a fiction serial, in 790 words.

Stella and Trevor continued to live separately while his divorce was going through. Shirley did not contest the divorce on the grounds of her desertion, and asked for no money or possessions. That smoothed the process. When the papers arrived just before Christmas of sixty-six, they planned a small wedding for May the following year. Just the registry office in town, nothing too grand.

Stella’s mum Norma was completely supportive, and had urged her daughter to get serious with Trevor as soon as she met him. “Don’t let this one slip through your fingers, he’s genuine, mark my words”.

That April, Britain won the Eurovision Song Contest, represented by Sandie Shaw. Amy asked for the record, ‘Puppet On A String’, and played it so many times Stella got it stuck in her head.

The wedding was a small but happy occasion. Ken and his wife served as witnesses, Amy carried flowers as a bridesmaid, and Norma cried. Even Trevor’s gran and aunt Marion made the journey from Cirencester. After the short ceremony, they all had lunch in a nearby pub.

Although he had often stayed over, returning to the house as Stella’s husband made Trevor feel very proud. Ken had managed to let the flat above the shop to Viktor, one of the drivers who was originally from Poland, and Trevor had said he could keep his stuff so it could be rented as furnished. Stella still walked Amy to school before work, as he was usually out on his first taxi runs well before seven. Now he had a family to care for, Trevor took Ken’s advice and employed a local accountant to sort out his tax affairs, then not long after the wedding, they discussed whether or not he should adopt Amy.

When they asked the girl, she beamed a huge smile. “Yes please! I want a daddy!”

That first summer seemed idyllic. Trevor made sure to never work on a Sunday, and they took trips all over in his green Cortina. Picnics, days at the seaside, and even an outing to Bristol Zoo.

On the Monday following that tiring day, Trevor turned up at work to find Ken’s wife Peggy sitting at the desk at the back. She had been crying, and looked like she was about to start again. “Oh, Trevor. Ken’s gone. He had a funny turn at home early yesterday morning, and I had to call an ambulance. They took him to Oxford to the big hospital, but he didn’t make it. They think it was a brain haemmhorage, but there has to be a post mortem. I didn’t know what to do, I thought I had better come in and tell you all”.

He went to make her a cup of tea, and when he got back, he was calm and reassuring. “Peggy, Stella will be in soon. You can leave it to us to run the place until you sort things out. I will get Viktor to run you home in a minute, you should be with your family. Don’t worry about the business, you can count on me and Stella. She put the tea down and started crying again, so he walked up to the flat to ask Viktor to come down and take her home.

They went to the funeral, leaving just a few drivers to cover the regular runs. At Ken’s house following the service, Peggy pulled them both to one side. “I don’t know anything about Ken’s business, but I know he always spoke well of you, and relied heavily on Stella too. How about you buy the business off me? We can make an arrangement with the solicitor, and you can pay so much a month. It will give me some extra money, and take the worry off me too. I will throw in Ken’s new car. I can’t drive, and he would have been happy for you to have it”.

Stella turned and looked at him, an almost imperceptible nod passed between them. Trevor kissed Peggy on the cheek. “Consider it sold”.

Just a few weeks before his death, Ken had treated himself to a burgundy-coloured Jaguar 3.4, saying as he would never use it as a taxi, it didn’t matter that it was a luxury car. Now Trevor had the keys and paperwork, which he sent off to register himself as the new owner. Taking over the taxi office meant that he would almost never be driving, though the Jag would do nicely for any upmarket jobs that came in. Stella was pleased that he would be selling the Cortina now.

“I never said anything before, Trev, but green cars are supposed to be unlucky. He shook his head.

“Well, it wasn’t unlucky for me, love.”

A Good Runner: Part Fifteen

This is the fifteenth part of a fiction serial, in 717 words.

As he had never been to anyone’s house for dinner, Trevor settled for overkill. He bought a bottle of Liebfraumilch, even though he couldn’t stand the stuff. Then a large bunch of roses, believing you should always take flowers to the house of a lady. As if that wasn’t enough, he added a jumbo sized box of Milk Tray chocolates, and two bags of Jelly Babies for young Amy. The modern two-bedroom house was neat and impressive, as well as being in a nice part of town. He wondered how Stella could afford it, but knew better than to ask her.

Stella seemed to be impressed with what he turned up with, even though she didn’t miss the chance to pretend to be exasperated with him. “Oh Trev, this is too much, it’s just a normal dinner at home”. Little Amy was shy at first, but soon warmed to the good-looking, polite young man who asked her lots of questions about school, pop music, and things she liked to do. The meal of pork chops and vegetables was nothing special, but he enjoyed it just the same. After dinner, Amy went up to bed, and when Stella came down she made coffee. She hadn’t bothered to open the wine when Trevor had said he didn’t want any. “I’ll save it for another time, if that’s okay, Trev”.

By ten o’clock he was feeling awkward, and checked his watch more times than he should have. He had never been much of a ladies man, and Shirley had made all the running when he first met her at the roadside cafe. Unsure how to behave, he eventually stood up. “Thanks for a lovely meal, Stella. It was so nice to meet Amy too, she’s a lovely girl”. Stella grinned. “Sit down, Trev. You don’t have to go yet, and I have some things to say to you”.

He did as she said.

“Trev, I really like you, but we will have to take things slowly because of Amy. I don’t want her getting attached to you if you are only looking for a fling. I’m sure you are wondering about the house, so I will tell you. We bought it when we got married, and when Danny was killed in the accident, the insurance paid off the mortgage and left me with a bit over for later. I’m not looking to get married again, not yet anyay, but I also don’t want to get involved in any pointless relationships or one-night stands. Is that alright with you?”

Trevor told her about Shirley running off with a salesman, and he was honest about his lack of experience with women. Stella patted the sofa she was sitting on. “Why don’t you come over here and kiss me, Trev? Just kissing though, no more. Not yet”.

Driving home just before eleven, Trevor was grinning from ear to ear. Stella was perfect for him, he could feel it in his bones.

Real dates followed, with Stella paying for a babysitter so that they could go to the cinema, or for a nice meal out in Oxford. Sometimes, they settled for a drink in a pub in Witney, followed by fish and chips eaten in the car. Neither had spoken about love, and their romance had never gone past kissing. Then one Saturday night as Trevor stopped the car outside her house, Stella turned to him. “Would you like to stay over tonight, Trev?” He felt awkward, but nodded. “What about Amy though?” Stella grinned. “You idiot, don’t you know Amy loves you? Not as much as I love you of course, but enough”.

He kissed her there and then in the car. With the most passion he had ever put into a kiss.

That Sunday morning, Amy was awake early. She ran into her mum’s bedroom and leapt onto the bed. Trevor woke up wondering what she would make of him being there, but she acted as if everything was completly normal. As Stella woke up and smiled at her daughter, Amy had a question. “Is Trevor my daddy now?” Stella didn’t answer, instead she turned to hear what he would say. Lifting the girl up above his head, Trevor laughed as he spoke.

“Not yet, Amy. But soon, I promise you”.

Egypt,1989: Part Three

Back at the Hilton, we had time to reflect on how much we had enjoyed the cruise. It had seemed too short, and yet it had genuinely been relaxing and enjoyable; so perhaps after all it was just enough.

The next day, we had arranged to make the trip to see the Colossi of Memnon, opposite Luxor. This giant pair of statues is all that remains of the once-grand temple of Amenhotep III, and they are both representations of him, dating from around 1400 BC. They are quite damaged, and the features are worn away. Despite this, they are very impressive, towering sixty feet above the ground, the only things visible for any distance around them. The large bases have carvings in the stone, and one of the statues is known to have been rebuilt during Roman times, after being damaged by constant floods.

It seemed to me that they must have been something very special at the time they were erected, as they still had tremendous power as I gazed at them that morning. That afternoon, we returned to the centre of Luxor for a better look around. It was as dusty and dirty as we remembered though, so we didn’t stay there very long. Besides, we had our trip to Abu Simbel to anticipate.

A taxi collected us the following morning, for the trip to the airport. We had paid extra to fly to Abu Simbel, to avoid the long drive in the heat, and to allow more time at the site. There was little or no procedure at the airport, as it was an internal flight. We just walked across the tarmac to the aircraft, and were met by a pleasant young man, who introduced himself as our guide for the day. There were no flight attendants, no safety briefings, and the pilot and co-pilot sat in a cockpit with no door.

The plane was a relatively modern jet, and there was only a handful of other passengers. After take-off we flew surprisingly low, and soon came in to land. The guide informed us that we were not there yet, just collecting more tourists from other airfields around the area. This happened twice more, before the half-full aircraft gained height, and headed for Abu Simbel, to the south-west.

On the way, we flew over the Aswan Dam, and Lake Nasser. This was purely for touristic enjoyment, and the guide told us when these spectacles would appear, and on which side of the aircraft we should look, to get the best view. As we approached our destination, we moved around to get the first view of the monument, and even from that height, it was duly impressive. A coach awaited our arrival at the airport, and took us the short distance to the site. We were then informed that we would have two hours to explore, before the flight back.

The present site of the statues of Ramesses II is a huge artificial mound, containing a cave-like exhibition within. The statues were moved here to avoid being lost to the floods, after the creation of the dam. Between 1964 and 1968, the blocks were all cut, and individually numbered. They were then moved over 200 metres away from the water, and elevated to almost 70 metres. This is acknowledged as one of the greatest modern feats of engineering. It is hard to comprehend the scale of these huge structures. The four statues of Ramesses II at the entrance are so large, that just one of the toes is bigger than my head. As well as this, there is the Small Temple (not that small…) with six narrower sculptures around the door.

Inside, the wonder continues, with carved columns, and the UNESCO-funded exhibition, showing how the massive feat of engineering to save the site was carried out. Two hours was not really enough to appreciate everything on offer, but it was very busy, with more tourists than we had seen anywhere else previously. I took lots of photos, but made the mistake of over-compensating with the polarising filter, due to the strong sunlight. I was still using film then, and when I got the results back eventually, I was devastated to see that I had almost turned the skies black.

Nonetheless, it was a completely overwhelming experience, and well-worth the additional expense of the flights, (paid in advance in England) which added around £100 to the overall cost of the holiday. We flew back to Luxor and returned to the Hilton, with only one more day left. That evening, we dined well, eating all the most expensive items on the menu, before retiring to the gardens outside, to relax in the cool of the night air.

The following morning over breakfast, we considered the options for our last day. We decided to get a horse-taxi into Luxor, and to visit the temple on our own, taking more time, and unencumbered by even our small tour party. The feeling of having to return to England in December, cold and wet, industrial action overshadowing my job, and Christmas a few days away, was hard to shake off.

We haggled over a few trinkets, bought the last souvenirs, and enjoyed our wander around the impressive monuments for the final time. We returned to the hotel to start packing, leaving out only what we would need for the evening, and the trip home. We did not get away unscathed though. My wife had a bad stomach upset during the night, which resisted all medications, and continued into the following morning.

Hanging around at the airport didn’t help, and the public conveniences left a lot to be desired, as toilet paper had to be purchased from an attendant. Once on the flight home, my wife was further embarrassed by being allotted her own personal toilet, in case she had anything contagious! Even on our return to England, this condition persisted long enough for her to have to see her doctor.

I had to go back to picket duty on a strike, with an unseasonal tan.

But I would go again, do it all again, because it was truly memorable. In less than two weeks, we had stepped back over three thousand years in history, and experienced somewhere totally different to anywhere that either of us had ever been. Despite the political changes in the region, and the fact that the cruises are now more popular than ever, I would urge anyone to visit this fascinating country.

A Good Runner: Part Fourteen

This is the fourteenth part of a fiction serial, in 739 words.

Within six weeks, Trevor had become relaxed and experienced as a taxi driver. Some customers had begun to ask for him by name, and Ken was very pleased indeed. One evening, he called Trevor into his tiny office near the back door. “I have heard you mention that you want to move out of your gran’s. There is a small flat upstairs you know, and I own it with the building. If you want, I will rent it to you at a fair price. You will get to park your car in the yard at the back, and have your own entrance using the metal staircase. Want to come up and have a look at it?”

He had never been further up the stairs than the toilet on the half-landing, and Trevor was surprised to find a door on the left, which Ken opened with a key. “There is a double bed they left here, but no other furniture. The bedroom is separate, and you have your own bathroom at the back”. Trevor was surprised how spacious the main room was, with two large windows overlooking the street, and a small kitchenette along one side. The bathroom had an Ascot to heat the water, and there was a thre-bar electric fire in the fireplace of the main room. Ken was realistic. “It needs a touch of paint or new wallpaper, but the lino is in good nick, and you can get some rugs or whatever. What do you reckon, Trev?”

There was no hesitation. “I’ll take it”.

Back downstairs, he couldn’t wait to tell Stella. He had developed a real crush on her, and had become convinced that she felt the same way. “So now you’re living above the shop. Don’t forget it is open for most of the night with drivers coming and going and the phone ringing. You won’t get much peace”. There were only three drivers who worked the night shift, and there was little demand for taxis that late, except at weekends when some part-time drivers made up the numbers. Trevor laughed. “Then I will have to work at night too, earn even more money!”

Then he had to go home and tell his gran.

Her reaction surprised him. “About time you got your own place. You can take what you need from here, as I will be telling the Council I am giving up this house. I will go and live with your Aunt Marion in Cirencester. Since she lost her husband she’s been rattling around in that big house. I only stayed on here because of you and Shirley, and when she scarpered I thought you would find your own place”. Trevor nodded, relieved that she wasn’t annoyed, and happy to solve his furniture issues. His old boss at the roofing company would surely let him have use of a lorry and driver one weekend, and he could give the man a few quid for helping him carry up some things.

His first night in his own flat felt strange. He bought fish and chips in town as he hadn’t connected the gas cooker, and then all the lights went out when he forgot to put any shillings in the electric meter. He didn’t mind though. It was a fresh start.

Two weeks later, he summoned up the nerve to ask Stella out. “You were right about the phones, Stella. I do hear them ringing, especially at weekends. By the way, would you like to go out with me one night, to the pictures, or into Oxford maybe?” He knew it was clumsy, but she was smiling. “Trev, I have a seven year old daughter, I thought someone might have told you that by now. And I’m thirty, a fair bit older than you. My mum looks after Amy when she finishes school, and in the holidays, so I don’t like to leave her in the evenings”. He knew his face was registering disappointment. “Sorry, I didn’t realise you were married. You don’t wear a wedding ring. Sorry for asking”.

Stella shook her head. “I’m a widow. My husband was killed in a road accident on his way to work on a motorbike when I was six months pregnant. Amy never knew him. So I don’t go out in the evenings”. Trevor nodded, and turned to leave. Then she spoke again.

“But you could come and have dinner with us one night”.