Her ex, Tom, was having the kids for the weekend. Everyone said it’d be good to have time to herself, but she doubted this. She knew she’d miss their noise and clutter, their fierce hugs, their ferocious squabbles. She was their mum. Without them, she wasn’t sure of who she was.
She hadn’t got anything in for supper. Not inspired to cook for one, she went to the M&S next to the garage, to buy something that she could pop in the microwave. She was dashing, head down. No real reason, she had the whole, empty weekend to herself, but she wanted to get back home as quickly as possible. Close the door behind her. Her sister said, this was her problem; she shut the door on opportunities. ‘They don’t come knocking, you know. You have to get out there.’
She turned the corner and literally bumped into Shane - after all these years – there he was. Fate? Gillian believed in fate. It was fate that meant she left work early and found Tom in bed with that woman. Same boss for eight years and he’d never said she could knock-off early, until that day. Fate intervened when you least expected it.
The moment they placed each other Gillian was seventeen again; fun and confident. He looked older, naturally but he smelt exactly the same. He smelt of her youth. She leaned closer to secretly inhale him and noticed him trembling.
‘You haven’t changed a bit.’ Shane grinned. The grin lit up her stomach and a bit lower, it always had.
‘Liar. Charmer but liar,’ she laughed. ‘It’s been a long time.’
‘Yes, nineteen years, six months, one week.’
‘I don’t believe you’ve been counting.’
‘No, I haven’t. I made up the months and weeks.’ They laughed again, forcing Gillian to notice that she hadn’t been doing much laughing lately.
‘Fancy a drink?’
It was a no-brainer, as her son would say. They made their way to the nearest wine-bar. He had beer, she ordered a double G&T, she needed it. She was oddly nervous with Shane. And flirty. And sexy.
‘So you don’t drink Bacardi and coke anymore?’
‘No and you’ve moved on from cider. Cheers.’
They clinked glasses, then fell silent as there was so much to say. Why hadn’t he written after he went to university? All her letters left unanswered. Truth was he’d met a girl in Freshers’ week; for the first two terms it seemed like love. He read Gill’s mind, ‘I never was much of a letter writer.’
He wanted to ask her who she’d lost her virginity to, was it good? Rejected and lonely, she’d eventually had a fling with his cousin. Yes, it had been good, very good. She read his mind, ‘Pretty average really. Like everyone’s first time.’
They laughed at their weird connection that seemed untroubled by the years of neglect. They’d always found talking easy; indulging in outpouring of opinions and dreams. That hadn’t changed. She told him about Tom. The ink was barely dry on the decree absolute, still raw.
‘Silly man,’ said Shane, dismissively.
‘For getting caught?’
‘For letting you go.’ He looked right at her, and his gaze splintered in her stomach.
‘You let me go.’
‘I’m a silly man too. Biggest mistake of my life.’
She laughed, was he flattering her or serious? It didn’t matter. A tiny piece of discontent and disappointment dissolved.
‘What are you up to this weekend?’ he asked.
‘Not sure yet.’ But suddenly she was sure that the past was just that, new beginnings were around every corner.