Andrea glanced up at the old clock, nailed to the wall on a tilt. 9.30pm meant that it was getting late. Too late, if Andrea was to get up successfully tomorrow for work at 8.30am. She was working with one of her better work colleages (and one of her best friends), Dr Alexis Moore, who had actually put more effort into Westall City University’s lectures (the best University for miles around; one of the best in the country) than Andrea and a lot of the other post-grads had. Later, in the coming afternoon, Andrea would have to be working with a depressed client... and she needed all her wits for that.
Andrea looked into the eyes of Keith. They weren’t spectacular, but were a steady mix of hazel, sky-blue, and dull green. And more trustworthy than she thought they would be.
“Like you, I enjoy crosswords, but the downside is I don’t have time to do them with my type of full-time work. I read too, but there’s the work problem again. I find people too interesting not to love my work a little bit more than perhaps I should. I’m not interested in many sports, and never ask me to dance. I have the most left feet anyone could possibly have!”
“More than me?”
“Oh yes. Trust me.”
“We’ll have to see sometime,” Keith grinned, “Anyway, carry on...”
“Okay. On the other hand, I like cooking and would make something decent, if my equipment ever worked to stratch. I know a couple of really special recipes that my (late) grandmother passed down to me: a chicken curry and a lemon meringue. She was alot to me, my grandmother was...”
“One could say that...” Andrea was eager to change the subject.
“Let’s see...what else can I say? I, um... Dropped out of my first year of History of Art over in Oxcote. I took Psychology, History and Art for my A-Levels (down at Lansdell Sixth Form, you know, the local one) and Art was always my favourite. I won’t say I’m great at it, but I like painting, it makes me feel free and I find it so easy to do. Whenever I have the time or can get my hands on an easel, my favourite thing to paint is landscapes, especially buildings. My father was an architect, so I grew up with loads of creative ideas in my head. I guess that’s where I got the inititive to pursue an Art career. One of my...patients, he is a brilliant artist, and he draws what he sees in his mind, in order to help him recover... It’s really a great shame he’s obsessed with evil dolphins.”
Keith laughed out loud, raising his thick eyebrows. Andrea blushed under the way he was lookng at her.
“Don’t ask, okay. It’s an occupational hazard...”
“So, what made you change to Psychology in the first place?”
“I couldn’t get a grip on it all. The History of Art course was so uninteresting! When I changed to Psychology, I found it clicked instantly, and that I could understand everything my tutors tried to thow at me. I met some great people at Uni too. Not famous, or rich, but great... and that’s always the best. Unfortunately, I lost contact with a lot of them once we finished our courses; I left, but several stayed on, other transferred, and, you know, it happens naturally.” Then Andrea laughed unexpectedly to herself.
“I don’t get out enough,” She said, not to Keith but to the thin air beside themselves, “If someone says ‘do you want to go for a drink this evening, with a couple of college mates,’ I’ll be uncertain and then just give up all hope of coming, because I know I’ll be out of place. Yes, that’s me.”
This time, when Andrea gave her slightly sad smile, she turned directly to Keith. Strangely, she couldn’t read the expression he was giving her.
Clearing her throat a little awkwardly, Andrea said, “So that’s basically it about me. Um...I think you’d probably better be going.”
Keith looked down at his tarnished silver wrist-watch, and his eyes grew large.
“Yes, I hadn’t realised it was really this late. I’m so sorry for keeping you up.”
“Don’t worry. It was my fault with the ice cream and the talking anyway.”
They stood up together and started their different ways. Andrea was glad; she yawned and felt the world become fuzzy with the feeling of comfortable sleep coating it. To be honest, she was glad the talking was over. Of course, it was wise not to tell everything about herself... there were some things that she would not even tell to Alexis... And that would be the way it always would be, as though Andrea was allergic to change or opening secrets and closed wounds.
Andrea gathered up the spotless bowls and stacked them next to the juice carton, still unpoured. To be honest, her flat was pretty filthy, but, in Andrea’s opinion, she didn’t need it to be immaculate all the time; the path to true enlightenment was a clean mind, not a clean a clean living-space. Trust Andrea to say something like that, but it was true, alot of her favourite sayings were based to do with the mind.
By the time she emerged out of the kitchen, Keith was already waiting at the door. With an unusual spring in her step, Andrea bounced over to him, smiling at the nice evening they had just had together.
“I had a nice evening. Thanks, Andrea.”
“Thank you for fixing my oven. It should help me an awful lot from now on!”
“Well... We should do it again sometime.”
There was a short pause as Andrea considered how to reply. She wanted something casual, not too eager, but not dismissive either. She also hoped that this pause wasn’t off-putting.
“Yeah, maybe.” Was the best response she came up with in three seconds.
“By the way you should have a go at your art again... Just try it and see.” Keith said.
Andrea giggled. “Okay, I will,” she promised him.
And as the door closed, Andrea still had no idea whether she would see that man again.