It must have been -2 outside, and the brisk wind was unbearable. Goldie Johnson sat at the bus stop in the dark, shivering and tapping her feet to keep warm. She checked her watch again. It had been nearly 20 minutes since she got here and still no bus. “Well, that's London for you,” she thought to herself. “One flake of snow and everything stops”.
Just then a tall man wearing a suit and holding an umbrella walked past her. “There's a strike this evening, don't you know that?” he said as he climbed into a black cab and roared off.
“The tube won't get me anywhere near where I need to go” she thought. “It's just my luck, why do they always pick the most freezing cold day in the whole year to go on strike”. Wet flakes of snow drizzled onto her coat and soaked through the cheap red polyester.
She pushed her long blonde hair over her shoulder and pulled her red knit cap over her ears and began to walk. One stone cold foot after the other. She traipsed up Regent Street past the bright shops in Oxford Circus, where she sometimes spent her lunch hour browsing in shop windows and up into Mortimer Street.
As she made her way up Tottenham Court Road she hopefully craned her neck to the right to see if any buses had broken the strike. But there weren't any.
She was getting uncomfortably cold now. The temperature had dropped again. The snow was starting to pile up in the streets. Once or twice she nearly slipped on ice and lost her footing.
Goldie passed her old university on Malet Street. The campus was unusually quiet. It was here that she had met her flat mate and best friend, Sarah. They had studied Japanese together. Sarah was the one who introduced her to Paul, Goldie's current boyfriend, well one of them anyway. Paul was amazing: tall, powerfully built, wavy brown hair and a cute dimple on his left cheek. He was a rugby player but he was smart too and had a degree in sports medicine. Goldie hoped that one day he would ask her to marry him. They would be so perfect together. But recently Goldie had run into her ex, Mitchell, at a party and they had really seemed to hit it off. So they went on a couple of dates and it seemed to be going well. But Goldie didn't tell Paul because she didn't want to lose him, and she didn't tell Mitchell about Paul because she didn't want him to not ask her out again. She sighed, remembering that she had also let Bob at work take her out a couple of times. But that wasn't so clear cut, she reasoned. He was a colleague and they were just having some fun together. So what if the last time they were together they got a little carried away tongue wrestling?
She trudged through the swiftly falling sleet along Euston Road, up York Way, and through Angel Islington. She reached Essex Road where a large white owl gleamed at her menacingly through the darkened glass of a taxidermist's shop. Her toes were starting to go numb and her body felt like an ice statue despite her layers. She wished she was at home, snug by the fire watching Big Brother with Sarah and drinking a steaming hot cup of tea, so hot it burned her tongue.
Suddenly she remembered that Paul's flat was near here. She hadn't actually been to his flat before but she had the address and Goldie was sure he'd be pleased to see her, and she didn't think his flat mates would mind. She nearly skipped the distance. She found his flat and rang the bell but no one answered. She tried to call him but he didn't answer his phone. She stood at the door muttering and cursing under her breath with the frustration of it all. Then she noticed that the side window was open ajar. “What the hay” she said and climbed in, “I can't stay out here forever, I'll freeze to death.
There was a strong aroma of old food and stale beer. The kitchen was a mess: pots and pans everywhere, overflowing with goo of all colours and consistencies. There was hard baked, crispy brown gunk on the sideboard and red squishy blood-like glops hanging from the side of a pot on the stove. It was warm though and luckily she spotted a relatively clean microwave. She found a frozen pizza and stuck it in the microwave on full blast. She needed some food to heat her up and give her energy for her big night with Paul.
There were three haphazard chairs stuck around the table. The first was an antique, brown leather armchair which had seen better days. This must be Paul's she thought as she sank deep into its greasy folds. She decided to sit elsewhere, pulling herself up. There was a stool and a foldaway chair. She skipped the stool, it was too little and uncomfortable, and went straight for the wooden folding chair. It was rickety but it would do. She devoured the rubbery cheese pizza and wondered what Paul was doing this evening and what his flat mates were like.
“He'll be back soon”, she yawned and decided to have a lie down. Goldie walked into the living room,looking for a good resting place. She would have lain down on the sofa, but for the mess of crisps and beer cans surrounding it. She decided to try the bedroom. The first bedroom was like a cupboard, it contained a little loveseat for a bed, some old copies of Private Eye and nothing else, and besides, she would have to sleep in Paul's room anyway.
The next room must have been his, his rugby trophies were on the shelf and the walls were lined with sports memorabilia. But when she lay down on the bed it sunk in the middle, nearly swallowing her whole. She lay trapped between two towering walls of mattress and duvet. “It will be better when Paul gets here”. She attempted to turn onto her side and failed. “Well, maybe I'll lay down somewhere else for a little while, just until Paul gets home. They're probably all out drinking now anyway”.
To the left of Paul's room was another bedroom. This one was a bit cleaner then the rest of the house, which was a relief. On the wall hung posters from the last Cannes Film Festival and there was a desk with an almost new Apple Mac. She tried the bed. It was comfortable and the duvet was soft and warm. She soon fell into a deep sleep.
Sometime after eleven she was woken by gruff male voices in the hall. She couldn't quite make out what they were saying but she thought she heard Paul's voice amongst them. She started to get out of bed, when suddenly the door opened. It was Mitchell! The look on his face was a mixture of genuine shock and undisguised pleasure. “Goldie?!” he shouted. But Goldie just sat there slack jawed and unable to rise from the bed. A moment later, Paul and Bob appeared behind him. “Goldie?!” they shouted in unison. Goldie grabbed her stuff off the floor and jumped out the window. At least she'd had a chance to warm up.