Chapter 1 - Two pints, a lemon squash and a pinot
Sandra tried to catch the barmaid's eye, but just couldn't get it. It was pretty clear to Sandra that it was deliberate. They were around the same age, but Sandra knew she wore it better. She tried not to look annoyed – there but for the grace of God and all that - but come on, was it really necessary to serve all the good looking men first? Really, all the men when it came down to it, because it wasn't like there were that many prospects at this dingy little back alley pub late on a rainy Wednesday afternoon.
Sandra looked the barmaid up and down. She tried a smile, but no, that didn't work either. Shit, maybe she should have sent Gerry. The barmaid was just his type. Or rather, Gerry was hers.
"What'll be love?" Sandra went to answer, but then saw that the barmaid was looking not at her, but at the man standing right next to her, just slightly too close. He'd managed to appear at her side without her realising it. She opened her mouth, ready to make her view on the situation clear. But then she glanced at him again. It wasn't the eyes – but only because she hadn't seen them yet. Strangely enough, it was his profile. An odd thing to catch your attention, but there was something about it. He looked regal. He held himself like he knew he could drink in better establishments, but chose to be here. Everything about him was slightly off, but together it fitted. Grey hair, grey eyes and a bit of an office pallor. But on him it looked, well, silver rather than grey. Not all that tall, but tall enough. And there was a quietness. Like he didn't need to make any noise to be heard. He was used to being noticed.
Sandra blinked and realised that both the barmaid and this man were looking at her. "Umm, sorry?"
"I said I would have a pinot and whatever you're having." He looked her dead in the eye with just a suggestion of a sly grin on his face. He didn't need to look her up and down for Sandra to know exactly why he wanted to buy her a drink. And for Sandra to know she wanted to accept.
"Oh, thank you, but that's ok. It's my round you see." Sandra gestured over to her boys. Shit, good one Sandra. What if he thinks you're with one of them. "My boys you see, we just finished a case, so I'm shouting."
"And did you win? Your case I mean."
"Of course. That's what we do." Lame reply. So lame. Why was it always necessary to prove herself?
"Well then, I'd like to buy you and your boys a round. But only if you join me in the corner." He gestured with his head in the other direction from Jack, Brian and Gerry.
Oh hell yes, thinks Sandra. "Ok. Sure. Why not." Sandra flashed him a smile.
"I'm Sandra". She said as she held out her hand, ready to shake his. He took it, but lightly. A touch, rather than a shake. But at the same time he put his left hand on her shoulder and leaned in to kiss her cheek. A guess you'd call it a kiss, but he's barely touched her.
"John." Oh, this guy was good.
She turned to the barmaid. "Um, two pints, a lemon squash and." Think quick and think classy. "Actually, I'll have a pinot as well".
"Make it a bottle." Said the silvery stranger.
He'd kept his distance at first. John. Well only if you measured time in seconds. It had taken just two sips before he'd touched her arm. And not her forearm, up near her bicep (such that it was). Disarmingly close to her breast. It had taken until just before the end of her first glass before his hand was on her knee.
"So what brings you to this dive? It doesn't fit?"
"Are you saying I don't fit? That's lovely Sandra." But he gave her thigh an oh so light squeeze as he said it.
"No. I didn't mean you didn't fit here. This place doesn't fit you. Sorry, they sound the same when I say them out loud, but in my head they're different. I guess I mean I don't know why you would choose to drink here when you clearly could do better." She tilted her head, put her hand on his and curled her lip in to a half smile. "Explain yourself."
"I work down the road. And it wasn't a particularly good day. And when it's not a particularly good day I come here. For a drink by myself. In a place where I won't bump in to anyone I know. You can be certain of that at a place like this."
"Oh right, I get it" Sandra said as she removed her hand from his and rested it on the table, next to her drink. "Sure. I get it. You're slumming it. In which case, I think the barmaid's more your speed." Sandra looked him in the eye. Determined not to look down.
"No. I'm sorry Sandra. That didn't come out right. I did have a bad day. But a bad day isn't someone losing money, it's some losing a couple of years of their life. And sometimes I come here when the choice is drink in the dark by myself in my dingy kitchen, or come here and drink by myself in a crowd. And this place is close to work, and it's anonymous." He didn't move his hand. He held her gaze. There was something about him that was deeply attractive. She couldn't figure out how he had managed to be both vulnerable and self assured, all at the same time.
"I thought I wanted to have a drink alone. But then I saw you at the bar, and I knew I wanted that drink to be with you. And in what is almost certainly the best part of my day so far, we're talking about my bad day. When I'd much rather talk about you." John moved his hand off her thigh and placed it over her hand on the table. Sandra let him and kept his gaze.
Maybe, Sandra thought. Maybe this time it would stick.