Joan was walking along the High Street during her lunch break. It was a lovely day, summer was finally on its way after the grey and dreary winter and a wet spring season. She was in a good mood this afternoon. She was a month into her new job as the fashion buyer for one of her favourite high street fashion stores, and she was enjoying every minute of it.
Earlier, she had held a meeting with four up and coming designers who were desperate to get their clothes into her store. The designers had brought the best picks of the new summer collection into her office and she got to pick and choose which items her store would stock. She loved the power it gave her. It meant the designers were willing to give her tons of free outfits if she could get their clothes to the shop floor.
She walked past the café where she usually bought her lunch and paused outside for a second. She decided to try something different today. A new sandwich and salad bar had just opened at the end of the street. She quickened her pace and crossed the road.
The bar was buzzing with the usual media and fashion crowd on their lunch break. She went up to the counter to see what they had to offer. As she was scanning the menu, she heard a voice that made her freeze.
It was Alex, her ex-boyfriend. He was her ex-fiancé actually. Of all the things that could happen to ruin her day, this ranked among the worst.
“Er, hi Alex” she managed to say with a forced smile.
“Fancy bumping into you here!” he said, confidently walking towards her.
“Yes, I just came to get some lunch”
“That’s great” he said. He was close now; close enough for her to smell his aftershave. It was so familiar, she felt drawn to it. But she took a step back. This was Alex after all, the guy she had spent the last five months crying over. Their break-up had been messy and just when she thought she had finally gotten over him, they had bumped into each other two weeks ago at a friend’s party. She did not know whether it was the alcohol or something else, but Joan had lost her senses that night and fallen for Alex again. All she remembered was, she woke up in his bed the next morning. Hating herself more than she hated him, she had hurriedly scribbled a note for him and fled his flat in panic.
Seeing his face again brought all the humiliation and pain back. Then she realised he had asked her a question.
“I asked if you worked nearby” he said, raising an eyebrow.
“Yes I do” she said, trying to keep her voice level. It seemed to have morphed into a high-pitched squeak. “What about you?”
“Oh I work nearby too” he smiled smugly, like he had won an argument. “I actually own this place”
“Oh” Joan said, the words catching her by surprise. “Well…”
“I’m glad you could drop by” he interrupted her. “Perhaps you’ll have lunch here everyday? You could win a date with the owner, you know?” Then he gave her a wink and a wicked smile.
Hearing those words, Joan’s stomach twisted into a knot. She shook her head and ran out of the bar. The afternoon’s brightness did nothing to cheer her up as she ran back to her office, trying to hold back her tears.