by Alison Lane

I wouldn’t normally step out into the road without looking, but I was distracted by the argument with Josh. Not an argument, really. An argument requires the other person to argue back. I haven’t argued back in months.  

‘Bloody hell, there’s no milk. Jesus Christ, Sarah, again?’

‘Sorry. Should I go and get some? Sorry.’

Although I am already late submitting the ‘lightweight fluff-piece’ (Josh’s description), I stop writing anyway and head to Sainsbury’s.

As the bike hits me, I think – I can’t die today, I need to go to that party with Josh tonight. We’re going to see his parents for Sunday lunch, and I really have to submit the article by Monday or I won’t get paid. 

So the earliest I can die is Tuesday.

‘I can’t die till Tuesday,’ I say to the very posh woman in the headscarf and Barbour, peering down at me splayed on the tarmac.

She says, ‘You should have looked both ways. These foreigners don’t know what side to cycle on.’ 

‘I’m alright I think,’ I say, although my tights are ripped and I can’t feel my left arm. It doesn’t matter anyway, because Barbour-woman is already gone, and someone else is pulling me to my feet.

She was right, the cyclist is a foreigner. Is that an Italian accent? Possibly Spanish? He apologises for losing concentration, but he was thinking so hard about Entanglement Theory that he got distracted.

I say I heard quantum physics can be very distracting, which is just about the least funny thing anyone has ever said, but he laughs anyway.

I take him to Fitzbillies and buy him a Chelsea bun to say sorry for getting in the way of his front wheel and he turns out to be Portuguese and he has a lot to tell me about quantum physics and a whole lot of questions to ask about me. 

And yes I would love another coffee and maybe some of those expensive macaroons. No, I’ve nothing to get back for.

Absolutely nothing.

When the time comes for him to leave for his seminar, I daren’t get out my phone to put in his number because it’s been buzzing for the last twenty minutes, on and off. I write my number on a napkin and he writes his on my hand.

Back out in the street I wave him goodbye as he cycles off.

Once he’s out of sight, it occurs to me that my face feels weird. I tentatively feel for injuries with my fingertips. 

Then I realise – I’m smiling. 

Grinning, even. 

It’s been so long, my face isn’t used to it.

I laugh out loud, for the first time in even longer. 

I am still thinking about how good laughing feels when I step out into the road again. My head is so full of the Portuguese physicist, of entanglement theory, and lemon macaroons that taste of sunshine, that I don’t notice the double-decker open-top bus until it’s too late.

Alison Lane is a secondary school teacher who loves to write – last year I published my first novel ‘A Dead Polar Bear on a Sledge’.

Our Reader said:

I liked the economical way the writer tells us all we need to know about the central character’s relationship with her boyfriend in the opening lines. I enjoyed the flashes of wit (‘So the earliest I can die is Tuesday’) and the occasional phrases that lift the language out of the everyday (‘lemon macaroons that taste of sunshine’). And the ending moves very neatly from what the reader might expect (which is cleverly described) to the final unexpected twist.


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