This is the ninth part of a fiction serial, in 864 words.
After that night at The Anchor, life took a mundane turn for a couple of years. Keith met a girl in his first year at Oxford, so we saw nothing of him. Susan told me that he spent all of his holidays staying at her parents’ house. They had some huge country pile somewhere near Maidenhead, and were obviously minted. Keith had told her on the phone that the house had a river frontage, and the dad took them out on a speedboat.
Terry’s wedding to Maria was so low key that two of us didn’t get an invitiation. Johnny did the Best Man thing, but they had a meal in a restaurant after, so no party. He had moved into the family home with his pregnant wife, and was running a plumbing business from there. We heard when the baby was born. It was a girl, and they called her Sophia. With Johnny hardly ever around, I at least had Susan for company.
And she was good company.
She was also still planning. The quiet wedding she hoped for was to be after my twenty-first birthday, by which time she would be twenty-six. That was mainly because I had to be that age to apply for a mortgage with her. I had been promoted at work, and was now checking claims instead of writing them up. It was only a modest promotion, but came with a salary increase of one third, all of which went into the house deposit fund.
Although we never talked about love, I was in love wth her. At least as far as my understanding of love extended at the time. I missed her when she wasn’t around, worried about her when she was ill, and never once stopped fancying her sexually. The prospect of a life together appealed to me, and I had stopped chasing other girls. To me, that all added up to love.
Helen was out of the game anyway. She had left the insurance company for a better-paid job at the head office of the firm where Trevor worked. I suspected that was also so she could keep an eye on him. She was destined to be a weekend football widow, and spend every Friday night on her own while he got pissed-up with his mates. She couldn’t see it, or maybe she could, and didn’t care.
Not that I wasn’t tempted.
The replacement for Helen was a perky girl called Nancy. She was only eighteen, and very lively. On day one, I could tell I was in with a chance. One of the benefits of working somewhere where eveyone was at least ten years older than me, most much older than that. Strangely, I didn’t make a move. I was actually fond enough of Susan by then to not want to cheat on her. Or perhaps I was just growing up at long last.
Then Johnny upset me. Really upset me.
We were in the Anchor one night, Susan and I. We had been to see a film, then popped into the pub for a couple of drinks before closing time. Johnny was at the bar with his dad, and looking the worse for drink. He left his dad spinning some tales with a few old blokes at the bar, and wandered over to where we were sitting.
“Janice is history. I told her that no girl of mine goes out drinking with someone else, oh no!” I knew about him splitting up with Janice over a year earlier, and wondered why he was telling me all over again. Could it be that he was going to grass me up in front of Susan? He sat down heavily on a spare chair, and leaned forward, grinning at Susan.
“So you reckon you and Danny here are gonna tie the knot, Susie?” She hated being called anything except Susan, and he knew it.
“Well, Susie girl, you should think again. I mean, you’re years older than us, ain’t ya? Do you wanna end up with a younger husband when you have lost yer looks and stuck at home with kids? You should see sense now, before it’s too late”. Susan shot me a look. So I asked Johnny to calm down, and to stop being rude. He stood up, scraping the chair noisily. People at the bar turned round as he shouted.
“Calm down? I still owe you a good hiding. You want it now? I’ll give you a slap in front of your bird, or we can go outside if you’re man enough”.
Before I could answer, Georgie had come over and grabbed his son, before the pub landlord could consider throwing Johnny out. We left then, and as we walked home, Susan started to cry. “Why was he so horrible to me? I have never done anything to him. And you are supposed to be his best mate. Why is he saying he wants to beat you up?” I told her he had too many drinks, and I would have a word with him next week.
But it was the police I had a word with. An anonymous tip-off, using a phone box near work.