Aidan Donovan stumbled down the long urban road that stretched from the wedding to his hotel. That's all it took in a city this size. No running for a train, hustling to a tram, no need even to summon a ride. Besides, he was too warm to sit in a stranger's car, too tipsy to make polite conversation about sport or politics. The wedding was too depressing, the night too thick and humid. The air smelled like rain, but he'd take his chances.
At the bottom of the hill, he reached the CBD, still lit and ambient with traces of night-lifers sparse throughout the streets. He elbowed a crosswalk button and yawned. He could get used to this sleepy town. Assuming this sleepy town wanted him.
When he was three blocks away, the thirst struck. It always happened when he had white spirits, but the bride insisted on a boozy toast before she let him leave. As he checked his watch, a warm, fat raindrop landed on his hand. He looked up and saw a convenience store sign lighting up an entire corner.
The rain came down sudden and hard as soon as he got under the awning. Couldn't have timed it better if he tried. The door buzzer sounded behind him.
"Good evening," the store guy called out, barely looking up from the video playing on his phone.
Aidan caught his reflection as he walked past a rack of sunglasses. He looked like shit under this light, but hey, who was counting? As he grabbed a bottle of yellow flavoured sports drink—actually, make that two—a nearby poster ad for a packet of chips gave him a taste.
"Excuse me," he called to the store guy, and pointed to the poster.
"Back there." The guy pointed to the far aisle, his voice blending in too well against the backdrop of the rain outside.
Aidan set his jacket and one of the bottles on the counter. He popped the other one open and knocked it back as he went off in search of his chips. As he rounded the corner, a flash of black and purple came careening through. Liquid spilled from his mouth as he yanked the bottle out of the way.
Next thing he knew, the front of his shirt was drenched in milk and salty-sweet electrolytes.
"I'm so sorr—oh my god, it's you."
Great. Of all the people he could bump into tonight, it had to be her. Her mouth hung open in shock as she blinked through her too-long fringe.
"I know the sign outside says 'two for one', but this was not what I was expecting."
"Did you spill something?" called the guy from the front of the store.
"I think I caught it all, thank you," Aidan called back, peeling away the wet fabric now sticking to his chest.
"Just let me know if you spilled something. I'll put a sign up."
"I'm so sorry," said Fringe-Girl.
She set the still-mostly-full bottle of milk on the floor and started patting his shirt down with her sleeve. The towel-fabric of her jumper made the whole situation appropriate and absurd.
"I don't know why I'm doing this. It's not gonna make you that much drier and..." She looked up to the ceiling. "It's probably gonna rain for a while. Do you have an umbrella?"
"Uh..." Did he look like he had an umbrella? "No."
She sighed, still clutching her shopping to her chest. "Look, I feel awful. My apartment's just next door. Why don't you come up and use the washing machine? There's a 15-minute setting and the dryer's really quick."
She was babbling. It was cute. When she gave an embarrassed smile, his shoulders relaxed. She seemed genuine, and she must have been pretty forgiving if she was willing to look past his snide remarks at the wedding. And who was he to refuse an invitation up to a nice girl's apartment. He was only in town for a couple more days. He may as well have a bit of fun.
"Sure," he replied, stepping back so she could make her way to the front counter. "Why not."