“Jake’s married,” she said, “He’s no threat.”
I thought it better to say nothing. Whatever I said I was likely to dig a hole for myself.
“What are you getting her for her birthday?” was her next question.
I asked whose birthday she was talking about.
She told me that it would be Susie’s birthday the following Wednesday.
Paul wasn’t feeling very well on the Friday. Helen phoned me that morning. She was keeping him off school. He had a sore throat and a temperature. Her mum was going to look after him and she’d try to get him an appointment with the doctor. We agreed that it wouldn’t be a good idea to take him to the Parkrun, but she’d phone me on Saturday night if he looked likely to be okay for Sunday. I thanked her for letting me know.
That night, she phoned me again. Paul had been worse during the day. His ears and neck had been sore and he’d been very drowsy during the day. Helen had spoken to the doctor on the phone. She’d agreed that it was probably his tonsils, but that it would probably get better naturally in a few days to a week. There would be no need for antibiotics.
Helen seemed worried nevertheless. I asked if there was anything that I could do, but she said that she’d manage with her mum’s help but would keep me informed.
Before I got to the park on Saturday morning, I’d phoned Helen. Paul was looking a bit better and his temperature had decreased. She’d given him some painkilling liquid and throat lozenges.
When I reached the Altrincham park, several people, as well as those in my regular group, asked about Paul and wished him well. Susie said that I looked worried. I told her that I was a lot less worried now than I had been the previous day.
My time was off that morning. I’d had a rubbish run. Susie came up to me and told me not to worry. She’d been talking about Paul to some of the women as she’d gone round. They’d all assured her that he’d be fine in no time. Before I left for home, Susie called me back. The people from the Thursday training group were all going out for a meal on the Sunday evening and, if I could make it, I’d be welcome to come. I said that I’d definitely go.
I made a note of where to go and at what time. I thanked her for asking and said that I’d see her on the Sunday.
My spirits were lifted when I got back home and found a letter offering me the job with the NHS supplier – subject to a couple of conditions relating to avoiding conflict of interest between the salaried job and the website business.
During the afternoon, I bought a ‘Special Friend’ birthday card and posted it. I knew that it wouldn’t be collected until the Monday. I thought that it was weird. Our birthdays were only a day apart – mine on the 17th March, hers on the 18th. I wondered how old she would be. I had no idea whether it would be proper to buy her a present – or what to choose if it were. I was especially worried that I shouldn’t do anything that could be construed as inappropriate. I’d hate her to think that I was stalking her.
Dinner and afters
I rang Susie that afternoon, just to confirm that it wasn’t going to be a black-tie affair on the Sunday. She said that, if I had to ask that, I must be the only man she knew who actually owned a dinner jacket.
I still wasn’t sure what to wear when it got to Sunday. Helen always used to advise me, but I didn’t think it’d be a good idea to consult her. I turned up, fingers crossed, in an open-necked shirt under a black pullover with black jeans and black moccasins.
Susie and her friends were already at a table near the bar. They invited me to join them. I offered to buy drinks, but everyone was already drinking. I stood at the bar waiting for my drink and watched Susie as she chatted to Debbie and Jake. In her red and black floral-patterned wrap-over dress she looked jaw-droppingly beautiful. She must have been to the hairdresser because her hair looked particularly amazing.
“Put your tongue back in,” came a voice from my side, “and stop drooling.” It was Jenny, just arriving.
As she passed me, I noticed how she was dressed.
“Hi, Jenny,” I said, “I didn’t recognise you with your clothes on.” I know. It must have sounded corny.
Susie shot a sharp look in my direction.
“Nearly on,” I heard her mutter.
I saw what she meant. Jenny’s low-cut top and short skirt left little to the imagination.
Jenny turned to me and fingered the material of my pullover.
“You smarten up pretty well Paddy,” she said, “especially with those clothes on.”
Out of the corner of my eye I could see that Susie was glaring at us.
When we reached the long, rectangular table in the dining area that had been reserved for us, I was disappointed that Susie seemed to be seated almost as far away from me as she could get. Just my luck I thought. I was sat between Debbie and Jenny. They both seemed determined to interrogate me about my divorce and family life. I answered as best I could.
Later, as we were sat near the bar and I was talking to Jake, Jenny came and sat on my knee, putting an arm around my shoulders. I didn’t know where to look or put my hands. I hadn’t seen, or been as close to, so much bare flesh since I’d been married. She seemed determined to provoke me. She started to tell me how she liked my aftershave. I thanked her but apologised and told her that I needed to take a leak.
Even when I was coming back from the Men’s Room, she managed to waylay me at the partition between the two room areas, leaning right into me. She said that if I was having any difficulty finding an employer, her Dad owned a catering company and she was sure that she could put in a good word for me. I thanked her for her suggestion but told her that I’d now got a job offer that I’d be accepting.
When I got back to my chair Susie had gone.
Today my featured photo is one that I took, with permission from station staff, at the underground station at Liverpool Lime Street because I wanted to capture the reflections of the lights as a train entered the platform.
he Exif data are as follows: Pentax K-3ii 24 MP cropped sensor camera and 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens @ 60 mm and f/8. Shutter speed was 1/100 secs and the ISO 800. The shot was mounted on a tripod and post processed in Lightroom Classic.