Angus Newlands left the shop with a copy of the Manchester Evening News under his arm. His right foot sunk to the sock in a puddle with his first step. A sigh emerged from his thin mouth, but he soldiered on, aiming to get to work before the rain recommenced its assault.
Manchester United had won yesterday which would provide entertaining reading when he got home. Sometimes he secretly wished they would lose because the newspapermen became more animated in their writing. He never told his friends that of course. They would have him drawn and quartered in front of Old Trafford.
This day marked the one-year anniversary of him leaving his parents’ home in the north to make a life in the big city. One year ago today, his parents warned him of the vices to be found in such a city. They had spoken of things he had still not seen. Drugs, loose women, suggestive music, and crime had all managed to avoid finding him thus far. What he had found was a job as a secretary (not yet mentioned to his parents) and a small flat in Kennington (definitely mentioned to his parents – it wasn't his fault they thought he said Kensington).
Angus’ first rush of excitement had come with his first sighting of a London double-decker bus. He had immediately boarded it and proceeded to travel around the city for a number of hours without coming close to being bored. Not until he had computed the average number of double-deckers he saw on his daily commute over a three-week period to be sixteen point eight did they begin to lose their attraction.
London had been an exciting place. For the first two months his parents rang him nightly to make sure he was still all right. He told them about the buses, the hoards of people, the places named after properties on the Monopoly board, and all the news on the royal family.
Now that he was almost a Londoner, the city had become a home rather than an adventure. He caught two double deckers from home to Paddington Station and the tube to work. Taking the tube all the way would have been quicker, but he hadn’t completely lost his love for the big red buses. He always bought the paper at the same shop half way through his commute and walked home the same way every night. There was no more exploring the side streets or trying to read the London papers.
Angus crossed Praed Street at the light in front of ranks of black taxis and headed for the stairs that led down to the Underground. A man running up the steps bashed into him and knocked him to the ground. He felt a foot grind his hand into the asphalt. He quickly brought the hand to his chest to protect it from any further assault. Water started seeping into his jacket so he stood up, only to be met with the sight of six thin men running up toward him. He flattened himself against the wall and closed his eyes. He kept them closed until the sounds of footfalls and foreign accents disappeared.
Blood was showing on his hand. He dug out his handkerchief from his jacket pocket and slowly wrapped the hand.
“Are you alright, mate?” A man was standing right next to him. Angus realised he was shaking and took three deep breaths, like his mother had taught him.
“Um, yes thank you.” Other people were looking at him too.
“Bloody kids. Probably high on drugs.” Angus nodded his head to the man and there were some agreeable noises from the crowd. “I need to get my train. Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yes. Thank you very much.” The shivering had stopped. He wanted nothing more than to talk to his mother, but knew telling her about drugs and violence would only make her cry.
“Looks like you’ll need a new paper.” The man pointed his eyes to the ground and walked downstairs.
“Oh no.” Angus got down on his knees and pulled the paper out of the puddle. He flicked through the pages to see how much was salvageable. It had been folded, so the sports pages were perfectly dry. He folded the paper back up and started to get back on his feet. The sight of a small ring in the puddle halted his progress. He looked up to see that no one was watching him any more. His good hand reached out and picked the golden band from the water. After looking at it briefly he put it in his coat pocket and stood up. There was a Burger King across the road. Angus was sure this whole thing warranted being late to work.
Sitting down with his strawberry shake and fast breakfast food, Angus felt better already. His coat was hanging from his chair in an attempt to dry. His pants had been torn at the knee, but had avoided most of the water. The warm food dispelled the cold he felt in his body, and the entire time he spent eating, his mind was on the treasure in his pocket.
Angus pulled the ring from his pocket and held it up in front of his eyes. It was very plain, but he was sure it was gold. He was tempted to bite it, like in the movies, but didn't know what it was supposed to feel like. It was small, maybe too small to even put on his little finger. He tried to put it on his left hand as that little finger would be smaller. It was actually too big. It must have just looked too small. He tried the next finger. It slipped on effortlessly. He smiled at the gold contrasting with the blood on his scraped knuckles.
In another world a woman wept.