The sun had consented to emerge from the endless grey of the city, illuminating the beautiful red sandstone architecture of Glasgow in the afternoon light.
Leah walked out of Caledonia Interpol into the sunlight, where she stood blinking for a moment. After weeks of grey weather, it was difficult to adjust to the silvery sunlight. Leah liked to walk around the area every day; she needed the fresh air, and there was an awful lot to think about.
She was surprised when she saw Geoffrey sitting on the edge of a fountain she passed by most days. He looked up and saw her, then smiled and waved. She smiled back and walked over to him.
“Miss Leah!” he said, “I am so glad to see you! I know you usually walk by here at lunchtime – and...”
“How did you know that?” asked Leah, her brows drawing together.
Geoffrey's face turned bright red. “Well, you see, I, well,” he stammered, “I just noticed, is all.”
She sat down beside him.
“I bought an extra sandwich, just for you,” he said earnestly, “I hope you like coronation chicken, I...oh, dear. I seem to have sat on it.”
He stared at the sad little flattened sandwich with such a morose expression that Leah laughed. He cursed inwardly. He needed to get every word perfect, he wanted to do this right. Unfortunately, it seemed all he could do was trip over himself, and it paralysed him.
“Please, Miss Leah, I'm sorry,” he said, “it's just … I get so nervous.”
Leah put her hand on his. He was rendered speechless.
“It's all right,” she said, “Let me get us some lunch. Stay here, I'll be right back.”
Geoffrey looked like he was about to argue. He clamped his mouth shut, wanting to preserve some semblance of dignity. He anxiously stared at the corner as she turned around it, and was relieved when she finally returned. She had bought two curries and cans of Irn Bru. She handed him a box and a can, and flipped open the lid of her own. She stuck a fork in the rice and mixed it with the curry.
“There you are,” she said, “I hope you like tikka masala. It looks like you could use a hot lunch. Seems like you haven't had one in a while.”
He ate hungrily, and nodded.
“I don't get a lot of time at home,” he said, “I'm always in the lab with Milo, and it's a 24-hour job, as you know.”
“Where do you live?” asked Leah.
“Over by Cowcaddens,” he said, “it's just a little bedsit. Empty. I...I don't like going home alone, so I stay late with Milo when I can.”
He stared down into his curry, as if he had said too much, lifting his fork to his mouth automatically.
“I live alone too,” she said, “in a hotel room. I don't like going there either.”
“What happened to you, Miss Leah?” he asked, “I don't want to be rude, but you seem sad.”
She smiled ruefully between bites.
“Recently divorced,” she said, “He was the love of my life.”
Geoffrey looked at her.
His eyes were a bright, startling blue behind his glasses, and he held her gaze.
“He was a fool,” he said simply, “Nobody should ever hurt you, Miss Leah. He didn't know what he had.”
Slightly embarrassed, he turned away and focused on his curry again.
Leah's heart warmed toward this awkward young man.
“Where are you from?” she asked, to cover his embarrassment.
“Basingstoke,” he mumbled, still looking down at his food, “I grew up there. Nothing much to tell, really. I did well in school, I went to university, I got the job at Caledonia Interpol, and that's all. If my life was a book, you'd only want to read it to put you to sleep.”
“I'm sure that's not true,” she said, “ I'm sure you have stories to tell. Everyone does.”
Geoffrey finally looked up again. He looked at her differently, as if he had seen her for the first time. He gave her a bashful smile.
“Would you...would you care to join me for dinner?” he asked, “Maybe I could tell you some of them?”
Leah considered this. The divorce was so recent, and she still had nightmares. Thoughts of Adam were still a constant companion in misery. She wasn't sure if she was ready for another relationship, nor whether she wanted one with someone like Geoffrey. Still, she hadn't gone out in ages, and it was nice to be asked for a change. It warmed her, and made her feel more confident, as if the sun had just come out on a cold day.
“That sounds great,” she said, “I'd love to. It would be a good chance to dress up again. What time?”
“Oh,” he said, startled, inadvertently knocking the remainder of the curry onto the ground.
“Oh!” he said again, “You said yes!”
He stared down at the curry as if it had betrayed him. Then he looked up at her, and she was laughing. A clear, joyful sound. He smiled, and laughed with her. Leah realised she had laughed more in the few days she had worked at Caledonia Interpol than she ever had in all her years with Adam. She considered this for a moment; it seemed, now, that her time with Adam had perhaps been more grim than she remembered.
“Friday, seven o'clock?” Geoffrey asked, emboldened. She returned to the present, looking into his eager face. Leah, still smiling, nodded.
“As long as we can keep you from knocking things over,” she said.
“Well, I'm not making any promises,” said Geoffrey. Leah laughed again.
He stood up awkwardly and offered her his hand.
“I really must get back to work,” he said, “but you enjoy your day, Miss Leah. Thank you for the curry.”
“See you Friday,” she said. He blushed to the tips of his ears.
“Yes, see you Friday,” he said.
She watched him walk off and shook her head, grinning. She walked along the Clyde, towards her hotel, occasionally smiling to herself. She felt happy, and lighter.
As she approached the bridge, she was startled to see Dorian there, staring into the water. She walked up to him.
“Dorian?” she asked, “Are you all right?”
He did not answer, for a long moment.
“It is time,” he said.
“Time for what?” she asked.
“Sebastian,” he said, “That name means more to me than anyone aside from Ben has ever known.”
“What?” she asked, leaning against the railing of the bridge, “What do you mean?”
“I fear,” he said, “I fear I have been lying to you, Miss Bishop. We both have.”
Leah stared at him in dismay, the happy feeling withering away inside her to be replaced with distrust and fear, and it felt like an old, hated friend. She crossed her arms, like she had with Adam all that time ago, and she waited for him to speak.