Ceri applied her lippy slowly; it was a deep dark crimson colour. She
placed it carefully on the sink and took a step backwards. Gently
ruffling her hair she starred at her own image in the mirror:
immaculate make up, a show stopping outfit, long tanned legs and
stunning shiny brown hair that reached her shoulders. Smiling she
tugged at her skirt and adjusted the sleek shiny fabric. She was ready.
At the top of the stairs, Ceri picked up a full black bin bag, grabbed
the local paper and descended to the hallway. The television was on in
the lounge, it sounded like her house mate Matty was watching
‘Friends’ or maybe ‘Sex in the
the folded newspaper and rubbish bag down, Ceri strutted into the
lounge and twirled round in anticipation as if she was on the Milan
“How do I look?” mused Ceri.
“Absolutely fabulous,” added Matty as she placed
glass on the coffee table.
“You’re really going through with it? Good for
Matty smiled. “We’ve had enough of dating
“I’m ready,” Ceri sighed with an edge of
Matty looked at the bin bag in the living room doorway.
“Throwing the last of David’s stuff out
“Making a clean start,” Ceri laughed.
know, I might get lucky tonight.”
“Just be careful, eh?” Matty pointed to the
the doorway. ‘The paper said whoever has been killing those
in Fulham for the last two months hasn’t been
“I’ll be fine, it’s an organised speed
session, and the membership fee was expensive, so it should be weirdo
free! I’ve scribbled the details, they are by the
“Well just be careful and let me know if there are any hunks
suitable for me!” Matty winked to her friend.
“I will, I will, so what you are doing tonight, just staying
Matty threw her head back and rolled her eyes before overstating with
an exaggerated moan that with no man in her life she was resorting to
fine wine and chick flick DVDs.
Ceri picked up the glass and took a long satisfying swig of the red
wine. It tingled as it hit her empty stomach.
“That’s for Dutch courage! Well I’ll see
Stay up for me!”
Ceri swung round and headed for the door. Pulling the door behind her,
Ceri headed onto the street carefully avoiding the loose paving stone
at the foot of her path. It was cold from the earlier rain and the
street lights had just come on. Apart from a man in a grey hooded top
heading up the street towards her, the street was empty. The occupants
of the quaint terraced street were all preparing meals and watching the
X factor. She walked onto the pavement and walked briskly to meet the
number 45 bus on Chelsea Avenue.
As she turned onto Chelsea Avenue, she looked right and saw the bus
coming down the hill. Bugger! I’m going to miss this. Without
looking properly she turned to pick up the pace towards the bus stop
and accidentally bumped into a well dressed man heading in the same
“Sorry” she said eyeing the man up and down. He
suede jacket, checked shirt and a pair of jeans, clearly expertly
ironed. His hair was swept back and he was cleanly shaven. Finally her
nostrils caught the aroma of an expensive after shave.
He’s a cutie! Maybe I don’t need to go tonight!
“Sorry,” she blurted unsure as to whether he had
bumped into her.
“Don’t worry - just keen to catch this
“Me too!” She added as they scuttled towards the
bus stop -
Ceri doing her best to keep up with him, in her four and a half inch
They boarded the bus, with the handsome stranger allowing her to board
first. She swiped her oyster and sat down. The bus meandered its way
through the London streets. Ceri took from her hand bag her pocket
mirror and checked her make up and the speed dating instructions for
the evening. A few pre-date drinks of champagne to ease the nerves,
then ten carefully selected dates by the organisers ‘Love
Struck’ would woo her. For five hundred quid, they had better
good and then a further five hundred quid if she met mister right from
the evenings dating, a fee they described as an ‘introduction
She scanned at the other passengers on the bus, an old lady, two
teenagers and the handsome stranger, who was staring right at her.
Rather startled she turned round and concentrated on the evenings
The venue was close to the bus stop; Ceri confidently stepped off and
headed for the door. She strolled into the entrance foyer collecting a
glass of champagne. She took a careful sip. Don’t drink too
Other participants mingled. She scanned the room like a predator
scanning the horizon. He’s nice - a well groomed man talking
two girls. Oh my God! Her eyes caught a plump man sweating in the
corner, who was staring right at her. The room hummed with the sounds
of polite conversation. As the organisers requested the ladies took
their seats, Ceri felt a tap on her shoulder.
She turned round and there was the hunk from the bus stop.
“Surprised you are here,” the man laughed.
“How do you mean?”
“Well, surprised you don’t have a bloke.”
“Might say the same to you!” she flirted before
adding “Having a partner I mean.”
“Not found miss right yet,” he conceded shrugging
shoulders. “Are you nervous?”
“I wasn’t, but I am now,” she
“Well good luck. Let me know how it goes! We will probably be
the same bus home, so let’s share how we got on!”
and headed for the speed dating room.
Ceri collected another glass of fizz and found her seat. She pulled her
short skirt down and sat down. In front of her was an envelope
containing her potential suitors. First up was Michael Casper.
Michael Casper sat down. He fidgeted around, avoided eye contact and
had a slight quiver in his voice. He seems more nervous than
He introduced himself, spitting slightly as he did so. Oh great! He was
tall, wore glasses and a white shirt with pink tie.
“So what do you do?” Ceri asked trying to
“I am a Chiropodist,” he replied enthusiastically
a slight stutter. “I have my own practice in
“Really, how interesting, what made you get into
“Feet, simply feet, I find them fascinating.”
Next up was Simon Ashworth from Chelsea. An over confident city broker,
who spoke more about his trip to Stamford Bridge the next day than his
suitability for her. She sighed as rambled on about himself, and
sneaked a look at the next table to see the third candidate. A chap
called Brian Mansion. So far, not worth the money or effort. She
thought of her friend Matty tucked up at home with her wine and films.
All of a sudden that seemed very appealing.
With a hint of whisky on his breath, Brian Mansion explained he was
just out of the army and had been living with his parents in Kensington
for two months. He came across blunt and aggressive, explaining how he
spent most of his time in Fulham and Chelsea drinking with the boys.
Next up was Carlos Santoro, a tanned telecoms consultant from Madrid.
He worked for a large supplier near Moorgate station. His tan though,
also showed the tell tale sign of a missing wedding ring. I bet she
thinks you’re out with the lads. No thanks!
The next few candidates were equally unappealing, especially the large
sweating man who had been eyeing her up in the reception room. He smelt
slightly musty and talked too long about his interest in computer
She looked at her watch. The last one – finally. Well what a
disappointing evening – and a waste of bloody money! She just
hoped that Matty hadn’t drunk all the wine. Especially the
Chianti in the top right kitchen cupboard. Someone sat in front of her.
She looked up to see the bus stop stranger.
“Hi,” she smiled. “I was just thinking
tonight was a
“Found no-one suitable then?” he asked, running his
through his hair.
“Maybe, I’ll tell you later,” she
tell me about you.”
“Maybe I won’t,” he said looking into her
Slightly puzzled and taken aback, she managed to ask why?
“We’re not suited,” he replied
contact but with a soft smile.
“And how do you know that?”
“Just do, just do!” he stated with a slight shrug
“Right!” she said collecting her belongings to
from her embarrassment.
“I’ll tell you why on the way home,” he
getting up to leave.
No you bloody won’t!
After confirming to the organisers that she wanted no-one’s
contact details and saying that no-one was suitable, she collected her
belongings and headed outside to the street. As she left the building,
who should be standing their but Brian Mansion, the army reject.
“Fancy a drink?” His tone had a hint of drunkenness
She said “No thanks” and started looking around her
“I’ll walk you home then.” He scratched
“No thanks,” she repeated turning her back to him
“You sure? You’ll regret it?” The
the rejection was clear in his voice. Ceri ignored him. Suddenly, a
different, calmer and more polite voice said:
“I’m taking her home.”
Ceri turned round to see the handsome bus stranger stood next to her.
“Wanker!” Brian Mansion uttered before walking off.
“You didn’t need to do that, but thank
said. She realised she didn’t even have time to look up his
earlier. Their conversation had been so brief.
“That’s ok. Thought we might get the bus
“Thought we weren’t suitable for each
uttered, giving him an icy glance. She realised she felt quite cold in
her skimpy dress. Spotting a taxi with the new action film advertised
down the side of it, she hailed it.
“I’ll level with you. My names Gareth Haydock, I
are amazing and I would love to get to know you better, but I would
rather you spent the five hundred pound additional
‘introduction’ fee on taking me out for dinner.
‘Love Struck’ will never know!”
He waved away the taxi, hoping that his bold approach would pay off.
Watching the dismissed taxi pull away she looked him in the eye.
“You’re joking me! You’re rather
“I’m serious,” he smiled back.
a coffee and go from there, tell me you don’t want
They sat in the coffee shop, holding hands over the table by the end.
Gareth came from Southampton and was a solicitor, who had moved to
Fulham eight weeks ago. They laughed together, enjoyed each others
company and the newcomer to London explained how he was separated from
his wife, who left him for his former partner from his Eastleigh firm.
They had common interests and lived in adjacent streets. Ceri thought
he was perfect, a little bitter from his separation maybe, but some
catch all in all.
“Sorry to be the bearer of bad news,” Gareth
sighed after a couple of hours.
“How do you mean?” Ceri gently stroked his hands.
“I have to go to Winchester tomorrow and help my brother
I need to head home early tomorrow morning,”
Ceri could tell the regret in his voice was sincere.
“Don’t worry, we can meet up next week,”
suggested trying not to seem too keen but consciously worrying he
wanted to leave.
“I’d love to,” he said reassuringly.
Outside they hailed a cab which dropped them both at the end of
“Right!” he said, “this is
“I guess so,” she smiled.
Gareth lent forward to kiss her and she eagerly responded.
“Any chance of another coffee?” he then added after
breaking off the embrace.
“Thought you had an early start,” she laughed.
“You’re right I do, let’s take it
reflected. “Can I walk you to your door?”
“Don’t worry” she said as she kissed him
“It’s just up there, I’ll be
“But I insist,” he protested.
“Don’t worry,” she said walking away. His
slipped gently from hers.
“Ring me!” They both turned round and said. They
laughed before he reminded her of the outstanding dinner engagement.
As she slowly walked up the terraced street, she was warm with
excitement having met Gareth. She didn’t notice that someone
As she approached her door she reached for her keys and felt someone
grab her. She spun round and faced her attacker. Glinting in the
moonlight was a large knife.
“You!” She said. “You again?”
“Couldn’t cope without seeing you again,”
snarled stepping forward to cover her mouth to stifle any screaming. In
one movement he plunged the knife through her dress into her stomach
and the warm flow of blood from her liver ran over his hands.
“Ddddavid, why?” She spluttered as the blood surged
“Cos you’ve gone and left me you little
With the colour draining from her face, she lay unable to move.
Ceri’s ex David hovered over her dying body. His hands moved
her for the last time, running his hands over her torso and legs.
“I’ve waited for two months to do this,”
whispered. “You may have read the papers, I have been
on stupid sluts in Fulham since we split, that way your death
won’t be suspicious.”
She said nothing as her life slipped from her veins.
As he moved the knife to her neck, his movement was suddenly jolted and
her aggressor fell to the floor and didn’t move. Blood pooled
onto the wet pavement. Gareth dropped the loose paving stone that he
had pulled off the end of Ceri’s path. He knelt down to
“The police and ambulance are on there way,” he
said as the
tears fell down his face. The sirens were already to be heard in the
Ralph Booth, 2010