If she hadn’t stayed late to finish a display at school then she would have been jogging round the other side of the park past the boating lake by now; not sitting on the path by the swings with a grazed elbow, punctured tyre – and this IDIOT trying to help her up.
She loved her exercise session straight after work – it helped her relax and unwind, and had to be better than sitting in front of the TV eating digestives.
It had been quite by chance six months ago that Jess had heard an advert on the radio about a woman who loved jogging and cycling and didn’t let anything get in her way – ok so the advert might have been for plastic shields to go over your blisters, but it was the inspiration she needed to get active and she had never felt better.
So how was it she found herself in her current mess? Well obviously it was Tuesday so that meant light blue hoodie, comfy tracksuit bottoms and her joggers right? – Wrong! Getting in late meant that rather than her usual run round the lake, she opted for a quick bike ride.
It was one of those beautiful summer evenings – smugly showing off with a light breeze, lingering sunlight and the scent of the lime trees as the leaves offered their shade. Okay maybe she was going a bit fast and perhaps she was enjoying the evening too much to keep her eyes on the path, but did he really need to be stood there on his phone just as she came round the corner so that he knocked her off her bike? Okay it wasn’t really his fault, she bumped into him; but then he really blotted his copybook by trying to pull her to her feet and calling her ‘darling’. In fact his exact words were ‘Sorry darling, did you hurt yourself?’
Would ‘duh!’ seem like a rude answer?
Oh great and now to set the seal on a truly magnificent evening she realised half the children playing on the swings had stopped and were leaning over the fence and many of them looked familiar.
‘Hello Miss,’ called out Abdullah ‘I saw you fall over…is he your boyfriend?’
‘Why didn’t I find a park further away from school?’ she thought savagely. Then good manners took over. Dusting herself down; grateful that at least she knew she looked pretty good in her cycle shorts and the pink t-shirt that was bringing a glow to her face, she looked up at her would-be rescuer, and smiled into blue eyes that crinkled engagingly.
‘I’m fine thank-you, no harm done.’
‘Look I’m really sorry, are you sure I can’t help in any way?’ He asked, letting go of her arm. Jess assured him that she was fine. Under other circumstances she might have been intrigued to know what help he might be able to offer but she really wasn’t the kind of girl to pick up strangers in the park. As she walked away wheeling her poorly bike she had a feeling he was still watching her…
Outside the classroom she leaned on the doorframe to the cubicles in the boy’s toilets as they all charged in.
‘Boys – I shall stand here and I want to see all of you going to the toilet…’
‘No, no, no that’s really not what I meant to say’ she thought in horror, ‘let me rephrase that – quickly!.
‘I am standing by the toilets and I want you all to make sure you go, not just gather round the hand-driers – because there are no toilets at the park and I don’t want to have to find a tree for anyone.’
Sports Day – that classic date in the annual school calendar when all the classes trudge down to the local park and everyone takes a trip back to the fifties and does egg and spoon and sack races. For children brought up in the digital age it all seems faintly ridiculous, but that doesn’t stop it being a beloved favourite in every parent’s diary!
It was all going well. No dog poo; no hail storms; no fights between parents when their child didn’t win; and best of all: that weird dad who kept wanting to show her the scar from when he had his appendix out had regretfully informed Jess he had to work.
The Sports Day was well under way and Jess was kept busy moving around making sure they ran when they were supposed to; didn’t cheat; didn’t throw the beanbag at the next person in their team when they didn’t run fast enough.
‘Be careful Miss, you keep walking backwards like that and you’re going to bump into someone!’
‘Yes thank you Abdullah, I think I can manage to stay upright today.’
The next thing she knew she was face down on the grass. ‘Oops we seem to be making a habit of this!’ Said a familiar voice.
Unbelievable! What was he – a stalker? Two days running she had managed to collide with the same man in front of members of her class. Plus she had the added bonus that this time it was in front of their parents as well! The only good thing was today he was the one in a rush to get away. As two of the parents helped her up, trying not to smirk and asking if she was okay, Jess tried not to admire his well-cut suit and polished shoes as he hurried off.
That evening jogging round the park in her favourite combination of mint green sweatpants and dark green hoodie she was confronted by a bunch of flowers as she came round the corner by the swings.
‘Just to say I’m so sorry! I was late for my train this morning and I thought it would be quicker to cut through the park – I didn’t realise it was your sports day. I’m not a weirdo or anything. I wanted to apologise – I don’t make a habit of knocking strange women over. Not that you’re strange or anything… sorry I making a real hash of this. Just… you know….sorry.’ He handed over the bunch of flowers – excellent taste – white freesias, and hastily made for the nearest exit.
‘If you knock me over tomorrow evening at 7pm you can buy me a drink to say sorry.’ She called after him.
‘See you then.’