Crap, I didn’t pack my phone charger. The red light has started flashing. Damn it. I need one of them. I suppose I’ll have to dip into that money a little more than I wanted. Can almost hear Casey telling me, “That’s what it’s there for.” I know that, I just don’t want to have to pay you back even more. I start the car and carry on driving down the street. There used to be a shop, further down. They’ll probably sell phone chargers. After that I’m just going to go to Wexgate and then get some sleep. My constant headache is starting to return.
This whole day has been crap. If I wasn’t already sure I was on the wrong path in life, this would have proven it for me. My whole life has just been one joke after another. And now look at this. My Dad’s dead, I have a brother and I’m chasing a stupid story that’s doing more harm than good. Oh and that story is also pretty non-existent.
The shop is still there, a little further along the street than I was expecting, but it’s there. On the corner. Bigger than I remember as well, must have expanded into one of the houses. I’m surprised it’s still there. Joe’s Corner News. I thought some big chain would have bought it up by now and turned it into one of their soulless copies. I hate this world. But there it is, the same as when I was a child. It’s been done up. The windows have new pictures pasted in them, showing bread, sweets and smiling faces. The sign that sits above the corner entrance door is new. No longer just block letters, now each letter swirls and dances into one another.
Back when I was a child we used to walk down to this shop after school, pretty much every day. Mum would take my hand and lead me down here. Sometimes I would get sweets, but it was mostly to get a newspaper for Dad. There was always a woman behind the counter, back then I thought she was so old, but probably only in her late twenties. She would ask Mum how we were and I would stand as close as possible, almost clinging onto Mum’s coat. It was a dark and dingy shop. The floor was always sticky and an odd smell hung in the air. I don’t miss things like that.
Inside it’s completely different now. Just like outside, everything has been redone. The lights actually work, and light the place up. There’s no odd smell and the floor is perfectly clean. The counter has been moved to the right of the entrance. I can see someone sitting on a stall behind it. There are three isles, stretching much further than they used to, confirming my idea that the shop had expanded. There’s the hum of the chillers and freezers along the left hand wall. Magazines, between them and the entrance. I grab a bottle of cola and walk back to the counter.
“Hey, how can I help?” The girl, not much older than eighteen asks.
“Can I grab this, and also do you sell phone chargers?”
“Sure which one?”
“Look, it’s the last one. Here you go. That’ll be £12.89.”
I tap my card against the machine and wait for the beep. I haven’t checked my bank yet, but I trust Casey. More than I trust people who owe me money. The machine beeps in delight and I put my card back in my wallet, and back into my pocket.
“Thanks,” I say, preparing to leave.
“You don’t live round here, do you?”
“No, just passing through.”
“We don’t get many new people round here. I hope you enjoy your visit.”
“Thanks, but I’m just leaving.”
“Still, I hope you have a great day and find happiness in whatever you end up doing. It’s a fine day out there.”
“Thanks, you too.”
Maybe I’ve been in London for too long, but I really don’t remember teenagers being that polite. It’s almost creepy. I’m not going to give her a tip or anything so what the hell was that about? I’m probably just being stupid. It doesn’t matter. She was polite and I think it’s a bad thing. I need to just sort some things out. Need to get out of this town, it’s not good for me to be here. I feel like I’m going to explode.
“Chris?” A voice says to me, just before I reach the exit.
I don’t want to turn and see who it is. I’m not going to recognise them. I just want to get out of here. I just want to go home. I just want to wake up tomorrow and forget that this ever happened. I have to turn though. Can’t be that rude.
“It is you, God. I haven’t seen you in what? Ten years?”
“Jet?” I say, after turning. “Wow. I wasn’t expecting to see you.”
I really wasn’t expecting to see her. Not after all this time. I’d pretty much forgotten about her. My upper school girlfriend. Jet Hill. I can’t believe it’s really her.
“Chris. Wow. You weren’t expecting to see me? How do you think I feel. I didn’t think I’d ever see you again after you left us like that.”
Oh yeah, that’s something I’d forgotten about. When I left town, I didn’t give her warning. She knew I was leaving soon, but I didn’t say good bye. I got a new phone in London and didn’t give anyone back home my number. She wouldn’t have been able to contact me if she wanted to. I was a prick to her, to most people.
“Sorry, about that.”
“Don’t worry about it,” she says with a smile and swipes the air in front of her. “We were kids, it doesn’t matter in the slightest. What brings you back round town? It’s nice to see you again at any rate.”
“I’m just passing through.”
“Oh come on now, you don’t expect me to believe that. I know this town, no one just passes through. We don’t even get visitors. You’re the first newcomer I’ve seen in months. The only reason Joyce’s B&B stays open is because no one has the heart to close it.”
“She still kicking about?”
“No, sadly. Time catches up with all of us, but other people have taken over. It’s like this place. Joe left town six years ago and my family took over. Couldn’t change the name though. You know how it is.”
“Sure.” There’s an awkward moment. “Look, I need to get going. I’m sorry for how I left before. That wasn’t a good thing to do.”
“Nonsense. If you’re not going to tell me why you’re here, the least I can do is get you a room at Joyce’s.”
“No, honestly. You don’t need to. I’m not staying. I’m just passing through. Thought I would see the place again, probably for the last time.”
“You break my heart, Chris, you really break it. Good luck with your travels and I hope you find whatever you’re looking for. Do you want an apple for the road? It’ll do you a world of good. I can promise that.”
“No thanks. I’m good.”
“Come on, it’s on the house. Just grab a piece of fruit you look like you need it. You need to look after yourself. Five a day and all that good stuff.”
“Fine,” I say with a smile.
If she wants me to take a snack then I’ll grab one, I walk down the isle and grab an apple. I walk past Jet, shaking the apple in her face.
“Thanks, Jet. I’ll see you around.”
“Good to see you again, don’t be a stranger. Take this,” she says passing me a piece of paper with a number on it. “Call me if you need that room at Joyce’s. I’m sure I’m not the only one in town who wouldn’t mind catching up”
“I’m afraid of that. See you around.”
I was only half-joking. There are a lot of people I miss. Jet, even though I left her without a word. Vanessa, my first ever friend. I wouldn’t mind seeing them, it’s the others I don’t want to think about. The people I want to leave in the past, and not see how well they’re doing now. I also don’t really want to see Ryan Campbell. Not because he was a bully, but because of what I did. What my perfect Dad did. I really don’t want to even think about it. That whole thing haunts me most nights. Nothing I do is going to fix it now. It’s done. I wanted it to stay in the past, but I suppose I don’t deserve that.
TO BE CONTINUED…