Under The Streets Of London – Episode 49


Eliza checked over her carefully written notes twice before laying them on her boss’s desk and turning off the lamps. For the first time this year it was not yet dark outside and she was grateful.

The winter had seemed very long, sitting in her lodgings alone most nights. At times she had even considered begging Henry to take her out somewhere, but she’d known that would not be fair.

He had not been angry, that awful night back in December. He’d just looked at her, almost coldly, as if everything about her now made sense to him. He had said something about being friends and had left.

She’d barely seen him more than a handful of times since, and although she’d been relieved to be spared his attentions, a part of her had missed them.

What sort of a woman was she, she wondered. Had she, after all, encouraged her father’s friend, however unwittingly? Either way, as the long, dark nights had ground on she’d missed her family terribly.

She’d begged for her little sister to be allowed to come and stay, but her mother had said Millicent was not yet old enough, and so Eliza’s isolation continued.

She had read a great deal and she’d worked hard. Her employer was pleased with her and in the new year she had received a modest pay rise. But she had no-one to celebrate with.

Several times she considered taking a trip down to the cosy George pub near the Farndales’, but it was quite far from her lodgings. Besides, a woman could not walk into such a place alone. They would all think her strange.

They might even think she was chasing Niall, which was not the case at all. Not that it wouldn’t be nice to see him, to talk to him, even. He had such interesting ideas and his eyes were so very blue . . .

“Eliza!” she warned herself.

She was still mortified at the way she’d gasped out his name that night, like some foolish romantic heroine. She must find other diversions.

She considered taking a class of some sort – flower arranging, perhaps, or line drawing. Neither subject filled her with enthusiasm but at least that way she might meet some new friends. As she stepped out of the office, she resolved that, now spring was here, she would no longer sit around moping.

“Oh!”

Niall was there, standing on the pavement with his cap clutched in his hands, his red hair slicked roughly back and his blue eyes trained on her. She gathered herself and moved forward.

“Mr McMenamy?”

“Miss Rutherford, I’m sorry to disturb you.”

He looked so handsome close up, and so awkward. She longed to take his arm and put him at his ease, but didn’t dare touch him for fear of what feelings it might stir up.

“No matter. Did you receive my letter?”

“I did, thank you.”

“I’m sorry there was no money for posters.”

“I understand. The project must be the priority. Things are moving apace, are they not?”

“At last. Today we drafted invitations to the opening.”

“Truly?” Niall’s eyes shone. “Imagine being the very first people to ride on an underground train – how exciting it will be. Shall you be there?”

“I’m not sure. I don’t suppose there’s much room for a lowly secretary like me.”

“Not lowly, you’re . . .” He stopped. “It is not my place.”

Her heart turned over.

“Not at all, Niall. Your interest is very welcome.”

“Is it?”

She looked down and he kicked awkwardly at the paving stones.

“I wanted to, er, to talk to you. Could I, perhaps, buy you a cup of tea?”

Eliza looked at him. He’d clearly made an effort to clear away the grime of the tunnel, but she feared that the people in the tea shops near the offices might make him feel uncomfortable.

“I’d embarrass you,” he said, seeing her pause. “I should have thought.”

She couldn’t stop herself touching his arm.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.