“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you!”
The family on the next table are singing joyfully at the top of their voices to the elderly gentleman at the head of the table. The waiting staff bring in a lit cake, ninety years old, not bad Arthur, not bad.
Beth muses and looks at her watch again; it was 19:40 only ten minutes late, that was reasonable nothing to worry about. She takes another sip of water and again catches the eye of the waitress who seated her earlier.
“Would you like to order a drink from the bar?” Beth nods, “A vodka and slimline tonic please.”
A small one wouldn’t hurt, it might calm her nerves. Over by the window Beth spies a couple at a table for two. They were just looking at each other, his hand covered hers, she looked as if she was about to cry. He was trying to reassure her but it didn’t seem to be working. The woman pulls her hand away and dabs her eyes with a tissue.
The man is trying to comfort her but tears are falling anyway. The woman gets up and hurriedly moves toward the small corridor leading to the toilets. The waitress returns with Beth’s drink breaking her gaze from the couple. As the woman disappears from view a small blue flash emits from the corridor entrance. Beth tilts her glass and watches the ice sparkle as it catches the light.
The restaurant door opens and a group of excited colourfully dressed women enter. It is a hen party if the pink sashes, white bride to be t-shirt and mini veil are anything to go by. They head straight for the bar while the waiting staff check numbers and menu choices with a woman who looks like the organiser wearing office attire and sensible shoes at odds with the pink sash. Whoever she is, she’s in charge; several waiting staff have gathered around her. One waiter has his head bowed, another shuffles his feet. The organiser tilts her head in the direction of the toilets as if to signal her dissatisfaction. Beth realises she was staring because the organiser looks straight at her for a brief moment then away just as quickly. Beth averts her eyes and reaches for her glass; as she sips she becomes aware of movement, the invigorated waiting staff have dispersed and bustle around with renewed purpose.
Leo finally arrives, he is smiling and manages to look excited and mysterious at the same time. A small sigh escapes from Beth, she returns his smile pleased to see him and offers her cheek; Leo plants a quick kiss before he sits. Leon is keen to share his news and uncharacteristically babbles about the gig his band has finalised, does she like the restaurant, they have to celebrate because this could be it, there might be a tour, the break they need; oh and he’s sorry he’s late. That is a first; Leo is always late but never apologises for it, instead they have a playful exchange about his preening routine, lack of organisational skills, creative genius and general disrespect for other people’s time. This is a relief for Beth at least there will be something to cushion the blow of her news, better yet Leo will be able to give even more of his full attention to his music. While Leo stops a waitress to order something sparkly, Beth takes a few slow breaths and a small sip from her water glass.
Arthur is being helped to his feet, by two relatives. He can manage but his son John wants to fuss; in reality he probably needs just as much support to get to the toilet as Arthur does. Event planning as John liked to call his preparations for getting this birthday family gathering all together at the same time in the same space had been more nerve racking than he dared to admit. But that was his ‘forward thinking’ the stock phrase permeating the conversations around the table. John was in fine spirits, so while toasting his father’s birthday, he was also congratulating himself for a job well done and the relief his part was over; hence the sway from left to right as John rose from his chair.
Carla stared at her tear stained face in the mirror, what was happening to her. She knew this fling would not last forever, even so it was ridiculous for her to be so devastated. She dabbed the corners of her eyes and rummaged in her make-up bag. It was uncanny, this affair had improved her marriage. Carla was happier arguing far less with Graham. Declan gave her the exciting space she needed outside of being wife, mother, chauffeur and fixer; Carla touched up her face with a powder brush. Things were great, now Declan says he needs a break, whatever that means. She’s got to get it together, he’s making a mistake, it’s a phase we can fix this. With her red lipstick refreshed, Carla was ready for round two.
The hen party were being seated at their table, drawing both admiring and frowning glances from other diners. It was the usual type of chaos and lively chatter when a large table is being served; two people need the loo, at least one person is dying for a cigarette so the social smoker will join her, someone else has left her drink on the bar the organiser is on the phone giving directions while the maid of honour and bride to be are taking selfies. Two sisters are having a proper catch up dipping bread into oil and vinegar while their poor cousin is trying to explain to her husband how to work the oven before giving up and yelling at him to ‘just order a pizza!’
The restaurant was busier now and Beth was grateful for the distraction. The champagne arrived and they toasted the new gig. Leo asked Beth how her day went. Damn he was in a good mood, it seemed almost cruel to tell him Beth so wanted to hold onto this rare moment of pure joy but there was so little time, she would have to tell him now.
“I’ve been offered a position in the New York office and I said yes.”
Leo’s face showed confusion; why can’t she find something similar here. Beth explains it is not just the job; she wants to experience what it’s like to live in another country before settling down. Besides New York is one of the most exciting cities in the world, she would be crazy to turn it down. She reminds Leo it would not be any different to him going off on a world tour. He tells her that it would be different; in any case touring is the expected life and dream of any musician. Beth calls Leo a hypocrite and suggests her actual career path is more promising and financially stable than his pretend one. They fall silent lost in their own thoughts. Leo is the first to speak.
“So that’s it, what about the flat, how long, I mean when are you leaving? There’s a long pause before Beth quietly states.
Leo goes into denial. He rambles on about getting all the things they tentatively planned to do since they met into the next four weeks. Beth nods and puts her head down, but her thoughts are elsewhere; packing, going to the tip, her mum’s spare room. Leo had his clothes, a laptop and two guitars. Beth excused herself with a needless visit to the ladies; she needed space.
Carla returns to her table with quiet determination to face Declan, she has a slight wait before she sits while the waiter pours the wine.
“I think you’re making a mistake”. Declan nods.
“I agree I was over dramatic and hasty, but I’m tired of the sneaking around” he clears his throat “I love you, leave Graham and be with me”.
Carla stares at Declan open mouthed, not what she expected at all. Carla is feeling a mixture of panic, excitement and bewilderment; she sips her wine to calm her nerves and is momentarily taken aback by the delicious cool refreshing taste. Declan’s whole demeanour has changed; his brown eyes softer than before, he is relaxed, his posture open, he is expecting an answer.
Arthur is washing his hands and studying his reflection in the mirror; he was ninety years old. Who would have thought it, what a milestone and such a lovely evening. John had gone the extra mile for him to make this occasion special, Arthur could almost burst with joy, but he was tired and he missed Jess, she would have loved this. Arthur had been a widower now for 15 years and there wasn’t a day that went by when he didn’t think of his wife Jess. Time made it easier to cope without her and his family rallied around ensuring he was never alone for too long. Ninety was a good innings and he was reasonably healthy according to his last check up. He loved his family; he and Jess worked hard to raise them right and it paid off. Thankfully they were all employed now John’s youngest had joined the forces; Arthur couldn’t have been prouder. The inheritance would allow for some of the ‘niceties in life’ as Jess would have said. Everyone was settled, it was a good time to go and join his beloved Jess at long last. Arthur shook the excess water from his hands looking towards the smiling attendant who offered him a hand towel.
Putting the seat down, Beth sat trying to gather her thoughts while drowning out excited gossip coming from three of the hen party crew. She heard the main door open and a high pitch squeal flatten as the door swung shut, they finally left. Things were not going to plan. That was a joke there was no plan exactly – a simple explanation and then get out of dodge, why were complications setting in? This is what happens when you don’t talk, but she did talk Leo didn’t listen. This relationship may not have run it has course yet, but they were both chasing different dreams and neither included the other person. How did Leo not see that, what was he trying to hold onto? It did not make sense. Yes they had a connection of sorts, but their relationship had become more about convenience and habit if they could just be honest about it. Beth heard the main door open and and brought herself back to her immediate surroundings in the cubicle. She shook her head, she was being ridiculous; it didn’t matter what Leo thought, it was too late the deal was done, she was going to New York.
Beth went back to her table wondering where the hell Leo was. She breathed a sigh of relief when she spotted him outside laughing and smoking with some of the hen party crew. Beth suddenly felt uncomfortable, tired and wanted to leave. A rush of cool air came through the restaurant; Leo was smiling broadly as he held the door open to allow members of the hen party to enter. Ordinarily this would have irritated Beth’s jealous nature, but she did not want to ruin Leo’s mood anymore than she already had; though he did appear more pepped up than when she left him. Leo sat and took Beth’s small hands between his own.
“This, this move is all so sudden, is it really what either of us wants?” We have a a good thing here, it’s light easy, no pressure, we don’t argue, do you know how rare that is, just think about it for a minute.”
Beth nodded, she had to admit he made some valid points, she also knew that arguing with Leo was a pointless exercise. He never listened and she was tired or being unheard.
“There will be other jobs, what you and I have is special, this will be harder to find again”.
Now she was convinced there was something wrong this was not the Leo she knew. She must not panic, but she needed to get out of this place. Choosing her words carefully,
“I’ve dreamt about having this opportunity for as long as I can remember and I never thought it would happen, but it has! Yes we have a great time together and who knows maybe in the future… we might meet up again.”
Beth realised that was a stretch even before she finished the sentence. Leo smiled.
“I don’t think you understand Beth, I don’t want you to leave me.”
“Yes, yes okay I’ll leave Graham.”
Carla heard herself say those words and seemed to be watching events unfold from outside her own body, was it the wine? Declan gave a broad smile, released a long slow breath and grasping both of her hands professed his undying love while outlining their happy new life together. There was plenty of room at his place, she would not have to work anymore and the kids could visit whenever they wanted. Carla felt sure she was dreaming, was this what she wanted? Clearly she was making the right faces and sounds because Declan was blissfully unaware of her internal turmoil. Earlier that evening as she dressed and left the house Carla wished for a perfect night out, is this it? Her calamari starter arrived, a welcome distraction and she was suddenly famished.
Beth had not experienced this side of Leo before. She heard him arguing on the phone a few times, but nothing sinister or argumentative was ever directed towards her, until now. How could she get out of this place, discreetly without making a scene and what would she do when she got there? When Beth got the news about the job in New York she was elated, overjoyed, telling Leo was not paramount in her mind. In truth she could have packed and left in a week. That sounded cold even for Beth. She was grateful Leo suggested coming out it would be easier than staying at home and …well she dreaded to think what would happen if they were not in a public place right now. A good point, while she was here he could not do anything. Stay calm, stay here and think. Beth forced a smile.
“Let’s order, you must be hungry and get some more bubbly this is supposed to be a celebration.”
Leo nodded his agreement and relaxed his grip, feeling confident he would get his way.
Leo was well out of order here and he knew it. This was not his way, not with Beth in any case; this was stupid and childish, but she was making him look like a fool. He could not let her leave. There it was again, his stupid ego; yes he would miss her and she should follow her dreams, he was following his. But his dreams should come first; no-one has wanted, needed, wished more for this break than Leo. He was not about to let Beth wreck everything now when she could wait a few months until they secured the tour, which they would. Leo did not have time to look for somewhere to live and practice, plus how the hell would he afford it by himself. One way or another he would have to make Beth see sense.
There is a commotion on Arthur’s table; people are on their feet and shouting over each other.
“Loosen his tie, call an ambulance, get some water, give him some air”
Arthur is very distressed.
“Oh no what’s happening? This is all my fault. Does anyone know CPR?”
Beth’s relief is almost palpable.
Beth is up, but Leo is quicker, then he realises all eyes are on them. Leo slowly sits, eyes down and points his head towards Arthur’s table. Beth moves swiftly towards the injured party. It looks as though John is having a heart attack. The rush of adrenalin propels Beth into action. She tells everyone to move back while she manoeuvres John so he is flat on his back, has anyone called an ambulance?” John’s sister nods wide eyed whilst talking into her phone
“Yes, someone knows CPR, okay, how long, I don’t know, he looks pale oh God, is he breathing?”
Beth unbuttons John’s shirt, checks his airways are clear and starts compressions
Arthur is transfixed watching Beth work to save his son. When he feels the emotion about to override him he closes his eyes briefly and prays silently for God to save his son and forgiveness for thinking such selfish thoughts about taking his own life. Arthur was willing to do or promise anything to keep his son alive. Arthur opens his eyes again to watch Beth’s tireless focussed commitment to saving his son as she pinches John’s nose and breathes into his mouth. Beth reminded Arthur of Jess, he closed his eyes again, this time a small tear escapes, he bends his head and clasps his hands together silently pleading.
“I’m sorry Jess, please God just let him live.”
Outside the restaurant Graham watches through the window. He finished work early, the kids were out somewhere so he thought he would get some take away for Carla on his way home. She was always raving about how good the food was in this place so he wanted to surprise her. There was some kind of commotion inside and staff were preventing people from entering. In a way Graham was relieved at this, he did not know what he would do or say in this moment. There was no protocol for confronting your wife whilst she is holding hands with another man. The only thing Graham knew for sure was that he would not leave until he saw her and she saw him. The sound of the siren gets closer and soon the ambulance is pulling up outside the restaurant flashing blue lights.
Like most of the customers in the restaurant Leo is now transfixed by the events unfolding and the recent arrival of the ambulance. He is also embarrassed by his earlier behaviour and hopes no one saw. Right now Beth was over there saving a man’s life, Leo didn’t even know she could do CPR, he felt so stupid. Maxine from the hen party unceremoniously plonked herself down in Beth’s seat, an unlit cigarette hung from the side of her mouth, her attention split between Beth and Leo depending on how long she could focus on either.
“Your girlfriend’s really impressive isn’t she, you must be so proud?” Leo gave a half smile and nodded. Maxine carried on.
“I couldn’t do it, too squeamish and I mean he’s stranger, she doesn’t know him, does she? Leo shook his head.
“Exactly, that’s what me and the girls were saying” Maxine was slurring some of her words.
“It’s all bit stressful if you ask me, trying to save someone’s life, I mean need a fag just watching. God knows what it’s like for her. What’s your girlfriend’s name again? Bev, Bev no Beth, that’s it yeah Beth, well she’s great. I’d raise my glass but, I don’t know where I left it. Anyway let’s have a fag, look he’s on the trolley, we can probably get out now.”
Leo stands up to get Beth’s attention but she is in deep conversation with Arthur. Leo wants to apologise, but the family gather around Beth and they move towards the exit. Maxine staggers to her feet and grabs Leo’s arm for support.
“That’s the spirit, don’t worry she’ll be back in a minute to tell you all about it”. Leo allows Maxine to lead him towards the door, Graham waits patiently as they stumble pass him and slowly walks towards Carla’s table.
Carla cannot contain the shock in her face when she turns to see Graham standing next to her.
“I’m guessing you won’t want this any more”
Graham slightly lifts the take-away bag he’s holding. Carla draws her hands away from Declan’s and opens her trembling mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. Declan gets up from the table he has an easy height advantage over Graham but backs away looking at Carla
“I’ll leave you two to talk”.
Graham’s eyes flash anger as he cocks his head in Declan’s direction and struggles to keep his voice low.
“I’m her husband, you know, she’s my wife!”
Declan tilts his head slightly striding towards the bar, with his wallet already in his hand he signals his intention to pay the bill.
Carla swallows, clenching her hands together and fighting back the tears. Graham sits feeling the panic rise and fall in his chest. It begins to dawn on him just how angry he is, but he tries to manage it.
“When you said you were thinking of a hobby this isn’t quite what I imagined”.
“I’m so sorry Graham, I..I…”
Carla takes a sip of water to soothe her dry throat.
“It was never my intention to hurt you Graham, I don’t know what I was thinking, I just got swept away.”
“Well you can just sweep back”
Graham’s thoughts are racing now as he realises what could be at stake.
“We can put this behind us, do some therapy or something, whatever it takes, this doesn’t have to be the end”. Carla is shaking her head.
“I can’t Graham, it’s too late, I love him.”
It has been an emotional night for Arthur and he’s starting to feel quite tired, but at least Jess is here. They have to go down to the hospital with John, again. That boy is always getting himself into some kind of scrape, thank God he’s a strong lad so he’ll recover with a tall tale to tell, but he will not be chasing cats out of trees for a while. Arthur chuckles to himself before looking at Jess again, she is beautiful and patient he still feels like the luckiest man in the world.
“Don’t worry Jess love, he will soon be back to his normal self.”
Beth nods and allows Arthur to lead her to the open door, he’s clearly in shock because he keeps calling her Jess. Beth wants to correct him, but she does not have the heart or the energy to do it.
Outside the mixture of fresh air and alcohol has hit Maxine hard, she is stumbling badly, but Leo’s lighting reaction stops her from falling and now she is clinging onto him in a fit of giggles. Ordinarily this would be amusing to Leo, but he is distracted by the sight of Beth being gently led by Arthur to an open car door. Leo tries to prop Maxine up on her feet so he can go over and explain to Beth, but it’s no use Maxine is all over the place and there is no one to help him. Beth glances at Leo’s hopeless situation with some relief, before getting into the car.
Graham: How long, how long have you been creeping around behind my back, lying to me and the kids about where you’ve been?
Carla: Graham, please this…
Graham: I said how long, you, you bitch!
Carla: Just over a year, thereabouts…I never thought it would…I just…
Graham: A year, a whole bloody year, I didn’t suspect a thing…I mean how? Have you even thought about the kids, our kids. They’re about to go Uni they don’t need this on top of everything else. Well this is your mess you can tell them, you can sort all of that out.
(Carla gets up to leave)
Carla: I don’t think we should discuss this now, we…
Graham: Sit down! Please, I’m trying to get my head around this. I can’t believe you’re willing to throw everything away, everything we have, everything we’ve built. I don’t get it, we’ve been good together haven’t we?
(Carla slumps into her seat)
Carla: I don’t know what you want me to say.
Graham: I want you to tell me why everything is falling apart, I want you to tell me why you want to throw in the towel after 19 years for someone you’ve only been shagging for a year. That’s what I want.
Carla: We shouldn’t do this now, we’re both emotional and tired, maybe tomorrow…
Graham: Tomorrow after you’ve spent the night with lover boy I don’t think so. Jesus, I need a drink.
Graham looks around to catch the eye of a waitress clicking his fingers at the same time. Carla lets out a deep exasperated sigh, then manages a weak apologetic smile at the waitress as she approaches the table. Ignoring Graham the waitress politely explains that food service has ended but drinks can still be served at the bar. Graham is crestfallen.
Carla: Well that’s that, it’s late…we can talk tomorrow.
(Carla gets up again)
Graham: Carla, are you sure this is what you want?
Carla: Yes, I’m sure, see you tomorrow.
Graham is forlorn, sitting at the table while the waiting staff clear up around him. His wife is leaving him for another man. Graham keeps shaking his head asking and answering his own questions, still not believing what has happened. The waitress from earlier approaches and reaches to take the half full wine bottle from the bucket.
“Have you finished?”
Bringing himself back to the present but without looking up Graham answers.
“Er, no but you can take the rest, thank you”.
The waitress manoeuvres carefully around the table leaving a clean glass for Graham.
“We’ll be locking the doors in another 15 minutes”.
Graham’s eyes are glazed and fixed on a piece of bread on the tablecloth.
“That was my wife sitting there earlier, she said she’s leaving me, I’m sorry if I was rude to you.”
The waitress is taken aback for a moment but quickly regroups
“That’s okay, thanks, er… 15 minutes, yeah?”
She moves away quickly to hide her embarrassed amusement.
Most of the hen party have dispersed; it took 3 people to disentangle Maxine from Leo and finally get her into a taxi. Leo waited until they had all left before asking for the bill. He did not want to risk getting caught up in any more drama. The waiter with the card reader is politely telling Leo that both the payment cards he has supplied have been declined and asks whether he has an alternative method of paying. Leo remains unfazed by this, checking his wallet for cash he is still £10 short. Beth’s jacket is on the chair opposite, swallowing he reaches for it and gives it a little shake, the sound of loose change rattling is heard. After emptying the pockets Leo still needs £4.37, he looks around the almost empty restaurant and sees Graham draining the last of the wine into a glass. Leo smiles at the waiter.
“That’s my mate over there” pointing to a downcast Graham.
“I’ll just go and ask him for that fiver he owes me.”
The waiter sighs shaking his head whilst watching Leo stride over to Graham’s table, put a hand on his shoulder and bend his head to talk quietly.
Leo: Hiya mate, I wouldn’t normally do this, but er…my girlfriend’s just left and…
(Graham looks up, a kindred spirit perhaps)
Graham: My wife just left me…
(Leo tries to make light of it)
Leo: Did she leave you to pay the bill as well?
Graham: No, I think her boyfriend took care of that.
(Sensing Graham’s mood, Leo takes a seat)
Leo: Oh I see, erm, well that’s one less thing for you to worry about I guess…that’s a tough break mate and I’m really sorry…but erm I’m just a bit short, ‘cause my girlfriend… well it’s kinda complicated…if you could just lend…
Graham: …After 19 years together, a house, 2 kids, she’s…she’s leaving me.
Leo: Wow! Sorry mate, look that’s sad, really sad, but I just need a fiver… if you could spare it…I mean…err…
(Tired of waiting and anxious to get off work, the waiter is approaching)
Graham: I did not see it coming, I mean who would, you think after all the ups and downs you think you’re gonna make it all the way…
Leo: Yeah, for sure…er
(Leo realises he’s going to have to feign more interest in Graham’s plight)
Leo: Mate, I sympathise, I really do and look I’d like to help…maybe we can go for a drink sometime…in fact you know what, it’s still early we should go now. I know a few places open late, we can have a proper session help you forget your problems for a night. Tomorrow’s another day right?
Graham: Yeah that’s right, we’ve got to stick together against these bitches!
(Graham, drinks the rest of the wine)
Leo: Exactly! I mean she’s jetting off to New York, taking all the stuff and then stumping me with the bill, what’s that all about I’m not made of money.
(The waiter is at the table, Graham nods gets out his wallet)
Leo: Cheers mate, it’s just a fiver, thanks I really appreciate it.
Graham: I don’t understand how this could have happened.
Leo: Me neither, but guess what, who cares, that’s tomorrow’s problem, tonight we’re going forget them bitches, go to my mate’s club and have some proper fun.
Graham: Cheers, thanks er, that sounds great but maybe some other time, I should go home.
Leo: No way mate, going home, to do what exactly? Drive yourself crazy thinking about how you’re gonna cope with everything when she’s gone, no that is not what you need.
(Two waiting staff are standing by the doors, jangling keys only Leo and Graham are left in the restaurant, a waitress approaches the table)
Waitress: I’m sorry gentlemen, we’re closed now if you can make your way out.
(Leo and Graham stand, Leo puts a friendly hand on Graham’s shoulder and leads him to the door)
Leo: Trust me mate.
Graham: Maybe just the one.
Graham stirs half wake and moves his head to orientate himself. That was a mistake the pounding in his temples is immense, he groans and tries to open his eyes but that makes the pain worse. Slowly adjusting his eyes to the light Graham ponders where he is and what time it is. Unconsciously Graham’s next thought is Carla and he immediately saddens remembering the restaurant and…we are supposed to talk tomorrow…today, oh no! Panic descends and Graham gingerly brings himself to a sitting position and swings one leg after another off the sofa and onto the floor. He is still fully dressed except for one sock and looks around the vaguely familiar layout of the room. This is his next door neighbour’s lounge, thank goodness he is not far from home.
After spending all night at the hospital with Arthur and his family to finally hear the news that John was going to be okay, Beth left the hospital. She shivered stepping out into the cool, harsh, morning light knowing she was never going back to Leo.
There is a gentle knock on the door and Bea pops her head around the corner with a tray carrying a mug, a bacon sandwich, a glass of water and two tablets.
“How are you feeling?”
Graham smiled weakly as he lifted the steaming mug of coffee to his lips and took a sip.
“Like death warmed up”.
“Well that’s to be expected, you had quite a night”. “I’m sorry if I did anything stupid Bea, I…”
“That’s okay, there was no harm done, don’t worry. Given the circumstances, it’s understandable.” Graham returns the mug to the tray and swallows the tablets with the water.
“So you know then”. Bea nodded, “Carla came round first thing this morning when I told her you were here.”
“Oh no, where is she now, what time is it?”
“She’s long gone that was about 8:15 this morning and it’s 11:30 now, I didn’t let her in I figured you needed a bit more rest before another confrontation”.
Graham looked confused, Bea shock her head.
“It doesn’t matter, she left this for you. Bea hands Graham a white envelope.
“Try and eat something before it gets cold”. Bea exits closing the door softly behind her.
Graham looks at the envelope addressed to him, he recognises Carla’s handwriting. He opens the envelope and takes out the letter.
I came round to talk but, well you know Bea and I was not about to argue with her. This isn’t the best way to communicate, but better it’s better than nothing. Again I’m so sorry about last night, the way you found out, but I think it is only fair and try to and explain.
Graham lets out a sigh, “Not this psycho babble shit again!”
It’s not that I don’t love you anymore, I do and I probably always will. We’ve had a great life raised two good kids together, but the twins are off to uni, travelling, making lives of their own and let’s face aside from cash and lifts they don’t need us as much anymore. Which is fair enough, but I need more of a life too. Somewhere down the line I think we just forgot about each others needs. I have come to realise that as humans we owe it to ourselves to be the best person we can be and I have not been doing that.
Graham swears to himself “No you’ve been doing Mr Fancy pants or whatever he fucking calls himself.”
We were so young when we got married and don’t get me wrong I have no regrets, it was great we made it work and I’ve loved our life, but we’ve become more like brother and sister than husband and wife.
Graham put down the letter, carefully held his still pounding head in his hands and looked down as the sad realisation of Carla’s words hit home. Finishing the coffee Graham continued reading.
I know that losing your mum, was a massive blow, it was for me and the kids too, but I’m not your mum. It doesn’t excuse what I did and I admit it was wrong, but I swear I wasn’t looking for anyone else. I just didn’t want to walk away when…when Declan came along. It was wrong I was selfish I know that, being with Declan made being with you more…well, easier…but that wasn’t fair to you and I’m truly sorry.
Hopefully we can talk soon, when you feel better.
Graham scrunched the letter in the palm of his hand and wept.
Three years later – outside an Italian restaurant in New York
Beth is looking at the Italian restaurant from across the street, through the window she can see Leo waiting at a table. A bubbly waitress is addressing him, Leo gives her a polite smile but does not engage her in conversation. That was different Leo never passed up an opportunity to practise his charms with someone female, instead he looked pensive as he tilted the ice in his water glass.
Beth is unusually late; unsure about meeting up with Leo again. Her thoughts drifted back to the night she last saw Leo. Fearing God knows what from Leo’s sudden sinister mood change to the leap of adrenalin that spurred her into CPR action. Beth stared upwards and shook her head, this was a mistake. Turning abruptly Beth bumped into someone staring at their phone. Beth automatically apologises profusely, but is already being sidestepped by the young teenager wearing headphones. Beth gave a deep sigh, she did not know what to expect from this meeting with Leo. Would it matter if he apologised to her, did she still care? Maybe this is not about her at all, is he looking for closure? She smiled to herself, unlikely, but perhaps he’s changed? Again unlikely, the band’s success would have given him an even bigger ego, not humility. So the questions still remained why did he want to see her and why did she come? There was only one way to find out, checking left and right for traffic Beth crosses the road.
“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you!”
The family on the next table are singing joyfully at the top of their voices to the elderly woman at the head of the table. The waiting staff bring in a lit cake, ninety years old, not bad Audrey, not bad.
Leo muses and looks at his watch again; it was 19:40 only ten minutes late, that was reasonable nothing to worry about. He takes a sip of water and again catches the eye of the waitress who seated him earlier.
“Would you like to order a drink from the bar?” Leo nods,
“A vodka and slimline tonic please.”
A small one wouldn’t hurt, it might calm his nerves. Over by the window Leo spies a couple at a table for two. They were just looking at each other, his hand covered hers, she looked as if she was about to cry. He was trying to reassure her but it didn’t seem to be working. The woman pulls her hand away and dabs her eyes with a tissue.
The man is trying to comfort her but tears are falling anyway. The woman gets up and hurriedly moves toward the small corridor leading to the toilets. The waitress returns with Leo’s drink breaking his gaze from the couple. Leo tilts his glass and watches the ice sparkle as it catches the light.