True Credit

Steven Harkness is a fraud. Everyone loves him but they don't know the truth. He loves the attention but his conscience is hammered by guilt. How does he come to terms with the truth, and with himself?

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2. The Visitor

Steven's home was on an estate known as Minster Court in Liverpool. He lived on the second floor of one of the block of flats, and kept himself to himself. He wasn't the most imposing of men- 5 foot 8" meant he wasn't short but didn't exactly tower over anyone. Nor was he especially bulky. He wasn't unfit- nor was he an athlete. He was... well, non-descript. He blended in. His glasses were modern with black trim and he had bluish-green eyes that often wore a look of tiredness (thanks to his shift-related job, that kept him at work at all sorts of odd hours). At 22 he wasn't old but felt older than he was and sometimes, after a particularly exhausting day, he looked it as well.

His flat was always somewhere between clean and messy. The kitchen was mopped once a week- he was particular about that- and the sink was kept shiny with any dishes he used being washed up quite swiftly. His ironing pile was a never-ending saga that never seemed to grow but sadly never seemed to shrink. Motivating himself to tackle it was hard, to say the least. The walls- once a light blue colour- had faded to a weird shade of grey (he desperately needed to stick new wallpaper up, but that was another job he was putting off). Nor had he bothered to put up lightshades. His parents had bought him a nice sofa- a big black two-piece number that was made of leather- and in front of it was a small wooden table that often became the resting place for snacks, cups of tea and cans of beer. In the corner was a nice 32 inch LED TV that was hooked up to his PS3- a present he'd bought himself. Formula 1 and FIFA games were stuck underneath the glass TV stand- he had a rack for them but rarely used it.

He had a small dining table, at the other end of the living room, but didn't tend to use it- it was a lot easier to sit on the sofa and eat whatever he'd hastily heated up in the microwave.

All in all, he was comfortable without feeling especially great- he meandered from one day to the next, occasionally going down the cinema with his mates or heading to the pub- but his life lacked excitement- it needed a spark. The accident, that had shaken his world for a moment, had only been a day ago but already it felt like ages.

The bedroom was quite tidy- he tended to keep his clothes in the wardrobe or draws. His bed was usually made- although now it wasn't. The blue duvet was ruffled and hanging half off the bed. Steven was half-asleep, dressed only in his underwear, not due at work today (thank God) and he might have still been asleep (it was only half-past nine after all), except someone was pressing his buzzer.

His dreams had been a weird combination of the old man, writhing in pain, and the beautiful woman he'd seen. Part of him hadn't wanted sleep but he certainly needed it.

The late October weather led to Steven grabbing his big comfy black dressing gown. He hated feeling cold but couldn't wear pyjamas without feeling too hot at night- it was a catch-22 that he hated about himself. After wrapping himself in the dressing gown (a Christmas present from his parents), Steven made his way to the buzzer panel.

"Yes, can I help you?" He asked, a little irritated to be woken up.

"Is that, is that Steven?" Came a hesitant female voice.

"Um, yeah..." Steven yawned. "Yeah, it is."

"I um, I need to talk to you, please." Replied the voice.

"Who is this?" Steven asked, getting more annoyed. He wasn't going to let a complete stranger into the building and into his flat.

"You um, you saved me yesterday."

All of a sudden the voice was familiar. Steven hadn't placed it before, but now her face came back to him.

"Oh, right, um, ok, hang on and I'll buzz you in. Second floor, third door on the left."

Steven tried not to panic. That beautiful woman was about to come into his home and he was in nothing but his dressing gown and his underwear! Hardly ideal... He also needed to stick the kettle on and brush his teeth... and he desperately needed to pee.

Sure enough, there was a knock at the door. It wasn't a long distance from the main entrance to his flat and he could see her through the smokey window as he hastily filled the kettle.

"Just a second!" He shouted, nearly tripping over his dressing gown, which he did up tight- he really didn't want her to see too much of him- not yet anyway.

Steven usually kept his black hair quite long and wavey, but the other day he'd had it shaven short- he was grateful to himself for that decision now- otherwise his hair would have been a complete mess. He went to the door, unlatched it, and took a breath.

There she was. Buttoned up in that same jacket, a big, comfy red thing. Her auburn hair, previously tied up in a ponytail, was hanging loose over her shoulders. Her hazel-shaded eyes, previously confused where she'd been hurt, were clear and lucid. Over her right shoulder was a rather expensive black Prada handbag.

Now she was standing, it occured to Steven that she was nearly as tall as he was. She was also still in the hallway outside his flat.

"Er, hi, come in!" He cringed. He sounded way too excited saying that.

"Thanks." She replied. Steven ushered her inside, shutting the door gently behind him.

"Would you like a cuppa? Kettle's about to boil."

"That would be great. Listen, Steven, I didn't get the chance to properly say thank you for what you did for me." She sounded- and looked- like she was welling up with emotion.

"You don't need to, you really don't- living room's just through this door here..." Steven pointed to the door on the right. He remembered being strangely delighted to have a flat where there were two ways into the living room- one via the kitchen and the other straight from the hallway. Daft but that suited him to the ground.

"Oh, ok..." The lady walked on in. Steven had left a few cans of Coke on the coffee table and his ironing pile was in a heap by the side of the dining table, but at least it looked relatively tidy. Still, he wished it looked better.

"Nice little place." Said the woman. She had her hands clasped together, looking a little nervous, which was fair enough, given she'd just willingly entered the flat of a man she knew nothing about.

Although...

The kettle was rattling and the water came to the boil. Steven had dropped teabags into a pair of faded Liverpool FC cups that had once been a vibrant red- but were now a dull pink. It occured to him that the woman knew his name- how did she know his name?

Steven fetched the milk from the fridge and added just a dash into each cup. "Do you take sugar?" He called out.

"No thanks." Came the shy reply.

Steven hastily stirred both teabags around, then pressed the spoon against the bags to release as much tea as possible. Satisfied that they looked like proper cuppas, he brought them into the living room.

She was sitting down, and she looked up at him, eyes a mixture of fear and awe. Steven sincerely hoped she wasn't putting him on some sort of pedestal- oh boy would she be disappointed if she was.

"Here we go..." Steven set the cups down on the mats on the coffee table. "Um, one question, how do you know my name? I don't remember that."

The woman reached for her cup. "I overheard you talking to a policewoman- you gave them your details and well... I had to do something- I might have died and you saved me and..." Tears began to well up in her beautiful eyes. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have shown up like this, you probably think I'm a stalker or something."

Steven grabbed a tissue box from the table and whipped a few out for her. She put her tea down and gratefully took them, dabbing gently at her eyes.

"I don't think you're a stalker..." Began Steven gently. "I am a little confused though- how'd you find out where I live?"

"Oh, that was easy- I work for the DVLA- you gave your postcode to the policewoman too."

Of course. The memories were a bit fuzzy but he'd given that out too.

"Do you want anything to eat? I've got biscuits, crisps, I can make some toast or something..."

"No no, it's fine, I just wanted to give you something..." She pulled her handbag down onto her lap and unzipped it, digging through it for a moment or two until she let out a little murmur of success, before pulling a wad of cash.

"Here, in thanks for saving my life."

Steven was horrified. He couldn't take her cash!

"You really don't have to do that- you don't have to do anything."

"Please, I don't know how else to thank you!" She was getting a little hysterical now.

"What's your name?" Steven blurted the question out. He gave her a lop-sided smile. "You know mine, it's only fair I know yours."

"Oh, um, Linda, Linda Bartlett." Linda held the money in her hand, poised to try and shove it into his own hands.

"Look, I'm no hero, I just in the right place at the right time, I don't really..."

"At least let me take you down the pub then." Linda cut in, a little quieter but her eyes were pleading with him.

Steven really didn't know what to do. He couldn't- couldn't- take advantage of what happened. Yet here was this beautiful woman, offering the chance to get to know her better. One drink couldn't hurt and it would make her feel better.

"Ok, I tell you what, I'm at work tomorrow but off work at the weekend. Lets arrange something for then yeah?"

"Ok." Linda pulled a pen and a small piece of paper from her handbag. "Write down your mobile number on here and I'll give you a ring Saturday. I won't take no for an answer, you know that don't you?"

Steven smiled despite himself. "I got that. Saturday night, one drink, that's all you owe me, ok?"

Linda smiled weakly back but her eyes still held uncertainty. "Ok." She got up to leave, and Steven walked her to the door.

"I'll see you Saturday." Linda gave him another small smile as she opened the door.

"See you Saturday." Replied Steven with more confidence than he felt. Then she closed the door and he felt he could breathe again. Now he could start preparing.

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