Chapter 12

Michael Ashcroft was in a bad mood. His desk was cluttered with papers that he was trying to sort through including envelopes of bills.

"Bills, bills, nothing but bills".

He punched himself in the head with his fist.

"I'll do this later?" he wondered. Then he decided he'd be damned if he did it later. He gritted his teeth and determinedly started sorting through them. He raised his head and looked out of the window. Ducks and white swans were swimming in the river outside.  The view abated his anger slightly. Of course, as he was on the ground floor he did not have as good a view as his tenants upstairs but still.

Being manager of a large publishing company certainly had its benefits. He had been able to afford a set of flats that overlooked one of the only rivers in the city. He had taken the ground floor flat for himself and rented out all the ones upstairs. There was also a nice park nearby that he visited whenever he wanted to.  He dropped his eyes to his papers and sorted through them. It took a long time. Just as he was finishing he heard Jack coming in through the kitchen catflap. Jack poked his head into the room.

"Miaow" he said enquiringly.

Jack was a beautiful black cat with emerald green eyes.

"You thirsty Jack?" called Michael.

"Miaow" confirmed Jack, smacking his lips.

Michael got up. He yawned and stretched. "Alright" he said. He went into the kitchen, with Jack trotting along behind him. He opened the fridge and poured some milk into Jack's black bowl. He put the milk back, closed the fridge and went into the sitting room, leaving Jack lapping the milk contentedly behind him. He looked out of the window with his hands on the cool white radiator.

A woman was walking along the bank of the river. A bit of her long, straight black hair was tied back but the rest was loose. She was wearing a blood red dress, a black cardigan buttoned up over it and nice white sandals. He stared at her. He knew who it really was of course but she now reminded him so much of someone he had met on holiday the summer before last. The summer before last he had taken two weeks leave from work. Usually when he did this he went somewhere - Florence, Greece, Turkey. This time he had managed to get a flight to New York, even though he knew he couldn't stay there long.

He reminisced now as he stood, looking out at the figure of Mrs Beechcroft walking slowly and dejectedly alongside the river. Jack wandered in, having finished his milk. Seeing that Michael was preoccupied, he sat on the red rug in the centre of the room and cleaned himself.

It was at a railway station that he Michael had seen her - her hair coinicidentally in the same style as Clive's wife had it in now. She had also been wearing a similar red dress. On that day she was carrying a black and silver briefcase and he had struck up a conversation with her. She had told him her name was Jackie and they had conversed, even travelled together in the same train, only unfortunately she had reached her station very quickly, before Michael had even considered asking for her telephone number or e-mail address.  He had never seen her since.

Suddenly, a loud splash jerked Michael out of his daydream. Jack too looked up, halfway through licking a paw.

"Oh my God."

Ignoring the surprised cat, Michael ran to the front door, opened it and dashed out. He jumped, fully clothed into the river and swam for all he was worth. But, it was hopeless. Search as he might, he could find no trace of Clive's wife, who had on more than one occasion in the last few months reminded him inexplicably of Jackie, the lovely woman he had met at a New York railway station who had so captivated him.

The End

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