Jack saw her one morning on the way to work, lit like a beacon amid the monochrome throng of daily commuters. He noticed her again the following morning, and was compelled to make eye contact. She glanced back at him, and he thought he saw the beginnings of a smile at the corners of her mouth. Their glances and smiles continued throughout that week, and at the weekend all he could think about was the next smile from her, his Monday morning smile.
Jack was fortyish, balding, with a slight paunch, and had been happily married to Jill for fifteen years. They had two children and weekends were mostly spent together, as a family. But this weekend, he was out of sorts. Jill noticed his lack of focus at home and put it down to stress at work.
A week of smiles, from commuter girl, had sent Jack into dream mode. Monday came and he had already planned to up the ante. He planned to say ‘Hi’ to her but allow himself the possibility that she may not respond. He had decided that if that happened, he would simply bade her hello the next day, giving her the benefit of the doubt that she may not have heard him.
Monday came and with mounting excitement he set off on his usual route to work and there she was coming towards him.
‘Hi’ he said with a smile.
She seemed a tad surprised, and turning, her eyes wide, said ‘Hi’.
He spent the rest of that morning in a daze. After lunch, he remembered he had a day’s holiday booked for the following day, Tuesday. He went to his boss and asked if he could postpone it, as he had a shed load of work to do, that just couldn’t wait.
“Okay,” said his boss, loving his attitude.
That evening over dinner he broke it to Jill.
‘What? I was so looking forward to you taking me out tomorrow!”
“I know honey, I’m sorry but work’s work. You go on without me. Get yourself something nice and maybe see if Margo can come.”
Jill’s disappointed face was not enough to dislodge thoughts of the morning hello girl from his mind.
Tuesday. He had decided during a fitful night’s sleep, that he was to turn up the flirtation dial another notch.
He approached the place where they normally crossed. He looked ahead expectantly but couldn’t see her. A throb of panic seized him. He turned around. Maybe she had already passed and he had somehow missed her. He looked at his watch and wracked his mind as to why she wasn’t there. That day at work he was a forlorn figure, moping like a lost lamb.
Two days went by without seeing her. Then the next day, he saw her in a florist’s, on the way to his office.
He stopped outside and gazed through the window.
Impulse took him inside and a feeling of nervous excitement came over him at the thought of being in the same enclosed space as her. He hovered near the entrance of the shop, feigning interest at the potted specials, while she bought a bouquet of something seasonal.
She paid and made for the exit.
“Oh, hi,” he said.
She looked round.
“Oh hi, how are you?” she said with that smile.
This was promising he thought.
“You shouldn’t have really…” he said, pointing to the flowers in her hand.
“Oh ha ha. They’re for a colleague, it’s her birthday.”
“Look um, I know this may sound a tad forward, but I was wondering…. if you’d… like to go for a drink tomorrow, after work?”
“Um…yeah…okay, why not.”
The next morning at breakfast he broke the news to Jill.
“Oh, before I forget. Have a meeting after work tonight. I’ll be home late. There’s talk of going to the pub so don’t cook me dinner, I’ll grab something there.”
“Oh okay. But you said you’d help with kids homework,”
“I know honey but we’re under pressure from a client. I’ll make it up to them, I promise.”
They were due to meet at 7pm. He arrived at the pub early and hurried to the gents. Compelled to remove his wedding band, he squirted soap on his ring finger and worked it loose. Fifteen years the ring had been on that finger, and on only one occasion had he taken it off, when he went into hospital for an operation.
The effort of trying to free it, added to his nervousness, brought a sweat out on his brow. He went to the bar. She hadn’t arrived. He checked his watch. Five minutes to rendezvous. He could afford to have a stiff drink to fortify himself. He ordered a double whiskey and threw it back in one go.
As he put the tumbler back down on the bar he heard a voice behind.
“Starting without me….”
He turned to see her standing there, her face lit up by a brilliant smile.
“Oh, hi. Wasn’t sure if you’d turn up…… What’s your poison?”
“I’ll have what you’re having.”
“Sure, why not.”
They went to a table with their drinks and sat across from each other.
He looked down at his hand and noticed a bright red welt left by the wedding ring. She glanced at it too.
“That’s quite a mark,”
“Oh, it’s nothing.”
“Look I know your married, I could tell a mile away.”
“What, married, me, come on…”
“What do you do for a living?”
“I work in finance, what about you?”
“I work for a law firm and I lap dance some evenings.”
“Yeah, I work in an office, and three nights a week I go to my other job.”
“A lap dancer?”
“Look, I meet a lot of middle age guys like you who think they can handle a bit of extra marital. Some can, some can’t. You fall into the latter category. Go home to your wife and kids and quit fooling around.”
She got up and left him sat there contemplating life.
His cell phone rang. It was Jill. He let it ring, got his wedding band from his jacket pocket and put it back on his finger and went back home to his family.