We all know the feeling; to snooze or not to snooze? That gave me the idea for this story which is about how one decision can make all the difference to a single day …
Two April Mornings
Chris Evans shocked Sian awake at 6.50am. She’d been having a lovely dream involving Bradley Cooper on a beach but it slipped away as she started to surfaced. Wondering how someone who must get up in the middle of the night to present the breakfast show could sound so cheerful, she hit the snooze button and rolled over. The forecast was for another cold, rainy day so ten more minutes in her warm bed wouldn’t make any difference.
A shaft of sunlight crept across Sian’s pillow and shone directly into her eyes. Not used to being woken naturally, she lay for a moment listening to the dawn chorus and picked out a robin’s liquid song. Peering at the clock she read the time as 6.03am. Too early but now wide awake, she couldn’t think of any reason not to get up. She hopped out of bed then felt around with her toes for the flip flops she used as slippers, shrugged her dressing gown on and, with a large flourish, opened the curtains. The sun had only just risen but she could tell it was going to be a beautiful spring day.
Ian Broudie’s vocals woke Sian from her slumber a second time. She liked the Lightning Seeds so decided she would definitely get up once this song had finished. Perversely, she always set her alarm early to factor in several snoozes, as she really wasn’t a morning person. Sian made a deal with herself that when Chris Evans started talking again she’d get up, but he’d probably gone for a “comfort break”, as the Americans coyly phrase it, as Sense morphed seamlessly into Heaven. She loved this one so extended her pact and sang along with Emeli Sande in her head, really going for it on the chorus.
Afforded extra time by such an early start, Sian decided to make proper coffee, usually only a weekend treat. As the percolator burbled and gurgled to itself, she checked her phone and answered a couple of emails while absentmindedly putting bread in the toaster. The smell of cinnamon from the flavoured coffee wafted around the small, brightly lit kitchen as her black and white cat weaved and threaded himself around Sian’s ankles. Only when Bertie reached up and embedded his claws in her thigh, did she put the phone aside to feed him. Taking a moment to marvel at how he could purr and inhale food simultaneously, she then turned her attention to the recently ejected toast and, slathering it with butter and orange marmalade, sat down to eat.
After a record three favourite songs in a row, Sian was now running late. She trotted barefoot to the bathroom, closing the door on Bertie who scratched at the carpet in hungry frustration. Not having time to dry her hair, she scraped it into a severe bun then dressed quickly in a white shirt and charcoal grey trouser suit. Pausing only to feed Bertie and down a glass of water, she grabbed her coat and umbrella, slammed the door to her flat and dashed out into the grey morning.
Savouring the last of her coffee, Sian stood at the sink and looked out at the pristine day. The recent wet spell had washed everything clean, grass glowed with a vitality only seen at this time of year and the early morning light made everything sparkle. Uplifted by the prospect of a perfect day, Sian flip-flopped to the bathroom, joined by Bertie who sat on the toilet seat and kept her company while she showered. She exfoliated using a range of expensive, delicately scented products then washed her hair with an exotic guava and lime shampoo. Wearing a towel turban, Sian padded back to her bedroom where she rubbed fruit fragranced body butter into her shower-soft skin, then dried her dark hair and, on a whim, curled it into ringlets. A summer dress with tiny violets scattered across it were matched with mauve ballet pumps and the ensemble was completed by a pair of oversized sunglasses and a lightweight cardigan. Sian left for work earlier than she ever had before, humming Tom’s Diner which had been the last song of that morning’s hat trick.
Struggling to keep her umbrella from turning inside out, Sian hurried to the bus stop. As she reached the end of her road, she saw the number 6 glide past. Just her luck that it hadn’t been delayed by a few too many red traffic lights today. Decision time. Wait another twenty minutes for the next bus, walk the whole way and get to work looking like a drowned rat or try and hail a taxi. Just then the number 3 pulled up at her stop and she quickly calculated that she could take it as far as the city centre and hop off before it disappeared off towards the hospital. She climbed aboard trying not to spray the driver with raindrops as she folded her umbrella while also fumbling for her bus pass.
With time on her side, Sian decided to walk along the river and savour the dazzling morning. Daffodils bobbed their heads in the light breeze and ducks sat in small groups on the riverbank, keeping a beady eye out for danger. Weeping willows were coming into bud, daisies raised their little faces to the sun and catkins trembled. New life burgeoned everywhere she looked, from bumblebees collecting pollen to a moorhen sitting on her nest. Despite ambling as slowly as possible and pausing frequently to soak it all in, Sian still reached the gallery far too quickly.
Sian pressed the bell as they approached her stop and the bus halted abruptly, almost making her lose her balance. As the doors opened, a gust of wind propelled rain in her face and she decided against trying to open her umbrella as she wasn’t sure she’d win the battle. Head down, shoulders hunched and fists jammed into her coat pockets, Sian walked briskly towards the gallery.
As Sian unlocked the door and entered the gallery, a bell tinkled above her head. Her first job was to put the kettle on then check emails to see if there were any changes to today’s plans. Half an hour later Angus arrived, rushed up to her and put a hand on her brow, “My dear, are you alright? I was worried that you might be feverish.”
“No, I’m fine thanks.”
“It’s just I’ve never known you be this early before.”
“Ha ha, very funny. My ribs are aching from laughing so much,” Sian deadpanned. “Would you like a coffee?” she called over her shoulder as she headed to the kitchen.
“You must be delirious, my dear. In early and offering me a hot beverage.”
“You may own this gallery but that doesn’t give you an excuse to be rude to me.”
“Rude, my dear? Never! Only pulling your leg a teeny bit. A little gentle joshing between comrades. Merely a spot of idle banter to liven the day.”
Sian rushed through the door and the bell jangled to announce her arrival.
“Late again, my dear. If I was a proper boss, I’d be obliged to give you a warning or dock your pay or something equally tedious,” Angus said, without looking up from the laptop.
“Sorry Angus, it won’t happen again.”
“Don’t be silly, my girl, it happens at least twice a week. Now, your penance is to venture forth and procure two large lattes and a selection of delectable sweetmeats in an attempt and lift our spirits on such a dreary day. Your treat.”
Sian gave him a tight smile, turned on her heel and walked back out into the rain.
Putting his mug of coffee in front of him, Sian broke the news, “John Barber isn’t coming in this afternoon.”
“Oh, how tiresome. Now when are we supposed to find time to organise his exhibition?” Angus clicked on the calendar icon on the laptop and started scrolling through dates.
“No, he’s coming in this morning as he’s travelling to Rotterdam later.”
“Naughty girl,” Angus admonished. “Don’t shock me like that, it’s unkind.”
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.”
“What time should we expect him?”
“He was a bit vague but definitely before lunch.”
Sian backed into the gallery, holding the coffees and with a bag of Danish dangling from her arm.
“My dear, where have you been? Mr Barber and I have been waiting an age for refreshments.”
“I’m sorry, the queue was horrendous. It must be the weather.”
As Angus approached her to relieve her of the coffee, Sian hissed, “I didn’t think he was due until this afternoon?”
“Change of plan, my dear. Put those pastries on a plate, if you would be so kind.”
Angus handed one of the cardboard cups to a fair haired man and started to sip from the other. They moved out of her earshot so she picked up the phone to chase the stationery order which should have arrived yesterday.
The bell tinkled and Sian stepped out of the kitchen just in time to see John Barber, artist of the moment, framed in the doorway with a halo of sunlight around him. With tousled blond hair and rather short in stature, he wasn’t conventionally handsome but had an undeniable sex appeal which he wore like a casual jacket.
“Hello, Mr Barber, very pleased to meet you. I’ll just introduce you to Angus Rutherford.”
“Hello, and you are …?”
“I’m Sian, we spoke on the phone. I don’t want to sound like a stalker but I’m a huge fan of your work.”
Having conducted introductions, Sian made a move towards the kitchen to make coffee.
“Please, wait a mo. Angus, do you mind if Sian joins us? I’d like her opinion as she’s an expert on my work, apparently,” John winked at her.
Angus paused, “Well, I don’t see why not. The girl must have gleaned something in her short time here. My dear, go and fetch the photocopies of the exhibition paintings and you can enlighten us as to what should go where.”