All afternoon as she constructed a wall size canvas for an idea she’d been nursing for a while, she flicked between anger at Miles and anger at herself for being too weak to dismiss the idea of meeting him. She convinced herself that she worried about him returning, that he’d instantly realise that Bill wasn’t her partner, that she’d lied...then he’d realise why, that for ten years she’d rued those days back in her teens, that what he thought of her mattered. But there was also a large part of her who wanted to turn up, wanted to see what he had to say. He mentioned begging, and somehow the thought of him doing just that was an exciting prospect.
Bill got home early, He’d never felt so euphoric. It had been an average Monday as he’d sat at his desk trailing through his emails and messages, but the phone had rung and it all changed there and then. Pausing on the doorstep he recalled the phone call for at least the fiftieth time in the last three hours.
“Mr Swift? Dan Parnell GB racing, I’ve been trying to get hold of you all weekend!”
The initial shock at the former Olympic cyclist calling him and been superseded only by his message, one of the GB amateur racing team had pulled out of a huge road race being held in Australia in a couple of weeks time. Bill’s recent results and the performances that Parnell had witnessed had meant that they wanted him to replace the missing team member. It meant he’d have to spend most of the next ten days with his new team, riding as part of a team in a race like this was new to him, so he had to learn as much as he could.
Bursting with excitement he opened the front door and smiled, roast chicken, his second favourite meal in the world. He could barely contain his excitement any longer. He was dying to tell Sophie, she’d taken a risk, followed her dream...she’d know what this meant to him. Flying into the kitchen he stopped in surprise to see Vin there alone.
Vincenza tossed a message across the table at him, and he read it slowly.
“Gone out, short notice thing, left you both dinner...don’t wait up! Sxxx”
Two things went through his mind as he looked from the letter to Vincenza’s sad face, firstly that they took her for granted, just because she was usually there waiting for them, didn’t mean she was always there, and secondly, that she’d evaded him again. This time he wanted to share good news, but there was still this unwritten ‘thing’ between them and it needed dealing with, before he went away.
He looked at Vin, “she never goes out, does she?” Vin shook her head, Bill could tell she was upset, but didn’t know if he could cope with why. “What’s up mate? You look like you lost a fiver and found a pound.”
“Worse Bill, far worse.”
Taking a deep breath he sat opposite her, bottling all his excitement and energy for later, he WOULD celebrate just maybe not today.
The Round House was a new bar, in what Bill termed the ‘yuppie’ part of town, Sophie loved that he used such ridiculously old terms, it was part of the endearing qualities that was Bill. It was an old converted theatre, and as the name suggested, was a round airy building with a circular bar at the centre, an eclectic mix of furniture formed an apparently random amount of various sized of tables around it, which she just knew had been the plan of a very expensive interior design. It had been featured in all the major Sunday papers over the last few weeks, and had quickly become THE place to be.
Sophie was less than impressed, the walls she noticed as she swerved through tables to the bar, were painted black...BLACK! And the artwork that hung against it was meant to give the illusion of windows looking out over various very different landscapes. All just over the top, too much and too many ideas crammed into one building. It gave her a headache, but that only added to the headache she already had, the headache that was waving from across the room.
Determined to start the evening as she intended to finish it, in control, she didn’t move to the table, instead she turned to the bar and ordered a glass of wine. Not squeaking at the ridiculous price was an art form she was proud of; she paid, then took the glass and walked towards the predator at three o’clock.
Miles was lounging lazily, he seemed to live his life in that lazy/comfort zone and rarely looked flustered, but she could play that way too. Sitting opposite him she noted the flare of his eyes, she’d annoyed him by buying her own drink, it was a dent in his manhood, and smiling sweetly she sipped from the offending glass.
“You look nice.” He finally offered, breaking the silence.
Half of her wanted to swoon, he had that way of looking...deep, penetrating bones, disarming and in the right hands a very sexy quality, but she wasn’t falling for that bullshit, she’d dressed plainly yet in what she hoped was a demure and genteel fashion. It was anything but sexy, so she knew this was a line, was him layering on flattery.
“Really? I deliberately chose this to look anything but ‘nice’, didn’t want to give you the wrong impression.”
He couldn’t hide the smile that reached his lips and his eyes, “and what would that be?”
She laughed, “Right - that I’m here because you insisted, wrong - that I think this in anything resembling a date, after all I do live with the man I love and I don’t ‘do’ infidelity.”
That lazy smile was driving her crazy...and not in a good way, “do you read this much into everything you do?”
She ignored that, just drank her wine again.
“So are you hungry?” he finally broke the silence.
When she nodded he handed her a menu, “the veal is to die for, and the steak.”
Acknowledging those recommendations, she thought of the chicken she’d roasted at home, and the Dauphinoise potatoes...she’d give anything to be back there now, with her friends, trying to repair the fragmented relationships she’d left behind. It worried her that Vincenza was angry with her, Bill she could deal with, he was a man, they didn’t do complex moods but the disappointment she’d seen in Vin’s eyes had torn her in two.
Glancing across the table to Miles, all dark hair and suaveness, she felt more out of place than ever before in her life. Sighing she looked at the menu, wanting to get this over and done with and get home. She had no idea why Miles had insisted on her joining him, and she was sure that it would end as quickly as possible.
A waitress appeared to take her order, and Sophie sat back and watched the outrageous flirtation between the two. the young blonde batted her eyelids, Miles flattered her. He really was a professional.
When he finally looked back at her, the waitress despatched to organise their food, she raised an eyebrow, “sorry am I interrupting something?”
He laughed, “not at all...I was just being polite! A little flirting can go a long way y’know!"
And that was his reasoning, she immediately saw that all those times that he was nice to her, singled her out in a crowded room, the wall flower lost in the glamorous world of Melody Langley, was pity. She hadn’t been special, he hadn’t liked her, he’d felt sorry for her. He’d condescended, lowered himself to be nice to the poor weak one. It all made sense now.
She was dragged back to her sixteenth birthday with a rush. Miles a dashing nineteen year old had agreed to supervise them all for a party in Melody’s house, their parents were away and this was Melody’s suggestion - a party in her honour. All week at school she’d sent little notes to Sophie, tips and hints on how to win her brother over. By the night of the party she’d been wound up to breaking point.
Melody had provided a sexy dress, Sophie who’d been a late developer was chunkier than her friends, but they’d all made such a special effort to make her feel a million dollars...or rather build her up for the fall of her life.
They’d practiced sexy poses, coy glances and their best seduction techniques all week, and bolstered by a few glasses of birthday punch, she’d located him in the kitchen. Using every trick available to her, she’d sidled across the kitchen to him and placed a hand on his chest, unaware of the bewilderment in his eyes, or the humour that snaked his mouth into a curl.
With her best smile, she’d put her lips on his, expecting the explosion, the passion, the overwhelming sensations her romance novels promised. But as her heart raced and her knees felt weak, Miles’ hands didn’t wrap around her, they gripped her shoulders and pushed her to arms length away from him.
“Sophie?” he’d exclaimed, and now she saw the confusion, the humour and she realised she’d played this all wrong. Stepping back a hand at her lips, she felt devastated, humiliated. And then she heard the snickers, and turning she saw Melody and two other school friends giggling, and that turned to laughter as she stood there mortified.
Laura had wanted to leave, but by this point Miles had recovered and was back in chaperone mode. He took her to one side and told he was flattered, but that she was too young for him, and insisted she stay. An hour later, isolated and alone, she’d observed a glamorous blonde arrive, tall, slim...and within moments she was wrapped around Miles.
She’d left then, no one noticed, and no one missed her, it was July, school was over, so she left, went back to her Aunt’s and tried to negotiate a change of school, her heart not just broken, but trampled and beaten.
“Penny for your thoughts?”
Sophie shook her head, dragging herself back to the present, Miles was staring at her intently and suddenly one word crossed her mind. Revenge!