Cas nestled into the collar of her new cream jacket. It had been a long day and, resting her head against the window of the bus, she was aware of her tiredness, but otherwise, life was good.
She’d done well to secure this job, so soon after leaving school. An up-and-coming film company based in the centre of London. Wildlife documentaries, of all things. Cas had never watched one in her life! But these people seemed to like her; she seemed to be getting on.
And Shaun. Her new boyfriend. Only a month, three dates, but this boy had potential. Nothing but a gentleman, so far, he had even taken it well last time out, when she had backed off. “It feels too soon”, she’d pleaded. “Is it okay if we wait just a short while longer?”
And he’d been reasonable. Not only that, but he had even been keen to make their next date, this coming Saturday.
In truth, she couldn’t wait. She’d wished she could have gone out tonight – he’d offered – but, with work tomorrow, she played safe. Best not to tempt fate with them after only two weeks in the job. She was still uncomfortable around strangers, but these people felt “nice”.
Cas sighed with satisfaction. Yes, in general, she was content with life, as the bus wound its way eastwards, away from the bustle of the city, back to her parents’ home in Ilford.
The journey was uneventful. Cas was half asleep anyway. But she stayed awake, in case she missed her stop.
And it was at the stop before her’s when she became fully alert. As the bus crossed the pedestrianised area in the town centre, to her right, she saw him. Shaun. Arm-in-arm with someone else.
In a split second, the image was gone. The bus was moving too quickly and the moment lasted… just a moment. Jolted awake, although she craned her neck to catch a further glimpse, there was nothing. Just the distinctive pattern of a lilac shirt disappearing around a corner.
That couldn’t be, could it? He’d told her that he was going out with his workmates tonight, so what was he doing with this woman?
During the evening, the questions built up. She even found herself taking his side. Her eyesight had never been perfect, after all. Mistaken identity? Perhaps, even if it was him, that was just his sister?
But all the same, it nagged at her. She was reticent. She didn’t message him, as she might have, otherwise, and by the time Saturday evening came round, she had resolved to know the truth.
Making her move, she slipped it into the conversation. “I think I saw you the other night.”
Without missing a beat, Shaun sipped his wine and responded, “Oh? Where was I?”
“Just outside the Post Office. Thursday evening, about seven?”
Another sip. Longer, this time.
“Not me, sis. I went up The Parade Thursday night, with Mickey and the crew from work.”
So that was it, then. She’d been mistaken. She let the matter drop and enjoyed Shaun’s sparkle for the rest of the evening.
That night, Shaun invited Cas back to his apartment. As she entered, he took her coat. Barry White, a Cotes du Rhone which went straight to her head… and the couple spent their first, delicious evening together.
After a long night, they slept late Sunday, and when they awoke, they made love once again. Cas could have spent all day in her new man’s arms, but her life once again came first. Smothering his firm chest with her long, dark hair, she whispered, “I have to go home.”
Immediately Shaun was alert from his drowse. “Huh?”
“I have work tomorrow. I have a pile of washing to do today. I need to go back.”
Try as he might, Shaun was unable to change her mind. With Cas dressed, he tried one last roll of the dice. “Here. Wait five minutes. Let me put some clothes on, and I’ll give you a lift.”
But the man looked so peaceful, lying there, and Cas simply replied, “It’s okay. It’s a nice day outside. I can walk. But tell me, what did you do with my coat last night?”
“Uh… on the landing, just outside my room. There’s a coatstand.”
She kissed him tenderly on the forehead. “Okay, I’ll see you next week, lover.”
As she picked her coat from the stand, Cas could not help but notice the wicker, Ali Baba laundry basket just beneath. And the lilac shirt at the top of the pile.