Chapter 1 : I
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I was late. No, I was beyond late. My bloody alarm decided to die on me, on all days, causing me to run two hours behind. My co-workers always told me to invest in better clocks. Maybe, for once, they were onto something.
Clutching my briefcase even tighter, I tore across the street and into the small café on the corner. The place was completely full, I could hardly move without touching someone else. Well, it was a Saturday; I should have anticipated the crowd. But out of all the places, the meeting had to take place in the most crowded one? If our building didn’t build bigger rooms within the next few months, then I was surely going to find myself a better place to work at.
“Pardon me,” I said, squeezing my way pass the long line and ignoring the irritated complaints.
Damn, did I hate crowds. They always made me feel shorter than what I was.
“Pardon me,” I repeated as the people seemed to grow more stubborn.
I spun to my left, bumping various people in the process, to see a young, lanky worker waiting for me. “Yes?”
The young worker handed over a small note and a fresh cup of coffee. “I was asked to give this to you. The man left before the place got too crowded. He seemed a bit upset.”
I sighed, taking the note. “Thanks, Jacob. Oh, and stop calling me ‘Miss Gordon.’ You’ve known me for five years. I think we’re past the formalities.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Well, the drink’s on me.”
He gave a sheepish smile before scurrying off to assist with the customers. I struggled to make my way back out of the café while attempting to read the note my client left for me. Once outside, I was able to focus more on it. My client was more than upset, if his sloppy writing were any indication, he came close to having a heart attack on the paper.
Another body collided with my own, jolting me out of my thoughts. My briefcase fell to the ground, spilling out some papers, while my cup poured the remains of its hot contents on my blouse.
“Shoot,” I cried out as the liquid burned through my blouse.
I couldn’t fret long on it; my papers had begun to blow away in the wind. As I bent down to collect them, I spotted much larger and rougher hands beating me to the punch.
“I’m so sorry, miss,” someone said.
I shook my head, snatching up the remaining papers. “Don’t be.”
“No really, I’m sorry. I wasn’t paying attention. Let me help you.”
A hand swiftly grabbed my case before I could. I finally looked up to see a young, flustered man gathering my things and shoving them inside the briefcase. His clothes were loose and torn, making him appear around my age if not older. However, I stared harder at his face. Despite the fresh scars, the boy looked to be right out of school.
“Thank you,” I told him as we both stood.
“I’m sorry,” he said again. “I didn’t mean to ruin your blouse.”
I could only shrug at the innocent look on his face, while my insides screamed at me to rip his head off.
“Yeah, well, I didn’t like this blouse that much. Besides, I should have been looking as well. Did you recently get into an accident?”
The man dug his hands down into his pockets, fidgeting a bit. “Y-yes, I did. I have a cat and I sort have angered him.”
“You didn’t feed him or something?”
“Yeah, it tends to slip my mind. Can I do anything to pay you back?”
I went along with the topic change, noting his discomfort. “You could buy me another cup of coffee.”
“All right.” The sudden way he agreed surprised me. “I know a good place just down the street that isn’t as crowded.”
I hid a grimace but followed along with him anyway. I knew the place he was thinking of. It wasn’t exactly the ideal place to get anything at, my colleagues laugh at the sight of it. But, the boy was willing to pay me back. I had to at least allow him to pick the spot.
“What’s your name?” I asked during the walk.
“Oh, um, Remus.”
“Remus? Interesting name. Do you live around here?”
He shook his head, digging his hands further into his pockets. “No. I’m just wandering.”
We walked on in silence. I was so used to loud chatter; the silence was a tad unnerving. I felt like forgetting about the coffee and just heading back to the office. I even opened my mouth to speak up, but noticed too late that we were already at the small café. It was far less congested than the other place though.
“What did you have?” Remus asked.
“Just a black coffee.” As he dug inside his pocket, I spotted the thick scar going down the back of his neck. Something had happened to that kid. Something more than what he said.
Remus soon handed me a small coffee. “I apologize again.”
“Oh, it’s just fine. Why don’t you get yourself something as well?” I asked and mentally scolded myself. I hardly knew that kid, yet I was willing for him to stick around? My mind had to be fried from the past rough week. Yes, that was it.
He fidgeted a bit, scratching at the back of his head. “Well….”
“Do you have somewhere to be?”
“Then there’s no harm in keeping me company, is there?”
He ended up ordering a small drink for himself and we both sat down at a table outside. We were both quiet for the first couple of sips. There came that regret again. The kid seemed…odd. Too odd, but yet interesting. I hadn’t met many people like that before.
“What’s with the briefcase?” Remus asked, breaking the ice.
“Oh, it’s just carrying some papers for my clients.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m a solicitor; a defense lawyer to be more exact.”
Remus smiled. He must have sensed the tiredness in my voice. The real smile actually made him look more attractive.
“You don’t seem too happy about it,” he said.
“Well, it’s not the most fun job.”
“Why are you doing it then?”
I sat my cup down and fiddled with my stained blouse. “I just…. When I start something, I have to finish it.”
“Hmm, same here.”
“So, what do you do? Are you in university?”
He cleared his throat. “No, not exactly. I left school about two months ago.”
He grew even more nervous then as if I were questioning him about a crime he committed. “N-no. I’m still looking. It’s a bit hard for me to find one though.”
“People aren’t too keen with me.”
“Well, those people can bugger off. I don’t see anything wrong with you.” Actually, I did. Who wouldn’t think something was wrong with such a young kid who looked like he recently lost a fight with an animal.
But, my short compliment brought out that smile again. “Thank you. I don’t think you’d be saying that if you really knew me. Even my friends think I’m a bit barmy.”
“I’ll have to keep an eye on you then.”
“That you will.”
We spent the next ten minutes in small conversation. We didn’t dwell far into our personal lives. He was as reserved, if not more, than I was. But a part of me was able to relax. There was something fresh about him. It was a much needed change from all of the stuffy people I had to deal with on a day-to-day basis. I could get use to someone like him.
“Why don’t you start up your own office?” Remus asked as I finished explaining to him my ill feelings toward my work. “I mean, you’re good, right?”
“I like to think that I am. I haven’t lost a case yet.”
He sat back in his chair, tossing his hands up in the air. “Well, there you go. You’re a good lawyer. Go on and start an independent thing.”
“Yeah, I’ll try and see how that goes once I have enough money to do it.”
“Right. You have to spend money to make money.”
“I can toast to that.” We both gently touched our cups together and laughed. Checking my watch, I noticed I was going to miss my boss if I didn’t hurry back to the office.
“I should go,” I said. “Thanks again for the coffee.”
He stood in union with me. “You’re welcome. Thank you for the company. It was nice.”
“No problem. Maybe we can run into each other again.”
He gave me a quiet laugh. “Hopefully you won’t be carrying anything hot.”
I glanced back down at the brown stain and sighed. “Yes, hopefully. See you around.”
“See you.” I started heading back on the street, but heard him call out to me. “Wait, I didn’t get your name.”
He repeated my name quietly to himself before walking in the opposite direction. I couldn’t help but watch him as he left. I liked the kid. He was…different; a nice different.
“Are you going to see him again?”
I continued chopping away at the carrots on my counter, not bothering to look down at my neighbor’s son, Alan.
“Why would I see him again?”
“‘Cause you had fun.” Alan hopped on the bare end of the counter and started kicking his feet. “You haven’t met someone since Daniel. You need to go out with someone new. It’ll be better for your social life.”
I laughed, tossing a piece of food at him. “A twelve-year-old is trying to give me relationship advice? What has the world come to?”
“Hey, I know a thing or two about dating.”
“Really? I would love to hear all about it over dinner, but you have to get your bum off of my cooking area.”
Alan stole himself a piece of food before jumping down and running out of the kitchen, his dark red hair blowing after him.
“What’s this I hear about you meeting someone today?” I stole a look over my shoulder to see his mother Miriam standing in the doorway.
“It was just some kid that I ran into. He bought me a coffee and we talked for a bit. That’s all.”
“Is he cute?” she asked, coming over to me.
“He looks ten years younger than me. He’s just out of school.”
Miriam swatted me on the arm. “You’re twenty-eight years old and blessed with the body of an eighteen-year-old. What more could you possibly want? I wish I had teenaged blokes looking at me.”
“Then go to a pub and pick one up.”
“Come on, Carson. You need to start dating again. It’s been six years since Daniel. It’s time to move on.” When I didn’t respond, Miriam took the knife from me and forced me back. “What’s his name?”
“What do you like about him?”
“He’s quiet, seems smart, though a bit reserved--,”
“He’s you?” I gave her a look and she laughed. “Come on, you see yourself in him. Admit it. All the other men I’ve tried to get you with only want to bonk you. Now, is this guy a wanker?”
“No. I mean, he went along with me when I said he could buy me coffee. I didn’t think he would.”
“Well, if he’s nice, call him.”
“I didn’t get his number.”
Miriam hit me again. “For a bright woman, you can be daft at times.”
My phone rang before I could retort back to her. She took over the cooking as I hurried to the phone.
Nothing but soft breathing filled the other end of the phone for a second. “Carson?”
“Yes. Who is this?” I asked, sitting myself down on the sofa.
“Remus?” I must have said that loudly because Miriam poked her head in the room. “How did you get this number?”
“Well…you dropped one of your cards and…I just kept it. I don’t know why I did. Hell, I don’t even know why I’m calling you.”
“Oh. Well, where are you?”
“Out at a booth. I was just taking a walk before getting some sleep. I-I had a nice conversation with you.”
“Yes, I did too with you.” I attempted to wave Miriam off, but she stood with a grin on her face.
“I was hoping maybe we could do it again.”
‘Did he ask you out?’ Miriam mouthed.
I nodded and she gave me a thumbs-up. I shooed her again as Remus went on talking. “I mean, I figured I took your breakfast away as well. I owe you dinner or something.”
“Dinner will be nice.”
“Can you meet me at my place?”
“Yes. Where do you live?”
“In Berkeley Square. We can meet in the park and walk on from there.”
“That sounds good.”
“Okay, I’ll see you at seven.”
“Seven it is.”
We both hung up at the same time and I noticed Miriam and Alan watching me. “Can’t I get some privacy next time?”
“Forget your privacy,” Miriam said. “So, once you two have a nice evening together, you can bring him back home and finally get a good shag.”
“Miriam, your son’s in here.”
“Oh, what hasn’t he heard from me? He’s used to it.”
Alan agreed. “Really, I am. But, if you do decide to do that, please turn the music up or something. I heard our other neighbors going at it two nights ago.”
I quickly jumped off the sofa. “Okay, I’m done with you two.”
The two of them burst into laughter as I wondered back into the kitchen. It was just dinner, not a date. The kid didn’t even know me. Well, he knew about me, but he didn’t know me. He was just being nice, unlike many men my own age. Maybe a younger guy wouldn’t be too bad.
“Stop it,” I muttered to myself. “It’s nothing more than a repayment from earlier.”
No matter how much a piece of me wanted to debate that fact (a piece of which sounded eerily like Miriam), I chanted it over and over in my head until I found it nearly impossible to not to believe.
A/N: Thanks for the wonderful reviews, guys!