Elizabeth pushed back the strands of her auburn hair, which was straight out of a bottle. Did he say seven o’clock? It was now seven-fifteen. Maybe she got the time wrong, but was sure it was written down correctly.
Windsor Castle always looked more serene at night. She wondered whether the queen was in residence. Another glance at her mobile, and it buzzed in her hands. A text – Sorry Elizabeth, running late, can you order the wine. I will be there in ten.
She studied the menu, but what type of wine did Thomas say to order? Red or white? He looked so sophisticated. In the end she asked the waiter for his choice, but it was the most expensive on the menu.
A rub against her ankles, and she regretted high heeled shoes. They had been in the back of her wardrobe. Had hardly been used. Her mum’s cynical words came out to bite her. What are you doing in those ridiculous heels? You look like a tart with all that make-up, it’s not as though anyone will notice you anyway. It had been a mere six months since she died. Elizabeth still felt her presence and constant tirade. You need to have a career my girl, you certainly won’t get a man with your looks.
Tired of being belittled daily, she gave up on her dream to open a bespoke bakery. Typing was a better skill to learn. It was a more balanced career, more suited to her talents.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
The number fifty-eight bus trundled over the road, just like the photocopier on their first meeting. She almost jumped ten feet in the air and twisted around to confront him. His subtle blue eyes, just like Roger Moore, caught her off guard. His lashes tapered at the edges. Elizabeth noticed his crow’s feet crinkled against greying temples.
There was a vulnerability about him.
A little older than her perhaps, but at forty her chances at love were limited. The long evenings with her cat, Prince, on her lap and a cup of cocoa wasn’t the way she imagined her life would be.
A sip of wine, to steady her nerves, she hoped Thomas wouldn’t be too much longer. If he weren’t here in five minutes, she would just pay for the wine. Her mum said men who were late for anything couldn’t be trusted. Elizabeth wasn’t sure her father had something to do with that remark.
The first time Thomas had asked her out to dinner was when he was in the works canteen. He brought over a cheesecake, her favourite. Tentatively asked if she would agree to a date with him.
Elizabeth refused his offer then, and even when he asked her a week later, when she unjammed the photocopier for him, wasn’t ready to say yes. However, every morning there was a different coloured carnation at her desk. No note or name. He wore the same one in his buttonhole each time they met. Elizabeth was left in no doubt who her generous benefactor was. Just a few days before he was back in the office again.
‘Good morning Miss Moneypenny.’ Thomas said.
Elizabeth grinned and couldn’t help answering. ‘Good morning Mr Bond, he is expecting you.’
Her manager wasn’t expecting anyone. Was out of the office. They had both laughed at the same time. Thomas sat on her desk, picked up the carnation, which matched his own.