Chapter 16

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Jessica had a busy week. Trouble with the management of one of the groups who were due to perform at another music event she was organizing took up most of her time. She was beginning to wonder why she stayed in her job. Some days it was so stressful that she just wanted to quit. If it wasn't for the salary, which was generous, she would have looked for something else. All through the week, as each day wore her down, she kept telling herself, "If I can just get to Friday, then I can relax and have a bit of fun."

She was looking forward to her date with Kyle. They were going to meet in a bar and then, well, she was pretty sure what would happen next. And she'd have more explaining to do to the girls on Saturday morning when she turned up to practice with the bags under her eyes dragging across the ground.

On Friday afternoon, the management of the group left the office satisfied with the new conditions of the contract. Jessica had agreed to give them more money. She was tired of the constant aggravation and just wanted them out of her office. She fixed a smile on her face as she saw them out.

Once they had left, she closed the door, looked up to the ceiling and said to herself, "God, I need a drink."

Jessica wasn't the only one in need of a drink. Kyle was having trouble adjusting to working like a student again. The job was easy, be he felt over-qualified, and that he could and should be using his skills and qualifications. His pride had taken a knock, and he saw his future disappear with every pint he poured. There was only one thing to do. And that was to move away from York. The fact that his mother had been calling him every day hadn't helped. His niece's birthday was approaching, and his mother wanted him to be there. When he told her he was working and might not be able to get time off, she had started asking questions, wanting to know what he was doing and where he was working. He had lied, and said he was in consulting, working with the local town planning division. She had seemed impressed and wanted to know all about it. She had also wanted to know why music had been booming out of loudspeakers when he was supposedly at work.

Kyle didn't work on Fridays, so he spent the day shopping for a present for his niece. "What do five-year-old girls like?" he wondered. He settled on a magic set. It was gender neutral, which was important to Sarah's mother, and not so expensive. So if Sarah didn't like it, he wouldn't feel as if he'd wasted his dwindling money. He went home and spent the afternoon looking for jobs online. There were a few which looked promising – all in London.

His phone rang. "Mum, again," he said, looking at the display.

"Hello?"

"Hello love. Not working today?"

"Just having a break," he lied.

"Now, have you made a decision on little Sarah's birthday party? She so wants to see her Uncle Kyle. She keeps asking if you'll be coming."

"When is it again?"

His mother sighed. "I've told you this I don't know how many times. Next Saturday! Please say you can come. We'd all like to see you. And you won't be working on a Saturday, will you? Even I know that government departments don't work weekends."

Kyle shook his head. "I'll have to get the night off at the bar," he thought.

"OK, I'll be there," he said.

"Aw love, Sarah will be so happy. We all will be. We've not seen you for ages. I mean we were supposed to see you when...when...."

"Yes, I know."

"Sorry. I didn't mean to..."

"It's OK, I'm fine. I'm over that now."

"Oh good. I am glad. I'll call back with the details. I'll pick you up at the station. I assume you'll take the train?"

"Probably."

"Can't wait to see you. Love you."

"Love you too mum." Kyle hung up and sighed. "That's decided then," he thought. He looked at the clock. "I have a few hours before I meet Jessica. I should get some sleep, just in case the night ends the same as last week." Kyle smiled to himself. Last week had been just what he needed. It felt good to be with someone with no hassle, no commitment. Just fun. He could definitely do with some more of the same tonight.

A few hours later, Kyle stood at the bar waiting for Jessica. He saw her come in and waved. She was wearing a short blue dress and turned the head of every man in the bar as she walked over to him. He resisted the temptation to think "she's mine" as she approached him.

"Hi, what can I get you?" he asked.

"A large glass of white, please. It's been a nightmare of a day and I just want to forget everything that's happened."

"Trouble at work?"

"Isn't there always?" Jessica put her purse on the bar. "Speaking of work, how is your new job?"

"Dreadful. But it pays the bills. I don't really want to talk about it."

Jessica shrugged. "Sure."

The barman brought the drinks over. "Cheers," said Kyle.

"Cheers." Jessica took a long drink of wine. "God, I needed that. I don't think this will last me long. I'll get the next ones in. And soon. So drink up."

Kyle laughed. "You really did have a bad day, didn't you?"

Jessica nodded. "You know, I really need a holiday. Just a few days away. I need to get out of this city. Don't know where I'd go though."

Kyle looked at Jessica. "Would you fancy Edinburgh? Next week?" He immediately regretted what he said. "She's just a fling, not a girlfriend!" he said to himself.

Jessica stared at him. "Edinburgh? Next week? I'd love that. I've never been. But...why?"

Kyle shifted uneasily from one foot to the other. It was too late to take back the invitation now. "Well, it's my niece's birthday, and I'm going up there, so I thought you could come if you wanted to get away..."

Jessica laughed. "You're inviting me to your niece's birthday party?"

"Just as a friend of course. Nothing serious. Obviously."

Jessica took a long drink of her wine. "Sure. I'd love to see Edinburgh. I've never been to Scotland. And I'd be more than happy to go to the party as Uncle Kyle's friend. Nothing more though."

"Of course. I'll let my mum know you are coming. And don't worry. I'll tell her you are just a friend."

"How are you going to say we met?"

"I don't know. At work?"

"You met me in a bar?"

Kyle took a sip of beer and looked away. "She thinks I work in consulting."

"Oh."

There was an uneasy silence. Kyle could guess what Jessica was thinking.

"I am actually an architect. Really. It's just that something happened which means I have trouble finding a job here."

Jessica held her hands up. "Hey, you don't have to explain. It's nothing to do with me. We are just friends, remember? Come on, drink up. I'm ordering the next round."

Kyle smiled and finished his pint. Jessica ordered the drinks – a pint of lager for Kyle and a double vodka and coke for herself. They spent the rest of the night chatting about Jessica's hockey games and Edinburgh. Kyle could sense that Jessica was avoiding the topic of his employment, and he was happy to oblige. "She doesn't need to know everything about me," he thought. A few more drinks later and they were both feeling drunk.

"Maybe we should get going. You have hockey practice in the morning," said Kyle. Jessica nodded. There was an uneasy silence, then Jessica looked him in the eyes and said, "I bought some coffee. You know, just in case you wanted a cup."

Kyle smiled. "I'd love a cup."

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