“I so need this chocolate!” The woman’s voice broke the spell and I turned away to shove the money in the register and grab Tyler’s receipt. “Your sister is a great cook Ty but give me chocolate over creme brulee any day.”

With a polite smile I scanned the magazine and three chocolate bars and while she paid with her card I forced myself to look back at Tyler. He was staring at me, looking confused. Maybe he didn’t know who I was? Maybe I was just vaguely familiar, like someone you met a couple of times a long time ago.

After all, he hadn’t contacted me after that day. I hadn’t seen him at the mall or at soccer practise. If I needed further proof that he likely hadn’t thought of me at all, it was standing beside him in a mini skirt and skimpy halter neck top.

“The pump’s ready,” I said to fill the silence and because there was a message flashing on the screen at me.

The machine spat out another receipt which I handed to the woman who took it with a dazzling smile and hooked her arm through his.

“Come on Ty, I can’t wait to get to bed,” she said so young and sweet she made my teeth hurt. Well, maybe not so young, up close I would guess she was in her early to mid thirties, she just dressed like a teenager.

I watched as they left. He opened the car door for her again before he dealt with the fuel then they were driving away. And I was alone. I took a deep breath, then another one. Then laughter burst out of me. Slightly hysterical, a lot embarrassed. I might not have heard from Tyler or seen Tyler but I hadn’t stopped thinking about Tyler. He had been the reward I dangled before myself when it all seemed too hard. When getting a job seemed insurmountable. When going back to work after the first time I’d been held up had seemed impossible.

While he … he was taking his girlfriend to dinner at his sister’s. Then home to eat chocolate and go to bed. While I was rebuilding my life and regaining my confidence, he was out on dates. I laughed at  myself, I laughed at my little fantasy of contacting Tyler once I was divorced, I just laughed.

It was laugh or cry, so I laughed. I laughed until the next customer came in, a regular shift worker who greeted me by name. Business picked up after that and I didn’t get the chance to dwell on my crushed fantasy or finish my book before 6am rolled around. Calling a goodbye to my replacement I walked out into the cool morning and stopped to shrug into my jacket. It was only a short walk to the bus stop then a ten minute wait, before the twenty minute trip home. If the bus was on time, I’d be soaking in the bath with my favourite sandalwood scented candle soothing me before 7am.

I scanned the street and the carpark  automatically before I set out. There wasn’t usually trouble at this time of the day but a woman alone couldn’t be too careful. My co-worker’s car was parked in its usual spot and there were a couple of other vehicles in the lot. There had been  customers inside so they were easily explained. As quiet as it looked,  I still slid my hand inside the messenger bag I used and palmed the mace I carried.

I set out for the bus stop, cutting across the carpark. I was calculating how long I could soak in the tub before my boys would be awake and looking for food. Today was my day off so I usually made them pancakes before they went grocery shopping with their father. Then I’d sleep for a couple of hours before I got up to spend the afternoon with them.  I would be exhausted by their bed time but struggle to sleep. Such is the life of a shift worker.

I heard a car door closing as I reached the edge of the carpark so I stopped walking, waiting for the car to leave. The way people drove out in such a hurry was dangerous, and I had time to spare. I expected to hear an engine, a blare of music, instead I heard footsteps.

I turned towards the sound suspiciously, my hand tightening on the can of mace, then I just stared. Was I hallucinating?

I watched as he jogged across the space between us, heard the dull thuds of his footsteps, then I was tilting my head back to look up into green eyes as he stopped before me.

I’d pictured him so many times in my mind, he was the star of all my fantasies after all, but I hadn’t done him justice. Even in the few hours since I’d seen him at work, I’d made the memory fade in self defence. When he had popped into my mind I’d scoffed at myself. As if his eyes were that green. As if his shoulders were that wide. They were.

“Lily,” he said with a small puzzled smile. “Where are you going?”

I guess Tyler did know who I was after all.

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