“Yeah,” he agreed, “probably not. Are you their only child?”
. . . because this is where the story always turned.
“I am, yes,” I confirmed, nodding. “Do you have siblings?”
“Oh, Lele would have loved to have more,” I said, shaking my head. “But while she was still pregnant with me, Uncle Robert met Aunt Natasha, found a very judgmental God, and decided what he had done was a sin. He sees me as a bit of an abomination.” Searching for levity, I added, “Let’s hope I never need bone marrow or a kidney, right?”
I registered with faint guilt that we’d been seated barely five minutes and already I’d launched into my life history. “Anyway,” I said, moving on. “They had to make do with just me. Good thing I kept them busy.”
Lifting my champagne, I took a long swallow, wincing a little at the bubbles. “Now they want grandbabies, but thanks to the Wanker, they’re going to have to wait for that.” I finished my drink in a final gulp.
Catching Amelia’s eye, I held my glass aloft. “Time for one more before we take off?”
With a smile, she took the tumbler to refill it.
“Look how huge London is,” I murmured, gazing out the window as we ascended. The city swam below us and was slowly swallowed by clouds. “Beautiful.”
When I looked at Jensen, he quickly pulled out an earbud and held it delicately in his hand. “Sorry, what?”
“Oh, nothing.” I felt my cheeks heat, and wasn’t sure whether it was from embarrassment over being the chatty, oversharing seatmate, or from the champagne. “I didn’t realize you’d put those on. I was just saying London looks so enormous.”
“It is enormous,” he said, leaning over a little to get a view. “Have you always lived there?”
“I went to uni in Bristol,” I told him. “Then moved back when I got a job at the firm.”
“Firm?” he asked, pulling both earbuds fully away.
His brows rose, impressed, and I quickly spoke to redirect the level of his esteem. “I’m a lowly associate,” I assured him. “My degree is in mathematics, so I just crunch the numbers and make sure we aren’t pouring the wrong amount of concrete anywhere.”
“My sister is a biomedical engineer,” he said proudly.
“Quite different things,” I said, smiling. “She makes very tiny things, and we make very big things.”
I smiled at this. “What about you?”
He took a deliberately deep breath, and I suspected the last thing he wanted to think about was work. “I’m an attorney. I practice business law and primarily handle the steps that must be taken when two companies merge.”
“I’m good with details.” He shrugged. “There are a lot of details in my work.”
I looked him over again: neat crease down the center of each leg, those shiny brown shoes, and hair combed without a single strand out of place. His skin looked well cared for, nails groomed. Yes . . . I could see he was a man of particulars.
I glanced down at my own outfit: a black shift dress, striped purple-and-black tights, scuffed-up knee-high black boots, and a forearm full of bracelets. My hair was shoved in a messy bun and I hadn’t bothered to put on any makeup before sprinting to the Tube.
We were quite a pair.
“Sometimes I wish we had just a bit more flair around,” he said, having followed my attention. He fell quiet for a breath, and then added, “Too bad we don’t need a mathematician.”
I let myself bask in this compliment as he quickly—nearly awkwardly—returned to his music and his reading. Only once he’d said it did I realize I really had started to feel rather dull overall. Couldn’t keep my boyfriend’s attention. Couldn’t muster the energy to do more with my career. Hadn’t been on holiday in months, hadn’t gone out and gotten pissed with friends in even longer. Hadn’t even bothered to dye my rather reddish-blond hair any fun color lately. I was in a holding pattern.
I held my glass out to her, the giddy rush of holiday, and adventure, and escape thick in my blood. “Yes, please.”
Champagne cut a sharp, bubbly path through my chest and into my limbs. I could practically feel my body relaxing in tiny increments, fingers to arm to shoulder, and stared at my hands—shit, chipped polish—as the warmth traveled up the tattoo of the bird on my shoulder . . .
I leaned my head back, sighing happily. “This is so much better than going through my flat to figure out what the Wanker left when he moved out.”
Jensen startled beside me. “Sorry, what?” he asked, pulling out an earbud.
Looking amused as he let his eyes scan my face—deciding I was drunk, no doubt, but I didn’t bloody care—he said gently, “You hadn’t mentioned it, no.”
“Last week,” I told him, “I came home to find my boyfriend shagging an unnameable twat.”
Jensen bit his lip to keep from laughing.
Was I that drunk already? I’d only had . . . I counted on my fingers. Oh shit. I’d had four glasses of champagne on a very empty stomach.