Thank you so much for all the lovely reviews for the first chapter. I really appreciate all the kind and encouraging words. Now a slightly longer chapter, as promised.
The week passes slowly, and Friday, the day of her date, seems to go on forever. Ruth checks the clock nervously all through the day, and keeps hoping that no major disaster is going to strike. Today of all days she cannot afford to work overtime.
By 7.30 she has finished the last of her reports, and she quietly sneaks off to the ladies' when no one is looking to change. She brought a change of clothes in with her that morning in case she didn't have time to go home, and she was glad she did, because she would never have made it. She was always dragging a ridiculously large handbag with her anyway, so nobody noticed.
By the time she emerged from the ladies in a knee-length black skirt, a white blouse, a black jacket and her favourite pair of boots, the Grid was quite deserted. She sat back down behind her desk and took a small hand mirror from her desk drawer to check her make up one last time.
"You look smart," she suddenly heard someone saying. "Have you got a date or something?" Sam asked as she approached Ruth's desk.
"Maybe," Ruth replied, going beet red.
"Ooh, who's the lucky man?" Sam said.
Ruth hesitated for a moment, not sure whether she should tell Sam or not. It was only a first date after all. But then again, she debated with herself, Sam had been in on the whole thing from the beginning. She had even helped her pick out a dress for that choir night.
"Do you remember John Fortescue?" She finally said, figuring that perhaps she could use a confidante.
"How could I possibly forget him? You're actually dating him now, that's brilliant!" Sam exclaimed excitedly.
Ruth looked around slightly embarrassed, hoping that nobody had heard that. "This is only the first date, so could you keep this to yourself for now. Please?" She looked at Sam pleadingly.
"Don't worry, mum's the word," Sam said, pulling a serious face. "Your secret is safe with me."
"Thanks," Ruth said, "I really appreciate it."
"Now go on," Sam continued, practically pushing Ruth in the direction of the pods. "You shouldn't keep your date waiting. Oh and call me tomorrow and tell me everything."
"I will," Ruth replied, glad to be able to share this exciting turn of events in her life with someone. "I'll call you in the morning."
As Ruth exited through the pods, she had no idea that Harry had been in his office the whole time, and had heard the entire conversation.
He sat down heavily in his chair and poured himself a generous measure of whisky. A feeling of jealousy washed over him, and he wasn't sure why. Ruth was a work colleague, nothing more, so he had no right to feel this way about her. Then why did he feel so jealous and protective of Ruth? It's not as if he felt that way about any of his other colleagues. He took a gulp from his glass and felt the liquid sting in his throat.
You're a foolish old man, Pearce, he thought to himself.
Ruth made it to The George just in time, and found that John was already waiting for her. He had gotten them a quiet table somewhere in the back, away from the bar and most of the noise. She was glad, because that way they could actually have a conversation without having to shout at each other across the table. As they greeted each other she was quite taken by surprise when he kissed her on the cheek, but in a good way. She liked being treated like this when going on a date, and admittedly it didn't happen very often. He asked her what she wanted to drink, and as he headed to the bar to get the drinks Ruth couldn't help but smile. So far things seemed to be going ok.
And it only got better from that moment on. As soon as John came back with the drinks, conversation flowed easily. They talked about a multitude of subjects, music at first of course, and later on Ruth even dared questioning him about his knowledge of the classics. She was pleasantly surprised when John told her that one of his favourite books he read back in school had been Jane Eyre.
They were so at ease with each other that they decided to extend their date beyond just drinks, and they ordered some food as well. They continued talking as they ate, and neither of them wanted the night to end. Very soon Ruth realised that it was nearly midnight, and she would have to hurry if she wanted to catch the last bus. On the one hand she was disappointed to end the evening here, but she was relieved as well. The date had outlived all her expectations, and she definitely hoped that there would be a second one.
"I really enjoyed tonight," John said as he walked her to the bus stop.
"So did I," Ruth replied, smiling broadly.
"I would like to do it again sometime, if that's what you want as well of course?" He said hesitantly.
"Yes, I'd love to," Ruth said, trying not to sound too eager.
John just smiled, but didn't say anything. He was obviously relieved that she had said yes.
"Here's my stop," Ruth said, gesturing to the bus shelter. "The bus should be here any moment now."
"I'll stay with you until it gets here," John said.
Ruth wanted to tell him that it wasn't necessary, but it was obvious that he was determined to wait with her, so she said nothing.
They could see the bus approaching from far of. "Thanks again for a lovely evening," Ruth said, "I really enjoyed it."
"Me too," John said, then hesitated for a moment. He realised that the bus was approaching fast, so he had to get on with it. "I know it's rather presumptuous on a first date, but I would really like to kiss you," he finally said.
Ruth was quite taken aback by that, though she had to admit to herself that she had contemplated kissing him as well, only she was too shy to take the initiative. Not knowing what to say, she just nodded her consent. Their lips met in a soft, gentle kiss, and they broke apart just when the bus arrived.
Ruth bit her bottom lip. She had suddenly become quite shy and did not know what to say. "Goodnight," she said softly, and then jumped on the bus without waiting for a reply. She never knew how to behave at that slightly awkward moment after a first kiss.
As the bus pulled away, John shook his head and grinned. "Goodnight Susan," he mumbled to himself as he went in search of his car.
On the bus, Ruth had turned beet red, and her heart was beating at twice the normal pace. Tonight had been better than any first date she'd ever had. She certainly had a lot to tell Sam in the morning.
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