A Man Asking Permission (15 +)

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"Barcelona! How amazing. I went years ago, but I was a student at the time and I only studied the architecture. This time, we'll be able to see much more!"

Richie had picked her up that morning in a taxi. She hadn't yet visited his house (the no sex thing, remember? Going to his home was too risky), but he'd told her he lived on the south side. From there, the taxi had dropped them off at the train station.

She turned to him, puzzled. "I thought I needed my passport? Or was that part of your cunning plan to make me believe we were going somewhere else?"

He grinned at her. It wasn't hard to recognise a fellow control freak. In the taxi, she'd bombarded him with not-so-subtle questions designed to tease their destination out of him.

He pointed to the platforms at the far side of Glasgow Central.

"Aha! So, we are going to an airport. Prestwick airport," Lillian clapped her hands. He took hold of one of them, the feel of his palm reassuringly rough.

"C'mon then," he said. "I've got us a wee treat for the train."

The wee treat turned out to be a bottle of champagne. Lillian clapped again. She was used to decadence, but generally it didn't centre on her.

Richie found them seats with a table and placed Lillian's case on the rack above. She was tall enough that doing it herself was easy enough, but the old-fashioned chivalry pleased her. Her last date had insisted on splitting their dinner bill equally, using a calculator to work the exact amount out. Any desire she had for him evaporated instantly.

Richie sat opposite her and stretched out his legs, the foot touching her toe. She felt the tingle of it, stirrings of lust that moved upwards through her legs. He must have done too as the look he shot her burned.

Tickets shown to the examiner, Richie twisted open the champagne, the cork coming away with a soft pop. He'd gone to the extent of buying plastic wine glasses, instead of just cups. Thanks to her experience of running private views, Lillian knew there was such a thing as plastic champagne flutes. She chased the ungrateful thought away and touched the frothy, fizzing glass to his.

"To exciting, unknown trips!"

She hadn't eaten that morning, and the bubbles went straight to her head. By the time they'd reached Johnstone, Lillian decided to move on from general chit-chat. Richie had told her he was a divorce and politeness had so far held her back from asking why.

"Your divorce then," she began, keeping her gaze at the scenery flashing past them, "what happened, if that's not too personal?"

A pause. She risked glancing at him. He blushed and took a gulp of fizz.

"I...er...got married too young. Nineteen" Another gulp. "I wasn't ready, and we weren't..."

Suited, she supposed. Her mind flashed to the people she'd been around as a teenager and she shuddered. There weren't that many people left in Lillian's life that she'd known before she reached her twentieth birthday. The thought of marrying that...

She'd been quiet for too long. And she needed distraction. The past bubbled there, tiny bits of it escaping from time to time. Lillian did her best to ruthlessly suppress it.

"We change a lot from twenty to thirty, don't we?" she said, reaching a hand out to touch his. To her surprise, he grasped it hard.

"God, yes! I hope I'm a much better man than I was then. No-one should get married at nineteen. It's stupid."

Indeed. Lillian couldn't think of anyone who'd married at nineteen, apart from her now-dead grandmother. The question had set the wrong note.

"Doesn't matter," she declared, pouring some of the champagne in her glass into his. "That was then, this is now! And we have a whole three nights away to look forward to. Do you think we'll have time for a quick bite to eat at the airport?"

The Artist's History (18+) #WATTYS2018 LONGLISTRead this story for FREE!