Chapter Five: Nerissa

I placed the last few pins in my hair, carefully moving my hands away from the now elegant style. Assessing my appearance in the mirror, I was surprised by how good I looked. Suits and smart dresses were my usual day to day attire, followed by comfy t-shirts and leggings in the evening. I’d opted for a smart casual outfit, the age old classic jeans and a nice top. Though for some reason, I’d felt like doing my hair extra fancy. Oh well. It was a special occasion. Nerve racking, but special nevertheless.

    Giving a satisfied nod to my reflection, I grabbed my handbag from the bed. It was one I seldom used, but the classy red and black design went with my crimson blouse. Prying it open, I checked everything was there that I needed. Phone, keys, lipstick (in case of reapplication after eating), deodorant, perfume, purse. Maybe I was overthinking it a bit? There did seem to be a lot of items. Oh well, it couldn’t hurt. Better to be prepared than not.

   Clutching the handles, I headed downstairs and out the door. A text message moments ago confirmed that the white car sitting outside was my taxi. The driver waved and I climbed into the back, giving the usual greetings.

“Italia Restaurant, correct?” he checked as I buckled my seatbelt. 

“Yes please,” I responded eagerly.

The driver nodded and set off down the street. I shuffled restlessly in the seat. What would Killian be like? He’d certainly achieved his dreams but how much had he changed in order to do so? Maybe I was worrying for nothing and it would be like old times. I really hoped he hadn’t become an arrogant asshole like some people I’d had to deal with in the past, ones holding similar positions to Killian. People used to getting their own way because money “talked”. A smirk crossed my painted lips. Not with the law it didn’t. It was satisfying to see those types of clients realise who was really in charge of their case and it certainly wasn’t them. Recalling the encounters, I prayed to whoever was listening that Killian hadn’t developed that attitude.

   I gazed out of the window, watching roads and buildings zoom by as we got ever closer to our destination. I was sure Carmen would be doing a happy dance wherever she was as she thought about me tonight. She was probably already waiting by her phone. I just hoped I’d have good news to give her by the time the night was over. 

   Blissfully, the driver remained quiet and didn’t press me for idle small talk like some did. I was too caught up in my whirlwind thoughts, I didn’t need stupid meaningless conversation about the weather or what I was up to adding to the chaos. It would be fine. I sucked in a deep breath. It would be fine.

   But what if it wasn’t? The traitorous little voice at the back of my mind chirped in. Dammit! Just when I’d started to get a grip on my nerves too. At least I finally knew how my clients felt before a court hearing. If it didn’t go well, then it didn’t go well, my resigned thoughts concluded. I balled my hand into a fist, clenching my fingers. And Killian wouldn’t be to blame. It would be me and my secrets. On reflex, I glanced at my reflection in the rear view mirror. The scar was covered flawlessly by foundation. I just needed it to stay that way. I’d added a little pot to my assorted handbag items, but the worry there wouldn’t be enough for a re-cover was present. Heck, it was always present.

    The taxi came to a stop, jarring me from my thoughts. “Here we are, Italia.” The driver proclaimed merrily, turning to look at me with an expectant expression.

“Ah yes, how much again?”

“Thirteen fifty.” He confirmed as I pulled out a twenty-pound note, handing it over. He rummaged through his little bag, dropping pound coins into my open palm.

“Sorry darling, I don’t have any fivers.”

“Don’t worry about it.” No one ever had five pound notes for change anyway. Unless you were at the supermarket of course.

“Alright, you have a nice evening.”

“Thanks.” I replied, climbing out of the car. He drove off, leaving me staring up at the restaurant with trepidation. The olive green sign beamed down at me with its swirling golden lettering. A menu was affixed to the wall, covered in a protective layer and sealed within a case to protect it from the elements. Briefly, I wondered if looking over the menu would buy me some more time. No, really it was procrastination and the longer I did that, the harder it would be to walk through that door. It was time to be a responsible young woman. Squaring my shoulders, I strutted towards the door, heels clacking loudly and echoing down the street. My body language was a lot more confident than I felt

    The inside was pleasant, bright and open with some artwork carefully placed around the walls. It wasn’t too cluttered or overbearing, but a good balance between the two. It was the most up market restaurant I knew and hopefully, it would be on par with Killian’s no doubt worldlier dining experiences.

    I stepped up to the little desk, where upon noticing my presence, a waitress immediately sidled over. “Welcome to Italia, what can I do for you?”

“I’ve got a table booked under the name Reed.”

The waitress glanced down at her list. “Ah yes, here we are. Table for two.” She confirmed, her eyes drawing back up to me and only me standing there.

“My companion is running a bit late I’m afraid.” I lied with a smile, smoothing over her inquisitive expression. Truthfully, I had no idea if Killian was running late or not, but the waitress accepted the explanation graciously.

“In that case, would you like to wait in the bar area for them or would you like me to take you to your table and I can seat the other diner with you when they arrive?”

My mind rapidly asserted the table. Left in the bar area with my current nerves and an unknown waiting time was probably not the best idea. There was dutch courage and then there was just plain drunk. Let’s not give Killian that impression, shall we? “The table is fine.” I smiled again.

“Very well, right this way madam.” The waitress plucked two menus expertly off her greeting counter and led me towards the table and my future.  

    No turning back now.   

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