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Have you ever had the freaky occurrence where you see someone, then you see them again a great distance from the first time? You’re convinced it’s them but tell yourself it’s just a lookalike because, after all, what the hell would this person be doing miles away from where you initially saw them?
You don’t know this person, and there’s no reason on earth you should bump into them twice, but you do. Have you ever wondered about fate and whether this person was meant to be in your life for a reason—even if it’s only two sightings with no interaction whatsoever? Were they in a previous life with you? Were you supposed to have recognised them?
In Covert Affair, I explored this weird incident but pushed it further. That’s the beauty of writing fiction. You can warp everyday, mundane things—or the stranger ones—into something so much more. Mandy has the misfortune of meeting a man she’d rather not have met. She’s in the pub, and he makes it very clear he wants to have a bit more to do with her than the usual brush of arms or eye contact pub settings tend to have. This man then appears in her life again—and again and again. In real life this would be odd enough, but his and Mandy’s lives become entwined in a way she’d never have imagined…
Here is an excerpt about their second meeting—and from there on it just gets weirder and weirder. She calls him Cauli because he has ears like a cauliflower—she assumes he plays rugby. This snippet shows how we never know what’s in store for us. Mandy brushes off the meeting, too preoccupied with the excitement of going away with Leon. Her inner voice doesn’t pick up on the fact she really ought to be worrying that seeing Cauli again will wreak havoc. It mirrors life, doesn’t it? Sometimes, we’re so engrossed in what we’re doing we fail to see signals—ones that would save a lot of hassle and heartache. Hindsight and all that…
I scurried off with my wonderfully spotty suitcase following faithfully behind, and I didn’t stop until I reached the bank where there was a pelican crossing. Some men were inside, about four of them wearing bobble hats, not unusual given the state of the weather. They were waiting in the queue behind a woman—is that the barmaid from The Rusty Nail?—who appeared to be holding a week’s worth of takings in a grey cloth bag.
Recognition hit me—Cauli was one of the men in the line, I’d know his frame anywhere—and I crossed the road in order to get going in case he turned and saw me. Once on the other side, I looked back at Jen. She stood out in that red coat of hers, scarf flapping like a pennant. She was waving, a smile brightening her face, and the backs of my eyes burned again. She was such a dear friend and deserved all the happiness she’d get by being with Gary. Things were moving on for both of us—and in a very good direction. I waved back then pressed on, my mission to reach the station the only thing that concerned me now.
However, as I was wont to do when going away, I went through my mental checklist. I hadn’t used the iron so didn’t have images of my flat burning down floating through my head. I hadn’t eaten yet either, had only made a cup of tea, so the cooker wasn’t an issue and I always turned the kettle off at the wall after use. I hadn’t done that this morning, though, being quiet because of waking Jen. Shit, it would be okay, wouldn’t it? Things being plugged in had me thinking of my hair straighteners. They were in my suitcase. What was next? The door, I’d definitely locked the door—I remembered how my keys had sounded when they’d gone into my bag. So what was wrong?
The entrance to the station was up ahead. I decided I was doing my usual and worrying about nothing so walked on, quickening my pace in my excitement to see Leon and begin our sordid week away. I entered the station foyer with its white tiled floor and glass dome for a roof. Something popped and I jumped, wondering what the hell it was. It had sounded like a car exhaust backfiring and, telling myself that was the case, I reversed against the wall to wait for Leon to pull up outside. I’d be able to see him through the glass in the door.
The door was pushed open so hard it crashed against the wall. Two of the men from the bank came in and strode towards the stairs that led to platform two. People milling about turned to stare then went about their business once they saw nothing much was going on. I held my breath, wondering when Cauli was going to turn up, then there he was, breezing past me, his hat skew-whiff, half covering one eye. He didn’t look in my direction, and I let out a sigh of relief. The last thing I wanted was a confrontation with him to spoil my day.
Leon pulled up outside. My heart thudded hard and I left the station to rush out to him. I glanced up the street, glad that I couldn’t see Jen. He took my case, stowed it in the boot, then got into the car at the same time I did. We’d talked about this—no kiss of greeting out in the street. If we were spotted by anyone we knew, I was to say he’d texted me at the last minute to offer me a ride to Blackpool.
As he peeled the car away from the kerb and into a slow-moving stream of traffic, he said, “Morning, beautiful.”
I smiled, my whole body warming from his words. “Morning to you too. Get away okay?”
“Yep. Gary questioned me last night, but then he knows what’s what with us. Only thing is, I’d have thought he’d have told Jen by now, seeing as they’re together.”
“Weird that he hasn’t.” I dropped my handbag into the footwell. “Then again, he might have. She caught me as I was leaving this morning. Offered to come to the station with me. Maybe she was testing to see if I’d let anything slip.”
“Bloody hell. That was close,” he said.
“It was. I mean, she said goodbye last night and I’d thought—”
“No,” he said. “I didn’t mean her seeing you. That cop car just then. Bloody nearly crashed into us.”
I hadn’t seen one. I’d been so wrapped up in being with Leon that I hadn’t looked outside the car since we’d got in. “Probably something and nothing. Still, none of our business. It’s our time now. We’ve been looking forward to this for ages.”
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