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Sarah_Alexander-Madigane

Faith part 1 - Your WRITES

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Sarah_Alexander-Madigane
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I expected nothing. If you expect nothing then you can't be
disappointed.

"What did you say?" I looked up from the newspaper at my friend
Mike.
"I said that Jason's cousin has moved over here, from Canada," he
replied, whilst slicing mushrooms.
"Mm-hmm?" I wasn't sure what the relevance of this was to me. Mike
was an old friend of mine that I'd known since my school days, and Jason
was a buddy of his from work. I knew Jason a bit, we often ended up in the
pub at the same time, but not particularly well.
"I think you'd like her, you know? You should meet her." He swept
the mushrooms into the frying pan on the cooker and they began to spit at
everything in the vicinity.
I raised an eyebrow at him. "How do you mean, 'like'?"
"You know," he replied, "she's hot. Your kind of thing."
"Mike..."
"She's gay you know."
I rolled my eyes. "You're doing it again."
"Oh come on Laura, I'm only saying!"
"Will you stop trying to set me up with every lesbian in central
England?" I said, grinning. Mike was forever doing this. Whenever he met a
woman who turned out to be gay, he would immediately try and get them to
hook up with me. On a couple of occasions I'd gone along with it, but it
had never worked out and I was reluctant to humour him again.
Satisfied that the mushrooms were cooking nicely, Mike broke a
couple of eggs into another frying pan. "I just think it would be nice for
you if you met someone. You've been single for ages."
"Well, unfortunately Buckingham is not exactly a hotbed of women,"
I replied. In truth he was right, I hadn't really been in a relationship of
any significance for over two years, and although I'd had the odd brief
liaison in that time, I was starting to feel a little lonely. But twice in
my twenty-nine years I'd had my heart broken savagely, and it had not left
me very trusting. On top of that, the vast majority of my friends were
straight, so the opportunities to meet like-minded women were few and far
between. Sure, I did the usual things - go down to London for Mardi Gras,
or Brighton for Pride, but beyond that I wasn't much of a scene bunny.
"All the more reason!" Mike was smiling at me in such a way that it
was clear that he was up to something.
"Have you even met the girl?"
"I have actually," he said, "she was at the pub with Jason on
Thursday night, when you didn't come out." I was a biology teacher at the
grammar school in the town and had been snowed under with reports to write
as it was nearing the end of term. "She was really nice," he continued,
"I'm sure you'd get on with her. Her name is Erin."
"What does she look like?" I hated myself for being so shallow, but
these days it was all I had to fall back on. Nothing ever seemed to last
anyway.
"About your height, brown hair, down to about her shoulders. She's
pretty. Really nice figure. Shame she's a lesbian really, I'd go for her
otherwise."
"How do you know she is anyway?"
Mike got a couple of plates down from the shelf and placed them on
the breakfast bar I was sitting at. "Jason told me she is. Orange juice?"
"Please. Are you sure he's not winding you up?"
"Why would he?" he asked as he poured the juice into my glass.
"I don't know, maybe to stop you latching onto her?" I replied,
"How old is she anyway?"
"Twenty-seven." Mike got a plate of bacon and sausages out from the
oven where it had been keeping warm and dished them up onto the plates.
"Mike, I don't know. I really don't think this is a good idea."
"You might as well meet her, at least." He added the mushrooms to
the plates, then an egg each, before placing it in front of me.
"Thanks," I said, "this looks superb. But you know how busy I am at
the moment."
"Not too busy to come and have breakfast with me," he answered.
"That's different. It's Sunday. We always do this."
"I'm sure you could fit it into your busy schedule. You'll probably
meet her in the pub anyway."
"If I ever get there again," I said through a mouthful of sausage
and egg, "I hate the end of term. There's so much to do."
"And you wonder why none of the rest of us are teachers." Mike was
an engineer.
"Why has she come to England anyway?"
"Work, I think," he answered, "she was a bit vague about it."
"And she's living in Buckingham?"
"Yeah. I guess that's because of Jason. Can't think of any other
reason."
I rolled my eyes again. "It's not that bad!"
"No, I suppose not," he said, "just, if I could pick any part of
the country to live, I don't think it would be here."
"Where would you go then?"
"Southend," he said, and laughed.

In the days that followed I pretty well dismissed any thought of
meeting Erin from my head. I wasn't even sure I was looking to get involved
with anyone, and given my track record in these matters I certainly had my
reservations about one of Mike's recommendations. I knew he meant well, but
I had become quite cynical and didn't see much point in pursuing the
matter.
I met everyone in our usual pub the following Friday night. When I
was getting ready to go out it had occurred to me that Erin would probably
be there, but I was determined not to let this matter to me in the
slightest. When I got there, I found Mike and Jason sitting at a table with
a Bacardi and Coke waiting for me.
"Hi guys," I said by way of a greeting.
"Hi Laura," said Jason, and Mike looked up and smiled at me.
"Where are the others?" I asked.
"Fiona and Dan are coming," said Mike, "and Louise is just in the
loo."
I noticed there was no mention of the elusive Erin, but I wasn't
going to say anything.
"My cousin Erin was going to be coming," said Jason, as though he
was reading my thoughts, "but she wasn't feeling that well so she's staying
in."
"Ah, right," I said, as nonchalantly as possible.
"I was telling Laura all about Erin the other day," explained Mike
to Jason. I wished he wouldn't, but discretion was never one of Mike's
strong points.
"Really?" said Jason, and then to me, "Well, yes, I guess you and
her might get on well."
I sighed. "So I've been told. Honestly, this is typical of him," I
gestured towards Mike, "he's always trying to match me up with someone."
Jason laughed. "Maybe he's right! You should meet her. Go on a
blind date or something!"
"Not you as well," I added, exasperated, "is a girl safe from none
of you?"
Louise came back in at that point and, to my relief, the
conversation changed direction. But I was concerned. I knew Mike was
unlikely to let the matter drop that evening, and although he hardly needed
encouragement, having Jason spurring things along was likely to make things
worse.
As I walked home later that evening in the cool March air I
resolved not to let this go any further. My life was too complicated. I had
just acquired a new cat, and I didn't have the time or the energy to put
into a relationship. I'd long since lost my faith in there being 'someone
out there'. I'd been in love, and on both occasions my partner had turned
out not to be who I thought they were. It was clear to me that trusting
people was a mistake, especially with something as important as one's
happiness. No, it was much better to keep things relatively simple and be
on my own. I liked living by myself, I didn't get bored of my own company,
and I had a great circle of friends. As things were I could do what I
wanted whenever I wanted, and I didn't have to take anyone else's whims
into account. Besides, I didn't really trust Mike's judgement on matters of
my heart. So that would be that.

Things continued much as normal for the next few weeks. I still
didn't meet Erin, but it really didn't bother me at all. Term finished at
school, so I had the days to myself on the whole, not that I was short of
work; there was lots of coursework that needed to be marked, and I was
laying on a little bit of extra tuition for some of my pupils who were to
take their GCSEs in June.
Mike rang me one Wednesday morning. "What are you up to tonight?"
he asked.
"Nothing, why?"
"We're all getting together for dinner," he replied, "at the
Chinese restaurant in Stony Stratford. The table is booked for eight."
That sounded like fun. "Okay, I'll be there! What name is the table
under?"
"Richardson," he replied. That was his surname.
"Excellent," I said, "what's this in aid of, anyway?"
"Nothing in particular. We just thought it would be nice."
"Okay, I can live with that. I'll see you tonight!"
I spent most of the day at my desk, but at a quarter to seven in
the evening I had a quick shower and put on some clothes that were a little
smarter than the things I'd been existing in all day. By the time I left it
was twenty to eight. Stony Stratford is a village-cum-small town on the
edge of Milton Keynes, and took just over twenty minutes to get to by
car. When I arrived I was running a little late, but I was sure it wouldn't
matter - my friends were used to my lack of punctuality.
I entered the restaurant and noticed that it was pretty quiet
tonight. The waitress asked if I had a reservation.
"Table for Richardson?" I asked.
"Ah, yes," she said, "follow me." She led me to the seating at the
back of the restaurant, away from the sight of the door. Then she showed me
to a table set out for two, at which sat a woman who was not familiar to
me.
I was about to question this when the woman stood up and offered
her hand for me to shake. "You must be Laura," she said, in a broad
Canadian accent, "I'm Erin."
"Er, yes," I replied, shaking her hand with no doubt a very puzzled
look on my face. "Pleased to meet you." The waitress scuttled off at this
point and I sat down.
"Jason's told me a lot about you," said Erin chirpily.
"Has he?" I asked, still trying to work out the situation. Erin was
much as Mike had described - chestnut shoulder length hair, slim and very
attractive. Her eyes were green and her face was beautiful, that I couldn't
deny. "Well, I knew he was eager for us to meet, but this has surprised
me."
"Surprised you?" she asked, "How so?"
"I was told that everyone was coming out to dinner tonight."
Erin laughed slightly. "Were you? You mean, Mike didn't tell you it
was just us?"
"No... you knew?" I couldn't help but smile. I would kill Mike and
Jason later, I decided. "This was very clever of them all, I must say."
"Oh dear," said Erin, "I hope you're not annoyed."
I looked at her. I was slightly irritated by the way Mike and Jason
had taken liberties in arranging this, but I decided I would be
good-humoured about it. Mike had been right, she was stunning. "No, I'm not
annoyed. Not at all."
Erin grinned at me. "That's good. Jason told me you knew all about
this."
"Nope, not a clue. To be honest, if they'd have told me I probably
wouldn't have come. Mike has done this to me before, set me up on a blind
date, and it never ended well."
"Really? What happened?"
"He just always managed to find people I really wasn't suited to or
attracted to whatsoever." I saw that Erin was looking a little concerned,
so I added, "But that was before, you know?" I didn't exactly want to
encourage her - attractive as she was, my reservations about the whole
situation were unchanged - but I certainly wasn't going to appear rude.
She blushed slightly, and asked if I wanted to choose some food. We
poured over the menu for a while and eventually settled on a combination
that was agreeable to us both. I selected a wine from the extensive list,
and we both started to relax. Although I wasn't really prepared for this, I
was determined to enjoy the evening.
"So, Erin, what made you come to England?"
"I just fancied a change, I guess," she said, "I'd been in the same
place all my life and I was bored. I wanted a change of scenery. I thought
about going to the US, but I knew Jason was over here so I thought I'd give
it a try."
"I see," I replied, "so where in Canada were you living?"
"Toronto," she said, "have you ever been there?"
"No."
"You should, it's an amazing city. I do miss it a bit, but most of
my family are there so I can go back and visit whenever I want to."
"So what do you so for a living then?" I enquired.
"I'm a research scientist. I'm working just south of Oxford at the
moment, which is a bit of a drive every day, but it's a good place."
"At Harwell?" I asked.
"Yes, you know it?"
"Vaguely. I was at Oxford University so I did a bit of work there
myself."
"Oxford? Really?" Erin, wide eyed, seemed impressed. "Which
college?"
"New College," I replied, "they were fun years. Hard work though."
"I can imagine," she said, "I went to college in Toronto, and they
were the best years of my life. Jason tells me you teach."
"That I do. Biology."
"What made you go into that?"
I thought for a second. "I'm not sure really. I always liked the
subject, and when I did the PGCE I was well qualified for it."
"PGCE?"
"Post-Graduate Certificate of Education. I guess I kind of went
into teaching as an afterthought."
"Where do you work?"
"At the grammar over in Buckingham. I teach up to GCSE, that's 16
year olds, though when I've got a few more years under my belt I hope to
take an A-Level class as well. The kids there are great, I really enjoy
it."
Erin smiled at me. "I'm sure they do too."
"I'm sorry?"
"Well," she said, "I know if my teacher had looked like you I'd
have enjoyed my high school days a whole lot more."
I reddened and grinned. "Well, it's very kind of you to say so,
Erin."
At that point, our starter arrived. We both tucked in. I was
grateful for the food, I'd not eaten anything since noon and was therefore
pretty hungry.
"So I guess you're not seeing anyone at the moment?" asked Erin
between mouthfuls.
"Ha ha, no," I said, "I've been single for ages. It suits me, I
suppose."
"I see," she said, looking very slightly crestfallen. It occurred
to me that that might not have been the best thing to say. I wasn't
consciously trying to put Erin off, I was just being honest. But, looking
across the table at her, I wondered if I was starting to be more open to
the idea of getting involved than I had for a while.
"Well, you know," I started, trying to backtrack a little, "I guess
it depends on the situation. No-one has come along recently to make me
change my mind." There, I thought, that was suitably non-committal.
"So what does it take for that to happen?" she enquired.
"I don't know really, I imagine when it happens it happens. If it
happens. It's been a while, I'm not sure myself anymore!"
"Jason told me you were difficult to get to know!"
I raised an eyebrow. "Did he? What else did he tell you?"
"That it was worth the effort."


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