His blue carry on was slightly shabbier than her green one. The top corner as it curved round, had been roughed up and the silver protection rim had somewhat lost its gleam. Both handles were still extended, waiting to be grabbed and wheeled out of their parking spot.
Patricia arched her back, cricking the lower vertebrae back to where it belonged. She stretched both arms above her head, squinted and pulled her face in tight. Her chair automatically pushed away from the computer screen. Daniel, his legs pressed against her, followed her process while placing his own large hand over his mouth, supressing a yawn.
"Yes it is getting late, the number ten is due in the next few minutes or there is another half hour after if you prefer?" He leant in after her.
She checked her watch for no good reason and shook her head gently. "No, Daniel, I think i'll get this one. It's been a lovely weekend break, but hey-ho, back to the grindstone tomorrow.”’ She patted him on his large thigh, dropping her head on to his shoulder. "Where do you think we could go next week?"
He lit up, span back to the screen and focused in hard. "Well, I see there is a late deal on a quick trip to Paris. Just the one night. Fly out of Heathrow at six am, arrive back at six thirty Sunday night." He raised a half smile. "You fancy it?"
Patricia rose up, took very small steps and grabbed the handle of her case. "Yeah, why not. I'll get here very early then. We can catch up during the week." She pulled back, bent down and kissed his cheek, wishing he would shave a bit more. "It's been fun, bye hun.”
The door closed with a tap, her steps shuffled along the corridor carpet, slipped down the concrete stairs and out. The rain fell warm as the street light glowed orange and the taxis hummed by. Patricia pushed her hands deep into her cardigan pockets and headed for her spot at the stop. It was nice to have the company at the weekends, she smiled and tapped her feet.
"Perfect.” said Daniel as he closed down the google search on Barcelona, undid the plastic container and chose a red thumb tack. Holding it steady, he padded over to the large map that had obviously been on the wall for several years. He squinted in close, found his location and pushed it in hard. Another city knocked off. Taking his ruler he measured the distance, 925 miles there, he nodded with acceptance.
Back at his desk he opened up the excel file and typed in the number, the flight time, the day and night temperature and a star rating out of five. He gave it a four. Their English was not as great as say the Dutch.
It was good to have a record. Something he could research back on to.
He flicked on his screen, clicked on his Skype, and repositioned his camera as it dialled. An old face focused in on the screen with a second pushing in close. "Hey Mum, Dad, how have you been?"
A slight pause, and the conversation took its usual weekly patter. "You could come and visit, we’ll get you the ticket? All you have to do Daniel, is get to the airport.”
He sighed in deep, every week, and every week the same. "I can't travel all that way. I have work. You and dad have all the time, why don't you come here?" He knew why, but it was better to confirm as he did every week.
"Oh Daniel, we’re both old now. Your dad has a heart condition. It's too far now.” He rang off, eyebrows down. He would punish them for the week. He wouldn't answer their e-mails, WhatsApp or text.
She placed her carry on case next to his, leaving the handle raised to match. Patricia bent down and gave his a blow. Dust rose up confirming that it hadn't been moved since last week, or for that matter the week before or even the month before that.
Daniel brought her tea from the kitchen, his eyes still half shut and red rimmed. His slippers flopped on the lino. "Didn't get to bed until three ish, I was reading up on a Paris review." He dropped the teas on his desk, clicked on the screen and burned his eyes with the white glow.
"Well, come on Patty, sit yourself down it's nearly time for the flight.” He patted the red plastic fold up chair beside him. "Flight is only fifty minutes. By the time I've served our breakfast, we will be landing." He spied her and gave a tight lipped grin. "I got us croissant and black coffee. Got to feel the part.”
Patricia giggled, leant her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes. She was warm. It was early, her bones felt heavy, another fifty minutes kip would be ideal.
Bumping his shoulder up, she jerked awake and blinked several times. On the screen was an aerial picture of Paris. They circled with it, a birds eye view taking in all the best known locations. "Wow.” her eyes widened. "Look, the arc de Triomphe.” She pressed her finger on the screen and traced it as it moved out to the left.
Pleased with his find Daniel watched as they moved out and over the suburbs. "Found it on line, it was the whole flight from London to Paris. Shame u fell asleep. Mind you,the Channel was a bit dull." He moved his mouse, "I've checked the temperature in Paris. A very warm twenty two, so I set the heating the same. Make it feel more real.”
Silence took over as they came in to land, watching the tarmac getting closer. She held his hand tight, the speed of the ground always made her nervous. A few seconds later she stood up, grabbed her green case and pulled it passed him and into the spare room. Patricia lifted her case, unpacked and checked out her hotel room for the night. She nodded in appreciation. Daniel had done well. Posters were up and a small French visitors book sat on her bed side table. She flicked through, stopping at and mouthing out the names of the areas of Paris. "One day Daniel, I'll get you to go for real.” She put it down gently, span and giggled her way back.
Her hand went through his curly locks, twisting it around her fingers. His eyes staying fixed at the screen. He stuttered, stopped and started again. "I've managed to get loads of films, we even get a tour of Notre-Dame before the fire."
"Sounds perfect.” Sitting down she let her leg connect with his. "I got us some French onion soup, garlic bread, French fries and beef bourguignon." She opened her Tesco's bag for life in front of him. "Strange really, they don't do much French food in the supermarket."
Daniel smiled. "It's great, I can't be dealing with anything fancy. Anyway do you want to do a film of going up the Eiffel Tower, great view from the top?"
"Yeah, go on, lets start there.”
Sacha Distel sang out from the speakers as Patricia lay back on the sofa. Her brain overloaded with pictures, films and google maps street view. The building, the people and most definitely the clothes. Every few seconds on street view, she would grab the mouse and zoom in on a boutique, recalculating the costs back into pounds.
Daniel pushed his elbows out and sighed in deep. Weighing up the marks he should give to the French capital. Yes it had great buildings and beautiful paintings, but the food, so undercooked. And he had read enough about the French attitude to know that they would (only as a last point of call) speak English. Well, it just wasn't British. He would consider a three.
Standing behind, her one hand on the back of chair, the other winding his hair, Patricia came in close. Her cheek touching his. "I think I love Paris best of all.” she whispered. Daniel flinched at the thought.
"Daniel. Next week." she said into his ear, making him uncomfortable but unable to move away. "Next week, I want to choose where we go. I've seen something. I think you will like it."
He moved, sending a wave from his bum to his shoulders. "Hmmm, Well, Okay. But nowhere to far. I don't want to be flying more than two hours." He turned and stared her in the eyes, making sure she understood.
Daniel went back to the screen, flicked the mouse and patted her chair. "You coming for the flight home?"
Letting go of his hair, she stepped back, hummed a tune and retreated to the cases. "No, I think I want to get going. I've got stuff to do before work tomorrow." Patricia bent down and unzipped the side pocket of his blue case. She had an idea it would be there. She had seen Daniel place it in there a long time ago and if she was right, it had not been moved since.
Grabbing her handle, Patricia skipped passed him, stroking his cheek as she passed. "Bye hun, be ready for seven on Friday night. And pack clean pants." She giggled, tripped out down the corridor, down the concrete steps and out into the warm rain.
"Come on Daniel, are you ready?" She literally bellowed from the sitting room doorway. Her face, red, shiny and bright. In her hand she held two tickets, two passports and a large smile. "Come on Daniel, look." She waved them at him.
Rising up from his chair, pausing the computer, he patted over to her, focusing on her left hand. "What?" he said.
Patricia grabbed his elbow. "I did it. I booked us two tickets, two nights in Berlin. Real tickets, a real room and look, I even got us an explore Berlin book." She pulled it from her back pocket flicking the pages before his eyes. "The flight is at ten, so it will be too late for tonight, but we can wake in the morning and have the whole day to explore.”
Leaving her carry-on in the hall, she strolled over and took his by the handle, flipping it at an angle and dragged it across the floor. His hand came out and put it on hers. "Wait.”he spoke, calm but deliberate. "Wait. I can't just drop and go off. What about the flat?"
Her hand brushed his cheek. She wished she had told him to shave. "Don't worry, it will still be here when you get back. Nothing will happen."
Holding firm he continued. "And what if the flight is delayed on the way back? What happens if I am not able to go to work?"
"Daniel, if it is, and it won't be, I will call your work and explain. It will be okay. And exciting.”
He removed his hand, letting Patricia pull passed him. She smiled and then froze as he stepped back and sat back down. His hands came up covering his white face.
"I can't go. I won't like it. All those people. The noise, not knowing where I am going. I'll stand out like a sore thumb.”
She turned at the doorway. "You love cities, you live in a big city. I'll look after you."
"No." he said. "I like to see cities and I live in my city, but I don't need to go anywhere. I work from home, I can get my shopping delivered, take a ways. Everything I need. " His hands came up in defence. "You never know what might happen. And these days, with the internet, I don't need too. I can get it all from here."
Patricia checked her watch. Time was moving on, they would have to get a cab soon. "Please Daniel, it's not the same. I've always wanted to travel. Its what first made me like you. You had such knowledge of all those places. I want to see it all. For real.”
"But it is not safe. It is safe here. If you go you won't come back. You will fall in love with the place, and hey presto, give it six months you will be moving on. It will be just me again." He came over to her, placing his hand on her waist. "We can do it all from here.”
She shook her head, her lips tight and her brain focused. "I need this Daniel. I need to spread and get some real experience." She pulled her small case towards her, took a luggage tag and tied it on. Stepping forward, her small fingers gently placed the ticket and his tag next to him.
Daniel stared back at his screen. The white was over powering and his head was miles away from the site he was on. "You won't come back. Give it a few trips and there will be somewhere better to live. The grass isn't always greener. Ask my brother.”
Her hand touched the top of his hair, curling the strands tight. The affection over coming the desire to grab him hard and pull him out of there. "Your brother moved to Australia, he met someone, got married and had a child. It's normal and it's a good thing.”
The mouse moved to the left and clicked, dead pan he replied. "Yes and he got ill so my parents left to move out there, to spend the last year with him and help with my nephew. And I stayed put. I got left behind. And now they never come back.”
Patricia let go, shuffled back and took hold of her handle. "They invite you all the time, they left you this flat. Maybe you should go?" She watched as he clicked, moved his mouse and clicked again. "Daniel, I'm going now, the ticket is on your desk. You know where I will be."
She moved quietly down the carpeted corridor, out and down the concrete steps. Outside the warm rain refreshed her face, the white lights of the late busses drove by. She held out her hand as the yellow lights of a taxi drew near. "Where to luv?"
He clicked on the Skype and re-positioned the camera as it dialled. An old lady came into view as he watched her press her keyboard several times. "Hello Daniel. You’re early, don't usually hear from you till Sunday."
He cut to the chase. "Are you coming to visit this year?"
She sighed in deep. "Daniel, you know we can't anymore. We're both getting on. Your father is too ill to travel now. But you could come here. The tickets waiting?"
He let his eyes close. "No, I can't get the time off work." His finger, hard, ready, pressed the off button. Always the same. He didn't need them, like he didn't need Patricia.
The mouse moved, clicking on the late flight deals. His eyes finding a cheap flight for the next day to Rome. "Yes." he said. "I think I will street view Rome. Still time to find some good 'you tube' films. I don't need her, in fact she just got in the way." He nodded to him self. "In fact I don't need anyone.”