I yawned as my eyes drew to the clock across the opposite wall. It almost watered as a result. I turned the swivel chair around a hundred-and-eighty degree to see what Myra had been up to. There were pros and cons about working with a best friend. We shared the same enthusiasm on the early hours of the shift, surged through the mid-hour, and both toiled at the remaining four hours of it. We supported each other, laughed at opportune moments and talked about anything yet individually confronted our tasks at hand professionally at different rates. At the same time, our personal lives often crossed paths with our working relationship and I always felt those two things should not coexist.
Since school started, my work hours had been limited to weekends. Since school started, I had been occupied with nurturing my relationship with Ric. The result of those reasons alone was the gradual decrease of my time with her and our friendship. She had just finished a phone call as I threw a crumpled paper at the back of her head.
“Ou-wie.” Myra playfully whimpered. She turned around rubbing her head with her right eye closed. Her wincing almost made me laugh.
“What are you up to tonight?”
“Very busy.” Her sarcasm was not only obvious but delightful at the last hour of our shift.
“Well, free up because I’m taking you out for a drink.” I needed someone’s thoughts in my head other than my own.
She pondered for a moment, “OK. I’ll ask if Ryan’s willing to go. He volunteered to pick me up and he’s probably outside waiting already. If not, then I’ll get him to drop me off.”
I smiled to speak no longer but could not disagree more. Her relationship with Ryan had hit a huge hurdle and I thought it was necessary for me to take her out for a breather as much my own. My opinions were unbiased since I cared for both of them. He was more good to her than bad and he was there when it mattered. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to keep them on the same page. I would hate to see them separate but it would be worse to see them hurt each other if they don’t. She turned around to take another call as I looked down to check my phone.
It was only then that I was able to read Ric’s text message since talking to him during my break, “Hey sunshine, don’t work too hard. My presence is yours if you need it.”
I swivelled the chair back to face my desk as if privacy was necessary. His spoken words were undoubtedly genuine and sometimes I couldn’t help but take advantage of those given offers. The notion of being with him sounded ideal but the guilt of not being there when Myra needed me had lingered too long.
“I’ll keep that in mind.” My reply concluded with a winking emoticon.
A few phone calls and stationary workloads managed to pass the time. Myra hinted me of the hour and seemed to have readied herself sooner and discreetly. I swiftly put my coat on as we both bid goodnight to our boss and exited the building to greet the crisp cold wind. The parking lot was the immediate vicinity outside the front doors and Ryan was, as expected, parked closer than where my car was.
“Beaver’s in half an hour.” I informed her of our date with hopes of no other company.
“Are there anyone else coming?” Her question wasn’t assuring for those hopes.
“I asked Matt but he said he was busy.” In retrospect, he would’ve understood although I didn’t even ask him.
Matt spoke his mind and his opinions were constructive. If I lacked support from others, I could almost guarantee one from him. Our friendship kept progressing since it started and I could always count on him. I despised being a third-wheel and he was always up for playing the fourth. Just the thought of that almost made me call him and bring true my little white lie.
Ryan rolled down his window, “Hey Paula, you need a ride?”
Myra paused at the process of opening the passenger door. We both noticed his attempt at changing for the better and the kind gesture to me was slightly off. I appreciated it nonetheless, “Hi Ryan. I’m good. I drove today.”
“Alright, drive safe.” He positioned himself forward and started the engine.
“I’ll see you later!” Myra was able to add in those words before Ryan completely closed the window.
Flying Beaver Pub was only across the river from where we worked. I had chosen it for its close distance and seclusion. It offered a different atmosphere and the patrons varied from pilots to tourists to locals from the neighbourhoods around the airport. Vancouver Airport was generally its own island and the establishment sat at the edge of it where private and company hangars line the skyline adjacent to Richmond.
I parked the car close to where the stairs lead up to a pedestrian crossing on Inglis Drive. The constant flow of people coming in and out of the place assured me it was a busy night. After being checked for identification, I found a perfect spot right beside the fireplace close to the bar.
“Hi, how are you doing?!” The server was too perky for an evening rush.
“I’m good. You?”
“I’m great. Thanks! Are you still waiting for people or should I get you started with something already?”
Her naïve question made me wonder if anyone ever does go to a bar alone, let alone a woman, “I am waiting for others.”
“No problem! Just wave at me when you’re ready.” She quickly responded and moved to her next assigned table.
I dialed Ric’s number to check what he was doing during my waiting. I felt too vulnerable being unaccompanied at the moment. At least the fire was burning and the warmth made it easier for me to enjoy my time.
“Hello.” His voice made me mellow.
“Hi. You busy?” I leaned on the table while looking down.
“Sort of. You, on the other hand, sound busy. Where are you?”
“Flying Beaver. Waiting for Myra to get here. What are you doing?”
“Reviewing some dissertations. Are you alright?” He sounded bored at his current activity and concerned at my spontaneous call.
“Yeah, just hungry.” My lie wasn’t too convincing.
“My offer stands.” He knew what to say.
I smiled at the thought, “And your offer is very well noted.”
“Glad to know that.”
“I’ll talk to you later and don’t spend too much time on those papers. Go for a run!” I needed to ease up and Ric always gave me that commodity to express it.
“Maybe I will. I’ll be here.”
“I miss you.”
My words were unconsciously said. There was nothing I could do to avoid his ears from hearing it. The noisy bustling sound of the pub gradually drowned out in my mind with anticipation of his next words. All these thoughts were within seconds.
“Good. I miss you too.” His smile I felt from the other end of the line. I could only hope he felt mine too.
“OK. Bye.” I hung up only for his sake and not mine. I wanted to let him get back to his work and not get in the way.
I looked around to survey the crowd within my peripherals. The server must’ve noticed my eyes wondering as she started to walk towards me.
I stared at his face for a brief recognition and realized who it was. I looked pass his shoulder to the server but she figured it wasn’t best to interfere with the spontaneous greeting. My attention retrieved back to him.
“I haven’t seen you in a while.” He spoke with the same immaturity and arrogance from when I last saw him, “How have you been?”
“I’m alright.” I smiled for a proper manner beyond my internal disposition.
“I see that.” He gestured to his friends to proceed to their table as the server had found a vacancy, “Are you here with anyone?”
I shook my head, “Not at this moment. She’s running late.”
“She?” He chuckled, “You playing for the other team now?”
I frowned at the offensive assumption whether it’d be a joke or not.
“Anyway, join us once she’d arrived will you?” Tom left at that snarky comment.
My stomach felt sick with irritation from his presence. I sat down abruptly to gather my composure. I couldn’t bare think about the past and relive the nightmare he’d put me through. Although I had moved on, just seeing him was enough to make me feel more vulnerable since I had arrived. Tom could honestly say that once, in our sorry adolescent life, he had me eating at the palm of his hands. He took advantage of me in more ways than one. A mistake I learnt from but clearly can’t run away from.
The server came for the third time and I ordered a bottle of beer to start with. Alcohol seemed like a necessary companion only to douse my anger.
“I don’t think she’s coming.” I opened up to Ric through text message.
An hour had passed and I finally received a message from Myra telling me that she could no longer come. Her apology was real and I knew that Ryan had something to do with it. I couldn’t blame her for the lack of commitment to our rendezvous as mine was no better.
After two bottles and a side-plate of fries, I was ready to call it a night. Ric had not replied and I was still alone in a bar proving to myself that the server’s question earlier was legitimate. I figured it was reasonable to weigh out the remaining time in my car until I sobered up since the alcohol had dealt me enough warmth to battle the cold. I had enough cash for my order and did not wait for the change. My body was out the door before more stares were given.
A couple of the bar managers were smoking just outside the lot. I noticed their distinguished outfits, as well, recognized their statures while talking to the employees. I grasp tighter to my coat as steam blew out of my mouth. As much as I avoided eye contact they were still able to give me a nod for good manner. And just when I thought my night couldn’t get any worst, Tom and a couple of his friends happened to be across the opposite side where I had parked. I paused at the sight of them and hesitated to cross the road. My obvious state triggered his intentions and started to walk towards me.
“Hey. I’ve been waiting for you.”
“You’re drunk.” I was disgusted at his stumbling presence.
“And you’re alone.” He smirked. His hands worked its way around my shoulder as I tried to shrug it off.
“I think you should go home.”
“Only if you go home with me. I promise to be good. Just like the old times.” His grip grew harder and it started to hurt. The two friends just stood with no intent of seizing him.
“Please just go and I’ll pretend this didn’t happen. Tom, just go home. Please.” My eyes started to water while my voice laboured for words. His hands eventually dropped lower down to my waist and lingered further south.
I heard a commotion behind me like someone just exited a car. I wanted to turn around to ask for help as desperation but he firmly held my place. My mind rationally wondered if the two men could see my situation or not. I needed to do something but I had no strength. I glared at his friends to find their conscience but instead they looked more helpless than I did.
One shouted, “Tom!”
Tom turned around and all I heard was a solid hit. Just as instantly he dropped unconscious on the ground. I peeked to see what had happened and Ric was standing in front of me. I hugged him with all the adrenaline in my body and buried my face in his chest. Tears finally poured out and no words were uttered.
He began to guide me to his car as one of the bar managers checked on us.
“Ric, is she OK?” A friend of his I presumed. I nodded to answer for my own problem.
I looked back to see the damage as Tom’s friends attended to him. One decided to retaliate as he moved forward and the other followed.
“Boys!” The other manager still stood from where I first saw them. He took a deep inhale and then exhaled smoke, “Not a very bright idea. Look at your friend.”
Tom finally woke up and the two agreed.
“I think we’re good from here, John.” Ric gestured his appreciation.
“We’ll deal with these guys. You two best be going.” The gentleman padded both of our backs as to indicate our leave.
Once inside the car, I moved to face him while he buckled me in. Ric gazed at me and I noticed his eyes watering.
“Are you sure you’re OK?” He confirmed while caressing just above my ear.
I nodded but with more affection than I had in previous meetings.
“We’ll pick up your car tomorrow.” Ric sniffled to hold his anger.
I nodded again.
He leaned over and kissed me devotedly to have his final say on the matter.
The headlights automatically illuminated as he finally gunned the engine. We drove off to the direction of his house and I gradually fell asleep at the comfort of his needed and undeniable presence.