Home > You And Me, Always(3)

You And Me, Always(3)
Jill Mansell

‘In that case, better leave the next few minutes to me.’ With a nod in the direction of the end of the road, Dan said, ‘He’s on his way back now.’

Bugger, so he was. Patsy said, ‘I don’t want to see him!’ But if she tried to disappear inside the pub now, Derek would spot her running away from him.

‘Come on, into the van.’ Evidently having worked out the angles, Lily pressed auto-unlock. ‘He won’t be able to see you from here.’

Ducking down, heart thumping, Patsy kept out of view and jumped into the back of the van, pulling the door almost shut behind her with seconds to spare. She heard the squeak of the bike’s brakes and the swish of tyres as Derek pulled up less than six feet away. His face wasn’t visible – thankfully – but through the crack in the door she was able to see Lily and Dan.

‘Hello.’ Derek paused to clear his throat. ‘Erm … I was wondering if you’d seen my cycling partner. She was with me when we came past a few minutes ago. Dark hair, pink shirt, jeans …’

‘And you’ve managed to lose her somewhere?’ Dan looked amused.

‘Well, yes. Apparently so.’

‘Actually, we did see her,’ said Dan. ‘She ran past us just now at quite a speed, heading in that direction.’ He pointed to the right. ‘She was on her mobile, calling for a cab to come and pick her up.’

‘Oh. Right.’

‘On the bright side,’ Dan continued, ‘at least it means she didn’t fall off the back of your tandem. You don’t have to send out a search party or wonder if she’s lying dead in a ditch.’

‘Hmm.’ Her erstwhile date didn’t sound particularly relieved.

‘Oh dear. Is she your wife?’

‘Good God, no. Thank goodness,’ Derek snorted.

Charming. Although under the circumstances, he was allowed to be a bit cross.

‘I like your leggings.’ Changing the subject, Dan asked innocently, ‘Where did you get them?’

‘These? Ah well, they’re from a specialist sportswear company, I order them online and—’

‘No! Barbara, over here,’ Lily blurted out. Patsy heard the sudden patter of paws, accompanied by a yelp of excitement. ‘Barbara, don’t do that, get down …’

Too late. Patsy made a futile grab at the van’s back door, but there was no handle on the inside. A huge black paw effortlessly hooked the door open and Barbara appeared, barking in joyful recognition and wagging her tail.

Patsy wanted to die. Once, years ago, she’d been having a wee in the loo on the train when, without warning, the automatic door had slid open.

This was worse.

Derek stared into the van and she felt her skin prickle with shame. Since Barbara was now attempting to clamber up and join her, Patsy instead jumped down. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said.

‘And so you should be.’ He was still astride the front saddle of the tandem, his expression stony. ‘I thought we were going for a nice twenty-mile ride.’

Which was an oxymoron if ever she’d heard one. Nevertheless, she looked penitent. ‘I know. I’m not really a bicycle-y sort of person.’

His jaw jutted. ‘You should have told me.’

‘I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.’

‘Out of interest,’ Dan joined in, ‘why didn’t you warn her you were going to turn up on a tandem?’

Derek shot him an impatient look. ‘Because then she would have made some excuse and ducked out. Everyone always does. It’s something you have to experience first, then you fall in love with it. I’m serious.’ Sweat dripped from his ruddy forehead as he nodded vigorously, pale eyes alight with fervour. ‘There’s nothing better in the world than cycling.’

Personally, Patsy thought a nice gin and tonic beat cycling hands down. She shrugged and said, ‘Anyway, I’m sorry I ran away.’

‘It’s no great loss.’ Derek was dismissive now. ‘You’re not my type anyway. To be honest, anyone who wears make-up isn’t my cup of tea. It’s not your fault,’ he amended. ‘I should have stipulated that in my advert.’

Patsy nodded. ‘It might have been an idea.’ And she should have stipulated that she wasn’t interested in anyone who wore turquoise Lycra leggings. ‘Well, bye then.’

‘Goodbye. And just so you know, if anyone asks how our date went, I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to give you a good review.’

‘That’s fine.’ Patsy thought it was probably more than fine, it was a blessing. Aloud she said, ‘I deserve it.’

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