IT had been a lousy Friday and a very long one. The clock had just turned nine by the time Jack pulled into the pub car park. He was knackered and desperate for a drink.
At 52, the drive and ambition which was once part and parcel of his make-up, had long since diminished, but with no-one to return home to, staying at work until late in the evening provided an acceptable alternative.
The pub was bustling and Jack quickly realised he’d made the wrong choice. He should have gone to The Red Lion, which was nearer his home and contained more like-minded and older folk, but it was another 30 minutes drive away and he really needed that drink.
The Railway Inn was packed full of young, vibrant people embarking on a weekend of fun and jollity.
Jack forced his way through to the bar and ordered a pint which he quickly set about devouring.
He always thought that ‘cackle’ was the perfect word to describe the noise made by a bunch of intoxicated young women and there was a group of five just a few feet away from him, swaying in unison like wheat in the wind, dressed up in all sorts of garish outfits, a hen party in full swing.
Jack’s eyes set upon one of the girls. A bitter divorce followed by a string of highly unsatisfactory and unsuitable relationships had dulled Jack’s interest in the fairer sex but this girl immediately caught his attention.
She was wearing the all-purpose short black dress into which she fitted perfectly and sported slender, long, tanned legs. The girl had short, black hair in a bob and a memorable face. She was, thought Jack, stunningly beautiful. A fluffy red scarf draped her body and she wore a yellow Noddy hat but that ‘costume’ was subdued compared to the attire of some of her friends.
The volume of the chatter amongst the girls was rising by the minute and so it wasn’t hard for Jack to determine that the girl was called Maggie.
After a while she went to the bar and stood next to where Jack was propping himself up.
“It’s rude to stare, you know, especially at your age, people will get the wrong idea,” she said with a mischievous smile.
“Sorry, it’s just…” he replied.
“You’re the spitting image of someone I used to go out with a long time ago. That’s why I was staring,” said Jack.
“Hmm, never heard that line before, come on you must be able to come up with something better.”
“No, no, it’s true, honest, that’s why I was staring at you, the likeness is remarkable.”
“So who is this old flame then?” asked Maggie.
“Her name was Suzanne.”
Maggie put down the tray of drinks she had just picked up from the bar.
“Suzanne? What…. what was her surname?”
“Mason, Susanne Mason.”
“That’s my mum,” said Maggie. “You went out with my mum? When?”
Jack paused because he could hear Maggie’s friends calling for her, frantic for alcoholic replenishment. She took a tray of drinks to them and quickly returned to stand in front of Jack.
“So?” she demanded with an angry, piercing look in her eyes.
“We were an item in the 80s, early 80s.”
“What’s your name?” said Maggie.
“Jack, Jack Cartwright.”
She slapped him fiercely across the cheek and stormed out.