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from PayBack by Jaye Marie

Chapter 3

Despite all the promises she kept making to herself to shape up and take control of her life, Anna wasn’t in the mood to go to work today. She called in sick, trying to sound as ill as possible, for she needed at least a day to do some serious thinking.

To at least appear more adult and in control, she chose to wear comfortable, casual clothes and old blue jeans, sweater and flat shoes created a calm efficiency that she rather liked. First stop was the coffee shop, just down the road from her house. She was starving and in need of a decent coffee. This was also the place where she would hopefully find a friendly face.

 

The early morning rush was over by the time she arrived, the smell of frying still lingering in the air when she pushed open the door. Jackson, an old friend from her college days was refilling the coffee machine. When he looked over to see who had just walked in, his cheerful face lit up with a wide grin.

‘Hello stranger, no work today?’

‘Nah, I need time to do some thinking. I would love one of your lattes…’

The coffee machine was in pieces all over the counter, so she knew she would have to wait a while. It didn’t matter, she was in no hurry.

‘Be a few minutes, pull up a stool and talk to me while I finish up here.’

As she made herself comfortable, perched on the stool, she watched him work, his strong fingers deftly cleaning a part, then slotting it back into the machine. Jackson had once been a love interest, one who carefully evaded her desire for a serious affair, but had become a good friend who helped her out of trouble on more than one occasion. Always a skinny boy, he had a heart of gold, along with a fondness for foreign women.

He looked up at her with an eyebrow raised. ‘What’s wrong, Anna? There is something on your mind, so tell me. I might be able to help.’

As the machine gurgled its way to producing the best tasting coffee in the south of England, she filled him in with the story of her miserable life. Actually voicing her sorrows made her feel worse than ever, and tears were not far away when she finally stopped talking. The coffee in front of her had cooled, but she drank it anyway, grateful for the sugar rush to her confused and dismal brain.

‘Bloody hell, girl. No wonder you look so forlorn. Look, are you hungry? We can’t solve anything on empty stomachs. I need a couple of bacon panini’s, how about you?’

She nodded, just as the bell over the door jangled and an old man walked in and made his way to the table by the window. He waved at them as he sat down. Jackson hadn’t missed the sudden disappointment on Anna’s face as she thought the opportunity for talking had gone away. This told him that at least one of her problems was trying to push her over the edge, something he didn’t want to witness again, not in his shop anyway.

‘Look, I can get someone to cover for me for an hour or so, we can talk and not be disturbed. Is that okay?’

Anna smiled at him, her first real smile of the day. Just knowing that Jackson was a friend and that he would help her if he could, made the demons in her head move back into line. The sex they had after they ate helped a lot too, if only for a few minutes, but the speed at which he was ready to go back to work, tipped her from the little pink cloud she found herself on and the tears threatened to return. She felt stupid for imagining that Jackson could ever really care for her. They were like ships that sometimes passed each other in the night, leaving each other alone in the dark afterwards.

 

Much later that morning, Anna had a plan. She needed to see her father’s ancient and pompous old solicitor to find out if she could sell the house, or if she needed to put it into the hands of a letting agent. She could also try and find more people to share it with, but had already been there and didn’t fancy repeating it.

She didn’t want another house full of layabouts, not after last time. They had been destructive and noisy and at least one of them never paid their rent. The house was a white elephant and when empty, the loniest place on the planet. She didn’t need lodgers, just someone to care for her, someone special who would banish all of her demons and introduce her to a little happiness. Surely that wasn’t too much to ask?

 

She also wanted to change her appearance, as Jackson had approved of her new look, and suggested a makeover, something more in keeping with her job, should she decide to pursue it, and also improve her chances with David.

It had all sounded like a good plan when she was talking to him, but back outside on the street, it already seemed an impossible dream as the brief interlude of peace and pleasure faded away.

 

The day continued to disappoint her. The solicitor rudely informed her that she could neither sell or let the house she lived in, and it was not negotiable. He suggested that she contact her father if she wanted to change anything. By the time she left his office, she felt all of five-years-old and desperately miserable again.

She forced herself to walk to the hairdressers on the high street, but couldn’t make herself...






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