Jane had just reached her car, when she slipped on the icy surface. She went one way and her trolley another. She sprawled on the cold concrete on the verge of tears, when out of nowhere a young man appeared and helped her to get up.
"My arm is sore," she said, in answer to his question, "but I think I'm all right. "
"Keys!" he said, and she handed them over. He quickly stowed her shopping in the boot, returned the trolley and pressed the pound coin into her hand. He opened the passenger door and indicated she should get in.
"You're in no state to drive. I will take you home."
She tried to protest but he would have none of it.
"Nice car," he said, stroking the leather interior.
He carried her shopping into the house, put the kettle on and made her a cup of hot, sweet tea. As she sipped it gratefully, he told her that his name was Ivor Macdonald. He was a marine engineer, at present on leave and staying with his aunt nearby. Jane assured him she didn't need to see a doctor. Her elbow, though tender seemed to be working perfectly, so she thanked him effusively and he called a taxi for himself. Next day he called to ask how she was and stayed for a coffee. The day after he called in and stayed for lunch. On the third day he stayed the night.
'This can't be happening,' Jane said to herself. But it was and she felt wonderful and twenty years younger.
"On Friday," Ivor said before he left that morning, "I shall take you out for dinner. I'll book a table and let you know what time I'll be picking you up." Jane was walking six inches above the ground, looking in her wardrobe and planning what to wear for their first date. It was so exciting.
On Friday the phone rang.
"I've booked The Centurian for seven-thirty, but there's a problem with my car. Could you possibly meet me there? The table's booked under Macdonald." She purposely arrived a little late, but he was waiting and jumped up to greet her. As he helped her off with her coat, he whispered, "You look stunning. "
The wine was already on the table and the waiter stepped over to fill their glasses.
"Here's to a lucky chance meeting." said Ivor, clinking crystal to crystal.
"I can only have one glass," said Jane. "I'm driving, after all." He looked crestfallen.
"Nonsense." he said, "We'll get a cab and you can collect the car tomorrow. Now - what about some food?"
They studied the menu and made their choices. A memorable starter led to an unbelievable steak with perfect accompaniment. Jane was in seventh heaven — she had been living on supermarket ready meals for two years since Bernard died. There didn't seem much point in cooking for herself. Wine and conversation flowed easily and time was of no consequence. They sat back, contented. The waiter appeared with two menus.
"Will you be having a sweet, Sir."
"Yes," said Ivor. He lifted Jane's menu and propped it up in front of her.
"Could you order ice cream for me, please, I have to go to the little boy's room."
As he stood up his napkin fluttered down and he bent to retrieve it, before walking swiftly away. Jane swithered over the selection and made her decision. Before long two fancy plates arrived. Relishing the superb dish, she ate slowly and wondered if she could possibly manage a coffee as well. Though fairly intoxicated, she did think that Ivor had been gone some time and felt vaguely concerned.
"Does Madam wish to order coffee ?"
"Yes, thank you, a small black one would be nice."
She sipped it slowly. Ivor's ice cream was now a milky splodge and panic was rising in her chest. The waiter approached.
"Your son does not wish his sweet?"
"He's not ... " she hesitated, "feeling well. He's gone to the toilet."
"Oh, I'm sorry. Would you like me to check that he's all right?"
"I would be grateful." she said.
Some time passed and the manager arrived.
"There are no customers in the men's toilet. Do you think he has gone home?" She was perplexed to say the least. He placed the familiar silver dish on the table.
"Perhaps Madam would care to settle the bill?"
"Of course." said Jane, stretching down for her bag and finding — nothing. Her life was in that bag. Car keys, house keys, cash, credit cards. Everything.
"Could you call the police, please?" she whispered.