As always my thanks go to my proofreaders LadyCibelle and SH, and to everyone else who keeps writing to encourage me to post my demented ravings.
Clarification: - In the UK, although they are termed "Public Houses" licensed drinking establishments are in fact "Private establishments" and a Publican has the right to refuse entry to and/or to serve any member/s of the public that he/she chooses. The publican is not required to give a reason for doing so. The act of banning a particular person from the bar is often colloquially referred to as the Publican having "Put the bar up!" to that person. Obviously its roots are lie in - or are connected with - the customer being "barred" from the Public House, but I have no idea how it derived into the phrase.
Tuesday usually was a quiet night in the pub, and after eating my evening meal, I was sitting there watching a couple of young lads teaching their girls how to play darts; but very badly. It had become my habit to have one decent meal a day, usually in the pub of an evening; the rest of the time I ate fast food. Not the healthiest of diets — what with all the beer as well — but I didn't really give a damn any more.
Also, as usual, I was alone, having been away so long I had lost contact with most of my friends. Well to be honest, most of them were really our friends — Carrie and mine — and almost all couples. And I do believe that most — if not all of them - would have taken Carrie's side anyway, she'd always been far more popular than I'd ever been. The group had really grown around her old classmates, and their respective guys.
So after that night, I would have felt like a sort of the gooseberry being around them, and I should imagine I'd feel awkward or at least make the others feel unsettled.
Mind you, he'd never appeared to be awkward when he was with them, and to be honest I've always wondered whether it had been going on for some time before everything came to a head that evening. Had they all known and none of them ever even given me a hint? That was the question that had revolved around in my head ever since that evening.
I'd always known that he had a soft spot for Carrie and obviously she'd had a softer spot for him than I'd ever realised, or it would never have happened. But if it had been going on as long as I'd feared it had, then it really made no sense to me, why Carrie hadn't broken off our engagement a lot sooner and just shacked up with the bastard.
But then again, maybe Carrie just hadn't really liked the idea of living in Canada for two years and it could have been that which made her suddenly jump ship after six years? It just goes to prove that you never really know anyone, no matter how much you love them.
The darts players finished their dangerous game — loose darts had been flying everywhere — and moved over to the empty pool table.
There had been a time, just over two years ago, when this pub - or rather this particular bar of the pub would have been ... well not exactly crowded on a Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings, but full of our group. Out of curiosity I had stuck my nose in one night just after I returned to the country and had been surprised to learn that the whole group had moved on to some other hangout.
"Dunno what happened to them, lad." The govner had told me when I'd enquired. "But about two years ago they just stopped coming in as a group anymore. We see the odd one or two of them now and again, but as a group they must be partying somewhere else."
I'd always liked the pub; so as Carrie and the gang weren't using it anymore, then I figured that I might as well use it as my local now that I was back. Well the food was as good as it had always been, even if the pub was a lot quieter. And I've got to admit that the place didn't do my general demeanour any favours; when I was in there I was forever having flashbacks to the good times we'd had in there. Okay, not as many flashbacks as the flat gave me, but it could be that is why I spent so much time in the pub.
Yeah, I still had the same flat; the one Carrie had shared with me until that night. Carrie had moved out whilst I'd been gone though; well, she didn't have much choice really she'd been served with an eviction notice whilst I was in Canada. For some reason, I couldn't bring myself to sell the place though; I'd had the estate agent let it out on a short lease whilst I'd been in Canada. It had been his job to get Carrie out of the flat. I suppose I figured that she'd moved in with him eventually.
From what I've just said you might get some idea of my general demeanour and how my mind was forever living in the past. Carrie had been out of my life for two years, but she'd never really gone out of my heart or my memory. Isn't that what they say about your first true love; you never forget them!
Something — possibly the door opening - caught my attention and drew my gaze away from the young bird as she leant over the pool table - in a very short skirt - whilst her boyfriend tried to explain to her the intricacies of cueing a shot. I glanced in the door's direction and saw that two guys had entered the bar. One of them was Mike, a guy who'd teamed up with one of Carrie's friends, Lydia, about a month before everything turned to shit.
Mike hadn't noticed me and I quickly returned my attention to the pool table and that short skirt. But I kept an eye on the two guys in one of those convex security mirrors the pub had on the wall, so that the barman could keep an eye on the goings on in a hidden corner of the bar by the pool table. I'd long ago learnt that those security mirrors can work both ways.
Mike and his mate ordered their drinks then stood at the bar chatting together. Eventually though Mike took a look around to survey his surroundings and his eye ultimately fell upon me. In an instant he'd recognised me and turned back to face the bar, pulling his friend back around with him; then their heads went down as they began to whisper to each other.
A couple of times Mike's mate risked a quick - supposedly nonchalant - glance at the girls with the two guys at the pool table. But it was obvious to me that he was really checking out whether I'd spotted him and Mike and whether was looking in their direction. After much head shaking by the guy, I watched in the mirror as Mike got his mobile phone out of his pocket and made a call. It's not often that you hear — or rather see - folks whispering into mobile phones, but it was pretty obvious to me that was what Mike was attempting to anyway do. He actually risked a quick look in my direction, before giving up and heading out the door; where I assumed he could talk normally and the person he was calling had some chance of hearing him.
Five minutes later he was back, and he and his friend ordered another pint, then moved to one end of the bar; where they settled themselves on stools that they carefully positioned so that Mike's mate could watch me over his shoulder, as they pretended to talk to each other.
I had no idea what the buggers were up to, so I figured I'd put the cat amongst the pigeons; finishing my pint I headed for the bar for a refill. Mike purposely turned his head, I assumed in an attempt to make sure that I didn't recognise him.
"Fuck you too, arsehole!" I thought to myself, "If you want to avoid me, then I'll just pretend that I don't recognise you either."
I could have made a scene and even called the wanker outside; for by that time as I have said, I had convinced myself that all of the old crowd were well aware that something had been going on behind my back, between Carrie and the tosspot. But had I got all-uppity, then surely the govner would put the bar up to me. I just quietly took my pint, returned to my seat and continued surreptitiously watching the two guys as they kept glancing in my direction.
I had no idea what the wankers were up too, and I didn't really care! But at the same time I had to watch my back, just in case Mike had any nefarious thoughts in mind.
I suppose it was about ten minutes after I got my pint that I saw Lydia enter the bar. She went directly over to Mike, they exchanged a quick kiss and then Mike gestured in my direction with his head. Lydia took a quick look over at me, nodded to him and then without another word to Mike left the bar again.
Conscious that both of the guys were by then staring at me, I kept my gaze firmly on the four youngsters at the pool table; hardly daring to lift my eye to that mirror, for fear that they'd spot a slight movement of my head. I had no idea what was about to happen, but I was mentally preparing myself for just about anything.
Several minutes later the door opened again, and half a dozen or so of the old crowd walked in along with their girlfriends and joined Mike at the bar. The guys buying drinks, whilst all the girls once they'd located me, glowered in my direction.
Shortly another couple arrived, followed very quickly by several more couples. I suppose it went on like that until nearly two thirds of the old crowd were in the bar.
My problem was that - for reasons I didn't completely understand - with growth numbers, they had all gotten bolder, even Mike, and when not talking to each other, they were all glowering in my direction.
.... There is more of this story ...