Logan drove back to the store where he got the beautiful bottle of wine he didn’t have a chance to give to his mother before she kicked them out. Oh well. He knows someone who’ll appreciate it even more.
Franny secured the second lock, hurriedly, she has ten minutes to make the bus otherwise she’ll be late for her shift. She was about to leg it to the bus stop when a car pulled up. The street was quiet, Cadogan place was like a little village so everyone was indoors by a decent hour. Shops closed at civilised times, the restaurants and cafés were still open but nothing was ever out of place around these parts. Someone got out of the car and she instantly recognised him.
‘What are you doing back here?’
‘You still owe me eleven bottles of wine.’ Logan answered.
‘Which isn’t coming until next week.’
‘Dinner over already?’
Logan laughed, if only she knew. ‘Something like that.’
‘You didn’t give your mom her present.’ Franny was a little sad when she saw the gift bag sitting in the passenger’s seat.
‘An even longer story. I’ll tell you if you’d like.’
Franny looked at her phone. ‘I have to get to work.’
‘You just finished.’
‘My second job. If I don’t make the bus stop in five minutes, I’ll be late and I have to relieve a colleague.’
‘I’ll take you.’
Franny corked her head to the side, this gorgeous man who didn’t look anything like a serial killer came back to see her. Hm. ‘My mother always told me never to accept lifts from strangers.’
‘I’m not a stranger, you know my name and I know yours.’ Logan offered cheekily.
‘Fine.’ What the hell his car beats being squashed against bodies on the bus anyway. ‘You better not turn out to be a serial killer.’
‘I have no bodies on me.’
Logan held the door to the passenger seat open and moved the wine to the back seat.
‘Thank you.’ Franny relaxed into the plush leather seat of the Mercedes, watching Logan walk over to the driver side. Her beautiful stranger. She was thankful for the ride, her feet ached from being on them all day, and standing for another half hour on a bus was not remotely appealing and she was tired. ‘So, what is this story you have to tell me. It better be good otherwise you are dropping me off at the next bus stop.’
‘I promise it’s good.’ Logan started the car, ‘what’s the postcode of where we’re going?’
‘Kilburn High Road, I don’t know the post code, I’ll direct you.’
‘I know how to get to Kilburn high road.’
‘I wouldn’t have guessed.’
Logan laughed, ‘you’ll be surprised where I know how to get to.’
‘I bet. So tell me this story, I am actually dying to hear it.’
‘The long or short.’
‘We have time.’
‘My mother kicked us out of the house.’
‘I guess she had enough of the bullshit and wanted to actually have a happy birthday.’ Logan stopped, before pulling into traffic on Sloane street. ‘My name is Logan Sterling.’
‘I know who you are. My colleague filled me in when you left the store and yes, I looked you up. the press sure has a lot to write about your family.’
‘They do. And I should tell you that it’s not very far fetched. Does that bother you?’
‘Why should it?’ This is not even a thing so it should not bother her. ‘So what did you do to upset your poor mother.’
‘My mother is a lot of things but poor. My family… its complicated.’
‘What family isn’t?’
‘I mean I’m tight with my siblings, but our parents are a different story, mom more like. Things are better with our dad.’
‘What’s the situation with your mother?’
‘Cold for the most part. I don’t know what it is, none of us do.’
‘It must be something she can’t just have turned cold overnight.’
‘Whatever it is, we gave up trying to understand her a long time ago. She plays these games, and it is only compounded by her mother who is not even remotely grandmotherly, if that’s the right way to frame it. They have a strange relationship. No warmth there.’
‘Have you tried to talk to her about it?’
‘She shuts down every time, so we stopped after the divorce with our dad, we stopped trying to find things out because she was never forthcoming. Now we simply maintain the relationships separately. My father is moving on and she hates it.
‘You cannot write your mother off Logan. Something must’ve happened to her.’
‘If only she wanted to let us in on what it is. Tonight was a dinner with her children and it was a formal seven course dinner complete with wait staff, in her home.’
‘Maybe that’s what she wanted. It her party.’
‘No its not what she wanted, she was doing it to make a point, to keep up that hard exterior, strangers around us so everyone is uptight. Heaven forbid she let us see her laugh or at ease. Then my grandmother shows up, throws a spanner in the works and her back goes up. There’s something between the two of them-’
‘Maybe that’s what it is. Talk to your grandmother.’
‘Not after tonight.’
‘My mother snapped. My grandmother was making a jibe about me being late, and it all went downhill from there. In a way I don’t blame her, my mother, it’s always that way when she is with her mother and I think she had enough.’
‘Don’t be so hard on her.’
‘Sorry, listen to me talk about my mother. What about you? How’s your relationship with your mom like?’
‘She’d dead.’ Franny deadpanned.
Logan slammed on the breaks so hard they jerked forward. ‘Why didn’t tell me that before I started talking shit about my mother.’
‘Because it has no bearing on any of that.’
‘I’m sorry. Gosh I’m such a dick.’
‘No you’re not. You couldn’t have known. She died when I was twelve. I went to live with an aunt after that, attended boarding school, moved back to Kilburn and then off to Oxford for Uni then back here. She bought the flat and put it in my name so any time I was at boarding school or Uni, I would rent the flat out on short let. You can pull into this left turn, the pub’s just here.’
Logan did as she informed him. ‘Here we are.’
‘Here we are.’ But Franny did not make a move to leave the car. ‘Is this a thing?’
‘I’d like it to be a thing.’
‘Logan, I’m not rich. I live up the road in a high rise council flat which I love. I’ve been on my own for sometime, except stints with my aunt after my mum died, boarding school and Oxford. My entire education was on bursary and support. Most days my friends feed me, they send over provisions on a weekly shop. I’ve never been on a plane, don’t eat in fancy restaurants, hell because of your sale my store made target and so I was going to splash out a tenner for my local cheap Chinese. You probably make more money in a day than I’ve seen in my life so far. I’m working two jobs to make ends meet, and save for law school-’
‘Is this meant to make me run the other way?’
‘I’m setting up your expectations before I have to invite you over to my flat and you scorn at how small my kitchen is, the fact that I don’t have a dish washer or that I don’t have a laundry room so my washing machine sits in my kitchen.’
‘Why should that bother me?’
‘I don’t want it to.’
‘It doesn’t. I am a Sterling and most of what you read is true, but none of that matters and it does not make me immune to the fact that not everyone grew up the way I did, or has the life I am privileged to have, especially as a Black person. I’m fortunate. Look, I think its safe to say, we like each other, more than the average person to person connection, despite having only just met a few hours ago.’
‘Is this totally crazy?’
‘No its not. We’ll take it slow.’
Franny looked at her watch.
‘You have to go?’
‘Yes my shift is starting in ten minutes.’
‘Here.’ Logan reached for the bottle of wine in the back seat.
‘That’s for your mother.’
‘She kicked me out before I could give it to her so her loss. When I come over for dinner sometime soon, I want this to be our first bottle.’
‘It’s really expensive wine.’
‘So you’ve told me and you still owe me a case.’
Franny laughed a little. He gives her butterflies in only a matter of hours, he makes her giddy as a five year old. Boyfriends and all those silly nonsense of romance did not much fit into her plans because she’d had to bring herself up so much of her life. But for her best friends, she would have been all alone.
‘I really have to go.’ She leaned in and gave him a kiss on the cheek before heading out the car, crossing the road hurriedly, into the Tavern pub on the corner.
Logan watched her walk, her quick kiss lingering on his cheek, he’d never been so smitten.