They continued in a drained, yet comfortable silence for another mile, until a thought shoulder barged Jess’ numb mind.
‘Are we still dropping in to see my mam before we go to Eleanor’s birthday?’
‘Yeah, sure,’ Karl replied, offering the stock answer to a question he hadn’t really heard.
He was too busy thinking about the afternoon’s United game. It was a cup-tie against Chelsea and he’d missed out on a ticket.
The compulsion to gripe was there, just at the back of his tongue, flapping like a trapped starling to escape. To be fair, he would be grumbling to the wrong person. Jess was as big of a United fan as he and had battled like the Border Reiver ancestor she was most unashamedly proud of to barter a ticket from somewhere. Sadly, there wasn’t a single golden ticket to be found.
‘Slow down, hun,’ Jess urged him, her voice cutting into his frustrations.
‘You’re all over the place, sweetie,’ she told him, as she stroked his leg.
‘Sorry. I didn’t realise,’ he replied and let off the accelerator pedal a touch.
‘We’ll catch the game on the telly, you know,’ she told him quietly, not really wanting to say the words herself.
For the rest of the journey from country roads to the little, old market town that dates back to a Roman fort that they called Voreda, Jess and Karl sat in relative silence. Only the purr of Vossy and the thoughts of the match that they would have to watch later on that day filled their inner and outer ears. They turned off the main road and joined the snake of traffic aiming to fill their carrier bags.
‘For crying out loud, this is ladgeful,’ Karl grumbled at the packed supermarket carpark that was spread out in front of them.
Traffic tottered to a crawl as vehicles ahead dithered over the few spaces available.
‘We should try Kendal next week,’ Jess suggested, feeling a sense of Deja vu clamp her lips too late.
‘Every week we say that and every bloody week we sit here watching idiots who should never’ve passed their tests take five goes to park their damn cars.’
‘Chill, hun. We’re not gonna get there any quicker by you losing your rag.’
‘You know I hate it when you say that,’ Karl mumbled.
‘Quick! A spot!’ Jess exclaimed, pointing ahead, thanking her stars for the sight. Because, without it, she knew that there would have been a right royal row ready to boil over.
Karl threw Vossy into the space with a grin on his tired face before anyone could nab it.
‘Well spotted, that girl,’ he said, grabbing her and kissing her forehead.
All was well again, she thought, relieved.