Mr Right Across the Street - Kathryn Freeman
Mia pressed the phone to her ear and tried to focus on what her mum was saying, but it was hard to when her eyes kept sliding to the flat directly opposite hers. Not the one just to the left, oh no. That was heart-sink territory. The sure way to make her feel like a total failure as a human being. Who on earth looks that put-together at nine o’clock in the morning? Earlier, even, though Mia couldn’t say for certain how early because Immaculate Woman was always there, at her desk, by the time Mia staggered out of bed. Didn’t the woman know that tracksuit bottoms, baggy jumpers and dressing gowns were all perfectly acceptable dress codes in your own damn home?
‘Are you sure you’re okay, pet? Your dad and me, we worry. One minute you’re living round the corner. Next you’ve upped sticks all the way to flipping Manchester where you’re living all by yourself, away from your friends and family. It’s not right.’
Mia sighed. Here we go again. ‘I’m thirty, not thirteen, Mum. And it’s not like it’s the first time I’ve been away from you guys. I managed to survive three years at uni.’ In truth, Bath hadn’t been that far away, and though ‘survived’ was accurate, boy had she missed her family. Oh and when she’d got her degree and a job, she’d moved to a house in the next street along from her parents.
‘I know you can survive,’ her mum countered. ‘But I want my little gumdrop to be happy.’
Mia groaned. Seriously, how many thirty-year-olds get called a little gumdrop? And yet … her eyes begin to prick. She’d always been her mum and dad’s gumdrop, just as Elle, her elder sister, had always been their little peanut. Because that’s what they’d been nicknamed in the womb. God, she missed her family.
Mia drew in a shaky breath. Nope, now wasn’t the time to show weakness. At the first hint of it, her parents would jump into their car and bomb up the ruddy motorway. ‘I am happy, Mum.’ Or at least she would be, once she’d made a few friends up here. So far the only person she’d spoken to was Stan, her neighbour. Sixty-seven, divorced, overweight and lonely, he wasn’t exactly who she imagined hitting the nightlife with.
‘Have you met anyone else yet, aside from your neighbour?’
As Mia debated how to reply, she glanced at the time on her computer and saw it was ten o’clock. Immediately her eyes skimmed over to the flat opposite. Bingo.
The highlight of her day.
‘Are you still there?’
Guiltily Mia tried to recall her mum’s question. ‘Of course I’ve met people.’ Did it count if you hadn’t actually spoken to them? All you’d done was ogle them from across the courtyard while they’d lifted weights? Or, in the case of Immaculate Woman, glowered at them every morning. ‘But I’ve only been here two weeks and friendships take time, so please quit worrying. I’m perfectly content. I’ve got plenty of work to do and my new place is great.’ With a dynamite view between ten and eleven in the morning.
Dear God, Hot Guy Opposite, as she’d nicknamed him, had started his routine with bicep curls. Even from across the courtyard, she could see the pump of his arms. The hard muscles of his naked chest…
‘That’s something, I suppose.’ Her mum’s voice jolted Mia out of her lusty thoughts. And the way she paused to clear her throat, sent alarm bells ringing. ‘I saw Debbie yesterday, who’d spoken to Anne.’ In other words, the gossip grapevine. ‘Pete’s been asking around for your new mobile number.’
Mia froze at the mention of the reason she’d had to leave the comfort of life in Somerset. Maybe it had been too comfortable, maybe moving to Manchester would turn out to be an inspired idea, but fact was, she’d not been drawn here by the idea of a better life in singleton city (apparently it had the highest concentration of single people in the UK, so at least she wouldn’t feel too out of place). She’d come here to escape Pete. The boyfriend who’d seemed so nice. Until he’d proven he wasn’t. ‘It’s okay, Mum, he won’t get my number. The only people who have it are family and my best buddies, Heather and Gill.’
‘Good. Because if I find that despicable man sending my gumdrop any more nasty messages, I’ll hunt him down and … and…’ Mia’s lips began to twitch as she waited with interest.