"The Disappearing Act" is one of the November Writing Challenge entries that was chosen to be a featured story.
Strings of beads festooned her neck and English Rose perfume clung to her skin. Her heels clattered across the pavement and her hand clasped tightly around her coat collar. Something glinted in a puddle up ahead, like the silver reflection of the moon.
“Find a penny, pick it up…” It wasn’t a penny, but it would do. She needed all the luck she could get. She tightened her palm around the cold coin and winced as it bit into her flesh.
Her phone vibrated: ‘Im inside. To cold to wait.’
She turned right and headed down a quiet street. Her eyes scoured the shop signs, looking for Luigi’s. Her stomach flip-flopped; she had never eaten at a proper Italian before. However, all she found was a dingy diner that slouched beneath the sign for LU_GI’S. The pungent smell of grease filled her nostrils as soon as she opened the door. Alex sat in a corner, bent over his phone, his back to the glass front.
“Hi,” she said nervously as she reached him.
“Hey,” he replied, not looking up.
She pulled out the chair opposite, wincing as it scraped across the sticky floor. She kept her coat on, feeling overdressed. It didn’t look like a sheer dress and patent heels kind of place.
“I got you a coffee,” he said, indicating his head towards a polystyrene cup opposite him.
“Thanks.” She cupped her hands around it. “How have you been?”
“Really busy, you know? Got loads of uni deadlines coming up, that’s why I’ve been a bit quiet.”
“I thought so.”
“Yeah, it sucks.” His phone lit up with a message. “What you been up to?” His thumbs flew over the screen.
“Nothing much, just getting through coursework.”
“And I’ve learnt a couple of really cool tricks,” she smiled, reaching into her handbag. “Want to see?”
She produced a deck of cards and had begun shuffling them when he finally looked up.
“Girls don’t do magic, Mia,” he said with a frown. “I’ve told you this before.”
Her lower lip trembled between her teeth as she pushed the cards away. She stared at the wilting rose in the chipped vase in the centre of the table, its red petals brittle, the only attempt at making the place look decent. The cutlery pot next to it was full of knives and forks encrusted with the remains of long-eaten meals.
“Want something to eat?” he asked.
“I’m not sure.”
“Well we need to order soon, because I need to get back.”
“Back?” She’d thought they had the whole night together.
“Yeah, I’ve got to be at Bec’s for 9.”
“Becky?” she said. “I thought you said you were going to finish with her!”
“Keep your voice down,” Alex glanced around the diner. “I told you before, it’s complicated.”
“You said you loved me.”
Just then, his phone rang, a track by Drake filling the silence between them.
“I’ve got to get this,” Alex said, standing up and answering the phone. “Hi, babe, can’t you wait to see me?” His voice grew quieter as he moved off towards the toilets.
Mia’s gaze followed his retreating back. He had no intention of leaving Becky, she realised. One hand darted into her pocket and the other fumbled with the card box. Pushing her chair back, she dropped the queen of hearts and the silver coin on the cracked tablecloth next to the fading rose.
“Now for my first trick,” she murmured, “I’ll make this girl disappear.”
She snatched up her bag and strode off, her head held high.
‘Happy Valentine’s Day, Alex.’