The heat wave that had Belling Harbor grinding to a halt is long past. The city has been settling back into a damp, mild normality. Where the nights were getting dark at 10, it's become 9, and then 8. A 7 o'clock dusk is almost on the horizon. That's not so bad though; the changing colours of Autumn are beautiful in the dusk light. At least that's what Matilda told Robbie last night when he was walking her home from work.
Just a week ago Robbie saw the first uniforms of the season. A pair of young teenagers from the only all-girl Catholic school in the city. He wasn't ashamed to admit that he didn't envy the poor kids.
Dressed in an oversized blue sweatshirt, straight legged jeans, and a pair of black Cat boots with yellow laces, Robbie ascends the subway staircase, stepping onto a street that's been freshly washed out by one of many mid-September showers. It seems that with every step his foot lands in either a puddle or a pile of leaves.
Slung over his shoulder is a faux leather hold-all, filled with the typical short term trip gear; shoes, jeans, t-shirts, his favourite baggy hoodyyou get the picture.
Not that Matilda is impressed with the situation, but she and Robbie are visiting her parents this evening. It's been months since Nick had invited him. Her parents repeated the sentiment several times when they were able to get their little girl on the phone. She "forgot" to pass the message on though.
Unfortunately for her Nick had prearranged everything with Robbie behind her back. He'd even called Mrs Sheen and organized the few days off. He's picking them upat her apartment later today.
What exactly she is so embarrassed about Robbie can only guess. That Mr and Mrs Grange might take out her baby pictures? That her small, rural town will make her look like a hick? Whatever the case, she's Tumsdale bound with her boyfriend in tow.
Nick's arrival is still hours away. He'll be at the big football game. University of Belling Harbor are hosting their first home game of the season. It's the Berserkers taking on the Scottsville College Immortals. All week, the streets have been awash with blue and yellow (flags, bunting, jerseys) the official city colours.
Robbie couldn't be less concerned. Wellunless it was cricket.
*BEEP* *BEEP* [Are you on your way yet?]
He isn't late. In fact, he's almost a half hour earlier than he said he'd be there. Robbie can only guess what she's looking for. [Just around the corner, why?]
[Dang, I wanted tacos :( ]
Tacos do sound good. Breakfast was hours ago, the man is getting hungry again. If it wasn't for the hold-all he'd double back to the burrito bar right now.
[Okay, I'll drop my stuff off and head back out]
Minutes later he's at the front door of Matilda's building. Around the time they'd been dating for three months she'd had keys cut for him, so he can come and go as he pleases without waiting to be buzzed in.
Upstairs he opens her apartment door, and is greeted by Joan Jett, "Bad Reputation", and the smell of Matilda's favourite blood orange scented candle.
The aroma reminds him of the night she first discovered the candles. Late in July they'd gone to dinner at a rustic French restaurant near Jester's Park; an early bird special. She'd ordered the confit of duck leg in burnt orange sauce for her main course, and washed it down with a bottle or two of the house red. Ever so tipsy they left the restaurant, coming across a line of craft stalls along the edge of the park, one of which sold scented candles. Leading Robbie by the hand, Matilda stumbled to the stall, insisting he buy her one which "smells like oranges!"
Sitting on the floor of her apartment as he walks in is a suit case, which looks like it's already packed. Matilda is lying across the couch with a book in her hands. He can only half make out "Paulo Giordano, The Solitude of Prime Numbers" between her fingers.
"Give me a second to finish this paragraph,' she says without looking up from her book. 'And done.'
'Don't give me any of that "sweetie" crap. You owe me tacos.'
'I love you tooare you packed already?'
'I guess I just had this image of you furiously rummaging with nothing ready yet. Like some "girl-packing-for-vacation" clich '. This is their first trip together, after all.
Sitting upright now, 'Mr Clarke, when have I ever been a girly clich ?' She has a point.
Matilda quickly changes out of her pyjamas so the couple can embark on the hunt for Mexican food.
'Robbie, Matilda, hi guys,' Claire is working today. The three engage in what Robbie would consider an acceptable amount of small talk; would you look at that weather, did you hear (insert gossip), etc.
Claire may be a lovely girl, but Robbie just wants his darned tacos.
They opt for take out. They're under any pressure to get back, it's just more appealing to eat in the comfort of the apartment and listening to Matilda's old school punk collection.
Needless to mention the tacos are fantastic. The crunch of the hard shell, the dripping juiciness of the shredded beef, the burn of the salsa. It's also no surprise that Robbie all had extra meat. Matilda's on the other hand
'You know she's got a crush on you, right?'
'Give her a break, she's sweet.'
'I hope you're not thinking of beingunfaithful.'
'I'm pretty sure your brother would grind my bones to make his bread if I did.'
'He's not the only Grange you need to worry about,' she replies, as she balls her right hand into a fist and hurls it at Robbie's upper arm.
'Hey!' he yelps, clutching his arm where she'd punched him. He looks at her and notices her wincing and shaking out her hand. 'Serves you right.'
She looks up from her hand to Robbie's face and the both burst into uproarious laughter.