It had already started to get dark as Tess neared home, the colour leaking out of the day, the night closing in around her. Walking through the village, she watched as lights were switched on in front room windows. For a moment or two, as she passed each house, she saw the lives of others lit up as a stage set. A brief moment of illumination, like the brightness when a match is struck. Then the curtains were drawn and she was once again in the dark, on the outside.
It was getting colder too. She wrapped her long knitted jacket more tightly, catching it together under crossed arms. It wouldn't be long before everyone was in coats and scarves, but she didn't want to give in to winter just yet.
Cars were parked up on the pavement all along the narrow street. They had to, or their wing mirrors would end up scattered like confetti by the delivery vans bringing furniture and food to the middle classes. She knew most of the cars, who they belonged to. It wasn't difficult in a village this size, where you got to know most people's business without even trying. But she didn't recognise the black Audi parked outside the bungalows.
There was a man sitting at the steering wheel. She glanced at him as she walked past, trying not to make her curiosity too obvious. She only had time to notice the short dark hair and small round glasses; would she always think of them as John Lennon glasses? He was doing a crossword, a folded up newspaper propped high against the steering wheel to catch the light.
Tess shivered, it was getting cold. She wondered why he was sitting there, it seemed a bit odd, but perhaps he was a taxi driver waiting for his passenger. Maybe he was a guest who'd been invited for supper but arrived too early. She hoped he wasn't some sort of spy, trying to catch out unwitting benefit fraudsters, or a private detective on the trail of an errant spouse.
He'd seemed engrossed in the crossword, hadn't noticed her as she'd walked past. Surely if he was waiting for someone he'd be looking up, checking, every few seconds? She hated it when people kept her waiting.
As she reached the corner, Tess looked back again, for just a little longer than she needed to. As she watched, the man got out. He closed the door gently, almost silently, then leaned forward for a moment against the roof of the car, resting his head on folded arms. It seemed a long while before he lifted his head and slowly straightened up, stretching his shoulders back and down.
Still she stood and watched, as he took off the small round glasses, folded them and put them in the top pocket of his jacket. She was surprisingly annoyed at that, why hadn't he put them in a case? She could almost feel the glass being scratched by the dust and detritus in his pocket. He looked away, down the street, then back at the car. She wasn't close enough to see his lips move, but it was almost as though she could hear him 'Right then...'
With a determined nod of the head he turned towards her. He'd seen her now, there was no point pretending he hadn't, so mirroring the actions she'd watched, she straightened up, nodded her head and walked towards him.