Alternative title, "When Johnny Came Marching Home!" But read "Philip" instead of "Johnny".
My thanks go to my proofreaders, who I hope will have picked up most of my typos etcetera. But as is my want, I'm sure to have fiddled with the tale before I post it, so I'll bet I've added a few more cock-ups in the process. I find I alter every tale I've written whenever I reread them.
Chancer = a person who exploits any opportunity to the utmost. A philanderer can sometimes be referred to as a chancer!
Googly = A technique of bowling sometimes used in the game of Cricket, that's designed to lead the batsman to believe that the bowler is delivering a different ball. i.e. an off break bowled with an apparent leg-break action.
Over = cricket again - a sequence of six balls bowled by a bowler from one end of the pitch. When it's a persons turn to bowl, then it's sometimes referred to as their over.
Yeah well, I do realize that all that is probably as clear as mud to some folks.
Nemesis, look the word up in an encyclopaedia, you'll find it's described as the Greek mythological goddess of retribution. Look nemesis up in the dictionary, and you'll probably find that its use has changed a little over the years, one description that might be given is, "An opponent that cannot be beaten or overcome."
As we go through life, most of us will come across our own personal Nemesis at least once in our lifetime. Me, I ran into mine at a very early age, and the bugger has bugged my existence ever since.
His name is Phil Caine; Philip Louis Caine to be precise. As a child he lived near me and went to the same school as I did. Although in the same year group, we were very rarely in the same classes. I was streamed a little higher than Phil, so - in theory - I was the more intelligent of the two of us. That always has been the trouble with theory; things don't often don't work out the same in practise.
Anyway, that was the only thing I scored higher than him in. Phil Caine was a born sportsman and I could never even hope to match him on the playing field; although I gave it a bloody good try on occasions.
Philip was also handsome, I had to admit that, even when we were children. I stood five seven in my bare feet and eventually Phil stood six foot, or more. Albeit, with the help of those little height wedges in his shoes, that they used to sell on the back pages of the Marvel comics, along with the BB guns and other such crap.
For the life of me I'll never understand why I never let the cat out of the bag about those little wedges. Yeah well, maybe that was something else I had on him; Phil Caine was a vain bugger, and I was not.
Well, I had sweet FA to be vain about really. Except maybe my test scores in maths and science at school. But those scores didn't gain me much kudos on the streets or in the girl chasing stakes.
Look, I ain't saying that I'm a bleeding Quasimodo look alike or anything; but I have always known that I was destined to be one of the many also-rans in life when it came to the romance Stakes. Or I suppose you could say that I must have been about halfway down the queue, when they came to giving out good looks. Consequently I've always accepted that I was never going to win any prizes in a Mr Universe competition.
Phil, well to be honest with you, I think he was a natural born babe magnet, even before he'd been old enough to work out why there were two sexes. Once puberty had paid him a call; well, the bugger began working his way through almost every good looking female within a five-mile radius, and even further a field, once he was old enough to drive.
I say almost every female, because there was one particular girl that I can guarantee everyone, that Phil Caine never did score with when we were younger, Polly James.
Why Polly? Well, Polly, Phil and me were all near neighbours and we'd hung around with each other since our nursery school days. Quite inexplicably to most folks, Phil and I were the best of friends, and if you ever found the pair of us ... Well, rest assured that Polly weren't very far away.
That was us; "Three peas in a pod," our parents used to say. Philip, Pollyanna and Peter. Yeah well that's my name, Peter, known to the world as good old Pete. All three of us being only children, we grew up treating the other two as sort of surrogate siblings. Phil and me might have been chalk and cheese, in personality as well as physical appearance. But with Polly around, to pour oil on troubled waters, there were never any serious disagreements between us. Well except much later concerning Polly, but I'll come to that in a while.
Yeah, as kids Phil and I went at it now and again, but I can't recall that we ever resorted to fisticuffs. Polly made sure of that; she always did have a weird sort of hold over both of us lads. And to be honest, most of the other guys as well. There was something about Polly that had a strange effect on nearly all of the boys in our circle of friends.
Don't go thinking that we didn't get into the odd schoolboy scrap though; Jesus, Phil and I spent plenty of time on report and in detention after school, because some clown had rubbed one of us up the wrong way. Quite a few would-be bullies discovered that, if you picked on one of us, then you found yourself dealing with both. Even the odd fool, who said the wrong thing to Polly, found himself in more trouble than he'd bargained for with Phil and me.
As kids the three of us played together all the time; luckily Polly turned out to be a bit of a Tomboy. But then again, she spent all of her time with two boys, so she couldn't really have been anything but. Phil and I certainly wouldn't have played with dolls with her.
Polly could kick a football better than either Phil or I. And I can assure you, that being on the receiving end of her spin bowling was no bleeding joke for anyone. Mind you, it was possibly the experience I gained from being on the receiving end of Polly's lightning fast Over's, that led to me making second bat for our school cricket team. No guesses on who was first bat and team captain.
Anyway, that was the state of play for more years than I can remember. But as the three of us began to get into our teenage years, Polly, as girls most often do, began to develop a little faster than Phil and I. Or rather her body did actually, she hit puberty a good six months or so ahead of either of us two boys. Mind you, that didn't stop her kicking a football around, and going rock climbing, that had become our favourite weekend pass time, with Phil and I.
Us guys weren't too far behind in the development race really. But far enough back for more than one other guy at school to ask Polly out on a date before it struck either Phil or I that we should really be doing likewise.
Mind you, you've got to understand our mindset here. Polly had been our mate, our best mate actually, since forever really. Philip always had been in second place in that race, in my thoughts, and I suppose, the truth be known, I came dismal second to Polly in Philip's eyes as well.
Polly had been thought of that way for so long, that we had a little difficulty thinking of her as a girl at all. Well, except maybe when we were forced to come to Polly's defence, and then our big brother natures came to the fore. And, not forgetting that both Phil and I noticed that Polly had started developing curves that neither of us were likely to, or would even wish to. Eventually those curves brought a new ... figure into the equation.
To us Polly weren't one of those silly little bitches giggling together on the school bus. Polly would be sitting with Phil and I, talking about ... Oh bugger, I really can't remember what we used to chat about now; boy things I suppose. Anyway when the three of us got together, we always found something to discuss, where we were going rock climbing that weekend, or even I suppose, like most youngsters, what record was top of the charts.
Anyway, it was when it did eventually strike Phil and me that getting all close up and personal with Polly, might not be such a bad idea, that life began to get really interesting. All I can remember is the venue that both Phil and I chose as the ideal occasion for a first date with Polly; was that year's spring school dance.
And thereby hung the problem, not only did both Phil and I, independently, come up with the idea of asking Polly out on a date around the same time. We both chose the same bus ride home from school to ask her.
I can't quite recall how we managed to ask her at the same time, but somehow we did. Polly went very quiet for a while; looking from one of us to the other, then announced that she was going to the spring dance with Billy Smart. However, she rapidly went on to explain that her plan had been to travel to and from the school that evening with Phil and I.
I kinda got the idea, that we'd been volunteered to act as chaperones on the journey; Billy Smart was a flash little git, who gained himself a little bit of a reputation for ... Well we were teenagers with hormones doing their thing, what kind of reputation would you expect Billy Smart to have?
I looked at Phil, and he looked back at me; then we both looked at Polly.
"Oh come on boys, you really couldn't have expected me to make a decision like that. The pair of you have been making it clear to me for weeks, that you were going to ask me to the dance. I love both of you like you are my brothers; how the hell do you expect me to choose between you?" Polly eventually said.
That led to Phil and me staring at each other once again. And possibly, it was also most likely at that precise instant, our close friendship unofficially ended. That was the day we both realised we were going to be in competition for Polly's affections.
Not that either of us said anything about it to each other, or anyone else. I believe that both Phil and I remembered the old adage "Keep your friends close, and your enemy's closer!" It's only when you're close enough to someone to be able to work out what their strategy is going to be, that you can work out your own best course of action.
Anyway from that day forth, Phil and I were just a little less best friends than we had been in the preceding years.
Although officially Polly was with Billy Smart at the spring dance, if any one bothered to count, I should imagine she danced with Phil and I more than she did with him. I think Billy Smart was just a little more than annoyed when, on the way home that evening, Polly jumped into the back seat of the bus between Phil and I, as well.
As the months passed Phil and I were forever trying to get on our own with Polly so we could make our play. Yeah, we were trying to court her, but with the opposition literally there, watching over our shoulder all the time, neither of us was getting anywhere fast.
We tried to out do each other in every way possible, culminating in the birthday presents and cards we bought her. I know that I cleared out my piggy bank and I suspect that Phil did the same. Polly's reaction was to go loopy at the pair of us, and tell us in no uncertain terms, to lay-off.
"I've told you both so many times, I love the pair of you. You are trying to make me choose between you, and I just can't do that. I could never date either of you without upsetting the other. So although it pains me to have to say this, I don't intend to go on a date with either of you. Now please, just lay-off all this nonsense and can we return to being the three P's again? Or else I'm going to have to find other people to hang around with."
Phil and I begrudgingly agreed to Polly's ultimatum, even if we had no intention of giving up on our quests to capture her heart. After that things settled down a little, Polly took all-suggestive comments from either Phil or myself as good-natured fun. Although she did become a little more touchy feely with us both, for instance when the three of us were out together she was always between us hanging on both of our arms.
Maybe she'd always done that since we had been little, but it wasn't until our teenage years that I, at least, noticed she did.
I'll give it to Polly, she treated Phil and I exactly the same. It was as if she had a stopwatch in her head, that she timed the kiss under the mistletoe she gave each of us the following Christmas. Who went first was decided by the toss of a coin of course; I remember that I won that first year.
All three of us dated other people of course. But adamantly Polly refused to date either Phil or I. Some folks might think that she was playing with our emotions, but at the time I believed her when she said she loved us both, and we couldn't ask her to choose between us.
As time passed, Phil and I did move further apart. I think I told you that I was the academic one, while Phil the more physical. Eventually, when it came time to go on to college, Phil picked up a footfall apprenticeship with our local professional club. He still had to come to college a few days of the week, but he spent most of his time at the Club's training facility.
In a way this left the door open for me, because Polly and I travelled on the college bus together most days. But Phil was around most evenings and came with us on that bus at least two days of the week. Whatever, I could make no headway in the chatting Polly up stakes.
As I said, Polly dated other people, as both Phil and I did. Phil dating rather more than me actually, but I've already mentioned that. Anyway, we both kept a wary eye on the reputation of any guy that Polly dated, and warned them not to push their luck. Come on, you know what I'm referring to here; Phil and I were playing big brother to Polly and she apparently never objected.
That's how things went for the next year or so and then the world gave way beneath me. Well as far as my quest for Polly's love was concerned anyway.
In fact, for my personal future, I kinda fell on my feet. During the college summer holidays, I went to work for this small company and I obviously made an impression on some bugger there. The next thing I was really aware of, was that the company was offering to support me through university. Of course providing I sign a contract to work for them for five years after I graduate.
Now look my family weren't made of money and University would have been a financial struggle for me. Suddenly I had someone offering a bloody grant that I would not have to repay in the long term. I had no choice but to accept.
So there you have it. Me, a couple of hundred miles away studying my bleeding heart out. More intelligent than Phil I might have been, but I weren't a gifted student or anything. I knew I had to work hard if I was going to graduate.
Anyway, I'm bleeding miles away and Phil is still on the doorstep kicking a ball around the local football ground most of the time and seeing Polly almost every day.
It didn't take very long for it to get back to me that they were often seen around town together. Not that that was anything new, but up until I went of to Uni, I'd have been with them. Of course I wrote to Polly every week and she wrote back. But in every letter she mentioned Phil, too often with the words "Phil and I went here" or "did that" for my liking.
And yeah, other so-called mates, whether out of friendship or just making mischief, let me know that Phil and Polly appeared to be getting very close.
Although when I went home that Christmas Polly appeared to be keeping Phil at the same distance she'd always kept me in the past. If anything she behaved closer to me than Phil. Jesus the hug and snog she gave me when I got off the train was like no other she'd given me in the past. But I was aware that Phil was uncomfortably looking on.
Then Polly hung onto my free arm with both of hers as we walked to Phil's car. This was unusual because in the past Polly would normally position herself between Phil and I holding on to both of our arms at the same time.
If I thought that maybe I was finally in a winning position, I was soon put in my place when Polly returned to sharing her favours equally between us again, later that day. For the rest of that Christmas holiday life amongst the three of us was much as it had been in preceding years. Even down to me winning the toss in Polly's mistletoe kiss stakes.
I was very aware though that Polly's conversation was in a similar vain to her letters. "Phil and I did this", "Phil and I did that," and even "Phil took me somewhere." I can't say that did very much for my self-esteem. I kind of had it figured that Phil had to win out in the Polly stakes before I'd graduated. After all, he was there in our hometown with Polly, and I was two hundred miles away.
That year was possibly the worst of my life. When Polly had kissed me as I got off the train I finally knew that I was totally in love with the girl. I'd kissed plenty of girls over the years, even some of my fellow students at Uni, when I could find the time away from my studies. But no girl's kiss had the same effect on me as Polly's did.
As the year wore on, Polly's letters became fewer and farther between. Mind you, mine to her did as well, because I was struggling a little with my studies. Some of those lecturers seemed to be singling me out and pushing me to do better.
Anyway I read into the longer gaps between Polly's letters, and reports being fed back to me by friends and relatives, that Polly and Phil were always around town together by then. Apparently neither was dating anyone else.
That Easter, Polly greeted me at the station in the same way she had that Christmas, but I read something different into that welcome. Now I found myself thinking of it, as a consolatory kiss. It was obvious to me that Phil was winning the race, and being so far away all the time, there was sod-all I could do about it.
Polly must have sensed I knew the truth because later that evening she asked me if everything was all right. I replied, probably with a little more venom in my voice, than I should have used
"Yeah everything's fine and bleeding dandy. I'm up there studying my balls-off for a better future, and the girl I love is gallivanting around in the arms of another. Luckily I've found a bird or two up there to spend my evenings shagging."
Well come on, I couldn't admit to Polly that I was spending so much time pining for her, when I should have been studying.
Polly seemed to get upset when I said that. She stared at me for a few seconds, then ran out of my parent's house; closely followed by Phil. I didn't see much of either of them for the rest of that holiday.
I was on the company books by then, so of course I had to be at my employers office and in the lab almost everyday of my holiday anyway. The Bank Holiday weekend itself, I spent with mum and dad. Although Polly, Phil and their folks came over one evening for a little get-together my parents arranged.
I'm not sure whether our parents picked up on the atmosphere that pervaded between the three of us youngsters though. I doubt any of the folks would have thought much of it anyway, because even they looked upon us almost as siblings and appeared to expect us to behave as such. Minor petty differences between us, had always been ignored by our folks.
I did become a little confused, because Polly appeared to me, to be giving Phil the cold shoulder, almost as much as she was giving it to me.
My folks saw me off back to Uni that Easter. Then over a month went by without me receiving any communication from Polly. Although other mates informed me that they'd seen her around town with Phil quite a bit.
Eventually I caved in, and sent her a letter apologising for my behaviour at the railway station. Almost by return post, I received a letter back from Polly accepting my apology. But I noted not denying that she and Phil had entered a closer relationship than they had led everyone to believe.
After that, I received a note or letter from Polly almost every week. But, worryingly from my perspective, Polly hardly ever mentioned Phil anymore. The only time she did mention him was in connection with this or that girl she said that he'd dated. That didn't match the feedback I was getting from several other mates who'd worked out that I was sweet on Polly. They told me that whenever they saw Polly, she was with Phil.
Even Polly's longer letters were really nothing more than short notes saying that she hoped I was getting on well with my studies and telling me what was happening with her new job. Polly had left College that Easter. Somehow I got the idea that she had nothing much to say to me except encourage me to keep up with my studies. Yeah, there were a few times I felt like chucking it in.
That summer I didn't go home for the first four weeks of the holidays. My employers shipped me straight off to Canada, where they had a sister company run by a brother of the big cheese. I think the idea was to show me that I could go places with the firm if I put my mind to it; or maybe it was so I could see how they did things over there. And okay yeah, maybe it was a little prize for doing so well in my studies, I got much higher marks than I expected.
I had no idea at the time that several of my university lecturers had themselves been at Uni with my boss, and they still undertook consultation and research work for him. i.e. he funded their research in particular fields, and gained the benefit of course.
Anyway, I later discovered that they took special interest in my progress -- and were probably pushing me to do better - because of their relationship with him. It also explained why the company had insisted that I undertook my studies at that particular university.
Polly and Phil came to my parents place to search me out on the evening of my return from Canada. I'm not sure if it was fortunate or not, but I was dog tired and suffering from jetlag a little, so instead of going out with them I told them I was for an early night. I feigned illness or that I was still jetlagged for the next few days, so that I didn't have to go out with them on those nights either. But eventually when they kept turning up at the house I had to go with them.
Look, I could see no pleasure in the thought that I was going to have to sit there drinking with them, whilst they pretended that they didn't have a thing going. Because that was the game they were playing. I kinda had it figured they were keeping it a secret because they were trying not to upset me, when they knew how hard going I was finding my studies. I'd sort-of made that clear to Polly in my letters to her. Well, I had to have someone I could trust to tell how ... well, out of my depth I felt I was.
Anyway, when I did finally go out with them, I can't say I felt very comfortable. I'd conceded defeat in the Polly stakes by then, but that didn't change how I felt about her. It was obvious to me that both Phil and Polly were going through the motions as far as our old friendship went. Phil was working extremely hard at being my mate, and Polly ... Well, she was on edge about something all the time. Probably she was trying to work out whether I knew the truth about her and Phil. Come on, I'd known these two all my life; I could almost read their bleeding minds.
We sort-of hung around together for a few more days and then I couldn't stand it anymore. Maybe I should have come straight out and told them I knew, but I chickened out.
Look, this might sound weird but I needed those little encouraging letters from Polly every week or so. Anyway, I chose to return to Uni a few days early. I gave everyone some guff about going up there to see a bird I'd met. I was a young bloke; everyone seemed to accept the story. Except maybe Polly, who suggested that she and Phil might come up for a few days and meet her.
Shit, I put that idea down as quickly as I could. I think I told them that I weren't allowed to have guests staying over in my flat. Some bollocks like that anyway.
That Autumn I began to get feedback from my mother, that things weren't right in the Caine household. Phil's mum and dad had always been a bit different to Polly and my parents. Both a little young for their years you might say; and always out dancing and living it up. My mum told me that somewhere along the line Phil's father had picked himself up a piece on the side. Phil's mother had found out and she'd found herself a boy friend. Actually it might have been the other way around, because that's the way my dad told the tale. But then Mum would be talking to Mrs Caine and Dad would have been in the pub with her husband. Like all rumours the truth is never clear, the water is usually muddied by where the rumour started.
Anyway the upshot was that before I got home that Christmas the Caine's had separated and moved out of number six. Mr Caine and Phil were living in a flat in town and Mrs Caine was apparently shacked up with her boyfriend somewhere.
Polly and Phil met me at the Station that Christmas and I got my obligatory kiss and cuddle from Polly. As I've said, by then I'd given up on the chase, so I settled for winding Phil up by taking full advantage of the opportunity Polly gave me. It surprised me that Polly gave me as good as I gave her. Shit if I'd been Phil I'd have gone bleeding bonkers if my girl kissed another guy like that. Still, Phil always did have much more self-control than I, something else he was better at than me.
That Holiday I was much more relaxed around them, most likely because I'd completely conceded defeat. I took full advantage of any mistletoe we came across, with almost any pretty female who was willing. I must have snogged Polly on half a dozen different occasions whilst I was at it and Phil never did rise to the bait. I kind of had it figured that I'd wind the bugger up until he broke, but the bugger's self control was bleeding amazing.
Just after that Christmas I did hook up with a girl at Uni. I'd vaguely known Eva for sometime and she'd broken up with her fella over the holidays. Apparently she popped up to his hometown to see him, and found him shagging his long-term girlfriend.
Eva was a remarkably good-looking young woman and she'd suddenly found that she needed some different digs. She had been sharing a flat with her ex, so she'd rapidly moved out on returning to Southampton; for the time being she was camping on the floor of one her friend's rooms.
Now by lucky coincidence, not every student lasts the course at Uni. Well, more than once I'd thought about chucking it in myself. Possibly it was only that damned contract that had kept me at it that long. Now by chance my flat mate turned out to be one of the dropouts; he didn't return after that Christmas. So I got in as fast as I could and offered the vacant room to Eva. It was with more than a little regret, that I discovered that I wasn't the only student left with an empty room and the other half of the rent to find. For all of my haste, I learnt that I was someway down the list.
Anyway, I'm not sure why she decided to pick the room I had on offer and fork out for the rent on it, because she rarely used it. It soon became apparent that Eva wanted a steady guy (and bed partner) I suspect more to upset her ex than anything other. What's more, she was straight with me about her motives, so I had no intention of turning her down.
I've also got to admit that Eva was a very patient teacher; I weren't really all that experienced at making love. Shagging, yeah, I'd done plenty of that; but making love to a woman is a completely different ball game. Actually we made quite a joke of it, with Eva marking on a rough chart how well I was doing. Eventually she was taping bits of paper onto the top of the chart as it stretched up the wall, and then across the ceiling. It became a piece of decoration that confused visitors immensely. Eva and I would giggle when they asked what it was for.
To be honest I became really fond of Eva, as I'm sure she did of me. Several times I asked her when she was going to find herself a proper boyfriend. But she would reply that I was doing just fine as far as she was concerned, but if I wanted to go after Polly again I was just to let her know.
When I asked why she always said that, Eva told me that I was still in love with Polly.
"Trust me Pete, you've got it real bad for that girl!" Eva assured me, even though I denied it.
That Easter I asked Eva to come home with me for a few days during the holidays, but she refused. Instead she invited me back to her parents place for a few days. When I asked why I should go to her place, when she wouldn't come to mine, Eva told me that it was to keep certain people guessing. I can't say whom she was talking about, because Eva insisted that she'd said too much already and refused to enlarge further.
I spent a week with her folks who seemed to be very nice. Although I had to watch out for Eva's younger sister Tanya, who I was soon very sure was trying to corner me somewhere private, and she was making no allusions to her ultimate intentions. When I told Eva about her sister's behaviour she laughed and winked at me.
"Well what do you expect, I've told her how good you are in the sack. I can't blame her for wanting a sample!" Eva grinned.
"Oh Christ, and you wouldn't be annoyed?"
"Of course not Pete. Jealous that Tanya had found somewhere to get you alone with my brother and parents watching us like hawks. But annoyed that you'd rung her bells for her, never! Damn, I think I'll invite her up to Uni for a few days on a visit; how do you fancy a threesome?"
At the time she suggested it, I really couldn't tell whether Eva was joking or not; the girl has the weirdest sense of humour. But eventually I did get several very tiring weekends as a result of that Easter visit. Eva and Tanya were very close and apparently shared everything; well they did at that time!
At home, I saw Phil and Polly a couple of times and they were still pretending that there was nothing going on between them. I honestly wondered how long they intended to go on playing their silly game. I didn't get to do much more than give Polly a brief kiss when we first met and another at the station when they dropped me off for my train. No real chance to wind Phil up anyway.
There was something odd about the letters Polly sent me that term. After about the second or third one, she'd stopped mentioning Phil at all. Of course, I didn't enquire about him in my letters to her, because I didn't want to push it and bring things to a head. If I did that, there was a distinct chance Polly would stop writing to me altogether.
What was more curious, was all my other mates ... Well, the few that I was still in regular contact with by telephone, informed me that they hadn't seen either Phil or Polly around town for some time.
Then about a month later, Eva pointed out to me, that one of Polly's letters bore a Bristol postmark. When we checked, her two previous letters had both been posted there as well.
Immediate enquires of my mother, informed me that Polly had been sent down west somewhere by her employer. On some sort of training course, my mother thought. Mother seemed as nonplussed as I was, that Polly hadn't told me about it in her letters.
Once again the explanation I got from my dad didn't match my mother's. But then I didn't expect it to, because my dad got his information via his cronies down the Crown and Anchor. Dad seemed to be under the impression that Polly had been transferred to her employers Bristol office to cover for some woman who was on maternity leave.
Neither of my parents knew anything about Philip, probably because they no longer really socialised with his parents anymore. Then from several of my other old mates, I learnt that Philip Caine was no longer playing with the local Second Team either. He was over twenty-one by then and had made a few appearances for the junior side. The two possible explanations put forward were; either he didn't make the grade and had been ditched by the club; or he'd been transferred to another team. But no one knew for sure.
The second theory got me thinking; Bristol has got two professional football clubs, City and Rovers. The possibility struck me that Phil might have transferred to one of them. And Polly most probably had followed him down there. Why else would she suddenly relocate down west? She'd been there for a good couple of months, far to long, I figured, for a company-training course.
As subtly as I knew how, I broached the subject of her relocation in my next letter to Polly. About a week latter I received a letter back from her informing me that she had gone down there on a training course. But whilst she was there a woman had applied for maternity leave, Polly claimed to have volunteered to fill in for the pregnant woman for the experience. Polly wrote that she had it figured, that stepping into the breach was effectively a promotion for her and might be good for her prospects in the company in the long term.
She mentioned that she hadn't sent me her temporary address and relied on her mother sending my letters on because she had only just found herself some long-term accommodation. The address she did send was of a flat she was apparently sharing with some other girl. Polly made no mention of Philip, nor did she say how long she expected to be staying in the City.
For some reason, Eva didn't think much of my idea that Polly had relocated to be near Philip, or that possibly she was even sharing a flat with him.
"Jesus Peter, what are the bloody chances of Polly's firm sending her on a training course in Bristol at the same time as this Philip gets a transfer to a football team in the city. Come off it, the odds on that happening are too long to calculate." Eva said to me.
"Well of course, there always was the possibility that Philip had got himself a transfer to a Bristol team, just to be near Polly." I suggested.
"Give over, and what was he intending to do, get a transfer back again, when Polly moves back home? Blimey, you've got no proof that anything romantic has ever gone on between those two; you just assumed that they are together."
"Eva, everyone keeps telling me that they have been going out together for years now."
"Everyone! Who the hell is everyone? Your old mates who tell you they've seen them together. Well Pete, don't I remember you telling me that the three of you did everything together, even climbing bloody mountains?"
"Rock climbing Eva, we used to go rock climbing together."
"What's the difference, mountains are made of rock aren't they? Anyway you're trying to change the subject. The three of you were always together, you go off to Uni and that leaves the two of them. Remove any one from the three, and the other two would be together wouldn't they?"
"And if it was Polly who had gone off to Uni, would you have still been hanging around with Philip?"
"Well I suppose so, but..."
"No buts Pete. You told me a long time ago that Polly said she couldn't or wouldn't choose between you. What makes you think she changed her mind now?"
"I don't know Eva. Just that Phil's had a clear run at her I suppose. Besides that was then and this is now. People can change their minds you know."
"Yeah, but all I know it is, that girl has been writing to you almost every damned week since you started Uni. That isn't just friendship, that's bloody devotion in my eye."
"Well that's probably why she hasn't come out and told me about her and Philip."
"Oh Christ, you don't 'alf talk a load of crap sometimes Peter. Write to the girl and tell her how you feel about her for Chris'ake!"
I went on to explain why I'd never intentionally brought things to a head. I'd kind of hoped that when I'd finished my studies and got back home, I'd have another shot at Polly. Assuming she hadn't married Phil in the meantime that is. Eva made it very clear that she thought I was off my rocker and the conversation came to an abrupt end.
Eva could get very frustrated with me on occasions and she was inclined to show it.
Polly's letters for some inexplicable reason began to get a little longer. In them, she told me about her new temporary job and all the places she and her new flatmate went in their spare time. Bristol is a university city and apparently has plenty of nightspots for all the students.
But by that, time Eva was editing, or rather censoring my replies to Polly. So that, as Eva put it, I didn't stick my bloody great size nines in it. It was Eva's idea to make her sound more like just another student friend sharing my flat than I had been doing previously when writing to Polly.
As soon as I finished my exams that spring, my company shipped me off to Canada again for another four weeks stint in the laboratories over there. That visit was a little more interesting than the first, because I knew nearly everyone by then. One very tasty young lady, Chanice, who had been engaged during my previous visit, had broken up with her man in the ensuing eleven months, and I got to know her, intimately, whilst I was there.
I suppose that technically some people could say that Chanice used me. But in that respect, I used Chanice as well, we both knew that we were going nowhere in the long term. I had a really great time with her, no strings attached. Having been with her ex since their schooldays, she definitely wasn't looking for a long-term relationship. As she put it herself, "I just want to have a little safe fun." By "Safe" Chanice, meant having fun with someone who wouldn't brag around the company that he'd bedded her almost every night whilst he was in town.
I have no idea why Chanice had immediately decided that I weren't the kind of guy to go blowing my own whistle and spreading it around that I'd bedded her; in the hope it would earn me some kudos with my peers. But I can assure everyone that that ain't my scene!
Although she was just a little curious on where I'd picked-up my "technique" (Chanice's word for it) in bed. I'm afraid that I did eventually tell her about my somewhat unconventional relationship with Eva. She asked me to compliment Eva on her teaching skills when I got back to the UK.
I think it was during the week before I was due to fly back home that the cryptic email message arrived in the front office from Eva. How the hell she'd managed to talk someone in my home office to send it to me, I don't know, but she obviously had.
It is imperative that you go and visit Polly in Bristol as soon as you get back into the country. I can't explain any further. Polly can explain everything, but you'll probably have to push her. It's very important that you get down there as soon as you can.
Missing you, tons of love