In an attempt to distract from current nasty UK news stories, here is some random, unashamedly schmaltzy and hastily-written fluff. Not to be taken seriously. Hope you enjoy!
She wanted to look at her watch, but she knew if she did she'd only be depressed. Instead, Ruth focused her attention on the crumpled copy of the Metro she'd found on the bus seat beside her. She scanned the headlines, declared half of them disheartening and the rest of them inaccurate, then put the paper aside and willed the bus to move.
Fifty minutes. She'd left work fifty minutes ago and had been on the bus for forty, and only travelled about two hundred yards from the bus stop. She was starting to remember why she'd initially started staying late at work in the first place: in her more nostalgic, romantic moments, she blamed Harry for her love of late nights on the Grid, but in her more pragmatic moments – such as now – she had to admit to herself that a lot of it was to do with the tendency for the city to descend into gridlock during rush hour.
She couldn't remember it ever being this bad, though. Something must have happened. Something stupid, probably. It was probably some idiot in a car a couple of streets away, trying to change lanes at an inopportune moment and causing a tailback of monumental proportions.
Whatever it was, she didn't really care. She just wanted to be home. She'd only left work early because she was in need of an evening of rest and relaxation in front of the telly, accompanied by all the chocolate and wine she could find. She might as well have stayed at her desk with the surveillance feeds. At least then she'd have something mildly diverting to watch.
Ruth was so busy ranting internally at the imbecility of a significant proportion of the Great British public – as, she suspected, everyone else also did when stuck in traffic jams – that she almost missed the ringing of her phone. She rescued the mobile from her bag just before it cut off. "Hello?"
"Hello, Ruth." Harry. She could picture him, sitting in his office, right where she'd left him almost an hour ago. "Sorry to disturb you."
She glanced out of the window, at the darkening skies and the jammed streets. "You're not disturbing me."
"I know you're meant to be having a quiet night, so I'll… What's that?"
"All that noise."
Ruth glanced behind her at the gaggle of youths sitting at the back of the bus, playing stupid ringtones on their phones at full volume. She suddenly felt old. "The bus."
"You're still on the bus?"
"Where are you?"
She shrugged and then felt silly for it. "I'm fairly certain that if it was a clear evening I'd still be able to see Thames House from here."
"Bad traffic?" He didn't wait for a response. "Hold on, I'll see if I can find out what the hold-up is."
Ruth heard Harry start to tap at his computer. "Erm, why were you calling?"
"Hmm? Oh. I was looking for the summary report from last week. Couldn't find the printout."
"There is no printout. I emailed it to you with the date in the subject line. Paperless office environment, remember?"
Harry mumbled something that sounded like sodding paperless office, and then he said, "Found it."
"No. The reason you're stuck in traffic."
"Mmm. An accident further up the road. It doesn't look like it's going to clear for a while."
"Oh, fantastic." Ruth wondered whether the tattered copy of the Metro was stimulating enough to get her through the traffic jam from hell. She cursed herself for leaving her book at home as she dashed out the door that morning, late because the cat had thrown up all over the kitchen floor.
Harry was talking again. "Well, if you're not going anywhere," he said, "why don't you come back to Thames House?"
She couldn't resist the urge to be sarcastic. "Thanks for the offer, Harry, but the whole point of leaving early was so I didn't have to work late."
"No, I know that. I meant… Why don't you come back here and meet me and I'll take you out to dinner to make up for it?"
Well. That one caught her off-guard. She should probably have been expecting it, given their heightened levels of flirting of late, but as it was the shock meant that her response wasn't the most eloquent she could have given. "Why?"
Harry sounded bemused on the other end of the phone line. "Well, it's dinnertime. And it doesn't seem like you have anywhere else to be right now." He paused. "And I really don't want to do this report."
Ruth chuckled. "Any other reason?"
There was a beat before Harry answered. "Because I want to go for dinner with you. Will that do? Is it something you might be able to indulge?"
Had she been anywhere else, she might have been tempted to make an excuse if only for the sake of tradition. Now, though, there was no other answer she could give him. And she found that she liked it. "Yes." It felt good to say.
"Good," Harry said. "I'll be waiting."
It was much simpler than she'd ever thought it could be. Question, answer, dinner. She hung up the phone and stood up, making her way to the ground floor of the bus and then jumping off, glad to see that the doors were already open. Ruth crossed three lanes of immobile traffic and then turned to head back towards Thames House.
Just then, the rev of engines started up and, as she walked, the cars started moving again – slowly, but they were moving. She ignored them and kept on walking towards the promise of a dinner date. She didn't think Harry was the sort to arrange a traffic jam of epic proportions just to get her to go to dinner with him, but even if he was, she didn't particularly care.
She looked back as she reached the corner of the road and watched her bus disappear out of sight, and then looked across to the front entrance of Thames House a couple of hundred metres ahead. She could just about see Harry waiting to the side of the door, hands in his pockets and a smile gracing his face as he saw her approaching. She quickened her step to meet him.
Thanks for reading :)