A man cradling a brown paper sack held the door open for me on his way out of Spicy Nights.
“Thanks.” I smiled.
“No problem. It’s busy tonight.”
It was always busy on Saturday nights but I was in no rush. The evening ahead featured a glass of red wine, control of the TV remote and a takeaway. With any luck I’d be back home in time to watch the lottery draw on TV. Not that I ever bought a ticket, but the idea that someone had just had their life transformed always gave me a thrill.
I joined the queue and picked up a menu. Chicken Tikka Saag and a garlic naan perhaps? I ate garlic a lot now with no one to moan at me. Stuart had been a stickler for oral hygiene. Wouldn’t even kiss me until I’d flossed and gargled.
“Nice to see you again, Mrs Jay,” said Raj, the manager. Identifiable by his badge.
It was on the tip of my tongue to say, “Call me Charlotte.” But it might make me look like I’m flirting; this was my fourth Saturday night on the trot in here. Lonely? Me? Nooo.
“You too. Saturday again already. I don’t know where the time goes, such a busy week.” I blew out a breath in case he was in any doubt about how busy my life was.
“Can I interest you in our banquet for two?” Raj gave me a hopeful smile. “Only £25?”
I read it. A six-course banquet plus a free bottle of wine. Far too much food for me, but good value.
I shook my head. “My husband doesn’t like curry, I’m afraid. And I couldn’t eat all that by myself.”
It was only a white lie. Technically, Stuart was still my husband, although I was working on that. Would he marry Dee once we were divorced, I wondered? I bet Dee would think twice before becoming Mrs Dee Jay.
A bubble of laughter escaped and Raj looked at me oddly.
“Freeze it,” said the elderly woman behind me.
She was short and looked plump in her padded winter coat. “That’s what I do. Half now and half in the week. Not the wine; I polish that off in one go,” she chuckled.
“Maybe next time,” I replied and placed my order.
Stuart was a fan of freezing leftovers. He wasn’t frugal but he once froze a portion of garlic-free lasagne so miniscule that it was smaller than my computer mouse.
“See you next week!” called Raj, handing me my brown paper sack.
OK maybe not that spontaneous.
Back out in the darkness, I headed along the pavement back
to the car. A sign outside the newsagent caught my eye: LOTTO ROLLOVER! £20 million jackpot!
Someone had to get lucky. Why not me…?
I turned to go inside and crashed straight into the man I’d seen coming out of Spicy Nights.
“Whoah, steady!” He grinned. Deep brown eyes fringed with long dark lashes peeped out from a woolly hat. “Hello again.”
Wow, he could crush my poppadoms any time.
“Sorry. Last minute decision to buy a…”
“My lottery ticket! Damn!” He scanned the ground left and right.
“There!” I cried.
The scrap of paper was being tossed through the air. We both chased it and I grabbed it as it landed in a puddle.
“Good save. I’m Will, by the way.” He tucked the sodden ticket into his pocket and held out a hand.
“Charlotte. I hope your ticket brings you luck.”
We were still both clutching our brown sacks from Spicy Nights. I had a suspicious feeling mine was leaking. Either that or Will was having a very warming effect on my stomach.
“It’s already lucky.” He smiled again. “Why don’t I give you my number? If it’s a winner, we split the money. It’s only fair, you rescued it.”
I opened my mouth to argue. Then closed it again. “If you insist.”
I raced home, shrugged my curry-stained coat off, plonked my dinner on a tray and dashed into the living room to turn on the TV. The theme tune of the lottery programme was already playing.
My stomach fizzed as I dialled.
“You called!” Will’s smile was obvious in his voice. “The lads said you wouldn’t.”
“Lads?” I replied trying to keep the huge grin off my own face.
“At the station. I’m a firefighter.”
Tonight just kept getting better.
“Release those balls!” cried the presenter and the draw began.
I paid no attention to the numbers; Will and I chatted all the way through it. My face would ache tomorrow from smiling so much.
“Hey! I knew you were going to bring me luck. We got three numbers!” he laughed. “Not exactly life changing, but still…”
Oh, I don’t know, I thought.
Three numbers wins £25. I took a deep breath and prepared to say something spontaneous, but Will beat me to it.