"No..." she whispered quietly - but the lights had already gone off.
"Not again..." Rose muttered, feeling her way to the kitchen cabinet and pulling out a torch. In all her life she'd never had to use one on such a regular basis. "Stupid Jimmy. Thought he was gonna pay the bloody bill this month."
She made her way across to the window, pulling aside the curtain to let the light of the street lamps come in. The orange glow spilled across the crooked cabinets and peeling counters, casting elongated shadows. With a sigh she hoisted herself onto the small kitchen table, propping her feet on the counter under the window and staring out.
Her Mum had called that morning and she'd ignored the ringing mobile as usual. Perhaps it was time to talk to her. Maybe ask to borrow some money to get caught up on the bills. She was getting tired of surprise power cuts and clipping coupons for groceries every day.
Stretching forward precariously, the table beneath her rocking on it's uneven legs, she grabbed the photo she'd left sitting out that afternoon as she'd gone through the mail. She and Jimmy'd been totally pissed when it was taken, both wearing rediculous smiles. She couldn't blame him for the situation they were in. He was trying to follow his dreams, and wasn't that why she fell for him? That burning desire to see more and do more. To accomplish so much. They were gonna be on top of the world.
In the meantime the rare gig and part time work wasn't quite cutting it and the landlord would be after them next. He'd already taken a half payment once and she didn't think she could convince him again.
Placing the photo down, she let her legs drop and stood, padding down the hall in bare feet. Perhaps the electric company would give her a bit more time to pay the bill if she called. She could try crying a little over the phone.
Sadly, there was no need to look up the number. She'd saved it the third time she had to call, sensing she might need it again. Letting out a sharp huff she plopped onto the sofa and began to dial.
The lights came back on.
Rose dropped her phone in shock, then picked it back up to give the screen a scrutinizing glare. No one'd even had time to pick up on the other end.
Had it been a regular blackout? No, the street lights had still been on and she would have heard the annoying couple next door scrambling and yelling if their power was out.
Suddenly she heard whispered voices by the entry door. Had someone else cut the power intentionally? To break in? Why turn it back on then? There was a loud thud and the sound of scrambling feet outside that shook Rose to the core.
Making her way quietly the the entrance, she took hold of the aluminum bat Jimmy kept there. She's be a sight, standing in the doorway in a sleeping shirt and knickers, bat held high, but she sure as hell wouldn't be some helpless victim. Taking a deep breath to steady herself, she swung the door open.
"Hi!" An overly cheery red haired woman greeted her before taking note of Rose's attire and looking suitable more subdued.
Rose eyed her warily, glancing down the hall when she heard a shuffling near the stairwell. After a moment she returned her gaze the her surprise visitor. "Who are you?"
"Me? Right. I'm with the power company. Had a bit of a, uh, glitch, but it's fixed now."
Rose raised a brow. "A glitch?"
"Yeah." The woman visibly swallowed.
"And you're from the power company?"
"Then where's your uniform?"
The woman stammered, shot a quick glance down the hall, looked down at her shoes, then shook her head. "Bollocks." She gave Rose an apologetic grin. "I told him this wouldn't work but he just had to do it. Anyway, look, I can't tell you who I am. It's this whole timeline crossing thing, he really does yammer on about it, and-"
"Look," Rose cut her off, standing as firmly as she could in a shirt and knickers, "you better tell me who the hell you are right now or I'll have the police here in seconds."
The woman gave her that apologetic look again. "Really, I can't. We just happened to be here and he saw you and he was worried about you. He knows how hard you had- have, how hard you have it right now. He wants to protect you even now." She sighed with a tender look in her eyes.
The bat in Rose's hand twitched. "You mean Jimmy?" What the hell was this woman on about. Her and Jimmy? Was she an ex? No, she said they'd been together today. She felt her teeth grind. Who knew he was into older women?
"Who?" The woman responded, seeming to not recognize the name. "Don't know who you're thinking of but it's not him." She sighed. "Trust me, there's no way you'd know him, even if you saw him. Not now at any rate."
Rose finally lowered the bat. "So, you mean to tell me there's some guy I don't even know, turning my power back on... Why?"
"He... He wants the best for you. He knows you're better than all of this. And if all he can do is help with one bill, well, he wants to do that. Plus he was bored and thought a little misdemeanner crime would be fun apparently."
The woman rolled her eyes, then looked down the hall once more and nodded. "Right. I've probably said too much as it is, so, I better go. Enjoy the power." She smiled brightly, this time the expression genuine. "It was nice to finally meet you Rose."
Rose closed the door slowly and leaned against it for a moment before running across to her bedroom to grab a pair of trousers. She yanked on the pair of jeans she'd disgarded by her dresser and shoved her feet into the nearest pair of trainers before running back out the door.
She ran faster and harder than she could recall ever doing. Her heart was racing as her feet pounded down all five flights of stairs. She could feel sweat on her palms when they shoved open the grimy doors to release her into the cool night air. She paused at the street, bending over the catch her breath in raspy gasps. There was no sign of the woman or the man she'd mentioned. A man she didn't even know who wanted to see her aspire to more.
She held a hand to her side as her panting breath began to relax. The wind seemed to grow stronger, an aching groan carrying out across the road. Swallowing once to finally steady herself, Rose reached into her pocket for the mobile she'd hastily retrieved from the couch on her way out.
Jimmy never came home that night. Nor the next or the next after. Rose gave him a week before packing her things. She'd spoken to her Mum every day since the incident with the power and her guardian angel as her Gran would come to call him when she heard the tale. She knew that Jimmy's disappearance was the catalyst, but she'd been ready to go home for a long time. Thanks to the calls she'd made, her mother was willing to let her. She had her angel to thank for that.