Sunday, August 07, 2005

New Writing - Unfinished Business by Alison Williams

The man in the grey raincoat did his best to smile. He'd just caught sight of an unmistakable figure elbowing his way through the crowd on the platform.

“Max!” he said, as the beaming face drew closer. “Well, now, it must be, what? Two, three years?” He tucked his book under his arm and shook the hand that had been thrust toward him.

“Three years it is. I think I made the right move back then. Been promoted twice, you know! What are you doing these days, George?”

“Oh, you know me – the same old thing!” He felt his smile stiffen, annoyed to find himself almost apologising. After all, he liked his job, it was worthwhile. Worthy, Max would say.

The train arrived and Max led the way on board. George followed, hoping it would be too crowded for them to sit together, but Max had swiftly laid claim to the last free seats. George folded his raincoat and placed it in the overhead rack, preparing to endure a half hour's interrogation.

“Where are you off to today then?” Max asked, after a quick check of his phone messages.

He hesitated as he sat down, not really inclined to discuss his plans for the day, but feeling cornered. He put his book down on the table in front of him and began to explain.

“I’m going to see my...”

An urgent beeping sound cut across his words. Max smiled apologetically and picked up the phone. He was soon deep in conversation.

George flicked through the pages of his book, smiling at a few familiar passages, his mind wandering.

'I’m going to see my... therapist,' that’s what I should say, he thought, with a slight twist to his lips, 'Those pills he gave me just weren’t strong enough!' That should make him back off. But then, maybe it won’t? He’ll probably want to introduce me to his life coach. He gave Max a sidelong glance.

'I’m going to see my... lover, actually, Max.' That would give him a surprise. I reckon he doesn’t think I’d have the nerve. Well, he’s probably right about that. George gave a slight sigh, and gazed out of the window, watching the backs of houses, gardens and washing lines slip past. A white shirt, lifted by a gust of wind, flailed its sleeves wildly, then sagged back, empty.

“Sorry about this,” said Max, “must send a quick e-mail. Need to get some figures to a client.”

“Fine.” George nodded, “Fine.”

Max finished his e-mail just as the train pulled into the station. Outside, they said their goodbyes and turned in opposite directions.

Smiling to himself, George slipped his book into his raincoat pocket and set off towards his publisher’s office. He had made up his mind not to give up the day job just yet, even though he had been offered a substantial advance for the sequel.

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