Folding the crumpled letting advert back up and sliding it into her coat pocket, Sally sat down in the back of the black cab. The advert had been ripped from the corner of an old newspaper and had been well worn, partly due to indecisiveness and partly due to an inability to believe that the rent for an inner-city flat could be so reasonable.
Sally peered through the taxi window, wiping a small peephole into the condensation that had begun to form on the glass with the palm of her left hand. The weather outside was gloomy to say the least; heavy drizzle and a coldness that she had thought she was escaping when she said goodbye to Manchester. It certainly wasn’t the weather she was expecting at the end of August but it matched her mood.
Whilst Sally could have made the journey by tube, the idea of having to traipse down to Euston Square station seemed like too much effort, despite only having a small suitcase. Equally, so did the bus which - according to TripAdvisor - seemed to be the most efficient method. There would be plenty of time to get acquainted with the bus network but today wasn’t a good day on which to start.
The taxi moved slowly along the busy London streets, although Sally was not bothered at watching the sights and instead watched the meter slowly rise. Both the congestion and the exorbitant prices were something that Sally accepted would become her reality. Whilst living in London would be expensive, it was just the city that could save her and she had been fortunate enough to find a place to stay that would not break the bank.
“You ‘ere for long?” enquired the cab driver, turning and smiling at Sally. After a two-and-a-half hour train journey, she wasn’t in the mood for small talk. Additionally, although the old man behind the wheel looked friendly enough, he reminded Sally of her grandfather who had passed some 10 years previously; even down to the sweater vest and flat cap. Sally had run to London to escape her ghosts.
“Hmm,” she replied, continuing to gaze aimlessly out of the window, hoping he’d take the hint with her non-committal response and not continue to make small talk.
“Off to see ‘im? He lives in Baker Street you know. That one ‘oos been on the telly. ‘omes,” continued the cabbie, oblivious to Sally’s indifference.
“Certainly not,” she snapped back. Rummaging in her handbag, Sally picked out the headphones she’d been using 20 minutes’ prior. She plugged them into the jack, thumbed through the playlist and picked her current favourite – Vienna by Ultravox. Born in the late 1980’s, Sally was technically too young to be a true 80’s child but her elder brother Simon was a music fanatic and his influences had rubbed off on her. The music managed to silence the cabbie and the journey continued without further pleasantries.
Sally was acutely aware of the notable resident of Baker Street; she had read all about him in the newspapers. Intriguing though the case of Richard Brook, or James Moriarty, was - Sally could not help but be confused about the reasons behind the ‘consulting detective’s’ decision to a) not only kill himself but b) not actually be dead at all. Suicide was a prickly subject for Sally. A tear began to swell in her left eye, of which Sally only became aware of when the tear that had formed in the right eye had begun to make its way down her cheek. She wiped it away furiously, equally cross at the fact that this was the day of her ‘fresh start’ and that she’d been caught unaware: the tears had come so easily.
It had been five months. 159 days to be precise. 159 days since her beloved big brother Simon had died, although it may just as well have been yesterday. She hadn’t seen it coming, no-one had. They said as much at his funeral; he was such a happy man, always smiling. No one had seen the cancerous self-hatred that had begun to eat away at him since leaving the army; no-one knew the self-doubt or worthlessness he cast upon himself. Then one bleak day in March, not too dissimilar to the one outside the taxi window, everyone saw. The empty pill bottle screamed that fact to everyone.
It had been a cry for help they said. He hadn’t really meant to do it; it went too far, they said. Words that had no effect in consoling Sally one jot. Whether he had meant to or not, he had feelings that had driven him to take drastic measures. Feelings that Sally had not seen or that Simon had felt he couldn’t share with her. Why didn’t he tell her? Sally’s right fist slammed down hard on the black vinyl seat next to her - it had been clenched so tightly that there was now a row of small crescent moon shapes carved into her palm where her finger nails had dug in deeply. Her fist remained on the seat, her arm wobbling. She became aware of a sharp metallic tang in her mouth and realised she’d bit her lip again. It had worked though; the tears had stopped. This was a technique she’d taught herself early on - sharp pain could stop her from crying almost as quickly as she could start, but she found herself needing to gradually increase the pressure for it to be effective. Her lip was already slightly swollen from the lip biting that had happened whilst packing and she had been firm with herself that it needed to stop – she couldn’t start her new job looking like she’d been in a boxing ring. Sally cursed out loud, forgetting she was in company, which made the cabbie jerk his head back and ask her if she was alright. Even though the music drowned out his words, she could read his lips well enough to know what he was asking and she nodded.
The cabbie flicked the indicator and the taxi turned left into Baker Street.
“£9.20, love,” said the taxi driver, pulling up outside ‘Speedy’s sandwich bar and café’ and Sally was suddenly brought back to reality. She fumbled inside her handbag, searching for her purse. She located it and stared inside and saw a solitary £10 note inside. She passed it to him and made to open the door.
“Good luck.” The driver winked at her and smiled, holding out her change.
“Thanks. Don’t worry about the change,” Sally replied, suddenly feeling guilty about her rudeness and lack of proper tip. However, she was now living in London and she needed to be sensible about her money – she was her brother’s sole beneficiary but his money wouldn’t last long. She stepped out of the cab, dragging her small suitcase behind her.
The taxi cab pulled away and Sally stood on the curb side, looking at the building ahead of her. She took a sharp intake of breath and took a step towards her fresh start.