Waiting For Tim
Tim not arrived yet?” Chrissie asked. “Had to pop to the cash machine,” said Roisin. “There he is now,” said Sarah who’d already got the drinks in.
“Cheers.” They clinked glasses. “Here’s to us.”
Conversation filled the Cowled Monk’s tiny beer garden and a delicious aroma of shepherd’s pie mingled with the scent of damp flowers in hanging baskets.
The four of them had trained at the same firm after university and still worked in various offices dotted around the City of London. In their twenties, they’d have sloped off to the pub early most Fridays – nowadays, appropriately enough for accountants, they tended to meet up once a quarter.
As usual, Tim, the only one of the group who was still single, kept them laughing with stories of his somewhat chaotic love life. Privately, Chrissie wondered why he never seemed to meet the right girl. He was attractive, funny, owned his own flat – the list went on, and yet none of his relationships stayed the course.
“He probably gives all off the wrong signals and doesn’t even realise it,” Sarah had said more than once. “Let’s face it, as things are, Tim doesn’t have such a bad life. He gets the undivided attention and sympathy of three extremely attractive females on a regular basis – we’re never critical or demanding or moody – and, the rest of the time, he’s free to do exactly as he likes.”
“Playing the field’s all very well but he has to feel lonely sometimes,” said Roisin while Jack, Chrissie’s boyfriend, thought Tim must be gay.
What Jack didn’t know was that, at one point, Chrissie had suspected Tim might be on the point of asking her out. All the classic signs had been there – an increased warmth in his voice and his smile, a tendency to hold her gaze – and she’d become aware, too, of her own eyes seeking his, almost of their own volition.
For a short while, she’d agonised. What should she do? Had the others noticed anything? Above all, could their friendship, the way they were all so completely at ease in one another’s company, possibly survive such a seismic shift?
She and Tim had been like two swimmers poised on the edge of an inviting pool, waiting for a gentle push to send them into the water. But, in the end, the push never came. Chrissie met Jack, the moment passed and she and Tim went back to being mates.
Had it been for the best? On the whole, she thought so.
Dusk was only just beginning to fall when the four of them parted at Cannon Street station. Thirty minutes later, safely home, Chrissie kicked off her high heels, undressed and slipped into bed and into Jack’s arms.
Life didn’t get much better than this.
The late September evening had turned chilly and they’d found a table close to the fire. Tim appeared uneasy, constantly checking his phone and texting replies. Finally, at half past seven, he reached for his coat.
“Sorry, guys,” he said. “I’ve got a train to catch.”
“He’s met someone,” said Sarah as soon as he’d left. “It’s serious. She’s moved in with him, in fact.” Chrissie and Roisin stared at her. “How do you know?” “I ran into one of his colleagues. Apparently, this Becky calls him at the office half a dozen times a day.”
“I don’t understand,” said Chrissie. “Why not tell us? Why shut us out? Did he think we wouldn’t be pleased for him?”
“PLAYING the field’s all very WELL, but he has to feel LONELY sometimes”
“Funny, isn’t it?” said Roisin. “Us all being in relationships is one thing, but knowing there’s someone out there, waiting for Tim to come home to her – well, it doesn’t feel the same, somehow. It’s like he’s not our Tim any longer.”
“I don’t see why it should make any difference,” said Chrissie stubbornly, but she felt it too. Perhaps even more than Roisin did.
She loved Jack but he still had only the sketchiest notion of what she actually did between nine and five thirty, Mondays to Fridays. Except that it was something to do with finance and therefore must be boring. Which was why Sarah and Roisin and Tim – especially Tim, she had to admit – were so important to her. In many ways, they were the people who understood her the best.
“I suppose it was bound to happen one day,” said Sarah.
“We have to let go,” agreed Roisin, nodding wisely. “We should be happy he’s found the right person.”
Chrissie went on sipping her drink. For her, the evening was spoilt.
Early January and the pub was quiet. “So,” announced Chrissie. “Tim’s got a cold.”
“If you ask me,” said Sarah, “Becky feels threatened by the fact that Tim’s three best friends are attractive women and she’s put her foot down.”
“I’ve been thinking,” said Roisin. “Things change. People change. There’s no reason why we can’t try something different, like the two of you coming over to our place for dinner and bringing your partners with you. I could invite Tim and Becky as well…”
“Actually, I have some news,” said Chrissie, and hurried on before her friends got the wrong idea and started congratulating her. “Jack and I are splitting up.” “No!” “You’re kidding!” “I guess we’d lost the old spark,” she said with a rueful smile as Roisin reached for her hand, “and what remained just wasn’t enough. Funnily enough, I feel almost more disappointed in Tim than I do in Jack.”
“Oh?” Roisin and Sarah exchanged glances.
“When he was single,” said Chrissie, fixing her gaze on the table, “we always made time for him – despite having partners at home – and we did it because he was our friend. Somehow, on his present form, I can’t see that cutting both ways.”
“ACTUALLY, I have some NEWS,” said Chrissie. “Jack and I are SPLITTING UP”
Nobody seemed to have an answer. “I don’t much fancy this dinner party idea,” said Sarah after they’d waved goodbye to Roisin at Cannon Street. “I mean, who’s to say my bloke and hers would even hit it off? Leaving aside the question of how we’d get on with Becky. She won’t exactly be predisposed to like us, will she?”
“I’ve a feeling we’ve seen the last of Tim anyway,” said Chrissie, sadly.
But when she turned up at the Cowled Monk on the first Friday of the new financial year, he was sitting there. Braving the beer garden, despite the chilliness of the April evening, and looking just a little bit selfconscious. “So where is everyone?” she asked. “Dunno. I got the drinks in because Sarah said you were all definitely coming.”
“We weren’t sure if you’d show up,” she said lightly.
“Becky and I aren’t together any longer,” he said. “Ah. Sorry.” “She didn’t want me to come tonight.” So Sarah had been right. “There was always some reason why it was inconvenient. The latest thing was she’d booked an Easter break and hadn’t even checked with me first. It would have meant setting off for Cornwall this evening.” He shrugged. “We had a row at the weekend and she went back to her parents’ house.”
“Are you absolutely sure that’s what you want, Tim? I mean, friends are important but…”
“Chrissie,” said Tim, “I know about Jack…”
In the sudden silence, both their phones bleeped. Chrissie grabbed hers first.
“It’s from Sarah, to both of us,” she said. “I’ll read it aloud. ‘Hi guys. As you know, Roisin thinks it’s time for a change so we’re at the Cheesemonger’s Arms in Pepys Lane. She also thinks we were a bit unfair on Becky and that next time Tim finds a girlfriend, we should invite her along from the start. Personally, I’m totally up for that so please join us whenever you’re ready. Love you both.’”
She looked up uncertainly and Tim shot her a tentative smile.
“Sounds like Sarah’s rumbled us,” he said. “That we might have a few things to talk about, I mean.”
“We could finish this round. It’s a shame to waste it.” “True.” “And you’re right. We should talk. Before we meet the others.” Tim picked up his glass. “Here’s to us?” he said making it sound like a question.
“Here’s to us,” replied Chrissie, with an answering clink. “And to our lovely friends.”