With tears smeared across her cheeks, Jess pulled her phone out of her purse and saw that she had received a text from her Dad. Biting her lip, she replied that she would be home soon. Then, Jess called Courtney to see if she could borrow a tenner. Courtney might even be ready to leave and they could share a cab like they had originally agreed.
She listened to the annoying voice informing her she had been transferred to Courtney’s voicemail and left a message. It wasn’t the first time that her mate would come up with great ideas and then let Jess down. She sent Courtney a text too, and then waited in sight of the doormen. The guy who had spoken to her earlier was jabbing the air with his fist.
With the phone in her hand, she loitered in the cold and couldn’t help looking at the park gates at the end of the street. This time, they were not obscured by a tree. She tried to believe that nothing had been there, but that nothing began to prey on her mind. Before long, Jess tried to make sense of what she had seen. She didn’t want to rule out a person standing there, even though he would have been so impossibly tall. The streetlight must have played a trick and stretched his shadow. That wouldn’t have explained the angel wings, though. Maybe it was an angel. The fact that the body was utterly black didn’t matter; the fact that she didn’t believe in angels was also irrelevant. Angels were good. They watched over people; protected them. She needed an angel now.
Knowing that she hadn’t received a text, she glanced at her phone to see if she had one. Perhaps the doormen would let her go back into the club.
There was a shout from behind her. “Jess. Je…Jess!”
Rob staggered towards her on the other side of the street. She wondered where he had appeared from, as the club where they had both been was in the opposite direction. There was nothing except a few back alleys the way he had come.
Don’t worry about that, Jessica, he could be your saviour, she told herself.
“Rob! Have you got any money on you? Mine’s been stolen, and I need …”
“Eh?” Rob swayed towards her.
“Cor, you’re looking lovely tonight, Jessie.” With apparently no idea that he was crossing a road, he staggered over to Jess’s side. With his short, black hair ruffled and his Henley shirt half tucked, he said, “Fancy a …”
“Rob. Money. I need a taxi.”
“I need a kebab,” he rumbled, oblivious of her predicament.
“Can you lend me a tenner? I’m freezing.”
He reached her and slipped his hand around her waist, pulling her close. “What was that, Jessica?”
Jess inadvertently inhaled his sickly, alcohol-stale breath. She had got a whiff of something else mixed into the fetid blend but didn’t identify it before she pulled away.
“Have you got ten pounds that I could please borrow?”
She had known Rob for four years and she would have called him a friend, if he didn’t keep going out with her mates, then dumping them. He was a right dog.
“Yeah … Jessie, I’ve got some … change,” Rob opened his mouth and burped loud and long. “For the kebab house, that is. Why? What’s up?”
“I need to get home. I need a taxi,” she replied, keeping her distance and becoming a little tired of repeating herself.
“Shit, I’ll be your taxi, sweetie,” he answered. “But, we gotta go to the kebab house first.” He started to walk away from her in the direction of the park.
“Rob, it’s over two miles to my house.”
“Aah, that’s all right,” Rob spoke over his shoulder. “Besides, what else are you going to do? Look, come to the kebabbie with me, then you can borrow some money,” he told her. “It’s on the way, innit.”
“Can’t I borrow it now, though?”
“Come on, let’s go.”
Jess shivered. If she was going to walk, she would be glad of some company, and Rob was harmless.
She was about to catch him up when she thought of a problem. “Where’s Lizzie, though?”
Lizzie was Rob’s girl of the week. She was another of Jess’s friends. What was it that made most of the girls she knew want to go out with Rob? He was tall and slim and quite buff, but that was it. His charisma didn’t pack a punch and he would not stimulate you with witty, sparkling conversation.
Rob stopped. “Liz? Oh, yeah. Yeah.”
She stopped too, and waited for his answer.
“What? I think she got pissed off and left,” he muttered, glancing over his shoulder. He took a couple of steps back, almost tripped over, and reached for her hand.
Jess moved it away. “You think? What did you do to upset her?”
She stared at him.
“Fuckin’ lots of things, probably.” He raised his arm and slapped his head firmly. “You girls are all a bit in the head.”
She let the comment pass, and asked, “You didn’t leave her to walk home on her own, did you?” She was concerned and would have had second thoughts, if she wasn’t desperate.
“Nah. She got a cab, Jess. Look, stop fussin’ and come on. I’m starvin’.”
“You didn’t come from the taxi rank. I was at the taxi rank. I didn’t see her,” Jess was unconvinced.
“Ah fuck off, Jess. I went for a slash, right?” he replied, shaking his head. “What is this? Do you want the money or not?”
She wanted to know what Rob had done to make Lizzie abandon the evening and go home alone, but if she hesitated much longer she sensed Rob would leave her to it. She didn’t like the dark and there were a lot of weirdos out there. She doubted if Shirley was the safest place at night. She nodded.
He lurched forward and slapped his arm over her shoulder. It rested heavily on her blonde hair.
She removed it immediately and set off to the kebab shop, relieved to be going home.