Saturday came and for Annie the week seemed like an eternity. She'd thought they'd never get to go and look around the boutiques. She'd blown her parents out. They were upset so Annie told them they were going to have a look at things that could mean good news. Her parents knew what that meant so they asked no more questions and tried to hide their excitement.
It was a hot day and dust sparkled in the air over Hertferd, making the sky a murky brown colour. The town pulsed with life. Saturday was the only day that the town did pulse, so it sort of had to make up for it. Cars shot up and down the high street; people ran, babbled, pushed and jostled. Children scampered and babies cried. Diners pumped out food and Tom and Annie waited in a diner to receive one of their more modest efforts.
“Where do you want to go first Annie?" said Tom. "'Dunno," said Annie. She was lying, feigning insouciance. ”Actually, I've got an idea," Annie blurted "Let's go to Genesis, 'cos they're the best, then Genitech, 'cos they're in the middle, and then Bausch and Lomb 'cos they're cheaper. You agree? Well, that's what I reckon.” Annie was breathless from her effusion.
Tom regarded her steadily and was slightly taken aback. "Guess you've thought it through," he said.
The ice-cold coffee was brought to them in a flurry, by a hassled waiter. Annie felt like she'd put on Tom and let out some of her frustration.
“I'm sorry Tom, about being all edgy."
“Don't worry Annie. I understand it’s just…”
“Annie, you know I couldn't get to see Ralph about the promotion?"
"Yes, I know that." Annie looked at Tom anxiously.
“What is it?"
“Well, I don't know if there's anything in it or not.”
“What?” blurted Annie impatiently.
“Do you mind if I sit here?” asked a gruff tall man with a beard. “Only I can’t find nowhere else,” he said as he sat down.
“Why does this always goddam happen!" Annie said suddenly. “What?" the newcomer asked, turning towards her.
“Oh nothin," replied Annie with a plastic smile, "I was just talkin' to myself."
“Name's Jon," said the newcomer hesitantly. There was an awkward silence.
“This is Annie and I'm Tom."
“Don't I know you from some place?” said Jon." Don't you work at Carlton in assembly? Yeah, I work over in the main office in payroll. I knew I recognised you from some place. Hear there's gonna be some trouble over in assembly. I hear a storm's brewing right? "
“What storm?" asked Annie.
“Well man, it ain't my place to tell you. There's been rumours flying..." Tom shot Jon a sharp look and he lapsed into silence.
The three of them sat there. Tom didn't want to talk in front of Jon. Jon felt he'd said too much. Annie sat feeling confused, anxious and angry.
So they sat slurping nervously and finding everything in the diner interesting except each other: The tomato squeezer, the tabletop all were studied like they'd never been before.They walked silently into the town square, next to where a neat statue had been erected in tribute to people who had lost their lives in world wars. The bench at the foot of it was empty. Tom started to tell Annie the news. A bystander would have noticed her face turn angry, then melancholy and then resigned.