Tuesday 2 June 2020

Episode 9 Sean

by Janet Howson

a Pina Colada, shaken with ice

Sean peered into his mirror, screwing his eyes up in attempt to distort the image. He couldn’t disguise the fact any longer by brushing his hair forward or constantly wearing a cap. He was going bald. Not even just a little bit bald, this was undeniably very bald. What a nightmare, what a tragedy. His reputation as a ladies’ man would be ruined. He would just have to join that dubious list of pathetic bald gits that he had always laughed at.
    “I could always shave my head. That would be trendier.” He said to his reflection. It would also have the effect of making him look like a football thug. All he would need would be the tattoos and an earring. Also, he didn’t think it would go down too well at work. He had been on the buses now for ten years and he didn’t want to lose his job. He had rent to pay, a car to run and an expensive social life.
    He was forty, single and was desperate to settle down and have children He had joined a drama group to try and meet a girl, someone, who like him, enjoyed the theatre and and had a love of acting. He had fallen madly in love with Debbie but she was happily married to Tommy and although they had flirted with each other and had the odd cuddle at parties when Tommy was babysitting for Debbie’s two children, it was all infatuation from afar. He had been cast as Demetrius in ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’, their next production and Debbie was cast as Helena, so they were in the same scenes together. However, he must move on as there was obviously no future with his relationship with Debbie. They were just friends.
    So, Sean had gone on to Tinder to try his luck there. He had swiped a few respectable looking ladies and had a match with one of them. Her name was Christina, and they had arranged to meet tonight at the Cobblers Rest pub. It wasn’t far from his flat, he could walk it in twenty minutes.
    He had one more mirror check, grabbed his jacket, wallet and phone, locked his flat door and made his way down the two flights of stairs and out of the main entrance on to St Anne’s Lane.
    Arriving early at the pub he looked around to see if she had already arrived. No sign yet so he went to the bar to order himself a larger. It was unusually quiet, but then again it was a Tuesday night. Friday and Saturday would be packed out. Larger in hand he chose a table where he could see who was entering from the car park. He hoped she looked like her photograph. He had heard horror stories of friends who had arranged to meet someone and they had turned out to look nothing like the photograph they had put on Tinder.
    Sean checked his watch. She was late. People started to arrive in groups, pairs but no one on their own. The only female on her own, was sitting in the alcove by the window, head buried in a book, glancing up now and then to scan the pub. It was not his date though as she was blonde and this lady had dark shoulder length hair. She was a lot younger as well, looked about twenty one.
    Half an hour and another larger later, Sean started to accept the fact that she wasn’t coming. He had a number for her but was loath to ring it. If she couldn’t make it she should have rung him. Oh well, might as well go back to the flat and watch a bit of catch up on U Tube he thought.
    Sean put his jacket on and started to make his way to the door when he heard, “Excuse me, are you Mike?”
    He turned round it was the girl from the alcove, clutching her drink and handbag.
    “Sorry, were you talking to me?” Sean asked.
    “Yes. I wondered if you were Mike who I am supposed to be meeting? It’s just that I saw you were checking your watch and phone. I am Veronica?”
    “No, I’m not Mike, but I was supposed to be meeting a girl I have never met before, about half an hour ago but she hasn’t turned up. Is yours a Tinder date?”
    Veronica looked embarrassed. Sean wondered why she would need to find a date through Tinder. She was young, attractive and dressed well.
    “Yes, this is my third attempt. The first one turned out to be married and wanted a bit on the side and the second one was so quiet I felt I was having a one sided conversation all the time and this one just hasn’t turned up!”
     Sean laughed. “So we have both been stood up then.” He paused before adding, “As we obviously have nowhere to go and no one to go with, would you fancy staying on and having another drink? I really don’t fancy an evening on U Tube with a bag of popcorn.”
     “Sounds good to me, let me buy you one. What are you drinking?”
    “No, I suggested it so I’m buying. What’s your poison?”
    Could I have a Pina Colada, shaken with ice? I have loved it since I went with friends to Mexico. I’ll go and see if my seat is still empty by the window.”  She turned and wound her way back to the alcove.
    Sean went to the bar and put in his order. There were eyebrows raised at the Pina Colada but the barmaid sorted it out and armed with this, another larger and two packets of crisps, Sean made his way to were Veronica was sitting.
    “Your order, madam,” he joked as he placed the drinks and crisps on the table. “If you don’t want the crisps I’ll eat them, no problem.”
    “You won’t, I’m starving. I get too nervous to eat when going on a date for the first time, thanks.” She ripped open the bag and consumed the contents rapidly taking sips of her Pina Colada, that was festooned with an umbrella and a cherry on a stick, making it difficult to drink without taking an eye out.
    “So, what do you do for a living, Veronica?”
    Veronica replied through a mouthful of crisps, “I work at ‘Short Cuts’, in the town centre. I hope to open my own hairdressing salon one day. I also have clients I visit at home. Always wanted to be a hairdresser, I love it, although it is tiring standing on my feet all day. What about you? I don’t even know your name?”
    “It’s Sean and I work on the buses but I don’t want to open my own my own bus company.”   
    She laughed. “So what are your interests? Do you have any hobbies?”
    “I love the theatre and I belong to an amateur drama group. We meet once a week on a Wednesday and literally every day of the week when it comes to a production. We are doing ’Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the moment.”
    “Oh, I did that in my first year at secondary school. I always wanted to play, Titania. Don’t tell me you're playing Bottom?”
    Sean was impressed she obviously liked Shakespeare, what a find? “No I am Demitrius. I should really be at home going over my lines, we have got the dress rehearsal tomorrow… but I would much prefer having a drink with you though,” he added hastily.
    Veronica wiped the crisp crumbs from her mouth, “Well, Sean, Why don’t I go through your lines with you? Have you got your script?”
    Sean was quite surprised, “No, but my flat is only up the road. Would you like to come back and we could have another drink and you could read the other parts. I am afraid I cannot offer Pina Colada though.”
    Veronica was already on her feet, “Brilliant idea. It’s getting a bit crowded in here anyway. No problem about the drink. A glass of wine will do me fine.” She drained her glass and put it on the table.
    Sean downed the remainder of his larger. “Right, off we go then.” He paused, “Actually I’ll just get a bottle of wine from the bar. Back in a tick.”
    He lent on the bar waiting for service. He felt a hand on his arm. “Are you Sean?”
    He turned, he recognised her immediately, it was the girl he was supposed to be meeting from Tinder. He froze, “I er, yes I am Sean, I thought you weren’t coming, you are very late.”
    “I am so sorry. My car wouldn’t start so I got the train and had to walk from the station and then I realised my phone had run out of battery so I couldn’t tell you. Am I too late?” She looked so dejected and Sean felt sorry for her. What a dilemma? Sean could never say no to a pretty girl.
    “Look, I have made other arrangements now, so how about we meet tomorrow? Same time same place? Let me buy you a drink though. You must be exhausted.”
    “No, I think I’ll head off back. My fault, I am hopeless at keeping my phone topped up.” With that she turned and left the pub. Sean watched her leave. What had he done? Two dates on one evening?
    He bought the wine and returned to the alcove where Veronica was finishing off a text message, unaware of his encounter. “Are you fit? Got the wine so let’s hit the road.”
   He tried to push his feelings of guilt to the back of his mind, justifying it by telling himself it wasn’t his fault.
    It wasn’t until he and Veronica had left the pub that he realised he had just made an arrangement to meet Christina, on the day of the crucial dress rehearsal tomorrow. He couldn’t let her down though. Not after tonight’s disaster. At least he would be going through his lines tonight. Shirley, the director, and the rest of the cast would understand.  He rarely missed rehearsals. Someone would stand in for him. He could give Jason a quick ring and see if he could read his part for him.
    Consoling himself with that thought, he prepared himself for an enjoyable evening with a girl he knew had the same interests as him. He would worry about tomorrow when the time came.

About the Author

Janet taught Drama and English for 35 years in several Comprehensive schools, directing a lot of plays, some of which she wrote herself. She was spurred to start writing again when she found a folder of forgotten poetry she had written years ago. She is now enjoying writing short stories and is honoured to have been chosen to be published in The Best of CafeLit and also Nativity  a Bridge House publication. Her first published book Charitable Thoughts is now out at last and available on Amazon Books.

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