Wait­ing For Tim

Sweet ro­mance

My Weekly - - Contents - By Joanne Dun­can

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.”

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