National Chocolate Week

In celebration of National Chocolate Week, pull up a chair, your chocolate bar of choice (I think I’ll plump for a Ripple) and take time out of your busy schedule to indulge in a chocolaty read!

Brief Encounter

In my kitten heels and polka dot skirt, I’m doing a 60 metre sprint to catch the 17.34 from London Euston and today, like most days, I make it to Platform 9, with only seconds to spare.

But by the time I reach the ticket barrier it seems that neither I, nor the train, will be going anywhere fast.

‘Sorry love,’ says the guard in a wearily resigned fashion that suggests it’s not the first time he’s trotted out the words, ‘points failure at Watford Junction.  It’ll be another forty minutes before the next train leaves.’

Despite the temptation, I refrain from stamping my foot in frustration and sobbing pathetically into the arms of the unsuspecting railway worker.  Instead, I curse inwardly, raging against my much-loathed job in the city and its equally loathed journey.    A light bulb flashing moment, if ever there was one, I reflect, vowing there and then to spend the next weekend scouring the newspapers to find a job closer to home.

For the minute though, only a cup of coffee and sugar-fix will do, so I wander up on to the concourse and head into the first café that I find.  The place is heaving with disgruntled commuters, but I wait my turn and order a cappuccino, picking up a blatantly seductive chocolate bar from the counter.  Juggling my tray, handbag and newspaper I head towards the only vacant seat at the far end of the café.

‘Do you mind if I sit here?’ I ask the man sat opposite, whose belongings are spread haphazardly across the table.

‘Sure,’ he says, looking up to meet my eyes, making a half-hearted attempt at clearing some space.

I recognise him as a 17.34 regular.   Thirty-ish with dark, closely cut hair, come-to-bed eyes and a bone structure to die for, it’d be hard for any girl not to notice this guy in the crowd.  And, at such close proximity, I find myself checking out the third finger of his left hand.  My heart does a little leap of triumph when I find it tantalisingly bare.

Sadly though, I don’t think my presence has even registered in his stratosphere, as he’s turned his attention straight back to his book without so much as a friendly smile in my direction.

I stir my coffee and reach for the chocolate bar which has edged its way under his papers.   As my newly manicured nails settle on the red packaging, I notice his dark eyes flash from his book onto my hands.   Slowly now, aware of his full-on attention, I unwrap the biscuit from its wrapper and snap off a velvety finger.  He puts down his book and turns the intensity of his gaze onto my eyes, watching intently as my lips settle around the smooth, milk chocolate.  And quite why, I cannot understand, but the atmosphere between us now is electric and Mr Gorgeous cannot take his eyes off me as I nibble seductively at one chocolate finger after another.  I’m just about to lay claim to the final finger when his strong hand comes down firmly on to mine, and gently he removes my hand and picks up the remaining bar for himself.

My pulse quickens and a warm flush of desire spreads through my body.  Now it’s my turn to watch in amazement as, audaciously, he savours the last few crumbs of my chocolate bar.   I’m speechless, but only too aware that at a moment like this, there’s no need for words.  We’re talking our own language, the language of love.  The intensity between us speaks volumes.

I laugh coquettishly in an attempt to draw him into conversation, but before I get the chance, he’s standing up, gathering together his papers and with a final lingering look, he leaves me, feeling bemused and deflated, alone at the table

‘Er, excuse me,’ I say meekly, to his departing figure, but it’s too late, he’s already out the door and on his way to the train.

‘Train!’ I shriek, suddenly remembering what I’m doing there.  Hurriedly, I pick up my handbag and make a mad dash for Platform 9.

I scan the carriages for Mr Gorgeous, hopeful that I’ll find him sitting waiting for me, but I can’t see him anywhere and it’s with some disappointment that I climb into the last carriage, settling myself into a window seat.

It’s then as I’m fumbling around in my handbag that I let out the heartfelt scream.

‘Aarrgghh!’  The other passengers turn to look at me in concern.

‘Oh my god!’ I gasp, clasping my head in my hands in horror.  Everyone’s staring at me expectantly.

‘My chocolate bar!’ I say, by way of explanation, wrenching the unopened packet from my handbag and holding it aloft.

***

In the weeks that follow, I do my utmost to miss the 17.34 electing instead to work late to avoid the humiliation of bumping into that man.  And, with time, I’m able to put the whole embarrassing incident out of my mind, as I focus on the more important task of finding a new job, closer to home.

So that’s what I’m doing here now, sitting in the plush reception area of this purpose-built office block, only a stone’s throw away from my road.  And the job, as a marketing research assistant for a company re-locating from London, has my name written all over it.  It’ll mean a salary cut, but with the money I save on travelling it’ll make it more than worthwhile. Perhaps, on reflection, it does seem a little too good to be true.

‘You can go in now, Miss Jewell,’ says the young receptionist.  ‘Mr Phillip’s office is the first door on the right.’

Confidently, I walk into the office, but as soon as I see the suited figure behind the desk, my heart plummets to the ground.  It’s him.  Mr Gorgeous.  Mr Stuff-my-face-with- chocolate.   If he didn’t recognise me before, in the coffee bar, he certainly does now and he does a delightful double take as he clocks the discomfort on my face.

‘Ah, Carly Jewell, haven’t we met before?’  His eyes, I swear, are dancing with delight.

‘Not sure,’ I mutter, lamely.

He picks up my CV, turning it over in his hands.

‘Would you like a coffee?’ he asks.

‘No, thank you,’ I say, eager to get this whole thing over with as quickly as possible.

‘How about a biscuit?’ he suggests, pushing a plateful of chocolate digestives my way.

‘No, thank you,’ I croak again.

‘Well, I hope you don’t mind if I do?’ he says, with a devilish grin.  Slowly, he takes a biscuit from the plate, places his lips around its smooth contours, hesitates a moment before biting into its crispiness.  He looks at me with a look I’ve seen before, a look I realise I shouldn’t even attempt to make sense of.

I don’t remember much after that as the rest of the interview descended into a hazy blur.  I think he may have asked some intelligent questions and I gave him some answers, but intelligent? I don’t think so.

Really though, it wasn’t too bad because by that stage, I’d had a change of heart over the job, so I wasn’t too disappointed when, a few days later, I received a letter informing me that I wouldn’t be asked back for a second interview.

I’ll start looking again tomorrow.  But for tonight I’ve got other more important things on my mind.  Darryl Phillip might not make ideal boss material, but when he asked me out for dinner, saying I looked like a woman with a healthy appetite, I felt, in the circumstances, I could hardly refuse….

***

This story is taken from my short story collection When James Bond Met Holly Golightly.

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