Chapter 1

Chapter 1

 

Sitting in the university lecture hall, my mind was in a thousand different places. Listening to a boring old fart drone on about contract law was not my favourite way to spend a Monday afternoon. I made a mental list of people I still had to buy Christmas presents for: Dad (notoriously difficult to buy for, would probably get him socks), Gran (a John Barrowman DVD was top of her wish list) and Tom. I had no idea what to get him; a poor show considering we’d been together for three-and-a-half years! When I’d pressed him about what he’d like for Christmas, he tore himself away from Call of Duty long enough to grunt “Dunno just get me a voucher” then said no more about it. Tom didn’t have a particular passion; he wasn’t fussed on music or films and he wasn’t even that big a fan of his Xbox. This made buying him stuff extremely difficult. I made a mental note to ask his mum, she was always good for an idea or two. I shifted my attention back to the lecturer’s monotonous voice and half-heartedly wrote in my notebook. Contract law was such a dry subject, but then most of my modules were. Studying law wasn’t nearly as much fun as I’d thought it would be!

 

The lecture crawled to an end half an hour later. I pulled on my aubergine coat, tied my sparkly scarf around my neck and joined the weary mass of law students piling out of the hall. I didn’t have any more classes so decided to go into town and finish my Christmas shopping. I walked down the corridor and pushed open the large double doors. It was mid December, only a couple of weeks before Christmas, and the air was bitterly cold, stinging my cheeks and ruffling my hair. I bundled my coat around me and walked to the bus stop to wait for a bus to the high street. I loved studying in Cardiff- it was such a cool, vibrant city. It had been my home for all of my twenty years and I truly couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. I stepped inside the Perspex bus shelter and leaned against the back of it. The buses to the city centre were every ten minutes or so, so I wouldn’t have long to wait. The chill in the air sent a shiver down my spine so I slid my hands up my jacket sleeves and looked around myself. A couple of lecturers, both dressed in grey tweed jackets and carrying heavy folders, walked across the campus to their next class. A couple of huddled groups of students moved in the direction of the cafeteria, deep in conversation. I didn’t blame them. I’d kill for some hot food. I decided I’d go for a panini at Prêt a Manger when I got to town. I looked at them as they shrunk into the distance and smiled to myself. When I’d first started uni, I’d imagined it to be like a giant melting pot where you had loads of friends doing different courses. But within about three weeks of starting, I realised that it was just like high school- birds of a feather stuck together! I heard the familiar low hum of an engine coming towards me and smiled. The glow of orange headlights bounced off the pavement and the bus slowed to a stop in front of me. As soon as I stepped on, a warm rush of air enveloped me and shrugged off the cold from outside.

“City centre please.” I said to the driver. I showed him my weekly bus ticket and chose a seat near the front. The doors snapped shut and it pulled away. I shoved my earphones on and set my iPod to shuffle. I pressed my face against the cool glass of the window and allowed my brain to switch off.

 

The bus pulled up at my stop and I stepped out into the cool evening air. Dusk had begun to settle over the city and the long winding high street was alive with activity. I chuckled to myself. At least I wasn’t the only one who still hadn’t finished their Christmas shopping! Light from the shop windows added a cosy glow to the grim, grey afternoon and the pretty Christmas lights sparked flashes of colour across the winter sky. I walked in the direction of St David’s Centre, a tall glass structure right in the heart of the city. Its imposing figure loomed large over Cardiff’s skyline. I headed straight for BHS for Gran’s John Barrowman DVD. After a few minutes of pointless browsing, I found it right at the front of the shop next to the tills! The shop assistant gave me a curious look when I went to pay for it. “A present for someone is it?” she asked.

“Yeah, my gran.” I replied as I put my card in the machine. I guessed that typical John Barrowman fans were women over forty who went to his concerts to throw pairs of knickers at him! I heard my stomach grumble so decided it was time to grab a panini at Prêt a Manger. I walked across the vast marble atrium, looking forward to a cheese and ham panini and a warm chocolate muffin. As I reached the front door of Prêt a Manger, I noticed Tom walking towards me. What was he doing here, I wondered. He usually had classes till four. Our eyes met and he looked really surprised to see me.

“Hiya babe!” I said happily, kissing him on the lips. “What are you doing here? I thought you’d be in uni.”

“Yeah….Dave didn’t turn up so we all got to head off early.” he replied. His arms were behind his back and I noticed something small and black in his right hand. It was a……Beaverbrooks bag! Oh. My. God. He’d taken the millions of hints I’d dropped him and got me a Thomas Sabo bracelet!

“What’s that?” I asked, playfully making a grab for the bag.

“Nothing!” Tom said, a worried look flashing across his face. He tucked the bag inside his jacket but I’d already caught a glimpse of the fancy white writing at the bottom. It was definitely from Beaverbrooks!

“Is it my Christmas present?” I grinned. I stared at him and frowned. His kind brown eyes were alive with fear and he looked as though he were staring down the barrel of a gun.

“You OK babe?” I asked, my nose wrinkling. He smiled but his trademark dimples didn’t sprout up at the corners of his mouth. Something was definitely wrong.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Just got loads of work to do before the holidays and that. Anyway, I’d better get going, see you later.” He kissed me lightly on the cheek and headed for the exit. I stared after him, certain in my mind that there was something else bothering him apart from his uni work.

 

After spending an hour aimlessly trailing round St David’s Centre, I decided to pay my best friend Jo a visit to discuss Tom’s strange behaviour earlier. If anyone could explain it, Jo could. She seemed to have men down to a T; a skill I’d never mastered. She knew what they were thinking and, more importantly, why they were thinking it! I headed to Accessorize, near the Queen Street end of the centre. At least after dissecting Tom’s mysterious behaviour, I wouldn’t have far to go for a bus home! The shop was practically empty, apart from a lady browsing through some scarves.

“Jo, I need help babe!” I said, throwing myself onto the marble-topped counter.

“OK, is it a shoe emergency, bag dilemma or a full-on outfit crisis?” she grinned, arching a blonde eyebrow. I wasn’t sure how I felt about her implying all my problems were so trivial, but ignored her and continued. I told her all about seeing Tom on my way to Prêt a Manger, his weird behaviour and, most importantly, the Beaverbrooks bag. As soon as I finished, Jo bit her bottom lip and squealed excitedly.

“Evie…it sounds like he’s gonna propose!” she exclaimed. I burst into a fit of giggles. She was usually so good at detecting what guys were thinking, but this time she was way wide of the mark!

“Yeah right!” I said after I managed to pull myself together. “I’m only twenty for God’s sake! If it’s anything, it’s the Thomas Sabo bracelet I’ve been asking for for the last six months. He’s not gonna propose, that’s for sure!” Jo fixed me with a knowing look. I’d seen it so many times before. She definitely wasn’t going to give up easily on this one.

“OK then,” she said, in full Sherlock Holmes mode. “If it was a bracelet, why was he acting so jumpy about it? He knew you really wanted one so he obviously wouldn’t be nervous about giving it to you. There’s only one design of charm bracelet anyway so it’s not like he could’ve got it wrong or something. On the other hand, if it was a nice sparkly engagement ring, he’d be cacking himself about giving it to you and wouldn’t want you to see it till he proposes.” She finished with a “so there” look and leaned back on her chair, waiting for my response. I had to admit that what she said had made sense. It all seemed to be fitting together…

“You could be right!” I admitted. “Oh my God! He’s gonna propose to me!” My stomach fluttered as I imagined him getting down on one knee in front of our friends and families, asking me to marry him. It would be such a lovely moment. Jo and I squealed together in excitement.

“Told you!” she squeaked. “I’m gonna be your maid of honour right?!”

“Of course!” I agreed! “Now should I get married in the summer or the winter?”

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