Here's the first bit of my still untitled story. Not much happening, plot wise, but I'm trying to establish the main character first so the reader can connect as soon as possible.
There were fifteen minutes until midnight, on December 31st 1999. It had been a hugely anticipated day for months now, and most of London city was outside, cheering or singing, some were inside cheering and singing in smaller groups, but Richard Lincoln and Laura Heywood were all alone, in his somewhat small one bedroom apartment in the lower east side of London. The TV was on, and it was broadcasting the huge millennium celebration event out in Leicester Square, in mute, though. About an hour back, Richard and Laura had decided to play their own music and were becoming increasingly comfortable and horizontal on the couch. Richard had only graduated recently, and was working at a local advertising firm in the heart of London. It wasn’t a big paying job; he acted as assistant to Tamworth, a short balding man who was about five ranks down from being anywhere near the big boss, but it was a start. He had the in, and now all he had to do was work, and work until he was high enough on the corporate ladder for a decent view at his past life, so he could scoff at it. He had arrived at work at three minutes to nine, like he did every day to prove to whoever the supervisor was that he was reliable, and spent his morning barely looking up for the pile of paperwork he had been given. He spent hours reading documents which made no sense, and spent the rest of the morning proof reading a report Tamworth had punched out the night before. It was laden with spelling errors and Richard was beginning to wonder if Tamworth wasn’t doing any of this on purpose. After all, since he had started, he was certain the man hated him, even though he could never figure out why. At half past one, Richard was starving and finally took his lunch break. He dashed out of his cubicle, which was more or less an extension of Tamworth’s office, out into the large, carpeted hallway of Tate and Lancaster’s thirty-fourth floor. Passing a few other offices, and asking himself who these people were and what their jobs were (like he did every day), he turned a corner and eventually made it to the elevators. He pressed the button and almost instantly the doors opened. He stepped inside and hit the button for the ground floor. The elevator walls were built out of glass and as the doors closed he turned around, to admire the view of London City. He had once tried to go all the way to the top and look at the view from there, but got too nervous at the thirty-ninth floor and had to stop. He was used to it, now, from the thirty-fourth floor and, only a few months into it all, the view was becoming just as banal as everything else. He wanted to rise to the top so bad, but it was taking so much time. With one quick lurch that made Richard’s heart jump the elevator shot downwards. As it rocketed towards the ground, Richard looked at the numbers on the panel and wondered who worked in the lower floors if he was already on the thirty-fourth. It stopped almost suddenly, knocking Richard off-balance (that was something he still hadn’t gotten used to) and the doors opened into a large area which led into the foyer. There was a front desk, where a security guard sat, staring at the door with an expression of perpetual boredom on his face. Just facing the desk, in a small vestibule right by the main doors he could see Laura, sitting on the small cushioned seats that lined the wall, looking down at the mobile phone in her hand. He walked past the front desk, nodding to the guard who didn’t seem to take any interest, and walked up to Laura. “Hey,” he said, beaming down at her. She took her eyes off of her mobile and glanced up at him. Breaking into a smile, she stood up, wrapped her arms around him and kissed him. “Where are we going for lunch, then?” he asked. “How about that Italian we always say we’ll go?” she replied. Richard smiled in reply. Laura took his hand and they walked out of the large building, onto the bustling sidewalk. It was a surprisingly hot day, all things considered. Not a cloud in the sky and the sun was beating down on his face. Richard was really starting to feel the heat, through his ill-fitting suit. It was too big for him, and the shoulder pads made him look like a well dressed scarecrow, but it was the only one he could afford at the time. He liked this area of London – the streets were always clean and it was always filled with all kinds of activity. There were starting to be less people on the ground these days. It was beginning to show – recently a lot of cities had started building tunnel-like pedestrian access areas which linked building to building. There weren’t a lot of these around yet, but there was talks to have most of the city covered over the next few years. They reached a small building, wedged between a bakery and a coffee house, in one of the more quiet areas of town which was situated in Islington, close to Haringey. It was situated in a rather small lane where the shops were almost literally right on the road itself. Over time, the shops spilled out even further onto the road and soon enough, in between the restaurant tables and piles of furniture from the second hand furniture store at the end, there was barely any room for a car to manoeuvre. Those who knew the city had stopped taking the road years ago, but there were some newcomers who’d try to use this road to cut across to avoid having to detour by the roundabout, and would find themselves in the middle of highly confused shoppers and a few upturned tables. They stepped inside and were treated with a cold air conditioned breeze, a welcome change from outside. A waiter in a black t-shirt stopped cleaning the table by the window facing the street and walked up to them, a huge grin on his face. “Hello, hello! Table for two! Excellent, inside or outside?” Richard and Laura barely had time to answer when the waiter brought them to the window table he was cleaning. He finished wiping off the table, winking at them and saying “cleanest table in the house!”, and then fetched them a menu and a selection of condiments. They spent just under an hour at the restaurant, Laura talking about people Richard had never heard of, or if he had, couldn’t remember them at all. He checked his watch, and found his lunch had ended ten minutes ago. “Oh, damn,” he said. “Gotta go, dear.” He reached into his pocket and took out an old denim wallet, taking out some notes and putting them on the table. “I’m sorry about this, but I really don’t want to set a bad impression just yet.” He stood up, kissed Laura on the cheek and dashed out, leaving his girlfriend with half a plate of cake left. She smiled, called the waiter, and left, too. Richard spent the rest of the afternoon going over stacks of paper, crossing things out and rewriting. It wasn’t a great deal of fun, but he supposed that was what life was all about now. It was nothing like his student years at all. He sort of wished he had done some sort of placement or something for a while just to get a taste of the real world before he waved goodbye to his student loans and free time. But he had the evening to look forward to. The end of the year was fast approaching and there only ten hours left of the millennium. The City was filled with excitement, and Richard’s otherwise long and boring afternoon was made less dull with the thought of being with Laura for the end of the millennium. When he left at five o’clock, the sun was already starting to go down, and the Christmas decorations all around the town were lighting up again, flooding the City in even more cheer than was already there. People were getting drunk already, and Richard had to wait in line for a half an hour at the supermarket to get the wine he wanted. Richard looked at his watch. It told him it was already two minutes past midnight. It wasn’t, as he liked to have his watch in advance, but as he looked at it, he thought to himself Well, a whole new millennium, and watch seems no different. He couldn’t help but wonder if it wasn’t the wine talking. The lounge was decorated simply but stylishly with Christmas decorations. His apartment was dimly lit, but the lights hanging around the top corners of the walls added a wash of much needed colour. In the far corner where the lounge connected to the front door and hall, stood a small Christmas tree, decorated in baubles, lights all different shades of red and gold. He felt Laura wrap her arms around his shoulders and pull him downwards onto the couch again. The celebrations on the TV now showed a band singing and dancing their way through a song which looked quite ridiculous with the sound off. The digital clock graphic in the corner of the screen told him there were four minutes left until he’d start writing the wrong year on all his documents. He craned his neck backward to kiss Laura and reached around for the remote, which had slipped in behind two cushions. He turned off the stereo and put the sound of the TV back on. They watched in silence as the presenter egged the audience on and then the countdown began. Laura and Richard stood up, from the excitement, holding each other tightly. The presenter vanished from the screen, as the camera panned up to Big Ben. Five, four, three, two, one “Happy New Year!” they both cheered. They kissed. And then everything went black. --