Arranging a reunion by sitting in an inner city Manchester pub with a London accent was not good. He had ordered a beer by tapping on the pump and pointing to his throat. The barman nodded and smiled having fallen for the lost voice ploy. It was Christmas Eve and people around him were in good spirits and taking no notice of him. It was a big pub and therefore had a lot of passing trade. Not one of these housing estate pubs where everyone knew each other. He would not have gone if that turned out to be the address. It would have hurt him not to come, but nostalgia is less painful than getting stabbed for a few quid.
The email he received was unexpected. Its contents included a brief greeting, a how are you type question, and an urgent request to meet. He could have ignored the email, but it was Sally. When he saw her name at the bottom of the page he curled his toes in his socks and cupped his hands over his nose and mouth letting out a muffled whistle through his teeth like a balloon deflating. He had stared at the email for quite some time before rooting through the cupboard under the stairs to find the red photo album. Half an hour later, propped up against the gas meter, with his legs poking our of the cupboard door, he had slowly flicked through pictures of him and Sally from school and beyond. He was surprised how much he still got turned on looking at her; a bit creepy he thought briefly. She was 15 years old in this picture and he was now 45. Did that make him a potential sex offender he wondered?
An email was finally sent a week later. A brief greeting and an apology for replying so late, he had been, ‘overseas’ for business, he had written. Total bollocks to be honest, he hadn’t been anywhere besides his flat and the supermarket in the last 5 years. His cat did as he pleased to such an extend he wondered why he even fed the thing. He was sure she was cheating on him with the lady who had the pot-plant outside her door. She looked like a cat-feeder. Sally had responded within the hour and said she lived in Manchester and could he come to her? He said yes, bought a return train ticket from London, and here he was in a central pub.
It was now 10 minutes past the hour of the arranged meeting. He looked at his watch for the 100th time but stopped after a guy at the bar, who was nursing a drink, caught his eye and smiled. How embarrassing. He made his mind up that at half past he would leave and wait at the station for his train to go home. He caught the guy’s eye at the bar again, who half smiled and tipped his bottle. He nodded back out of politeness, but the guy was making him feel uncomfortable, and there was something familiar about him.
Sally’s sudden departure from his life was something he never really got over. For 10 years they had been a constant. She had once described them as fucking cousins. It was true, their relationship was more than friends and lovers. No matter what was said, they just came back together like magnets, drawn by some invisible force that was bigger than them. The energy in their life was kink, and by this I mean kinky sex of all descriptions. It started when they were 16 after a school trip to large library. Someone had found the photographic section that was filled with raw naked images bound in beautiful sexy covers. One booked was BDSM based and Sally looked visibly turned on. They had fucked quite a lot since her birthday and he knew the look. The book was stolen and became a manual for what was to become 6 beautiful years of sex only Roman Gods could dream of.
It was now 25 minutes past. He checked he had his phone, train ticket and wallet. He was ready to go. The pint glass sitting from of him had an inch of warm beer left in it which gave him justification to stay put. He stared at the rings on the table that his drink has left and tried to think when Sally actually left. It had been about a year before she walked away without any explanation that he noticed a change. She had started to take more of a dominant role with the people they played with, and he knew she had new friends that were like that. With him, she was always submissive, but with others she was a force to be reckoned with. Her clothes changed to; gone were thin flowery skirts that showed her nipples and clung to her bum. In came baggy jeans and t-shirts, her attention to personal apprearance no longer held value. She bought a motorbike too, a noisy and smelly old thing that she to learnt to service and would take off days at a times with less and less notice. She was slowly drifting away and he hadn’t seen it.
It was half past. He knew that by drinking the last of his glass signified his departure. Scanning the room he hoped for one last chance she would arrive. The guy at the bar was still there, but the rest of the people had left to make way for others. There was no Sally. He pushed the glass away, rejecting the dregs and gathered up his coat. He felt lost and angry for being in this strange town, he just wanted to be home. Picking up the near empty glass he returned it to the bar counter.
“Cheers mate!” Said the barman with a smile.
He nodded and turned to face the door, leaving his moisture rings on the table, a dent where he sat and a pub he hoped he would never see again behind him. The guy at the bar continued to look at his bottle of beer and half raised a hand in acknowledgement of his departure.
Sitting on the train he thought back to the last time he spoke to her, but couldn’t remember, it was over 20 years ago now. The envelope on his mat contained a spare key to his flat and a beer label for when they went on holiday to Greece years before. No words, just a key and a label. He supposed he never stopped being angry, except the anger didn’t keep him awake any longer. After a year of looking for her, he gave up. ‘You can’t find someone who doesn’t want to be found’ a policeman had told him, and he supposed he was right.
He was surprised to find the train guard was standing over him when he looked up.
“Penny for you thoughts, or just your ticket would be fine.” He jokingly said.
Putting his hand in his pocket he pulled out wallet and took the ticket from it. The guard punched it with his clipper machine.
“Thanks very much Sir,” he offered. “You dropped something on the floor there I think,” he said, jerking his nose in the general direction, and walked off.
Looking down he saw what he thought was a folded wet bank note. His picked it up and slowly unpicked it. Held in his hand, like a fragile butterfly’s wing was a soggy beer bottle label with the word ”Sorry’ written in pen. He closed his eyes and saw what he had thought was a guy at the bar again. Yes it had been her and looking way beyong her years, just watching, making sure he was okay.
“And I love you too Sally.” He whispered to himself dropping the label on to the floor.