Christmas Eve and all over the city, shop and office workers were leaving early; and the pubs and bars of York where now the first port of call for those filled with good will and seasonal cheer.
The Bridge was no exception as workers from the many offices and shops nearby spilled noisily through the door and were now standing three deep at the bar. The noise was almost deafening as punters waved and called to each other, girls squealed and hugged, and flapped their hands to friends standing barely three feet away. The guys slapping each other on the back in that rough friendly manner but always keeping a slight distance between themselves.
Simon was oblivious to the sea of bodies pushing and shoving around the table where he and the stranger sat. Even though he was desperately trying not to look too long or too often at the guy it was becoming more and more difficult. The pages of his magazine were filled with meaningless drivel and even Cliff and his mistletoe, barely audible before, had now ceased to make sense altogether.
The bar was becoming increasingly hot and airless as more and more people drifted in and Simon could already feel drops of moisture trickling down his back. Even worse, his ‘companion’ was now openly staring at him and he could feel his face reddening. Resisting the urge to run his finger around the inside of his collar, he lifted his glass noticing as he did so how unsteady his hand was, and tipping the glass towards his mouth, he took several long gulps. To late Simon realised his mistake as he began to cough and felt the sting of the lager as it shot down his nose.
There was no disguising the fact that he was in difficulties as he coughed and spluttered. Droplets of Stella splattered across his magazine and a whisp of froth landed on the head of a sultry photographers model. Eyes streaming, Simon made valiant attempts to subdue the coughing fit as in the immediate vicinity, heads turned to stare.
Then, to add to his discomfiture, he felt the touch of a gentle hand rubbing his back and a mildly amused voice asking him if he was ok. He hadn’t noticed the guy leaving his seat to offer his assistance. No, he thought, I’m not bloody ok, I’m bloody choking for God’s sake.
‘Its a big mistake, you know, necking a pint that fast’. His knight in shining armour had resumed his seat, and was grinning at Simon, one eyebrow quirked in amusement.
Now that the immediate danger of choking to death had passed, acute embarrassment had kicked in and Simon was not in the mood for pleasantries, ‘If you hadn’t been gawping at me like that I wouldn’t have felt the need to ‘neck it’. He swiped a hand down his shirt front, now wet, stained and uncomfortable and began to gather his things together.
‘You’re not leaving? It was formed as a question but Simon recognised it for what it really was, a plea for him to stay. ‘Too right, mate’, he rammed his mobile into his back pocket and turned to retrieve his coat from the back of the chair, ‘and if you’ll take my advice, you’ll be careful who you stare at round here’, he placed a hand on the table and leaned further in towards the guy, ‘because there are some pubs around here where you’d get beaten up for it’.
The eyebrow quirked upward again, ‘Lucky for me then it was you I was, erm what was the word? ah yes, gawping at’. Simon was caught entirely off guard then as looking directly into the other man’s face, he watched as he ran the tip of his tongue slowly and deliberately across his moist bottom lip, an expression of pure seduction in his eyes.
And the grip on Simon’s wrist stalled him before he could make a move towards the door, ‘No, please, don’t’, the guys voice was low, husky and oh so full of promise. ‘My hotel isn’t far from here, come with me, please’.
Standing there, almost mesmerised by the other man’s eyes, his head telling him one thing and his heart another, Simon made his decision.
End of part two.
York Minster, Google Images.
Xmas Stockings, Google Images.