by Janet Howson
a larger and a Pina Colada
This is exhausting I have never felt so tired in the whole of my life. Sean told his reflection in the bathroom mirror. I can’t keep this up for much longer, he added. He peered at the bags under his eyes. He knew he would have to make a decision.
He was, he had to admit to being, a two timer. He never meant it to happen but since the tinder date when Christina was late and Veronica thought he was her tinder date, he had been seeing them both. He had even made a weekly calendar that he had stuck on his kitchen memo pad. Monday - Murder Mystery rehearsal
Tuesday – Veronica
Wednesday – Murder Mystery rehearsal
Thursday – Christina
Saturday – Christina
Sunday – shopping, cleaning, learning lines.
This is going to kill me I will have to make a choice. With that he pulled away from the mirror, brushed his teeth checked his shirt was clean and went to find his coat. It was Saturday and so therefore a Christina night. He had arranged for them to go to The Cobblers Rest Pub and then on to see a film. He hoped he wouldn’t fall asleep in the cinema, the way he was feeling at the moment it was certainly a possibility. He had half an hour to walk to the pub. He should be able to do that easily.
The sound of the doorbell gave Sean a start. Who would be calling round at seven o clock on a Saturday night. Unless it was an Amazon Prime delivery. He was expecting some books.
He opened the door expecting a delivery man but instead there was Veronica, smiling and as bubbly as ever. “Hya, surprise, surprise! I have been doing a friend’s hair down the road and I thought I would make your evening by calling round and seeing if you fancied going to the pub for a drink? My treat.” She had already passed him and entered the flat. “Have you eaten? I’m starving. Do you fancy a curry later?”
“Well I… the truth is Veronica I am already going to the pub with some old school mates. I really can’t let them down. So sorry. Perhaps we can do that on Tuesday when we’re meeting up anyway.” He could feel his heart beating against his ribs. It was one lie after the other.
“Oh, come on, Sean, live a little. I am sure your mates won’t mind me tagging along. As it happens a client of mine mentioned she was going to The Cobblers Rest Pub, so I could always chat to her if the worst came to the worst.” She pecked Sean on the cheek.
“I erm…” Sean was completely out of his depth, he just couldn’t think of a way out of it. Then an idea struck him. “Hold on for a couple of minutes I have just got to make a phone call.”
He ran into his bedroom and punched in Christina’s number. No response. She must have her phone off. Sean remembered she was driving there. He was just going to have to brazen it out. Perhaps Christina wouldn’t turn up or Veronica would think better of hijacking his ‘night out with the lads.’
“You coming, Sean?”
“Yes, I’m ready.” He hoped his voice didn’t give away his nerves.
“He shut his bedroom door and turned to see Veronica coming out of the kitchen
“Just grabbing myself a quick drink from your secret squirrel store of wine in the fridge. Cheeky I know but I knew you wouldn’t mind.” She linked Sean’s arm and steered him towards the front door. “I think this is going to be a good night.” She grinned at Sean, who was silently saying to himself, this was likely to be a really bad night. He felt completely out of control. It was as if he was being swept along by a strong tide, unable to turn or fight against it. How had he managed to get himself into such a predicament?
It didn’t take them long to get to the pub. He wasn’t sure what they talked about because he was worrying so much about arriving with Veronica on his arm and Christina waiting for him. This will teach him, never ever to two time! Then of course he had lied about the lad’s night out. He could fake a text cancelling it, he would do that now. He stopped in the car park.
“Hold on, Veronica, can I just look at this text message, it could be important.” He pretended to check his phone. “Oh, would you believe it? They have cancelled out. Something about overtime? Oh well, that solves that then. Why don’t we miss the pub and go to see a film instead?” Sean felt he had been given a life line. He would be able to text Christina with some excuse that he had some emergency to deal with and would have to give the pub a miss. It was not to be however.
“No way. I really fancy a drink. I can’t miss out on my Pina Colada on a Saturday night. We can go to the cinema afterwards. I don’t even know if there is anything decent showing. Come on let’s see if we can get the window seat. I like that table. You can see everyone coming in.”
Sean couldn’t think of a worse place to sit. He would be in Christine’s direct sight line. He shuddered at the thought of it. Would she throw a tantrum, slap him across the face, storm off or worse still, burst into tears.
Half dragged in, Sean went to the bar and Veronica headed straight for the window seat. Sean glanced round nervously. No sign of Christine yet. She was always late. He looked at the time on his phone, ten minutes late already.
“What can I do you for, mate?”
Sean came back to earth, “Sorry, miles away. A lager and a Pina Colada. Oh, and a packet of salt and vinegar, please.” He had remembered Veronica had said she was starving.
“I’m on it mate.” The barman was looking past Sean to where Veronica was sitting, “You not buying your other lady friend a drink?”
“What!” Sean spun round to see, much to his horror, Veronica sitting in the window with Christina next to her, chatting away amicably. This was his worst nightmare. What could he do now? Robotically he ordered Christina her usual glass of white wine. The barman was obviously enjoying the situation. He had seen Sean with both Christina and Veronica so he knew he was two timing.
“Is that all mate? Not expecting any more girlfriends?” He was on a roll now.
Sean payed for the drinks accepting his fate and made his way back to the window seat where the two girls were waiting. He put the tray on the table.
“Well, Sean. That must have been a bit of a shocker for your Tuesday and Friday date to turn up on a Saturday. Veronica has just been telling me about the calendar you keep on your fridge. I am down as your Thursday and Saturday date, squashed in amongst the drama rehearsals etc.” Christina looked at Sean accusatively, downing a gulp of white wine.
“Christina is one of my clients. I was doing her hair this afternoon and I was doing the usual ‘are you doing anything exciting tonight?’ She then told me all about meeting her boyfriend, Sean and going to the Cobbler’s Rest Pub. Well there’s a coincidence, I said, my boyfriend is called Sean and we drink at The Cobbler’s Rest Pub.” Veronica contributed.
Sean had frozen to the spot, holding his drink he didn’t know whether to sit down, stay standing or run for his life. “I er…”
“So, we thought we would merge into a double date. Drink first, then a curry followed by a late film, all paid for by you? It’s the least you can do.” Christina held her empty glass up towards him. “Same again, wine and Pina Colada. Oh, and I’ll have a packet of cheese and onion this time round.”
Sean struggled back to the bar to face the chuckling barman who was obviously enjoying every moment of it. This was going to cost him a fortune. He could make an excuse to go to the toilet and escape through the back door. However, they both knew where he lived and might follow him or track him down during the weekend. He wouldn’t be able to sleep worrying about it. He would go back with the drinks and apologise for his behaviour.
Having filled up the tray again he returned determined to fall on their mercy. “Look girls, I know I have been a complete idiot. It is just that I really like both of you and I didn’t want to offend either of you. I will willingly treat you to a night out and I expect that will be my swan song as you will not want to set eyes on me ever again.” He downed his lager in one. He needed that.
“Don’t drink too much. We thought you could go back for your car to drive us to that posh curry house that has just opened near the library. Then drive to the cinema. You owe us that much,” Veronica added.
Sean withdrew his hand from reaching out to his second lager. “Fair enough. I’ll go back now and come back for you.”
“Oh we’re not that daft,” Christina responded between sips of wine, “Give us five minutes and we’ll come with you. Knock that Pina Colada back, Veronica, we are in for a good night.
True to their word both girls finished their drinks and crisps in record time. Applied a coat of lipstick and were ready to go within the five minutes. “Hurry up, Sean,” they chorused. Sean followed them avoiding the scrutiny of the barman who was still following the saga with great interest.
Veronica and Christina strode on ahead arm in arm, chatting amiably. Sean kept a safe distance. There was no getting out of this. Serve him right. He had certainly learnt his lesson.
Once at the flat he headed for the car park but Veronica turned round. “Thought we’d have one for the road, Sean, from your secret squirrel store. We can book the restaurant as well. It is very popular and it is a Saturday night.”
There was no arguing with them so Sean went up to his flat and duly poured them a glass of wine each and googled the Indian restaurant. He did this in the kitchen as the reception was better. They were fully booked. Typical he thought. What else could go belly up this evening?
He heard a lot of laughing in the lounge as he returned to give them the bad news, “Sorry girls, fully booked. We could get a take-away from them?”
The hilarity continued, to the point where they were crying with laughter. Sean couldn’t work it out. What was so amusing? After a while they both stopped, wiping their eyes with bis tissues.
“Oh Sean. Your face when you saw us both together. Then all the back and forth to the bar and the restaurant booking and film. I have never seen anyone look so sorry for himself, have you Veronica?”
“Just like a little puppy who had an accident on the expensive furniture. I wish I could have taken a photo of it on my phone, it would have gone viral.”
“We are going to have to come clean, Sean. The conversation I had with Veronica whilst she was cutting my hair was not exactly as we described. I was telling her that I was meeting you to tell you I wanted to finish with you? I,ve met someone else and we have far more in common. Whereas Veronica loves the theatre and is far more your type. So, when we realised that you had been dating us both, we thought we’d teach you a lesson.”
“We guessed you were too much of a coward to choose between us and too nice to risk hurting our feelings,” Veronica continued. “I was really hurt at first but when Christina said to give you a second chance once she was off the scene I thought, well, why not? As long as you are still up for it?”
Sean looked from one girl to the other. He didn’t know whether to jump for joy or feel humiliated at being made a laughing stock, He chose the former. He knew it was the right decision. Christina was a sweet girl but they really had very little to talk about, whereas Veronica was so interested in his drama and had already offered to prompt at the Murder Mystery Evening. “Well, I must admit I was certainly fooled by your reaction. I deserved all I got. I am so sorry, girls. Should we get the take-away anyway as a final meal all together.”
“Nice idea but I think I will take a rain check. I am meeting my new feller in about an hour, so I will love you and leave you both. Have a great evening.” She kissed Veronica and then Sean on the cheek. “No hard feelings, Sean?”
“None whatsoever, I wish you good luck with your new man.”
Christina left the flat leaving Sean and Veronica on their own. “You know what, I really don’t fancy getting a take-away. Do you fancy a special Sean Spicy home made vegetable curry? A speciality of the house. Served with madame’s choice of side dishes and of course a Pina Colada.”
“I am impressed. You have the ingredients for all that and my favourite drink as well?”
“Perhaps I always knew we would end up together.”
“Then as a reward I will listen to your lines for the Murder Mystery Evening. I have got it in the diary. I am really looking forward to it. Did You say they were looking for new members?”
Sean couldn’t help but think that it had been worth all the embarrassment of the evening just to hear those words. He had found his soul mate at last.
About the Author
Janet Howson was born in Rochdale but moved to the South of England when she was seventeen. She loved writing and reading from an early age and wrote poetry and plays. She joined an amateur drama group when she was eighteen and her love of the theatre began. She trained to be a teacher and her two subjects were English and Drama. She then went on to teach for thirty-five years in Comprehensive schools in Redbridge, Havering and Essex. During this time, she wrote and directed plays for the pupils, ran drama clubs, worked with pupils from special schools, involving them in productions, worked with Chicken Shed after school and continued to be involved in amateur drama both as a performer and a director. Now she is retired, Janet has joined two writing groups and with the help and advice she has received from the other members, has started to write short stories and her first novel, ‘Charitable Thoughts’ has now been published. She intends to continue writing both novels and stories, adapting some of them into theatre scripts and radio plays.
The Best of CafeLit 8 an anthology published by Chapletown Books 2019
Stories included: Marking Time & Induction Day.
Nativity an anthology published by Bridge House 2019
Story included: Solution.
Charitable Thoughts a novella published by Austin Macauley
Can be found on Amazon Books
It happened in Essex tall tales from the Basildon Writers’ Group
Can be found on Amazon books