Rose hurried passed the clothing racks of Marks and Spencer, making her way towards a set of doors in the back marked 'Employees Only'. To her left she caught sight of Ellie, one of her co-workers, who called her over. She let out a quick sigh and made her way to the girl. She really didn't feel up to conversation at the moment.
"Rose! I can't believe they let you back in. What were you thinking, disappearing for a week like that?"
"Yeah, yeah. I know." She glanced towards the back room she'd been heading to wistfully.
"Well, you have to at least tell me. Where were you?"
"Umm... Norway." Rose did her best to step away, a nearby display of hoodies suddenly fascinating.
"Geez. Running off for a little vacation without even telling the managers and you couldn't pick a better place to visit?"
"It wasn't a vacation," she nearly snapped, trying to hide her irritation. "I went to see someone."
Ellie's eyes lit up, intrigued. "Who?"
"It's... no one."
"Oh come on. You can tell me. I won't get you in trouble."
Rose sighed. "He... He's..." She screwed her face up thoughtfully. What could she call him? Friend? No, he was far more than that. Lover? No, it never got that far. Their relationship was so far from conventional it was impossible to place. Finally she chose the easiest explanation, though it had such a domestic overtone it sounded wrong, even to her. "My uh... My boyfriend."
"I didn't know you had a boyfriend."
"We were together for a few years," she explained. "Then we were... separated."
"You broke up?"
"No. Neither one of us wanted it to happen. It's complicated, and really hard to explain..." Rose paused, trying to think of a plausible explanation. "Let's just say we were split up and it's impossible for us to see each other again, even though we want to."
Ellie seemed thoughtful for a moment. "I get it. I had a friend who went through the same thing."
"Yeah." She leaned in to whisper. "He witnessed a crime didn't he? And now he's under government protection so you can't see each other. And if you try to, he could end up dead."
Rose smiled. It was ridiculous, but the final result was essentially the same as the truth. She couldn't have come up with a better explanation if she'd tried. She nodded, trying not to laugh.
"So when did it happen? When did you last see him?"
"About two years ago. Then I got, sort of a message. To go to Norway. Wasn't even sure why, but I knew it was about him so, I went."
"That's so romantic... So you got to spend a week together."
Rose snorted. "Two minutes actually."
"What?!" Several customers started at Ellie's surprised cry and the two women moved further down the aisles, the younger girls voice back at a whisper. "They only gave you two minutes?"
"Yeah... It was the best he could do."
"So what did you do?"
"We just talked for a little bit, and then he was gone." She swallowed hard to rid the strain of her voice.
Ellie shook her head. "Geez. After two years you only get a few minutes. It's not even worth the pain of saying goodbye again."
"It was worth it. Just to see him. To hear his voice."
Ellie smiled and nodded. "You love him."
"Terribly." Rose smiled.
One of the managers walked by and the two separated.
"Well, enough talk I guess. I have to front the shoes upstairs now. I'll talk to you later though."
"Actually," Rose cut in, "this is my last day. I just came to get my stuff."
"You mean they really did fire you?"
"No. I quit."
Rose sighed. "When I saw him... I told him I went back to working in a shop. He looked so heartbroken that I lied and told him I was joking. That I had a really good job, helping people. He was so proud... He always believed I could do more than this, and I wanna prove him right."
With a grin she walked away, making her way to the back to gather her things. She moved quickly, nearly running when she was ready to leave. This part of her life, waiting for things to change, was over. It was time for her to move on.