THE NIGHT OUT
Turning to the side, scrutinising my bulges in the tall mirror, I wonder for the fifth time in as many minutes why I’m even going. The blue dress I’m wearing, seemed like such a good idea in the shop, but now figure hugging doesn’t seem quite so appealing and no amount of breathing in is going to help.
Maybe if I wear a cardi? Returning to my wardrobe, I rummage around until I find my old favourite. My very own Linus blanket, even if it doesn’t flatter the dress and just looks to be what it is, a misguided attempt at hiding the fact that I’m past my prime. I’m probably going to be the oldest person there, apart from Diane, but she looks much younger and anyway she loves socialising.
I used to but then I met Chris and we sort of became home birds. That’s how we liked it, a glass of wine and a DVD. Or at least that’s what I thought, until he announced he needed more and dumped me for his twenty seven-year-old assistant. I mean how clichéd is that? I think that’s what hurt the most. I could deal with the rejection, the loneliness, the financial upheaval but he’s turned me into a textbook fucking cliché.
The humiliation was unbearable, having to tell friends and family, enduring all the wringing of hands and sympathy, when I just wanted to be left alone to eat myself to death whilst watching Mad Men on a loop. That was another thing, he wasn’t exactly Don Draper. In fact, when we first got together I didn’t even like him, but he kind of wore me down with flattery and attention. And now, here I am twenty years later, kicked aside with no more thought than when he got rid of most of his clothes earlier in the year. The ones he said made him look middle-aged.
Anyway, what’s done is done as Diane likes to remind me. It was her idea that I join her and a couple of the girls she works with for one of their regular Friday nights out. Girls! That’s a laugh, I think Jane, the youngest one, is in her mid thirties but, that’s how we refer to ourselves apparently – girls. My initial reaction had been a firm, hell no! But Diane had wheedled and cajoled until I ‘d finally buckled and, there have been a few moments since then, when I’ve actually felt a slight fluttering of excitement at the thought of getting dressed up and hitting the town. There’s no trace of that now though, as I’m facing the reality that I’m middle-aged, overweight and ought to know better than parading myself around like mutton dressed as lamb.
Stepping out into the street, my preoccupation with how I look fades slightly and I manage to recapture a little bit of the excitement, as the remnants of the sunny day welcome me in. Approaching the pub where I’m meeting the ‘girls’, I almost have a spring in my step. Although that soon falters as I reach for the door, tugging on it decisively before I can change my mind. It’s still early and there’s no sign of Diane or her friends. A widescreen TV takes up most of one wall and the scattering of people in the bar seem to be consumed by whatever sporting event is being played out on it – golf, another reminder of Chris. I suppose on the plus side, now that he’s gone, I’m no longer forever falling over his stupid golf clubs left propped up in the hallway.
Straightening my shoulders, inhaling deeply, I make my way to the bar. The young bartender is watching my approach, a small smile of enquiry at the ready.
“Gin and tonic, please. A large one,” I mutter already looking forward to the alcohol smoothing out my nerves.
“Which type?” the young man asks, rendering me momentarily speechless. When the hell did this happen – used to be when you asked for a drink, you got what you were given?
“What have you got?”
“Gordon’s, Bombay Sapphire, Beefeaters.”
“Gordon’s will be fine.”
Taking a deep sip of the gin, I struggle to perch myself on one of the stools positioned at the bar. The tight dress impedes my efforts and I look around quickly to make sure nobody is watching me. Bloody dress – I knew it was too tight! Within seconds, my drink’s almost gone. I place the glass on the bar, nursing the slight dregs of clear liquid which is now mostly dominated by ice cubes, and wondering how long it will take for the rush of alcohol to kick in.
Debating whether or not to risk looking like a lush by ordering another drink so quickly, it takes a moment or two for me to become aware of a young man sitting at the opposite end of the bar. He’s well built and blonde, glowing with youthful vitality. Far too young for me but he’s definitely looking this way. In fact, he’s never taken his eyes off me since I became aware of his presence. I feel flustered, as I search desperately for something other than him to focus my gaze on, my face burning with a combination of fear and something else. I clearly look better than I thought if the intense, searching gaze of this young man is anything to go by.
My heart almost stops as I watch him hop down from his stool in a fluid movement. He’s heading my way. What do I do? My thought process seems to scatter into a thousand pieces. Licking my lips, my fingers tightly gripping my glass, I turn and meet his gaze. His face is open and friendly, his eyes smiling. I’m going to have to let him down gently, he’s far too young. I’m probably old enough to be his mother.
The smile moves from his eyes to his mouth as I sit, transfixed, unable to speak.
”Miss?” The friendly rebuttal dies on my lips – Miss? What’s he talking about? “Miss Denton?”
“Yes, I’m ...”
“I thought it was you.”
“I don’t think ...”
“It’s Liam. Liam Green.”
“Don’t you remember me; I used to be in your English class?”