When Leah met Jon…
They were in the same queue for coffee, the same queue at Marks and Spencers where they both picked up a copy of The Guardian, they looked around the food court for a table to sit; there was just one.
He pointed with his coffee, shrugging the unspoken question.
She laughed. “Sure.”
“Could have bought one paper between us,” he said.
“Saved the environment?”
“Saved ourselves from all the bad news.”
There was a pause in which they looked at each other, and something unspoken, something that couldn’t be said, passed between them.
Leah pressed her lips together, curbing her smile.
You know, he’d said, after they’d fallen quiet, suddenly aware of the wall of sound around them; train announcements and machines beeping, people talking importantly on their phones, a young couple kissing in the corner, I read a brilliant book by a woman who looks remarkably like you. She’s not quite as beautiful as you, obviously.
Leah toyed with her coffee cup, pulling the plastic cap on and off.
“Well, I should get my train. Long journey to Scotland.”
“Oh? Looking for Nessie?”
“I’ll keep my eye out. No, conference.”
“Well, good luck.”
“And you’re heading?”
“Home to Manchester, but looks like I’m on the train after you.”
He nodded, standing now and seeming reluctant to leave. He turned, then turned back. “Have a safe journey.”
She smiled. “You too.” And then she watched him walk away. She thought about him finding his seat, and wondered if she would be in his thoughts as the train drew him up the country, her following just behind.
Around thirty minutes later, when she found the crossword section, she discovered he’d filled in 2 across: Fashion leader (11). How had he done that without her noticing? She peered at the boxes; a row of numbers in each of the white squares. His handwriting was sloppy and seemed somehow old-fashioned. What did it mean? Was it some cryptic puzzle? She looked at the 5 again and it reminded her a lot of the way her dad used to write them, the very top like a lid raised, or someone doffing their cap. Next to the row of digits he’d scribbled a note – a scientist’s scrawl: In case you have more trouble with the barriers! J.