Echoes of Scotland Street

Page 12


Bloody hell. She was gorgeous, accomplished, smart, and successful. She scouted talent for a living while I . . . scanned stuff.
“Hi,” I said.
What else was there to say?
Tamara gave me a nod in acknowledgment, a small smirk playing on her lips as she drank me in. She turned to Cole after scrutinizing me. “You never change.”
Cole stiffened.
What the heck did that mean?
Whatever look Cole gave his friend, she shrugged unapologetically. He sighed and turned to lead her across the studio, and thankfully I got to ignore his departure because a customer walked in.
The young woman was looking to have her ear cuff pierced. After I alerted Simon, who was on his lunch break, he came out into the main studio. He talked quietly to the girl in the waiting area and gestured for her to go into the back room. He stopped by my desk before following her. “You met Tamara?”
Warily I nodded.
“Gorgeous girl,” Simon said. “Not the girl, though.” And with that rather enigmatic statement and a cheeky wink, he disappeared after his customer.
Not for once I cursed fate’s twisted sense of humor for handing me a good job in the worst possible setting. I was in bad-boy heaven. Or hell. Whichever it was, it was the wrong place for me.
Beggars can’t be choosers, Gran had always said.
Sighing, I looked back out the window, my annoyance level increasing when I saw the shivering dog’s owner approach to untie him. The dog jumped up at the man, his tail wagging pitifully. All attempts to greet his master were ignored, his owner shooing him down before leading him away. The dog might as well have been invisible on the other end of his lead. My heart clenched. I wanted to run across the street and steal that lonely dog away and shower him with affection.
It occurred to me as I watched the guy sway a little on his feet that there were just some people who didn’t know how to love. I had to wonder why, then, if they couldn’t learn, they even bothered trying. Their attempts only harmed those foolish enough to try to love them in return.
I still don’t forgive you. I just want to know you’re not dead.
S taring down at the text message from my sister, I pondered what to do. I’d been staring at the damn thing on and off for the last twenty-four hours. And for the last twenty-four hours I hadn’t been able to get her voice out of my head.
“When are you going to stop picking these losers to date? God, Shannon, it doesn’t say much about you, does it?”
“Another one bites the dust? What was it this time? Another woman? Drugs? A pregnancy scare? All of the above?”
“You’ve done it now. You invite scum into your life and we’re the ones dealing with the consequences. You’re so selfish, Shannon!”
I suppose that meant it was selfish to leave her hanging.
I’m not dead.
I stuffed my phone into my big slouchy bag where I carried my sketch pad and pencils. It was Friday, my day off. Since the studio was busiest at the weekends, I got Thursday and Friday off instead. Yesterday I’d spent cleaning the flat and reading a book Rae let me borrow. Today I was going to the castle. I couldn’t get the idea of trying my hand at landscape painting out of my head. I’d never painted before, but it wasn’t the first time I’d fancied giving it a go . . .
*   *   *
“What the hell is that?”
I stared at the box of acrylic paint he was pointing to. “Paints.”
“You don’t fucking paint.”
“I’m going to, though.”
“No. You’re not. You’re going to return those expensive-as-fuck paints you can’t bloody use.”
Unsure now, I stared at the box.
Sensing my sadness, he wrapped his hand around my neck, forcing me to meet his eyes. They were soft, concerned. “Babe, I’m sorry. I just want you to get this art thing out of your head so we can get real. I don’t mean to hurt you, but there’s not much of a career in it for most people and you really need to be megatalented to succeed. There’s no point sinking your time and money into something you’re not good at.”
That conversation and the many that had come before it played in my head as I made my way to Edinburgh Castle. I paid the entry fee and hoofed it to the top, where I had a wonderful view of the city. Battling against the soft wind that fluttered the corners of my paper up every now and then, I began to sketch it, already imagining painting it in nighttime colors with streaks of electric tones for the lights.
I was going to use acrylic, I thought determinedly, anger burning in my gut.
I was going to use my first paycheck to buy myself those bloody acrylics I’d returned because of him.
Tears stung my eyes, and my mouth trembled as I glared out at the city. If it was the last thing I did, I would buy those acrylics and use them . . . and somehow, hopefully, along the way I was going to find the girl I’d lost because of him.
*   *   *
Pleased with the work I’d done at the castle, I returned back to the flat in a better mood than the one I’d left it in. Before going home I went food shopping, buying fresh fish, vegetables, and baby potatoes. I put it together with a sauce my gran had taught me to make and took pleasure in the fact that I’d rendered Rae speechless when she returned from work to a meal.
She took a bite of the fish in its homemade sauce and made a little moan of pleasure. I forcefully shoved the reminder of her sex noises out of my mind.
“You weren’t kidding,” Rae said with her mouth full. “Did you steam this?”
I nodded as I ate.
“It’s lovely.” She swallowed and took a swig of water. “You’re full of surprises, wee fairy.”
I rolled my eyes. “Don’t.”
“Stu told us how you reacted to him calling you that.” She grunted. “I would have looked like I wanted to kick him in the balls too if he’d called me that.”
My eyes grew round. “Did he say that’s what I looked like?” At Rae’s nod, I whispered, “Why did he hire me, then?”
“Said you had spunk. I didn’t believe him, but now I do.”
“I can die happy,” I muttered.
Rae grinned. “So come on. Spill. Why did you leave Glasgow?”
Thankful I was already looking at my plate and could easily hide my instant dislike of the turn the conversation had taken, I shrugged casually. “No reason really. I’m not that close to my family. I got laid off at my last job. I decided it was time for a change of scenery. My gran used to live on Scotland Street, so I know Edinburgh pretty well and have always loved it here. It’s different from Glasgow. I was looking for that.”