Touched - By Malcolm Havard



'There you go, door-to-door service,’ said William stopping the car right outside the entrance.

‘Cheers mate, appreciate it,’ Dan said, knowing that an awkward moment was imminent.

Sure enough William said; 'So do I get an invite?’

Dan paused, his hand on the door handle. He had been half expecting, half dreading this. ‘Er…well…my girlfriend is a bit…funny about visitors,’ he said feeling guilty again even though he knew there was nothing he could do about it.

‘Hey, it’s OK,’ William’s voice was remarkably gentle. ‘She was attacked wasn’t she? I had heard. Sorry mate, must be hard.’

Dan wasn’t surprised that William knew. He hadn’t told anyone at work but the grapevine always worked overtime. The circles he worked and socialised in were not that large.

‘Yes, she was,’ said Dan getting out, praying that William wouldn’t push the point, wouldn't ask more. For all his wide boy agent’s bluster and his showing off, he suspected that William was a surprisingly sensitive soul, in fact he was counting on it.

‘No worries, mate. Have a good night. Give her my regards. Need a lift tomorrow?’

‘No it’s OK. There’s a tram stop just across the street. I'll see you tomorrow. Thanks for the lift.’

‘No probs, Danny boy. Night mate.’

Dan shut the car door and waited whilst William performed a typically flamboyant 3-point turn and screeched off into the night, giving a final cheery wave out of his window. Only then did he press his proximity card to the security panel and let himself into the lobby. He then made certain it latched and locked behind him, knowing that if he didn’t she was bound to ask him; he was not a good enough liar to convince her that they were secure. He checked their post box and extracted the usual selection of junk mail, fast food flyers and bills, looked at them briefly and headed to the lift.

The doors opened immediately when he pressed the call button. On the 7th floor he got out, turned right and walked along the plush, carpeted corridor, more like a hotel than an apartment block, until he stood outside number 714. He paused briefly, checking that there was no one else around. She got so nervous if she heard voices. It upset her. The coast was clear so he put his key in the lock, turned the Yale, pushed the door open and stepped inside.

It was warm. A candle was lit on the dining table that was set for one. A single glass stood next to a bottle of red wine.

Dan smiled.

‘Sorry. I couldn’t open it.’

The voice next to him made him jump.

‘Sorry,’ she said again. She was there, right there next to him, appearing wraith-like out of the darkness, a cheeky half-smile on her face, her eyes sparkling in the flickering candlelight, the colour made more striking by the paleness of her skin.

‘That’s OK,’ said Dan moving to kiss her but she wriggled away from him.

‘Easy tiger. Your dinner’s in the oven,’ she said sitting down on the settee. She kicked her off shoes and tucked her legs underneath her. ‘Put Corrie on for me would you?’

Dan up picked the remote from the coffee table and pressed number three. As the set flicked into life and as he put it back down again he caught her looking at him; her gaze was soft, gentle, amused, loving. As usual he wanted to touch her, to take her in his arms, to brush away the strands of hair that always rebelliously wandered across her cheeks, to kiss her passionately.

But he didn't.

For now he just smiled back and headed off into the kitchen.

He found the oven gloves, put them on and leant down to open the oven door. As he did his eye was drawn to the temperature setting. It was all the way round to full. She seemed to know the moment that he saw it.

‘Um,’ she said, ‘I had a spot of bother with the dial thingy. It might be a bit overdone.’

The pot was so hot it was ticking. He could hardly bear to hold it even through the oven gloves. He had to quickly put it down to save his hands but when he did he was concerned that the temperature difference would crack the cool marble worktop. The lid was almost welded on, he had to lever it off with a knife, then burnt his fingers trying to stop it flicking onto the floor.

‘It’s perfect,’ he called, looking at the dry, blackened wreckage within. And, oddly enough, he meant