I’m getting carried away, I know, but I can’t help myself. This is too spooky, especially factoring in Vanya’s intuition about this weekend. The final object of interest I find is a bunch of keys, hidden in a side pocket. They are tied to a piece of old sailing rope, and have a tag made from wood, with the words ‘THE CABIN’ etched on. He has a cabin, wasn’t I just daydreaming about cabins? His suitability is indisputable now.
I pour myself a strong gin and tonic and open the balcony window to look out at the cobbled square and the harbour full of boats beyond. The sound of people enjoying themselves in the bar below rises up to meet me. Walking back to the bathroom, I turn off the bath tap and splash my face with water. Don’t waste this weekend being melancholy, Laura – this should be a happy weekend, a celebration of what your parents had, an adventure discovering your Jersey heritage.
I pick up the jumper and breathe it in. Amazing – like log fires and baked scones and the sweat from vigorously cutting wood. Am I thinking like a crazy person? Probably. But there’s something about this that feels so real. Everything about this man in this case, it all fits with my story. It is too perfect not to mean something, for it not to be a sign. This must be him, my Great Love, delivered to me in a black carry-on suitcase.
Beneath the book is one of those thick knit cream fisherman’s jumpers. I love these sorts of jumpers on a man – the kind Chris Evans wears in Knives Out, or that Ryan Gosling might wear on a weekend away to a log cabin, where he’d chop wood and make gin martinis before asking if you’re up for a game of Scrabble by the fire. Beneath the jumper is a book of piano music. I love men who can play the piano, it has to be one of the sexiest skills. I briefly dated a pianist when I worked at the music magazine, and his playing alone was almost enough to made me overlook the fact that he was a complete pig . . . and then I read the words on the book of music and slap a hand across my mouth – ‘Phil Collins’ Greatest Hits.’. OMG, what is this? This can’t be a coincidence. I take everything out of the case in a frenzy, as though the man who owns this bag might be hidden at the bottom. There are blue running trainers and a neatly tied clear plastic bag full of worn clothes and running gear (I draw the line at rummaging through that). At the bottom of the case, in a sealed Duty-Free plastic bag, is a perfume bottle – Yardley English Lavender, my mother’s perfume. Seeing it sends goosebumps down my arm. I don’t know anyone else who wears this scent. No doubt it is a present for someone, but it feels as though it is for me – a sign from Mum. I blink away the itch behind my eye. Get it together, Laura – it’s probably a gift for the guy’s wife. Then, tucked against the side, I find an unsealed card in a blank envelope. Would it be terrible if I looked to see if it has been written in? Best not to ask yourself these questions.
Today I have an extract to share with you.
As I stare down at the contents of the case, willing them to be different, I notice the paperback lying next to the pile of clothes: To Kill a Mockingbird, my lifelong favourite book, one of Dad’s favourites, too. I pick up the well-thumbed copy, an old edition just like the one Dad left me. Placing it on the bed, I find myself looking through the contents of the case. A strange sensation, like a cluster of clouds moving aside, comes over me, my irritation at having the wrong bag morphing into something new, something unexpected.
When she picks up the wrong suitcase at the airport, Laura wonders if this could be the start of something that’s written in the stars.
Laura has built a career out of interviewing people about their epic real life love stories.
About the Book
Sophie Cousens is the author of This Time Next Year. Her latest novel, Just Haven’t Met You Yet, is published by Cornerstone on 11 November 2021.
From piano sheet-music to a battered copy of her favourite book, Laura finds in the bag evidence of everything she could hope for in a partner.
If Laura’s job has taught her anything it’s that when it comes to love, you can’t let opportunity pass you by. Now Laura is determined to track down the owner of the suitcase, and her own happy ending.
Oh my, he sounds adorable. He bought his mother a beehive, I want a beehive! I feel bad for reading the card now, but also relived it wasn’t for a wife. Oh, and his handwriting – there’s something so appealing about good handwriting; it’s so neat, but with these long, upright letters. He’s a J . . . James? John? Jack? Jim? There are so many great J names. In fact, I can’t think of a single J name that’s not super hot – except maybe Jensen, but that’s literally the only one I can think of.
But what if fate has other ideas?
For a moment, I can’t comprehend what I’m seeing; these are not my things; this isn’t my bag. As it dawns on me that I have picked up the wrong case, I close my eyes for a moment. This is all I need; now I’ll have to go all the way back to the airport to retrieve mine.
Pulling my bag onto the bed to unpack, I notice it feels lighter than it should. Then I see the zip colour is wrong; it’s dark grey, rather than black. I frown as I open the case; on top is a man’s white work shirt, a travel-sized stick of men’s deodorant . . .
Tell me the story of how you two met…
I know you wanted a beehive for your birthday – but I thought if you smelt of lavender, you’d have swarms of admirers . . . Love J PS your real present is in the garden. I shall expect honey for Christmas.
Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens – extract