Alone For Christmas(4)

By: Ashley John

Noah paid the taxi driver and joined Amy on the side of the road outside of the bar as she lit her cigarette. Despite arriving twenty minutes early, music and chattering poured from the busy bar.

“King Harington hasn’t shown his face yet,” said Beth as she joined them outside the bar, pulling a fur shawl around her shoulders. “I doubt he will after that performance earlier. Poor Sasha, it’s her I feel sorry for.”

She pulled out an electronic cigarette from her handbag and puffed away as she shivered next to Noah. Amy looked to him and rolled her eyes.

“I heard he cheated on her,” added Beth when neither of them picked up her bait.

“Where did you hear that?” Amy scoffed. “Sounds like bullshit to me, Beth.”

“I heard what I heard,” she said, holding up her hands. “Don’t shoot the messenger.”

“I don’t think he’d cheat,” mumbled Noah, almost to himself. “He seems too nice for that.”

“They always do,” sighed Beth as she dropped her electronic cigarette back into her bag and snapped it shut. “See you two inside.”

Amy waited for Beth to go back inside before saying, “Not if I can help it.”

When Amy finished her cigarette, they left the cold of the West London street and entered the warm bar. There was already a buzz in the air, Christmas music providing the backdrop for endless chatter and drinking. Noah didn’t doubt for a second what the topic of their conversation was.

“Is it a free bar?” Amy called over the music to the bartender.

“Until midnight,” he replied as he wiped the counter. “What can I get you?”

“Tequila shots?” Amy nudged Noah in the ribs. “What better way to get started, eh? Especially if his lordship is paying.”

Noah cast an eye around the busy room, waiting for Chip’s face to jump out at him. He shook his head to the tequila and opted for a dry white wine instead.

He drained his first free glass of wine and it joined the two generous glasses he had had at his flat. His mind started to ease. Amy had headed straight for Steve the minute she had seen him, leaving him to mingle with his co-workers.

“I told you they’d be divorced before the new year!” said Rodger Barker, an elderly editor who had worked at the publishing house for as long as anyone old enough could remember. “He’s just like his father! Goes through women like underwear. The second they start to show a bit of wear, he tosses them out and gets something a little fresher.”

“We should do a wager for his next marriage,” said Jackie, another of the editors. “Place bets on how many months until the divorce.”

Noah sipped his second glass of wine, listening but not wanting to get involved. He didn’t know if it was his feelings for his boss that disabled his ability to talk shit about him, or if he just didn’t think he deserved it. Chip Harington was a good man to work for, and they all knew it, so he didn’t understand why they all turned on him the second his personal life became the focus. In the two years Noah had been there, this was Chip’s second divorce. Amy said it was because they had nothing else going on in their lives, but Noah thought it was more than that. People loved cheap gossip and seeing successful people fail, but he wasn’t going to join in the lynch mob.

“I think he falls too fast and hard,” said Rodger. “When I met my Judith, we courted for months before we even thought of getting serious. That’s how we did it back in the day. Kids these days are too fast to settle down.”

“He’s not a kid,” said Noah, surprised by the sternness in his voice. “He’s thirty-two.”

“And thrice divorced!” exclaimed Jackie.

They all stood in silence for a moment before Rodger and Jackie wandered away from Noah, leaving him to take a generous gulp of his wine. He glanced over to Amy, who had somehow managed to get Steve on his own on a sofa in a dark corner. He admired her ability to go after things she wanted; it was certainly more than he could do. Laughing to himself, he sipped more of his wine, imagining how his boss would react if he found out about his ridiculous crush. Chip had always been nice to Noah, but he doubted even Chip’s kind nature would stretch that far.

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