There are some people who just get inside your head, he thinks as the waits at the traffic lights, automatically looking up at her window and yes, there she is, on the treadmill, towel draped around her neck, walking briskly to nowhere.
And then, the lights change and he puts the car in gear and drives away, but he’s pleased he’s seen her. It’s a good start to his working day, a good omen, today will go well.
He hasn’t had a really good day for a while, sales are slipping, he’s been called into the area managers office more than once, asked to explain the downward trajectory on the figures charts. What can he say, the samll shops, the family concerns that buy the buscuits, cakes and sweets from his company are vanishing, swallowed up by the big companies, the mega stores, inter-net shopping.
He’s not hungry enough, pushy enough, he doesn’t care enough.
Feels like he’s going through the motions, get in the car, load up his destination into the sat-nav and drive.
But today, well today, he feel like there’s a bit of fire in his belly, he slaps the steering wheel, yes today is going to be a good day.
And as he drives, he thinks about the woman, the woman in the window. She’s blond, short, petite, but its the look of focus, determination on her face that has captured him. He wonders what’s going through her head as she walks, staring out at the cars waiting at the traffic lights outside her house.
He feels himself drifting in to a daydream, he and her, he needs to give her a name, walking together in Bradgate park, watching the deer running through the bracken, holding hands as the climb the step hill up to the folly and reaching the summit, standing, catching their breath, looking down on the city.
He shakes his head, rueful, even his daydreams are becoming dull, is a walk in the city park the best he can come up with?
He tries again, sunset, the beach is deserted, the sand covered in foot prints, half built sandcastles, patterns made in shells already remade by the incoming tide. He and she , he really must think of a name for her, are standing in the shallows, the sea splashing against their bare legs, he realises that he cannot get their clothes right, are they in swim suits, or just trousers rolled up, a skirt held up slightly to avoid the waves. he settles for a image of their bare feet walking side by side along the edge of the water. He can almost feel the pleasure of the warm water lapping against his skin, the grit of the sand between his toes. His feet move in his black business shoes resting on the accelarator and brake pedals.
He’s coming into the centre of town now, need to concentrate, their are some shockingly bad driver this time of the morning, no lane discipline, but then he hits the usual stop, start or in todays case, just stop and he can allow himself to drift again.
This time they are in Paris, a spring morning, the light bright, blossom on trees, yes, he knows its a cliche, but he’s never been to Paris, so he’s having to use half remembered travel programmes, a travel poster from Thomas Cooks. They are walking through Montmarte, past the Moulin Rouge, up towards the graveyard, she is leaning into him, small enough to have to look up at his face while he talks about Jim Morrison. She is smiling, caught up in his enthusiasm and when they arrive at the grave, she is silent with him as he stands for a moment, paying pilgrimage. Later, they sit at a pavement cafe, planning their day.
He shakes his head, sees a gap in the right hand lane and moves quickly, manages 200 yards before this lane too slows to a halt.
Paris will not work, not without some serious research, he doesnt have enough sense of the geography to put together a proper narrative.
He wonders if she is married, lives with someone. There is no car on the driveway, the garden is slightly untended, not exactly overgrown, but not really cared for and the windows need re-painting. No evidence of a house proud husband, a DIY expert in residence. He has seen a couple of almost grown up children leaving the house at different times, but has never seen another adult enter or leave the house.
Whoa, he pulls himself up short, this is beginning to sound a little creepy, beginning to sound a little like stalking. He reassures himself, it’s nothing weird, pervy. He just drives past her house everyday, the lights are often on red and she is there, something to look at while he waits for the signals to change. He works in sales, interested in people, its almost part of his job.
Re-assured , he goes back to concentrating on his driving, his lane is moving now, making progress although he knows that everything will grind to a halt again when they hit the big roundabout. On automatic pilot, he allows himself to drift again.
London, London is better, he knows it well, head office is there, sales conferences happen there, its almost familiar territory, he can easily visualize them there.
They are walking through Covent Garden, holding hands, he still hasn’t given her a name, must have a think about that, they stop for a moment to watch a fire eater, he’s good, a neat act, juggles the flaming torches, blows great waves of flame. She is entranced, smiles like a child and he smiles too, not at the act, but at her joy in the performance.
And later, they sit in a Japanese cafe, she is unsure of the menu and looks to him for guidance, allows him to choose what they should eat. He likes her easy acceptance of his knowledge, it makes him feel important, useful.
And much later, they stand at the South Bank watching a fire work display, he hesitates, not sure if this is maybe too much, too obvious, too Four Weddings and a Funeral, but he likes the image, the flashes of fireworks reflected in her eyes, the cooling evening meaning that she wraps herself around him to steal some of his body heat.
And then, much, much later, the moon is full, improbably full and they are sitting on a balcony in the kind of hotel he has never stayed in and they are drinking champagne, looking down on the lights, the cars moving, streets still busy, the city that never sleeps.
He was right, nothing is moving at the roundabout, he looks across at the car in the next lane, a Mondeo, another salesman he guesses, finger busy exploring a nostril, he looks away, his daydreams are far more pleasant than the rush hour reality.
He tries to conjure up an even, even later, but his imagination balks, he cannot imagine that scene, not with a woman who has no name, but he can do the morning afterwards. They are sitting at a table, crisp white linen table cloth, the smell of really good coffee, crisp toast. They are both hungry, attack the food enthusiastically. He is pleased that she eats well. They exchange smiles, big goofy, happy smiles and between slices of toast, hot bacon, they hold hands, plan their day.
Finally, he is clear of the traffic, car moving well, heading out into the country, a new prospect. He feels good, positive, he will makes sales today.
Anna, he decides, her name is Anna, he tries it out, rolls the sound around his mouth, enjoys the sound, the rightness.
Bloody hell……..she didn’t even see me, just pulled out….could have killed me…I slam my palm down on the horn…..but she’s gone, stupid woman driver.
Take a deep breath, inhale , exhale, it’s shaken me, that near miss. I see a lay bye, check the mirror, signal, manoeuvre. Pull up, open the window and take a deep another deep breath.
The sat nav senses an unscheduled halt…………………