Di noticed the man as soon as she sat down. He was sitting opposite her in the carriage. It was his height that first attracted her attention. The man was very tall. He was also extremely good-looking. Smooth-skin, closely cropped black hair, a shapely head, and a pencil thin moustache which for some reason reminded her of Kid Creole and The Coconuts, a band she had loved in the 90s.
The man was dressed in a smart, tailored blue suit and a pristine white button-down collared shirt, and surprisingly, for such a formal outfit, a pair of beautiful mid-blue leather shoes which sharpened up his whole appearance. It wasn’t just his physical presence that made her want to watch him. It was the way he was talking into his phone. She felt a bit uncomfortable as she listened to his brisk, rather dismissive tone. He kept looking at his stainless-steel watch which she recognised was from the very expensive Montblanc range. He was speaking politely but there was an edge to his voice, almost menacing.
‘Yeah, well, I do think you could put an extra six k on the bonus. I worked my arse off to close that deal.
Oh…you don’t think so.
Well I know so.
I’ve earnt it’.
He paused then and listened.
‘Ok, Cool. I’ll see you soon’.
He carefully folded up his ear phones and put them, together with his mobile, into the inside pocket of his jacket. From another pocket he pulled out a skinny blue tie which he proceeded to put on using the window opposite as a mirror. He was completely unselfconscious with very precise movements.
She, however, felt very self-conscious and made every effort to ensure he didn’t know he was being scrutinised.
The train pulled out of Bethnal Green station, and she started to gather her stuff together ready to get off at Liverpool Street. Then he really surprised her. From his jacket pocket he pulled out a crumpled packet of tobacco and started to roll up a cigarette with quick, deft movements. He licked the edge of the cigarette paper and she looked down and away. It all looked so grubby compared to the rest of him.
‘Bet he does that just as well with a joint’ she thought.
As the train pulled into the station, they both stood up to get off. He stood back to let her off first, glancing at her with a slight frown on his face. She looked up and seeing him clearly, felt a faint recognition which surprised her, but then they were off and walking down the platform to the exit. She followed him up the escalator and through the barrier. He turned right in the direction of Broadgate, she turned left to walk to Finsbury Square.
‘City boy’ she thought.
She would never know what made her do it but on a complete impulse, she turned back and looked for him in the crowd of commuters thronging the concourse. It was easy to spot him, he was so tall. She went back down the escalator, keeping him in sight and followed at a distance. She had no idea why. Just curious but also something nagged in her memory.
He walked up the stairs and around the corner where he stopped outside the Fitness First Gym. He made a call on his mobile and waited. The door flew open and a blonde man rushed up to him. They fist bumped and then hugged. Di watched carefully, standing just a little way back, pretending to look at her phone.
It was at this point that the tall man turned slowly round and took a step towards her. Instinctively she stepped back.
‘Hi Mrs Henderson, or can I call you Di now we’re all grown up? Long-time no see’.
Di stepped back again, completely caught out. She felt the blood rush to her face.
He spoke to his companion: ‘Mrs Henderson taught me maths back in the day. It must be 15 years ago. She was ever so strict, but she taught me well’.
He turned back to her and held out his hand. She shook it.
‘I’m a broker now. Done well for myself. I thought I recognised you from somewhere when we got off the train. Were you following me? Is there something you wanted?’
‘Oh my God’ she said ‘Leroy Mutai. ‘
‘There was just something about you, something familiar. I just thought I recognised you’.
‘Well, here I am. What can I do for you?’
His tone was mocking, and she thought she would die of embarrassment. She felt beyond mortified.
Di drew in a deep breath. ‘What a coincidence’ she said brightly. ‘I’m just on my way to the Barbican. Nice to see you again after all this time. I must go. I’m already late’.
She turned and walked away. Her cheeks still felt on fire and she felt ridiculous. What on earth had possessed her? Leroy had been an awful student. Insolent, arrogant and quite nasty. But super bright. She knew he would do well. She remembered setting him detentions and then feeling uncomfortable when he sat there for an hour after school, just looking at her while she pretended to mark books.
As she hurried off out of Broadgate she felt like the clock had been turned back to those long ago school days. ‘How could I have done that’ she thought ‘but then he always did make me feel stupid’.