My coffee had almost gone. I glanced up and out of the café window. The snow was still coming down. I’d have to go out there soon, into the snow, back to the office. I couldn’t be late again, not twice in one week.
She dropped into the chair on the opposite side of my table, dripping melting snow onto the tabletop, snow and ice forming small pools in the warmth of the café.
‘I made it,’ she said pulling her cap from her hair and letting the red curls fall around her shoulders.
I smiled back politely and looked into the bottom of my mug. I’ve never been one for striking up conversations with strangers.
I looked up. She was staring at me.
‘Well, what?’ I gave another polite smile. ‘I have to go back to work.’
I looked up. ‘Do I know you?’
‘Stop pissing about.’
I stared back, open mouthed.
‘You don’t know me?’
‘No. Should I?’
‘What year is this?’
‘2017. What year would it be?’ I glanced around at the rest of the lunchtime crowd in the café. Most of them were familiar faces. None of them was paying any attention to our table. ‘Look, if this is some practical joke or something…?’ I shrugged. ‘I have to go.’ I made to stand up.
‘You are Stephen Muller.’
‘And this is…‘ She glanced out of the café window as if to confirm something, ‘2017.’
‘I’m Katie. Katie Hamilton.’
‘Should I know you?’
‘I should think so. We’ve been living together for 3 years this December.’
I sat back down. ‘It is December now.’ I shook my head. ‘No. Come on, the joke is over. I have to get back to work.’
‘Yes. Work. Jenkins will have my balls if I’m late again.’
‘What, you’re still at the scaffolding place?’ She seemed shocked.
‘Of course.’ I’d worked for Hampton Scaffolding for seven years.
‘But you gave that up four years ago.’ She seemed shocked. ‘When your writing took off. When you had that detective series script commissioned by the TV production company.’
Other people at other tables now strained to hear what was going on.
‘What?’ I stood. ‘You’ve confused me with someone else. I’ve never written a thing in my life – not since school anyway.’ I was angry. My writing was my big secret. I’d told no one about it, knowing how they’d take the piss at work. I didn’t fancy the office wits calling me Shakespeare or JK Rowling behind my back, or even to my face.
I walked out of the café and into the snow. The wind blew sharp icy flakes into my face. I trudged up the road through the deepening snow, thinking maybe Jenkins would let us leave early because of the weather. Although, only if he’d heard news of hell freezing over too.
The woman… Katie, grabbed my arm, pulling me around to face her. ‘Come on we have to go.’ She tugged me the other way. ‘They are coming!’
‘Who? Who are coming?’ I tried to turn back, get to the office before I was too late again.
‘They are coming for us.’ She pointed up the road.
I looked up through the blizzard of snow to see four men running towards us. They didn’t look friendly.
‘This way,’ Katie said, pulling me down a side road.
So we ran.