The latest prompt from Black Ship Books was written by none other than yours truly! So, I had to answer it, right? Remember to let me know what you think.
"Here's the Wreck," said Tom, nodding towards the entrance to the bar.
Susie merely nodded but Mandy was curious. “The Wreck? Are they a group?”
Tom and Susie laughed. “The Wreck is a she,” the girl replied and nodded at a woman who was weaving her way between the tables towards the bar. She carried two full carrier bags but in the dim light of the bar it was impossible to see what they contained. “Comes here at 5pm on the dot every other Thursday. Regular as clockwork.”
“But why do you call her...?”
The woman had arrived at the bar, now, and while she gave Susie her order, Mandy took the opportunity to observe her. Her hair hung in a limp pony-tail down her back and her clothes had definitely seen better days. A generous estimate might put her in her late thirties. She could not sit still for more than a couple of seconds and her eyes were over-bright. Whatever she had taken, it was a lot and it was recently. Drinking on top of that probably was not the best idea but she was an adult, legally capable of making such decisions for herself.
Caught up in thoughts somewhere between pity and disgust, Mandy did not realise that she was openly staring at the woman until she turned her head to say, “Take a picture, love...” but the words died on her lips. Sudden recognition added further light to those too-bright eyes; in fact, her whole face changed, became for an instant the face of a girl that Mandy had gone to school with.
“Mands! I haven't seen you in forever! How long have you been working here?”
For Mandy, recognition was like a physical blow to the gut. She clung to the bar to steady herself as she stared in disbelief at the woman sitting on the other side. “Charlie...” she gasped, at last, and with the name came a flood of memories.
Charlotte Hampton was the belle of the school. She was clever, she was athletic, she was popular, she was pretty – and she had the kind of hair that you could do anything with. She was everything that young Amanda Shepherd wanted to be. But every overture of friendship was snubbed. Charlie went out of her way to behave as if Mandy did not exist on some occasions and put all her effort into deliberately making her life a misery on others. There was the time she had left Mandy standing in the gym for over a minute before picking her for her team, pretending that she could not see her until at last even the teacher got bored with the game. Another time, Charlie had held her birthday party a week early just so that it clashed with Mandy's; and guess whose party everyone had gone to...
And now, after changing schools when she did her A Levels and moving to another city to go to university, suddenly Charlie was here in front of her, behaving as if they were long lost friends. Before Mandy could decide exactly how to react, Charlie spoke again.
“I was such a shit to you, wasn't I? But I was so jealous of you. I didn't know how to be your friend and keep everything else.”
“You were jealous of me...” Mandy stared at her in disbelief.
The other woman nodded vaguely, her mind clearly at some point in the past. “You seemed to have yourself figured out while the rest of us were arguing over whether One Direction were sexier than The Wanted. You were even in the chess club! It takes a special kind of determination to be in a school chess club.” She took a good swallow of her drink as she considered this. “God, I loved chess.”
“How did I go from the queen of school to... this? It's a familiar enough story. Wrong crowd, no willpower; I won't bore you with the details. Now, I collect my giro every fortnight, buy 14 Pot Noodles and two big bottles of White Lightning, score and then come here for my treat.” She held up her glass. “I don't steal and I'm not on the game... Not now... But I envy your life more than ever.”
Mandy felt tears pricking her eyes as she looked at her former rival. “Maybe we could play chess sometime? I brought my old set with me...”
“That's all right, Mands. The past is the past.” She swallowed down the end of her drink and got up to leave. “See you in a fortnight,” she said to Susie and Tom and left.
“I've never heard her say more than two words before,” commented Susie as they all stared after the retreating figure. “If you'd've asked, I'd have said she was too far gone to string a sentence together.”
“She was the cleverest girl in our class,” murmured Mandy. “Always had the right answer. And it only made her more popular! I was clever and I was a geek...”
“That's kids for you, though, isn't it?” asked Tom. “Who can make sense of the things they used to do in school when they look back? I'd probably have teased you but only because I wanted to bang you.”
“You have such a way with words, Tom” Susie laughed, rolling her eyes.
“That's why you love me! Well, here comes the rush,” he said, as the door opened to reveal half a dozen men in suits and ties. “Remember, smiles equal tips!”
And then the night was just another night in the bar.
No comments found.