I’d waited patiently for the best part of half an hour before his text arrived.
Arriving enthusiastically early at our agreed usual rendezvous point, I’d found a quiet table. The place was a dive, but we had minimal chance of being seen together here. Grabbing a corner next to an old electric heater which whirred constantly, I’d waited and watched the loud ticking clock as I nursed a now warm gin and tonic. Each sip tasted sharp as I watched a slow stream of old men fill the bar area, they all glanced in my direction intrigued by the over-dressed and over made up woman sat alone, before their focus went straight back to their freshly pulled pints.
There are only so many times you can check your phone before you’re convinced people have worked out you’ve been stood up, why else would a women drive into the middle of nowhere, dressed to the nines if it wasn’t to meet a man? A married man at that, a married man who had three children at home. A man who was probably with his family right now.
I heard my phone beep.
‘Sorry, Jen’s home early. Can’t make it, sorry sorry xxx’
Should I reply? Nothing would come of it, I knew that. He’d switch his phone off and then in the early hours he’d send a text berating me for messaging at an unagreed time.
I needed to end this; I knew it was wrong. It was hard seeing them together at social events and having to suffer endless questions about my love life from well-meaning family members. Having to dodge the unusual interrogation from my older sister as to why I wasn’t with someone when I was so pretty and clever.
I couldn’t be honest with her, I couldn’t tell her I was in love with a man I couldn’t have. He told me he loved me, but he couldn’t leave his kids. He would not leave Jen as he knew she’d get custody. And I couldn’t end it, it wasn’t perfect and the pain of knowing he was with her sent spasms of misery into the pit of my stomach. During the snatched hours we spent together, the torment was all forgotten, it was all worth it when I was with him.
Having to fit into his plans would have to do. I’d settle for the odd hour in an out of town pub, an afternoon spent in my bed when we’d both found excuses to get out of work, the knowing glances across the family dining table at Sunday lunch and the longing looks and gentle touches when no one was looking.
I downed the last mouthful of cheap gin and stood tall, brushing myself down before I walked out of the pub, not looking at the small group leaning on the bar.
The Landlord shouted, ‘thanks love’, but I didn’t look back or reply. He and I both knew I’d be back, with or without the tall dark-haired nervous looking man.