Mandy drove as fast as she dared along the curved streets on the outskirts of town with large rolling lawns and majestic homes, past terraced townhomes, and then as she neared the town center, buildings huddled closer together.
She would have liked to have found parking closer to her destination on 355 Clarke Street, but it was pedestrian only, and she spent fifteen minutes looking for parking only to find a spot which was about a fifteen minute walk away. After her appointment she needed to get back to Mrs. Neilson her next door neighbor who was minding Diane, her six-year old daughter, until she returned to take her to school. She wished she wasn’t rushed, and could enjoy exploring the multi coloured shopfronts.
Her eye was caught by a young woman jogging by her on a crosswalk. She was wearing the same light blue sweatshirt Mandy wore at home. Who would wear such a thing in town?
Mandy gave her head a shake, she needed to get to the appointment with the divorce lawyers. Ken had pushed for today, because he knew she’d have a hard time making it. If she arrived late, he’d point out to everyone in the room she was incompetent to have custody of their daughter Diane. What’s more, he’d be flanked by his parents, while she’d have no one except her lawyer, whom she’d only talked to on the phone.
Mandy looked at her phone, she was running late, and needed to hurry. Google Maps said it was still twelve minutes away, and she only had five minutes. She started jogging, but her three inch heels impeded her, as well as having to stop at street lights. One light was red so long, and when there wasn’t any immediate traffic, she ran across the street, ignoring the outraged comments of other pedestrians.
She had turned two corners, when she saw the light blue sweatshirt again, and it was the same woman again with thick dark hair pulled back off her face. Better focus on where I’m going, Mandy thought. She looked at the time on her phone, and tried to run harder, but she felt breathless. Was it allergy season for her? Her nose was dripping and her eyes felt dry and itchy, but she didn’t dare touch her eyes, or she’d smear her make-up. She felt thirsty and wanted to stop to take a sip from her water canteen.
“Wait a moment, mam,” a panhandler called out to her. Couldn’t he see she was in a hurry, and that she wasn’t going to turn around and give him money for his addictions.
“You dropped something,” caught her attention, and she halted in her tracks and turned around and approached him. He was holding up her keys in his hand. “Thanks.” She grabbed at them, but he clenched his fist around them, and nodded at his open guitar case.
“Right,” she said, and opened her bag to get out her wallet, but she didn’t have anything to give him. She almost never did these days. “Look, I’m sorry, I’m clean out of cash. Next time, I promise.”
“Maybe they’re not your keys.”
She held open her wallet to show she was telling the truth. He scowled. “I’m in a hurry, If I don’t get to my appointment, I’ll lose my…,” she felt on the verge of tears.
“Roger, give the woman back her keys,” a female behind her said.
The voice sounded familiar. Mandy turned and saw it was the same woman wearing the light blue sweatshirt. Her face was flushed from jogging, and she shifted the bag on her shoulder.
“Ah, why’d you have to show up?” the panhandler said with a snort. He held out his closed fist for several seconds before he opened it, and Mandy snatched up her keys.
The woman narrowed her eyes. “I warned you about playing that trick.”
“Thank you,” Mandy said, to her rescuer.
“My pleasure,” the woman said. “Hope you get to your appointment on time.”
Mandy hurried off. If she wasn’t in such a hurry, she might have tried to find out why the woman was jogging through the streets and not in the nice park that was less than two blocks away.
By the time she halted in front of 355 Clark Street, a four story office building, she was ten minutes late. She felt sweaty, and was sure her face was blotchy and red, but there wasn’t anything she could do and she didn’t have time to go to the washroom.
She pushed the door open and went into the varnished wood and brass foyer and waited for an elevator. It was one of those old elevators, that took forever, and just as it seemed to collect itself for another journey up, a hand reached out to stop the door.
“Wait,” and there was the woman again, wearing the light blue sweatshirt. She entered the elevator, and puffing, pointed her finger. “That was you, getting hustled by Roger.”
Mandy nodded but didn’t say anything and let her eyes drift down to the beige tiled elevator floor. Was this poorly dressed street vigilante following her. No, she must be going to see another lawyer in the building. But the woman got off the elevator on the fourth floor as well, and Mandy felt a tingle in her back. The woman followed her, as she located Suite 206. Mandy paused and waited for the woman to pass, before she tried the door handle.
“Here, let me open that,” the woman pulled keys out of her shoulder bag.
Mandy dropped her hands to her sides and stepped back. “I thought your voice sounded familiar. Are you my lawyer, Kamilla Barnes?”
“Yes, and you must be Amanda Kettering,” the lawyer opened the door and offered her free hand for a handshake. Mandy took it, looking around at the empty waiting room.
“Where is everyone?”
“Oh, your separated spouse called an hour ago, and said he’d be half an hour late. His lawyer's not impressed." She made a slight tsking noise. "He said he’d call you.” She looked at Mandy’s face, “I’m so sorry. He didn’t, did he?
“No,” Mandy said.
“No wonder,” the lawyer said and shook her head.
“I have a sweat shirt just like that at home. It’s very comfortable,” Mandy said.
The lawyer smiled, “I agree. I had to rush and get something for my daughter who’s in the Graham Elliot primary school close by, and I figured I’d better sweat in this than in my ‘power suit.’
Mandy smiled. “Kamilla, I’m glad to meet you in person. I guess I have time to go and fix up my face.”