I thank my LadyCibelle and Techsan for their patience, proof reading, and editing skills and of course encouragement.
I was probably on my forth or maybe fifth pint of the evening - I wasn't exactly counting — and I had been staring down at the almost empty glass thinking that it was about time it was filled up again, but when I looked up to catch the barman's eye, I saw her reflection in the mirror behind the bar.
How long she'd been standing there, I have no idea. But our eyes met the moment I raised my head.
She looked somehow bedraggled, not her usual immaculate self that I'd been used to seeing in the previous two years. She was still as beautiful as ever, but her eyes looked sunken. And I'd say, that since I'd last laid eyes on her two months previous, she'd lost a couple of pounds in weight that she couldn't really afford to.
For a few seconds neither of us moved, we just stared at each other in the reflection of the mirror. Then she seemed to straighten her back; she got a little taller, taking herself to her full five foot three inches. I watched her as she took a deep intake of breath, then strode confidently, but somehow at the same time tentatively, towards the empty stool beside me.
"Can we talk?" she asked, as she climbed onto the stool.
"Can't see that there's much to talk about, Susan," I replied.
"Please, Pete? I need to explain, if only for my own peace of mind."
"Then explain; I'm not deaf!"
"No, Pete, not here, everyone can hear. Can't we go somewhere more private?"
"I like it here - all my friends are here. And George over there does a really good job of keeping my glass full. Don't you, George?"
The barman nodded in our direction, letting Sue know that he could hear every word that was exchanged between us.
"Your friends aren't here, Peter; they are back at the institute and the university, where you should be."
"No, they're all my friends, all neatly lined up in rows on those shelves. And George only has to pull on that pump handle over there and some more of my friends come out to play. It's a good pint he serves up here. Hey, George, this one's nearly dead; you'd better earn your keep."
George picked up a fresh glass and pulled me another pint. "Anything for you, Miss?" he asked, as he placed the glass in front of me, whisking away the empty one.
"I'll have a brandy please? I think I'm going to need it!" Susan replied.
"Your tab, Pete?" George asked.
"Does it look like I've got a choice?" I commented.
George picked up his pen and made a quick note on the little pad by the till.
"Pete, can we at least sit at a table or in one of the booths back there? I really need to explain," Susan insisted.
"If we must, but I can't see the point," I said reluctantly, sliding off of my perch and onto my feet, and just a little unsteadily as well. "Make sure no one nicks my spot, George; this shouldn't take very long." To be honest I didn't really want George hearing this exchange either.
Susan led the way to one of the booths at the back of the bar, the only one that wasn't already taken. She slid daintily in on one side of the table and I collapsed onto the bench opposite her. Then I leant against the seat back, and waited for her to say her piece.
Susan took some time composing herself. I assumed she was getting her probably often-rehearsed little speech right in her mind.
"I'm sorry, Pete! It was a mistake; I shouldn't have let it happen," she finally said.
I do believe she expected me to say something in reply. But to be honest I was too pissed — in both senses of the word, drunk and angry - to come up with the comic repartee in reply, that I'd like to have done.
After waiting a few moments Susan went on. "You know who he was obviously?"
That question I could reply to. I wasn't quite that drunk yet. "Yeah, of course I do. I'd seen the pictures of you and the fucker around your mother's house enough times."
"You hurt him badly, you know?" she informed me.
Not something I didn't know; I'd injured both my hands in the process.
"Yeah, well, he and you hurt me pretty bad yourselves. What was I supposed to do? Shake his hand as say 'Hi, Gordon, I'm Pete and that's my girl you're shagging there?' If the bugger had stayed down when I put him down the first time, he wouldn't have got hurt half as much as he did. But the arsehole thought he was a tough guy, didn't he? He forgot all about the old saying the bigger they come the harder they fall."
I could see tears forming in Susan's eyes as the scene was brought back into her mind's eye.
"No, your lover boy thought he was going to wipe the floor with the little archaeology student; only to find out he'd picked on a geek who knew how to look after himself. The bastard was lucky I never killed him. And then he goes running to the police!"
"Not exactly running, Peter; they took him to hospital in an ambulance, and me as well!"
That surprised me, "You as well? But I never touched you!" I said defensively.
"Of course you didn't, I know that. Dumb-arse fell on me when he was trying to get up, dislocated my shoulder in the process."
I do believe my face must have cracked a little, and I almost smiled at the thought. Sue must have been watching me closely and she noticed the change in my expression.
"It wasn't funny, Peter; it hurt a lot! Still gives me trouble now, sometimes; and the doctor said it could dislocate again anytime in the future, if I'm not careful."
"Well, if you hadn't been in bed with the bastard in the first place, it wouldn't have happened, would it? So don't go trying to lay the blame on me."
"Oh, god, Peter, I wasn't doing that! I was trying to explain how the police got involved. The ambulance men called them, when they saw the state Gordon was in. You realise you broke his cheekbone, don't you?"
"So, I busted a couple of bones in my hands in the process, so I would call that even, wouldn't you?"
I instinctively felt my right hand, the one that was still giving me grief, with my left.
"Not exactly. Gordon lost four teeth as well, you know," Susan said, reaching out toward my right hand, I can only assume to inspect the damage.
Instantly I dropped my hand below the table, out of her sight and reach. "Is that all? I was hoping for all of the bloody things; teach the git not to grin at me like that again."
"When did he grin at you?"
"When he saw me standing at the door. He thought it was quite funny, him fucking you whilst I was standing there watching."
"Sorry, I don't understand. I didn't know you were watching us. How long were you standing there, watching us?"
"Dunno, a couple of minutes maybe."
"And you did nothing, said nothing?"
"No, I was waiting for the opportune moment."
"I still don't understand. What opportune moment?"
"Just before he thought he was about to cum in you. That's when I thumped him the first time. The wanker thought I was a fucking voyeur or something, and had a bloody great grin on his face. Kind-a lost that though when I hit him, didn't he?"
"Oh, god, you not only caught us, but you stood there and watched as well."
"But I was your girlfriend. We were going to get engaged and married," Susan exclaimed. "And you stood there and watched another man having sex with me."
"No, you weren't. You hadn't been my girlfriend for several minutes by the time I got to your bedroom door. I heard you the moment I entered your flat that day; I know the sounds of Susan getting shagged extremely well. Actually you were a lot more vocal than you normally are that day, really enjoying yourself. You should have discovered that watch you gave me ground into the kitchen floor. You ceased being anything to do with me the moment you got into that bed. Shit, the instant that you met him that day if I'd known about it."
"Peter, surely you don't mean that. You came to the bedroom. You hit him!"
"Of course, he knew you were my girl when he entered that room, didn't he? I mean, you never told him it was all over between us, did you?"
"Of course I didn't, Peter. I love you. We were going to get married."
"Yeah, going to. And he knew that, but you still climbed into that bed and he climbed in there with you. He knew full well the kind of risk he was taking. Jesus, he was lucky I didn't kill him; you know there are some blokes who would have. He deserved everything he got. Now are we finished? Can I get back to some serious drinking?"
"No, we haven't finished, Peter. I haven't explained to you how I finished up in that bed with him yet. I'm hoping that you might understand," Susan said.
"Susan, you don't have to explain, I can work it out for myself. I was supposed to be away on that dig for two weeks, and you got lonely. Gordon, your old boyfriend turns up in town, you decide to forget about me, have a good time with him whilst I'm away and shag the bugger; that's all there is to it!"
"No, it wasn't like that at all, Peter. It wasn't really a spur of the moment thing, it was something that... Oh I don't know, it was something that I felt I had to do, I can't really explain."
"So what's the point in you being here; unless it's to rub my nose in it?"
"No, no, I didn't mean to say that, I must explain. You must forgive me."
"All right if you must explain what you can't explain then get on with it. I haven't got all night to sit here listening to your tripe."
.... There is more of this story ...