Cassie logged off her computer with relief, another work week at an end. She rotated her shoulders and stretched her back, longing to get out on her bike; she smiled to herself, it was like being a child again, out on your bike when you have done your homework and chores.
It wasn’t quite the freedom of childhood, she mused as she pedalled and picked up speed. The roads were quieter, but there was the added hazard of pedestrians suddenly darting across the road to avoid other walkers. Quiet lanes and cycle paths were busier than they used to be and passing other cyclists or overtaking while keeping a distance was awkward. She wondered where James rode, she had never spotted him among the other cyclists out and about. Perhaps they wouldn’t even recognise each other in their safety helmets.
Cassie braked suddenly as a child wobbled off its scooter onto the road in front of her. The seemingly unaccompanied child lay sprawled near the gutter with no sign of getting up. She glanced back up the road; the parents were chatting across a garden wall to someone standing at their front door, two more children were clambering on the wall. No one in the family had noticed anything amiss, if indeed this child of indeterminate sex and age actually belonged to them. What to do now? If Cassie helped it up she would be breaking the two metre rule of social distancing, but what if a car came speeding along? Delayed shock set in and the child suddenly started bawling. The parents looked up and came rushing along the pavement. Cassie’s relief was replaced by annoyance as they glared accusingly at her.
‘Lucky I managed to brake in time’ she stammered as she hopped back on her bike to distance herself.
James laughed as she related the story to him later, seated at the computer, glass of wine in hand.
‘Not a relaxing ride then.’
‘No, I was really looking forward to blowing away the cobwebs, the week I’ve had. I almost wish we were back at the office, almost, not quite.’
‘I think I would opt for returning to the office, at least you are in your own home. I feel like an overgrown school boy.’
For a moment Cassie felt a twinge of jealousy, imagining James at work, joking and flirting with the ladies of his department, probably younger and more interesting than her. She dismissed those thoughts and tried to be sympathetic.
‘But it can’t be easy for your mother either if she’s used to living by herself.’
‘That was before lock down, how would she manage without me?’
Very well, thought Cassie. She was feeling more and more sympathy with the mother and irritation with James. Surely moving back home had not been his only option after the divorce.
‘Are you in your old bedroom?’
‘No, no, thank goodness, this is Mum and Dad’s retirement home, downsize, nice quiet little town.’
‘Quiet… that doesn’t sound like anywhere near here.’
James laughed. ‘I’m over the other side of the water, funny we don’t know where each other lives. Stuck over the other side of the water now, ferry hasn’t been running for weeks; I enjoyed that commute to work, bicycle on the boat.’
Cassie found herself feeling relieved. James was at a safe distance in more ways than one, at least while lock down continued. He would remain safely inside her computer screen, no decisions needed yet about whether to meet up. Those blue eyes could not lure her against her better judgement… into what she wasn’t sure…
‘So where did you grow up?’ she steered the conversation back onto safer ground, away from the present or his failed marriage. She sat back and sipped her wine, ready to enjoy one of his funny stories.