Almost hidden by a spreading crab-apple tree she watched as he selected another card from his wallet and inserted it into the dimly lit cash point. It was a red card, the one he used before was blue. Two accounts by the look of it. He withdrew a wad of notes on the blue so it would be interesting to see how much he got on the red. Eve’s eyes widened when she saw the size of the second bundle. What she wouldn’t give to have some of that in her collecting box.
The bank was an old establishment one, built in the 1800’s in what was now a tree-lined esplanade. Elegant, if old buildings were your thing; and it smelled of money. The area was inhabited by a wealthy section of society, which is why she was here. If she couldn’t get a bit of that wealth here she wasn’t the girl she thought she was. Material things were important but unavailable without cash, that’s why she had two jobs. Fundraising was her main one, temping for the agency was just a fill-in. Not for her the impoverishment suffered by her parents and grandparents, or the persistent complaints that life treated them unfairly. Nor could she adopt her sister’s lifestyle of living off her friends which was the cause of the rift in their relationship.
After pocketing the money in his rather gaudy jacket the young man glanced round before moving away from the machine. Seeing his face startled Eve, convincing her that she knew him from somewhere. She racked her brains trying to remember. Perhaps he frequented her usual coffee bar, or maybe the wine bar where she and Hazel spent Friday nights? Apart from the weekly visits to the laundrette she didn’t go anywhere else, only work, and he definitely wasn’t an employee at March and McDonalds.
Eve switched the collection box to her left hand to relieve the numbness in her fingers. Colleagues had warned that the coins would weigh heavy after a while but she thought leather gloves would ease that. Only she hadn’t realised how difficult it would be handling tiny charity pins with gloves on. She could call it a day but was eager to win the contest for the one who collected the most for the city’s deprived children. She didn’t win many things; she simply wasn’t the competitive type, or hadn’t been until her sister Flossie announced her engagement to Fred and asked for support with the wedding arrangements. Now she was all out making those arrangements, or rather finding the money to pay for it all. The parents weren’t in a position to fork out willy-nilly for all Flossie’s fancy ideas and Fred wasn’t much help. According to Flossie he ignored hints like he’d gone deaf. He was regarded as a well-respected member of the community, albeit a community at the far end of the land; Scotland, to be precise, which couldn’t be further away from their family’s Cornish home town. Even so, he didn’t seem to have much money.
None of the family had known she was courting, let alone soon to be wed. Their mother naturally came to the conclusion her daughter was pregnant but the next few months revealed no sign of ensuing parenthood. Eve could only assume that Florence and Frederick were truly and simply in love. It was such a pity he didn’t earn enough to pay for their wedding.
By seven o’clock Eve had had enough. She was cold and miserable. Her feet throbbed and she longed for a cup of hot coffee and something warm to eat. Since the workers and shoppers had gone home the walkway seemed deserted, there was just her to watch the activity of the shopkeepers shutting their shops. She had thought of waiting for the evening cinema goers but the bitter cold was making her head ache. Somewhat reluctantly she moved towards the bus stop, stopping only to adjust the chiffon scarf around her neck and search for her gloves. In one of her rare moments of self pity she wondered why she had volunteered to sell charity pins on such a foul day. Eve suddenly thought about the good-looking guy at the cash machine. And all that money. The charity would really like that. And the children would benefit.
A bout of shivering decided Eve that enough was enough. A drink was called for to warm her. The Royal Oak wasn’t far away; maybe she could pop in for a coffee. All day opening was in her favour, before that the pubs wouldn’t dream of serving coffee. She might even get to sell a few more pins.
More bravely than she felt, Eve walked into the pub. The warmth hit her, but the smell of ale almost choked her. The place was packed out with office workers, suited men with ties and high heeled well-dressed women. She glanced round, looking for a table and quickly realising the futility of such a thing. Instead she pushed through the crowd, heading towards the bar, catching her scarf as it slid from her neck.
It was only after bumping into a woman with a glass in her hand that she noticed the guy at the far end of the bar, the one she’d seen at the cash machine. He had his back to her but she’d know that jacket anywhere. It wasn’t everyone who wore such a colourful coat, green stripes on a yellow base. Eve pushed past a party of noisy drinkers to get a better view.
The move enabled her to see his reflection in the long mirror behind the bar. He was very handsome but now she realised she didn’t know him at all. That could be remedied, she thought, fully intending to head over to where he was leaning on the bar, nonchalant, like he hadn’t a care in the world, talking to a skinny jean-clad youth. Eve pushed closer. She had no idea what she would say to him but, hey, this was a pub... anything goes in a pub.
Although she wasn’t looking in his direction the barman obviously thought Eve wanted a drink. And why not? After all she’d come in here with that in mind, though she couldn’t see anyone else drinking coffee. Without too much hesitation she decided to order a glass of Sauvignon and waited while a new bottle was opened. It made a lovely sound as the liquid flowed into a stemmed glass; it quite made her mouth water. It was at that point she heard a commotion behind her. Glass in hand she turned to look, heard someone say ‘Well, it must be here somewhere.’
A group of people were searching for something on the floor. Eve looked down wondering if she would spot anything. And there it was. It had been kicked under the bar’s foot rail, unseen in the crush, and only inches away from her right foot.
Taking a quick sip of wine, Eve replaced the glass on the bar, the movement causing the scarf to slither, as chiffon does, right off her neck. It shimmered as it landed in a small heap by her left foot. She bent to retrieve it.
In the privacy of the ladies cloakroom she examined the wallet, shiny brown leather, small enough to slip into a pocket. Without opening it she could see that it bulged with notes. The boss at the charity base would be pleased to have so much money for the children, she thought, as she moved towards the door. Or even her sister! But her aim was not to steal; instead she would use it as an introduction to that exceedingly handsome young man who need never know how tempted she was!