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English Girl in New York

By:Scarlet Wilson

"I told you-I'm not an expert in all this. I have no idea how to look after a baby!"

Dan reached over and touched her hand. She was getting flustered again,  starting to get upset. "Carrie McKenzie?" He kept his voice low.

"What?" she snapped at him.

Yip, he was right. Her eyes had a waterlogged sheen. She was just about to start crying.

He gave her hand a little squeeze. "I think you're doing a great job."

Those dark brown eyes were still looking at her.

Still looking at her as if he understood a whole lot more than he was  letting on. As if he'd noticed the fact that she was seconds away from  cracking and bursting into floods of tears.

She looked down to where his hand covered hers. It was nice. It felt nice. And that was the thing that scared her most.

When was the last time someone had touched her like that? At the  funeral? There had been a lot of hand-squeezing then. Comfort.  Reassurance. Pity.

Not the same as this.

He smiled at her. A sexy kind of smile. The kind that could take her mind off the nightmare she was currently in.


THE SUBWAY RATTLED into the station, the doors opened and Carrie felt  herself swept along with the huddled masses on the platform, barely even  looking up from her hunched position in her woefully thin coat. It had  looked better on the internet. Really. It had.

She resisted the temptation to snuggle into the body in front of her as  the carriage packed even tighter than normal. Just about every train in  the city had ground to a halt after the quick deluge of snow.

The streets had gone from tired, grey and bustling to a complete  white-out with only vaguely recognisable shapes in a matter of hours.

An unprecedented freak snowstorm, they were calling it.

In October.

In the middle of New York.

The news reporters were having a field day-well, only the ones lucky  enough to be in the studio. The ones out in the field? Not so much.

And Carrie appreciated why. Her winter coat wasn't due to be delivered  for another two weeks. She could die before then. Her fingers had lost  all colour and sensation ten minutes ago. Thank goodness she didn't have  a dripping nose because at these temperatures it would freeze midway.

;They've stopped some of the buses,' muttered the woman next to her.  ;I'm going to have to make about three changes to get home tonight.'

An involuntary shiver stole down her spine. Please let the train get to  the end of the line. This part of the subway didn't stay underground the  whole way; parts of it emerged into the elements and she could already  see the thick white flakes of snow landing around them.

A year in New York had sounded great at the time. Magical even.

A chance to get away from her own annus horribilis.

A chance to escape everyone she knew, her history and her demons.

The only thing she'd taken with her was her exemplary work record.

In the black fog that had been last year it had been her one consistently bright shining star.

She should have known as soon as her boss had invited her into his  office and asked her to sit down, giving her that half sympathetic, half  cut-throat look. He'd cleared his throat. ;Carrie, we need someone to  go to New York and represent the London office, leading on the project  team for the next year. I understand this year has been difficult for  you. But you were my first thought for the job. Of course, if it feels  like too much-or the timing is wrong...' His voice had tailed off. The  implication was clear. There were already two interns snapping at her  heels, anxious to trample her on the way past.

She'd bit her lip. ;No. The timing is perfect. A new place will be just  what I need. A new challenge. A chance for some time away.'

He'd nodded and extended his hand towards her. ;Congratulations. Don't  worry about a thing. The firm has an apartment in Greenwich Village in  the borough of Manhattan. It's a nice, safe area-easily commutable.  You'll like it there.'

She'd nodded numbly, trying not to run her tongue along her suddenly dry lips. ;How long until I have to go?'

He'd cleared his throat, as if a little tickle had appeared. ;Three  weeks.' The words were followed by a hasty smile. ;One of the partners  will be leaving for business in Japan. He needs to brief you before he  leaves.'

She'd tried hard not to let the horror of the time frame appear on her  face as she'd stood up and straightened her skirt. ;Three weeks will be  fine. Perfectly manageable.' Her voice had wavered and she'd hoped he  didn't notice.

He'd stood up quickly. ;Perfect, Carrie. I'm sure you'll do a wonderful job for us.'         



The train pulled into another station and Carrie felt the shuffle of  bodies around her as the passengers edged even closer together to let  the hordes of people on the platform board. It seemed as if the whole of  New York City had been sent home early.

A cold hand brushed against hers and a woman gave her a tired smile.  ;They've closed Central Park-one of the trees collapsed under the weight  of the snow. I've never heard of that before.' She rolled her eyes.  ;I'm just praying the school buses get home. Some of the roads are  closed because they don't have enough snow ploughs and the grit wasn't  due to be delivered for another two weeks.' Her face was flushed as she  continued to talk. ;I've never seen it so bad, have you? I bet we're all  snowed in for the next few days.'

Carrie gave a rueful shrug of her shoulders. ;I'm not from around here. I'm from London. This is my first time in New York.'

The woman gave a little sigh. ;Poor you. Well, welcome to the madhouse.'

Carrie watched as the train pulled out of the station. It didn't seem to  pick up speed at all, just crawled along slowly. Was there snow on the  tracks, or was it the weight of too many passengers, desperate to get  home before the transport system shut down completely? Please, just two  more stops. Then she would be home.

Home. Was it home?

The apartment in West Village was gorgeous. Not quite a penthouse, but  part of a brownstone and well out of her budget. West Village was  perfect. It was like some tucked away part of London, full of gorgeous  shops, coffee houses and restaurants. But it still wasn't home.

Today, in the midst of this snowstorm, she wanted to go home to the  smell of soup bubbling on the stove. She wanted to go home to the sound  of a bubble bath being run, with candles lit around the edges. She  wanted to go home somewhere with the curtains pulled, a fire flickering  and a warm glow.

Anything other than her own footsteps echoing across the wooden floor in  the empty apartment, and knowing that the next time she'd talk to  another human being it would be with the man who ran the coffee stall  across the street on the way to work the next morning.

She wrinkled her nose. It might not even come to that. The sky was  darkening quickly. Maybe the woman next to her was right. Maybe they  would end up snowed in. She might not speak to another human being for  days.

She shifted the bag containing the laptop in her hands. She had enough  work to last for days. The boss had been clear. Take enough to keep  busy-don't worry about getting into the office. If the snow continued  she couldn't count on seeing any of her workmates.

The people in her apartment block nodded on the way past, but there had  never been a conversation. Never a friendly greeting. Maybe they were  just used to the apartment being used by business people, staying for a  few weeks and then leaving again. It would hardly seem worthwhile to  reach out and make friends.

A shiver crept down her spine and her mind started to race.

Did she have emergency supplies? Were there any already in the  apartment? How would she feel being snowed in in New York, where it felt  as if she didn't know a single person?

Sure, she had met people at work over the past two months. She'd even  been out for a few after-work drinks. But the office she worked in  wasn't a friendly, sociable place. It was a fast-paced, frenetic,  meet-the-deadline-before-you-die kind of place. She had colleagues, but  she wasn't too sure she had friends.

The train shuddered to a halt at Fourteenth Street and the door opened. ;Everybody out!'

Her head jerked up and the carriage collectively groaned.


;No way!'

;What's happening?'

A guard was next to the door. ;This is the last stop, folks. Snow on the tracks. All trains are stopping. Everybody out.'

Carrie glanced at the sign. Fourteenth Street. One subway stop away from  the apartment. She glanced down at her red suede ankle boots. She could  kiss these babies goodbye. The ground outside was covered in thick,  mucky slush. She didn't even want to think about what they'd look like  by the time she reached the apartment.

The crowd spilled out onto the platform and up towards the mezzanine  level of the station on Fourteenth Street. Carrie could hear panicked  voices all around her trying to plan alternative routes home. At least  she knew she could walk from here, no matter how bad it was outside.

The sky had darkened rapidly, with thick grey clouds hanging overhead, continuing their deluge of snow.

Snow. It was such a pretty thing. The kind of thing you spent hours  cutting out of paper as a kid, trying to make a snowflake. Then sticking  on a blue piece of card and putting on the classroom wall or attaching  to a piece of string and hanging from the Christmas tree.