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       Tempests, p.1

           Michael Carter
 
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Tempests


  By Michael Carter (c) 1997, 2013

  This free ebook may be copied, distributed, reposted, reprinted and shared,

  provided it appears in its entirety without alteration, and the reader is not charged

  to access it.

  Bradley had just signed on, and was now qualifying his Job Seekers claim by doing exactly that, weaving in and out of the boards, running his eyes over the job cards for any suitable positions. He was scanning the ‘Clerical’ section, behind which were the double doors, needlessly electronic as they were always fixed open.

  He was reading the ‘Other Details’ section of a temporary desk-job in Helmington when the girl with the innocent yet alluring face and the dark shoulder-length hair walked in, looking far too healthy and bright to belong to this high-membership late-sleepers club.

  No longer interested in the clerical position (‘Two years secretarial experience required’) he shifted his stance so that he could see through the space between ‘Clerical’ and ‘Retail’, and watched the girl as she strode up to the ‘Queue Here’ barrier and extracted her signing-on book from an inside pocket.

  Mmmm, very nice, thought Bradley. His glance spiralled downward, and to anyone observing him he would be seen to be studying the form on the bottom row. Not so; his eyes were focused somewhere between the jobs.

  Look at those legs. Denim, curvaceous, brunette, hell-oo. A bearded man in a pullover left the first of the signing-desks and ventured down towards the job circus. Little Miss Perfect replaced him, and offered her book to the attendant.

  Bradley watched, surreptitiously, while the two ladies at either side of the desk executed their mundane, almost pre-programmed conversation, and then got around to checking the computer files for any recent jobs that had yet to be transferred to the boards. One of these must have been potentially suitable because the dark-haired woman began to write unknown details on a piece of paper.

  Someone was behind Bradley now, obviously trying to see if the ‘Clerical’ positions had changed any from last week (Bradley could easily confirm that they hadn’t), and so, in keeping with his general good manners, he stepped aside to look through the next space, bordering on ‘Part Time’.

  Suddenly there was a pang of worry. She’d gone! She’d gone! In the time it had taken Bradley to move a couple of casual steps to the side and re-adjust his glance she had disappeared from her fortnightly perch.

  Where the hell was she- aah, there you are, you little beauty. She’d walked off round the side way, behind the ‘Training For Work’ display and was now headed for the job-boards. Being a gentlemen (his mummy had told him not to stare) he turned his head and began looking at the ‘Managerial’ positions, the eight of which were offered, he had no chance in hell of securing.

  Using his peripheral vision he watched the object of his fascination glide towards him. Nearer, nearer, almost at his side, right behind him, and off to the ‘Local Jobs’ at the other side of the room.

  Typical, thought Bradley, but what did I expect? He sighed a sigh that signalled his weary defeatist nature and all but announced his social incompetence into the bargain. Lightly disappointed but totally unsurprised he drifted back to the ‘Clerical’ board and resumed his scan.

  ‘No vacancies.’ That’s what he’d have to put on his Jobseekers Report Form; ‘Visited Job Centre – 24th June – No vacancies – Look again – next week.’ No respite in the unemployed then.

  Not noticing that now he was being observed, he scratched his cheek, licked his right forefingers and headed for the door, and the amazingly un-June-like weather which lay beyond. Before he could get there, however, he was caught up with someone wearing jeans and a thin leather jacket, two sparkling eyes and a copse of brown hair that danced on her shoulders.

  “’Scuse me?” she said, grabbing his arm. Instinctively he turned around to see his attacker, and lost himself in brown eyes that showed no hint of malice. Friendly eyes. Familiar?

  “I thought it was you, but I wasn’t sure.” she said.

  “Sorry? Do I know you?” There was a hint of hopefulness in his voice, and he hoped that the girl hadn’t picked up on it.

  “You’re Bradley Armstrong, aren’t you?” She was nodding.

  “Yes?” he replied, slowly, mentally checking that she was correct. She laughed then, easing her head back slightly, and blooming little cheeks which Bradley knew he’d seen before.

  “Junior school? Third year?” she asked, trying to squeeze out the sponge of his memory. He cast his mind back to third year juniors, Mr.Rodchester’s class, running the tuck shop, a new teacher arriving, Mrs Tempest, two daughters- he remembered those eyes – the ones that were eagerly looking at him now – those eyes that shined when he presented her with sweets, purchased from his charge with his dinner money. And that smile, when he sneakily gave her extra star points when he went round the class dishing them out for the teacher. The cheeks, the face, the laugh- Holy Christ!

  “Sarah.” he managed. It wasn’t a question, it was a statement. He knew who she was now.

  “Sarah Jane Tempest.” He was stuck for words after that so just added, “Oh God. Wow.”

  “Come here” she said, and grabbed him, hugging him tightly, like no-one had before except his mother.

  “Where did you go?” she said, still in the tight embrace. “We had something special, didn’t we?” Then she pulled away from the hug, not really wanting to, it seemed, and planted a small quick kiss on his cheek. He was very glad he’d shaved that morning.

  He remembered everything in colour now; images and scenarios that in the past eleven years had slowly faded helplessly away into times dark abyss. He and Sarah-Jane did have something special. Not sexual, of course, they were only nine years old; not even physical really, just a kind of mutual understanding and unspoken sense of being more than just friends. They didn’t even play together very often at break times or after school; just smiled as they passed in the corridor, exchanging knowing glances in the assembly hall, and swapped small gifts – sweets, stickers, star points – at choice moments. There was an understanding that they were meant to be together; or at least to care for each other always. Soul mates, thought Bradley, now finding it difficult to stay ahead of these unprecedented and quite emotional events.

  “It was my fault, really.” said Sarah-Jane, ushering Bradley outside to lean on the fence. “When we had to move away I never asked you for your address. I thought i knew it but I couldn’t remember the street name. I would’ve written, you know?”

  “I might not have understood it though.” Bradley said with a smile, “Remember you always used to fail your spelling tests and had to stay behind while we all went swimming.” Bet you look great in a bikini, Bradley almost said, but sensibly thought better of it.

  “Well, I wouldn’t have been able to read your replies anyway”, she retaliated with a giggle, “Even you could hardly read your squiggles.”

  It felt good laughing. It felt amazing for Bradley, who hadn’t laughed with conviction for what seemed like years. But then came the regrets.

  “You can’t take the blame. I could have asked you for your new address.”

  “Yeah, but I didn’t really know where we were moving to.”

  What Bradley said next began as a sigh of disbelief and ended in a breathy laugh; “I can’t believe this. Sarah Jane.” He felt that he had to keep looking at her and repeating her name or else she would be cruelly whisked away by the Master Trickster.

  “So what happened to you when you moved off, then?” asked Bradley.

  “Well, when mum swapped jobs we went to Yorkshire but we only stayed two terms. After that we went down south to Lincoln for a while. I went to comprehensive school there and then started at the sixth form but the school where Mum was wo
rking had to cut back so we moved back up to Durham.”

  “Any boyfriends?” Yeah, great one, Bradley, you stupid arse-face, stupid bloody question.

  “A couple.” she replied, “nothing serious, like. Just a few snogs in the dark, at the pictures, know what I mean?” Bradley didn’t.

  “So are you going out with anyone?” she finished.

  “Me? No, I’ve never...er..I mean...well, no, not at the moment, no.”

  Sarah smiled a huge amazing smile whose power could easily have broken the dull grey clouds that littered the sky, pregnant with rain.

  “You’re saying that you’ve never had a girlfriend? Not even one?” She was teasing, and enjoying it.

  “Do you count?” he said quietly, hoping to hide his blushes under his shame.

  “Yes, actually. Yeah, think I do.” Her smile turned into a grin; “So have you been saving yourself for me?”

  Bradley couldn’t stop his gaze from sliding down her slender form. Yes Sarah. Oh God yes... Unfortunately these words just idled in his brain and wouldn’t work their way down to his mouth, so instead Bradley said, a bit pathetically, “Er,I dunno. Maybe.”

  Sarah cocked her head at an angle, like she always used to do at school when she was making a friendly joke. “I was kinda hoping you were.” She looked up at the sky, her face now being spattered with the conquistador drops of the
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