Excerpt from 'The Summer of Second Chances'

I wondered if I had the energy to finish emptying my car. I was hungry again and I knew there was a box of food in there somewhere, it was just a pity I hadn’t thought to put it somewhere accessible.

Sod it! I suddenly remembered a box of fish fingers going in, which would undoubtedly have defrosted by now. I pulled off my rubber gloves and found the car keys.

Outside it was warmer than it had been for days. The sun was brilliant, the sky cloudless. Of course that meant that the inside of the car was getting warm too. I pulled a couple of bags and boxes out from the back seat of the car and dumped them on the drive, hoping to find the box of provisions. I didn’t realise until that moment how disorganised I could be. It also struck me for the first time that a box of spoiled food was a complete waste of money.

‘Need a hand?’ said a familiar voice.

I turned to see Bryn, standing in his front garden. I think he might have been weeding. Possibly he was planting something or he could have been putting down rat poison. I think he was wearing a pair of ripped and filthy jeans but I know for a fact he didn’t have a shirt on. And I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

I stood open mouthed for several seconds, a slow blush developing. I could feel it spreading from the backs of my knees right to the top of my head it was that bad. I must have been puce. It was quite possible that my hair was blushing too.

I babbled something unintelligible and Bryn walked towards me, stepping carefully over his newly planted borders. I’d heard about six-packs but I’d never been that close to one in my life. He pulled on a black T-shirt that he had draped over the front gate. I felt a pang of disappointment but realised it was probably just as well. He was wearing serious looking CAT boots, something I have always had a weakness for, so that didn’t help. They were quite large too, which made me think of various rather rude comments.

‘I said, do you need a hand?’ he said.

‘Um,’ I turned away and looked in the car, ‘yes please, if you don’t mind. There’s a lot of heavy stuff here.’

I grabbed the first thing I saw; a small overnight bag that a six-year-old child could have safely wheeled to the door and he took it and stood waiting for me to find him something else.

I kept my gaze steadfastly fixed in the boot. Don’t look at him. Keep calm. Don’t look at him.

I spotted the cardboard box that I had filled with food from the freezer and then forgotten about.

‘I could take that in, if you like?’ Bryn said, his voice unnervingly close behind me.

The embarrassment of having to admit my ineptitude was too much.

‘No, no, that’s OK. I’ll manage,’ I said, wishing he would go away.

I tugged at a few over-stuffed black bin liners and managed to spill a pair of my (joke Christmas present from Karen) days-of-the-week knickers onto the driveway. The pair with Magic Monday stared up at us. And of course it was actually Monday.

‘I hope you haven’t got Thursday on,’ Bryn said, straight-faced, ‘that would never do.’

I gave a weak laugh and stuffed them into my pocket, then reapplied myself to the cardboard box of frozen food. As I dragged it from the car the bottom, soggy with thawed ice, dropped out and my stash of fish fingers and potato waffles (secret vice for when Ian was away) scattered all over the ground.

‘Mmm, delicious,’ he said.

‘Oh God,’ I groaned

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The Summer of Second Chances