Abbey Green was a little cobbled square, almost hidden from the main flow around the city centre. With tea shops, a pub, a bed and breakfast, a shop that sold just beads and a craft shop, apart from an odd contrast of a sci-fi memorabilia shop, it was like stepping into a pocket of the past. A large sycamore in the middle of a round raised bed in the centre of the square threw a shadow over all its occupants. To the left of the Green was Bath Abbey, a towering gothic-style cathedral dating back to the sixteenth century. Living in London all her life, she took for granted the sights of the capital because of seeing them on a daily basis. When she moved to Bath she was determined she would not do that again, and she had learnt to appreciate her surroundings. She was often found sitting, eating her lunch, outside the cathedral on a sunny day just staring at the building. Every time she did, she saw something new and if she was ever walking by and could hear the choir rehearsing inside, she would sneak into the back of the Abbey and sit and listen to the haunting voices.
In the square in front of the Abbey she could hear a lone busker’s voice and guitar echoing around the tall buildings mixing beautifully with the hum of drinkers chatting and laughing outside The Crystal Palace pub, and as the cathedral’s bells were beginning to peel 9:00 p.m. the poor busker was going to have to fight to be heard.
Friday nights were busy in Bath. The atmosphere around the city was always electric. Stag and Hen nights, work colleagues enjoying a Friday evening get together before the start of the weekend, students trying too hard to look bohemian, fire eaters, tight-rope walkers, magicians and wanna-be musicians performing anything from Vivaldi to rap and often selling CDs, too. Just parked around the corner were the scores of police hanging around their vans waiting for the 11:00 p.m.-2:00 a.m. madness of the one too many twenty-somethings who worked all week for those two evenings of mindless drinking.
She loved Bath, with the Georgian buildings built from Bath stone. The beautiful weir in the middle of the town, the Roman Baths, which were a nice treat when she had a good commission month, and the feel of the city on Saturday afternoons when Bath were playing at home and the pubs and bars were crowded with Rugby supporters. The only thing she didn’t like was the snobbery and tourists, but she lived with both of them, as they were one of the few downs she could find with the place. She had lived there for four years and it felt like home.
Rachael quickly walked through Southgate and into McDonald’s, grabbing two Quarter Pounder meals with an orange juice and a coffee. She walked through town to the car park. Spotting a dishevelled pile of clothes propped up against a wall with a plastic box in front of it, Rachael made a point of crossing the road towards it. A dirty hand appeared from the clothing. “Got any spare change, love?” the pile asked politely.
She put the extra meal and coffee next to the beggar and walked across the road to find her car. “Cheers!” he shouted. She always preferred to give them a hot meal rather than money.
Knowing she would be late home she had taken her car. She normally would have caught the bus. Rachael managed to eventually find her car, as she always forgot where she parked it, and, opening the door, she put her bags and food on the passenger seat and got in. She stole a couple of fries from inside the brown paper bag and started her drive through the middle of town towards the Bristol side of Bath. She lived in a large two-bedroom flat in Oldfield Park.
The area was the cheaper end of Bath and had a small regional train station with a few industrial units sporadically placed between houses. The small one-way streets often caught larger lorries unaware and the roads sometimes became impassable.
She put her key in the door and walked in, closing it behind her. She dumped her bags on the dining room table and went to the kitchen, grabbing a wine glass from the cupboard and opening the fridge door. Where’s that bottle of white I was drinking last night? Closing the door, she looked around the room to see where she’d put it. I am sure I put it in the fridge this morning?
There was an eerie silence in the flat that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. There it is on the coffee table. I couldn’t have put it away. James must have gone to bed early. Perhaps he got bored of playing with his new game on the Xbox.
The flat was very bland with no real character. James had been there for a few years before she moved in and had already put his single-man stamp on the place. Although she did ask to redecorate, James refused to let her. He really did make her feel as if she was living with him rather than living together. Rachael had been desperate to move into a flat with more character and something they could call “their own” but they were more expensive and James didn’t want to spend the extra money. He also had a bad credit history, so they had to be careful when it came to landlords, and as James’ friend owned the place they lived in, there was no need for any credit check. On Tuesday she would start to make enquiries for properties to rent and if she won this new account she could revisit the idea of buying a Bath stone house on her own in a year or so…a thought for another day when she was less tired.
She walked over to the sofa and sat down with her food and a fresh wine glass. That’s odd. She picked up the bottle, and it was empty. James doesn’t drink wine. A glass and four empty beer bottles were sat on the floor next to the sofa. She heard a noise coming from the bedroom and carefully got up, walked down the small hallway and listened at the door. Nothing. Her heart was in her mouth. It wasn’t what she thought it was, was it? She turned the handle very quietly and stepped into the room.