Byte Shorts Showcase: The Reunion by Catherine Evans

Posted by Justine Solomons on 16 September 2021, in Writers

Finally.  Time to go.  Steve couldn’t believe he’d managed to wangle this trip.  He’d get to Heathrow with at least an hour to spare.  He and Linda could have a couple of drinks before boarding, then when they got to Amsterdam, let the shagfest begin!  He practically skipped to the office car park, where his chariot awaited. His beautiful red Porsche, Ramona.  Second hand, but so what?  He’d leave her in Heathrow’s long stay.  Much cheaper.  He’d be spending a mint this weekend, so he’d best mind the pennies when he got the chance.

The Sofitel Grand was three hundred smackers a night, and that was on special offer.  Linda.  What a top bird she was. She said she’d paid a little visit to Rigby & Peller.  Oh yes.  He was a lucky bastard all right.

He hoped she wouldn’t bang on too much about Cindy.  He wanted to leave her, he really did, but it wasn’t the right time.  And it was a bit awkward money-wise.  Divorce would cost a bundle, and he didn’t quite know how to break it to Linda that he wasn’t as flush as she thought. It’s not that he’d lied, definitely not, but the motor, the restaurants, the bubbly, the bracelet for her birthday… all had created a certain impression.

It was hard for a single girl to understand just how much money three kids could suck out of you.  Cindy was all organic this, natural that, special shoes ’cos the cheap ones ruin their feet, Daisy’s ballet lessons, Connor’s extra maths thanks to his dyspraxia, poor little sod.  The bills were bloody neverending.  As for the baby.  Steve smiled just thinking about her.  She was such a lovely little thing, but she’d arrived out of left field, just as Cindy was all excited about getting back to work and after they’d given all their baby stuff away.  Splitting up would just mean all that expense plus the cost of running another house on top.  Then Linda would probably want a sprog or two.... bloody hell, talk about running ahead of himself.  One problem at a time, mate, please.

Ramona gave a lovely low growl as he put his foot down towards Heathrow.  Beautiful bit of clear road ahead to really let her rip.  He was tempted to roll the roof back, but the spring air was still a bit nippy.  He did a mental check of the contents of his case.  Jeans, boxers, socks…

In fact, Cindy had been pairing socks when he’d told her about the forthcoming work conference.  She’d totally swallowed it.  They’d even had a nice evening together.  The kids didn’t wake up, the baby was quiet.  A big plate of spag bol, a halfway decent bottle of plonk and a laugh at something on the telly.  If it were always like that... but then they’d had a row about the baby’s buggy.  Cindy wanted a new one as the wheels were wonky and she said it was tricky to fold up.  And he’d flipped and told her there was sod all wrong with the one they had and she’d said you try bloody pushing it around all day then, and the evening was ruined.  When he thought about how many prams he could buy for the cost of his wicked weekend away he’d felt a bit bad, so he’d told her to go ahead and buy a new damn pram, but he didn’t think she would now.  That was Cindy all over.

What else?  He’d packed a suit that morning to throw Cindy off the scent, but had left it hanging in his office.  Washbag, toothbrush, shaving gear, athlete’s foot cream decanted into a little plain tub.  Mycota plonked on the surface of their lovely marble bathroom would not be sexy or romantic.  Workout gear.  He was looking forward to impressing Linda with his bench presses.  Swimming trunks.  The hotel had an amazing pool and sauna.  His chest swelled with anticipation.  God it was a good feeling.   The city’s finest Indonesian tonight, and he’d get the concierge to book something special the evening after.  Why spoil the ship for a ha’porth of tar?

He’d stock up on a shedload of ribbed extra-strengths at the airport.  Maybe a variety pack.  Much as he loved Linda, he wouldn’t put it past her to accidentally on purpose....  blimey there you go again, he thought.  In any ointment, he’d bloody see the fly.  He grinned as he remembered what they’d done with a tub of Haagen Dasz.   It had been a long time since he’d had so much fun with Cindy.

The traffic started to slow, then abruptly ground to a halt.  Bloody roadworks.  Thank you very much, Boris.  He still had plenty of time though.  He put the radio on and hummed away to Teenage Dirtbag.  The cars in front started to inch forward. He had an hour to spare, but he’d wanted to spend it having a flirty drink with Linda, not stuck in bastard traffic.  He reached third gear before he had to brake again, just as he leveled with Tesco’s.  He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, this time to Fleetwood Mac.  Traffic stayed put.  He stretched his arms and moved his neck from side to side.  He tapped the steering wheel in time to the music, trying to quell his growing irritation.  He craned his neck to see what the problem was.  Idly, he turned to his left at Tesco’s, at something in his peripheral vision.

Fucking hell that was only Cindy in the Tesco’s car park.  She was pushing the baby with shopping bags draped over both handles of the pram and another dangled off one of her wrists, not to mention the Bag for Life which hung off her shoulder.  Daisy and Connor trailed behind her, Daisy with a face like a smacked arse and Connor looking like he was on another planet as per usual.  Twice while he was watching, Cindy had to back up the pram so the wheels would run true.  Steve was struck by how tired she looked.  God she looked so bloody tired and pissed off.  He watched as she reached her little blue runaround and opened the boot to pack it with the shopping, looked around for Connor who had scampered away from her, distracted, while Daisy climbed into the back without helping her mother.  The Visible Sulk, he called her when she was like that.

Cindy undid the straps of the pram, picked the baby up and ran with her so she could catch up with Connor, then grabbed him by the hand and had to drag him back to the car.   He could see her having a go, but with Connor, it was in one ear and out the other.  The driver behind Steve honked.  He jumped as if electrocuted.  Steve slammed his foot down to get out of Cindy’s sight.

He drove ever faster as the bottleneck cleared.  He had a knot in his stomach.  He thought furiously about Linda’s lingerie and the ice cream to get himself back in the mood, but he couldn’t stop thinking about Cindy.  She’d be with him in Amsterdam and wouldn’t even know it.  Like that ghost from Shakespeare.  Banko, that was it.         

He’d make it up to her as soon as he was back, he resolved.  They’d get back on track, him and Cindy.  For each other, not only the kids.   It would be hard on Linda, he knew that, but they’d have one last blow-out weekend.  It would be hard on him too, but Linda wouldn’t care about that and who could blame her?  He continued to cruise forward, focusing hard on those frilly knickers and that beautiful cleavage encased in something frothy.  If only he hadn’t seen Cindy.

The airport was really close now.  His speed had dropped to a level which would shame an OAP on a Sunday country outing.  He looked in his rear view mirror and saw that there was a long queue of traffic behind him.  Normally he hated people like him.  He put on some speed but pretty soon he got to the last roundabout before the airport.  He indicated to make the turn but changed his mind at the last nanosecond, earning himself a sharp beep from the bloke behind him.

He felt sick in his heart.  He went round the roundabout again.  This time, he turned tail and made for home.  They weren’t expecting him back at work. He pulled over as soon as he got the chance and silenced Ramona’s low purring hum.  He switched off the radio, shutting up Seal, who was warbling about roses.  He sat still for a good few minutes, conscious only of the pulse in his neck and the weight in his chest.  He reached for his mobile and tapped out a text to Cindy.  ‘Conf canceled.  Will be home early.  Get a sitter lets book angelo’s tonight.’  He was just about to press send before he added ‘Luv u sxx’ to the message.  Then he dialed Linda’s number, which he knew off by heart, as he’d never stored it on his phone.

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