‘What about this?’ Robbie pulled a dress from a rail, and held it up to show Katie.
She looked at the label. ‘It’s a hundred and twenty pounds.’
Robbie shrugged. ‘So? Do you like it?’ Katie wasn’t sure. She wasn’t sure about this shopping trip, which had been Robbie’s idea. ‘I want to buy you a dress,’ he’d said. He’d made it sound like it would be a transaction, and she wasn’t sure what he wanted in return.
‘Do you?’ He was starting to sound impatient.
‘It’s a bit short,’ Katie said.
‘Not any shorter than the one you had on the other day.’
Katie hadn’t told him that that dress wasn’t hers, that it belonged to a girl who didn’t care how short her skirts were, a girl who breezed through life, carefree and careless. A girl, she realised, whose face was smiling down at her from the walls of the shop. Katie’s mouth fell open. She was surrounded by photos—huge photos—of Angel.
‘The dress, Katie,’ Robbie insisted. ‘Do you like it?’
‘No,’ she said. ‘I don’t like it. I don’t like this shop. Let’s go.’
Cleaning out the room James had been sleeping in was dusty, dirty work. After an hour of helping Alistair sift through the mess his father had left, Erin felt filthy and tired. ‘Should we stop for a cup of tea?’
‘Sounds good,’ Alistair nodded.
They went through to the kitchen. While Alistair put the kettle on, Erin washed her hands. The water ran grey against the white ceramic sink.
‘There’s not much worth keeping, is there?’ Alistair sounded gloomy. ‘I mean, I didn’t know the man. How am I supposed to know what’s worth keeping?’ The kettle boiled, and Alistair poured water into a couple of mugs.
‘Maybe you should keep the things that would help you get to know him,’ Erin said. ‘Photos. Letters.’
‘Maybe.’ Alistair scooped out the teabags, poured in the milk, stirred, and handed Erin a mug. He took a sip of his tea. ‘What was he like?’
‘He was…’ Erin smiled. ‘He was grumpy. Hated noise in the stair. Kept himself to himself,’ she said. ‘But he was kind, in his own way. And… and I know he was saddened by not knowing you.’
‘Not saddened enough to sort himself out and get to know me.’
‘Maybe not,’ Erin said. ‘But saddened, nonetheless.’
The woman had been hanging around the shop floor for some time. It wasn’t Holly’s job to deal with customers, but Elaine, her boss, liked her to pitch in when needed.
‘Are you looking for something in particular?’
‘You’re Holly Chan, aren’t you?’
The woman’s tone was confrontational. ‘Yes,’ Holly said, warily. ‘Do I know you?
‘No, but I know you,’ the woman said. ‘I know your type. Pleased with yourself, are you?’
‘You broke Jemma’s heart, you know. You should be ashamed.’ The woman glared at Holly.
‘That’s… that’s between me and Jemma.’ Holly smiled. Elaine insisted they smile at customers. So she’s one of Jemma’s fans. An unusually hostile fan. ‘Are you looking for something in particular?’
The woman shook her head. She looked Holly up and down, and flounced out of the shop.
‘Aren’t you supposed to be on the shop floor?’
‘Don’t tell Elaine,’ Angel said. She’d been hiding in the Accessories stock room, which wasn’t much more than a cupboard, when Holly came in.
Holly chuckled. ‘Have you seen those belts that came in yesterday?’
‘Here,’ Angel said, standing up. The belts were in the crate she’d been sitting on.
‘Are you hiding from something in particular?’ Holly teased, in her customer service voice.
‘No,’ Angel said. ‘Just…’
‘Can’t face it?’
‘I don’t blame you. One of Jemma’s fans just came in to berate me for breaking up with her.’
‘Are you kidding?’
‘I wish I was,’ Holly said. She rummaged through the crate of belts. ‘What happened the other day? When you ran off the shop floor?’
‘That,’ Angel said, ‘was one of my lecturers. I was surprised to see him.’
She didn’t do as good a job of hiding her discomfort as she’d wanted to. Holly stood up, concerned. ‘Did something happen between you?’
‘No. Yes, but…’ Angel sighed. ‘He sort of… tried to blackmail me into having sex with him.’
Holly gasped. ‘Did you report him?’
‘No, but it’s fine.’
‘It is,’ Angel nodded. ‘It is. It’s fine.’
Holly touched Angel’s shoulder. ‘I worry about you.’
‘Don’t,’ Angel said. ‘Don’t worry about me.’ She smiled. Holly smiled too, and it seemed to Angel, suddenly, like a good time to kiss her.
More To Read:
Love drama? Subscribe! And tell your friends—drama loves company!
If you’re a Substack writer, please consider recommending The Links:
Thanks so much for reading!