Sandra sat in the booth in the corner, toying with her drink. A vodka and coke, it was her second. She had arrived early, only by twenty minutes, but she wanted some time here to sit and think, to prepare herself. The bar was dimly lit despite being the middle of the day. The windows were all high up and tinted, only opened occasionally to allow some of the cigarette smoke to drift outside. The place was dingy and a little seedy, it was the last place she would ever willingly go. For the last five minutes she had begun to get nervous, where was he? A few of the other patrons were eyeing her up. One looked like he was getting ready to come over when the door opened and Brad walked in. All heads turned to look at him, he raised one hand in greeting to Sandra and went to the bar. The man who looked like he was about to approach her settled down again, throwing a scowl in Brads direction. Sandra let out a small breath of relief. Coming here early had been a mistake. One she wouldn’t make again.
Brad placed his drink onto the table and slid into the opposite side of the booth.
“What did you want to talk about?”
“Don’t I even get a hello first?”
“No. Fuck hello, fuck everything else, just tell me what you want.”
Brad looked around the bar, then sighed, “You know this place is much friendlier during the evening. Obviously it isn’t that way all through the day. If I had realised I would have picked somewhere better to meet.”
Sandra took a sip of her drink, she wanted to yell at him, scream, but she needed to keep calm. Keep her composure.
“Hello Brad. How have you been?”
Brad sat up a little straighter and smiled, his teeth were far too white. “I’ve been good Sandra. How have you been?”
“I’ve been ok I guess. Things could be better but then that’s just life, isn’t it?”
He tilted his head slightly and frowned, “aw, do you want to talk about it?”
“No. I don’t. Not with you. Thank you.”
He shrugged, the grin returning, “Ok, just thought I’d offer.”
“Look, can we just get this over with. People will get suspicious if we’re seen together.”
“Why would they be suspicious, we’re old friends.”
“Old friends who haven’t spoken in two years. Old friends who refuse to be in the same room as one another. That kind of old friend?”
He took a gulp of his drink and sighed in pleasure, “Exactly. Look people will just think we’re patching things up.”
“Yeah, great, after that then what? We’ll have to see each other all the time.”
“No we won’t. If anyone asks just say I called a meeting to make peace and it didn’t go well. Tell them I was a dick or something. I don’t mind being the bad guy.”
Sandra scowled at her drink, “That’s because you are the bad guy.”
Brad clutched at his chest, “What? I’m not a bad guy, I’m hurt.” He jutted out his lower lip, which trembled and his eyes began to fill with tears.
“Cut the theatrics. It might have amused me before but it certainly doesn’t now.”
His face smoothed out to neutral, “fine. If you want to keep it professional and distant I can do professional and distant.”
“Good. Does that mean you’re finally going to tell me why we’re meeting?”
He nodded, “I was worried about you. I wanted to check in.”
Sandra let out a loud bark of laughter, the patrons all turned their heads to look at them. She coughed, cheeks going slightly red, “You didn’t care about me then and you don’t care about me now. I am under no delusions otherwise and you will not convince me either.”
“I seriously was concerned. I heard you weren’t sleeping well, having nightmares and-”
“Who told you that?”
“Does it matter?”
“Yes, yes it fucking well does. I don’t want you in my life. I don’t want people who will talk to you about stuff like that in my life. Who. Told. You.”
Brad sighed again, “I promised I wouldn’t tell and you know I don’t break my promises.”
“You’ve broken ones you’ve made to me.”
“No, I haven’t. I just fulfilled them in ways you weren’t expecting.”
She grinned at him, but her eyes didn’t smile.
“You can keep telling yourself that all you like. Now if that was all?”
Sandra started to stand.
“Sit. Please. There are some other things too.”
She settled herself down.
“It’s always games with you. Just get to the point.”
“I’m trying ok, it isn’t easy me to be direct.”
Sandra moved back slightly, startled by the intensity of his tone.
He sighed, “Look, I’m sorry ok?”
His face relaxed a little, Sandra noticed how tired he looked, the bags under his eyes, the pale colour of his skin. Sandra opened her mouth to ask if he was ok, but she shut it. She didn’t care. Nope. Not at all.
“I’ve been thinking. About what happened. I think maybe we should tell someone.”
“It’s been two years now, I mean we probably won’t get in too much trouble. They have a right to know.”
“They have a right to fuck all. Do not say a fucking word. It’s taken me this long to start to get over it. I’m finally putting it behind me and you go and drag me back with this bullshit? No. No no no. You don’t get to do this to me. We swore, swore we would never breathe a word about it again to anyone. Ever. I’m sticking to that. If you try and tell anyone else, anyone at all, I’ll deny it. Say it’s lies, rumours. You’re trying to fuck up my life again. People will believe it too you crazy goddamned bastard!” She shouted the last word, she hadn’t realised her voice had been getting louder and louder. Sandra was breathing hard, her eyes didn’t move from Brads.
“Are you ok?”
“Huh? Oh. Yeah. I’m fine thank you.”
The man from earlier looked at Brad for a second, then back to Sandra and nodded once. “I’ll be just over there. If you need help, any help at all everyone here will be more than happy to provide it.”
“Thank you. Things just got a little heated, but we’re fine now. I’m sorry to have bothered everyone.”
“That’s all right. Just wanted to make sure.”
He stood for a few seconds then turned and went back to his drink.
“What? Just what is so goddamned funny?”
“You. All “we need to keep it a secret” and you start shouting in the middle of a bar.”
She glared at him, “You know exactly why I was yelling.”
“Well, I can see you’re certain, that’s all I wanted to talk about.”
“I wanted to make sure you remembered the promise. That you weren’t going to say anything. That was all.”
“You…you absolute bastard.”
Brad grinned at her, “Every time.” He drained the last few mouthfuls of his drink and threw some money down onto the table. “There, that should cover your drinks. I did invite you here after all. Never let it be said that I am not a gentleman.” With that he turned and left the bar. Again everyone’s heads turned and followed him as he left, then they looked at Sandra for a moment before going back to whatever they were doing. No one approached her. Sandra was shaking, she could barely contain herself. She could not believe she had fallen for his stupid bullshit again. She thought she was past it now. She looked down at her drink, still mostly full and swallowed it all. She let out a slow breath, she couldn’t drive like this. Slowly she unclenched her hands, allowing them to relax.
Sandra stood from the booth and left, nodding to the man on the way out. It was jarring stepping out into the early afternoon sunshine after the darkness of the bar. She took a second to orientate herself, then she started walking towards her car. She stood in the parking lot for a moment, keys in the door of her car, looking around. She didn’t spot Brad anywhere, but then he always was a sneaky fuck. She relocked her car, turned and left the lot. First she’d stop in somewhere and get some food to sober up a little for the drive home and afterwards she would buy the biggest, cheapest bottle of alcohol she could find. After a day like today, she needed to get drunk.