That’s it, all done and no bones broken. Simon handed over his credit card for what he hoped was the last time till after Christmas. Transaction completed, he picked up his bags and hurried, as much as the crowds would allow him, to the entrance and stepped outside into the afternoon chill.
Pausing for a moment he looked up and down Coney street at the seething mass of people Hell bent on parting as swiftly as possible with their hard earned cash.
Sighing and pulling his collar up more firmly around him, he prepared to do battle against the crowds and made his way up the street towards Lendal.
By the time he had reached the elegant Georgian facade of the Judges Lodging Hotel where the sounds of Christmas Eve revellers drifted up from the cellar bar, he was already sick to death of bumping bags and shoulders with unconcerned shoppers who rushed past him with nary a glance or apology. Why, he thought for the umpteenth time, had he thought it would be a good idea to spend the holiday in York of all places with its tourists and shoppers and crowds; all of which he hated.
He knew why, of course, because Josh had wanted him to. And to please him, Simon would have walked barefoot over hot coals had Josh asked him too. And the disagreement they’d had barely an hour into todays shopping trip had depressed him making him even more grumpy and out of sorts with the crowds.
It had been over something as trivial as where they would go for lunch. He had wanted to go to a quiet out of the way pub, if such a thing existed in York at this time of year, if ever. Josh of course had wanted to eat at a cafè bar in the city centre. Simon had known only too well what that would have entailed. Being introduced to his partners work colleagues, some of who he knew would be there, was something he was not yet comfortable with; and he wished Josh could understand that.
Turning right at the top of the street, he saw the pub sign and thought well, why not. His hands were cold and the carrier bag handles were beginning to cut into his flesh. Dammit, he deserved a drink after braving the crowds and the cold and at least the place was familiar to him having been there with Josh several nights in a row last summer.
Pushing the door open, he was immediately enveloped in warmth and the familiar aroma of beer and bar food. On any other day, his mouth would have watered at the smell of chips and chilli but the recent spat with his lover had robbed him of his appetite, but a drink or two might help to raise his spirits a little.
As he waited to be served, he looked about him, and saw with relief that the bar wasn’t as crowded as he’d expected. And seeing a vacant table tucked nicely away in a corner, he carried his pint of lager across the room shrugged off his overcoat, withdrew his Photographers Monthly from one of the bags and made himself comfortable.
But his mind was not on ‘f’stops, white balance and exposure as he kept reliving his quarrel with Josh. It was their first serious fall out and he couldn’t help blaming himself for it. That he was not as outgoing and as gregarious as Josh he freely admitted; he much preferred the peace and quiet of the countryside and the small refurbished farmhouse they shared near Whitby. Oh Josh loved it too, it had been his idea to buy the house in the first place. But every now and again he craved city life and so here they were spending Christmas in York. Roll on the twenty seventh he thought when they would be going home.
A soft bleep from his mobile which he’d placed on the table earlier signalled a text message. It was Josh. Picking up the device he briefly considered whether to answer it or not. His mind made up, he quickly typed two words, and pressing ‘send’ he sat back and wondered if he’d done the right thing.
He was half way down his second pint when he noticed the guy standing and waiting to be served. Tall and broad shouldered, he leaned nonchalantly against the bar while swiftly scanning the room as though looking for someone. Simon watched as he paid for his drink and made some comment to the young bar maid who giggled and blushed and gazed at him adoringly as he turned and made his way towards the only spare seat….the one at Simons table.
‘Anyone sitting here?’ the guy indicated the chair and grinned at Simon, who noticed the startling blue of his eyes and the dark wavy hair which flopped untidily forward onto his brow.
‘Er no, doesn’t look like it’, Simon went back to his reading. But he was conscious of the guy now sitting opposite him. Raising his eyes from his magazine, he risked a quick look just as the man was pulling his mobile from his jeans pocket. He watched through lowered eyebrows as the guy checked the phone, smiled and shoved the device back into his pocket.
End of part one.
Photo Credits, Lendal Bridge by York Digital Images
Coney Street by Google Images.