by imran darboe
a story about the modern struggles between career and family life.
The two men walked up the steps leading from the busy Waverley train station to the streets above. It was a tedious effort through the mass of people scrambling down the stairs toward the station, most of them making a last minute dash to catch their trains in time. Others laboured and tussled with huge luggage bags as big as coffins. Then there was the crowd exiting the station, rushing up the steps as if a cruise missile was about to hit the station at any moment. It was the jostling and bustling of this group that one of the two men was complaining about.
“I should trip one of these fuckers and beat the shit out of them. What’s the bloody rush for? You’d think they’re racing for an Olympic medal.” Corporal Andrew Palmer, the taller of the two said.
He was dressed in military desert camouflage, the large dusty military backpack on his back, straps dangling like octopus tentacles, hung from one shoulder. He walked with deliberate, confident strides and had the strong lean build of somebody who had spent most of his time doing hard manual work. His dark intelligent eyes looked a bit sunken, evidence of the gruelling six months he had just spent as a member of the royal marines in the rough terrains of Afghanistan.
“Stop whining dude, you sound like my wife.” his friend, Gabby replied.
“Oh, so I guess you’re enjoying the hockey tackles we’re receiving, huh?”
“I’m saying, this is Edinburgh not Afghanistan, its people everywhere, get used to it.”
“well don’t be surprised if I start smacking people.” Andrew or Andy, as his friends call him retorted, but his friend’s attention had drifted to the girl walking down the steps toward them, dressed in an unbelievably short skirt.
“damn! Look at those legs man... Jesus...” Gabby exclaimed, tugging at his friend’s uniform, his eyes following the girl as she walked past with a smile.
“Is this what you do when Antou’s not around to put a leash on you?”
“Stop staring at her ass, You’re married, have some shame.” Andy said.
“I’m married, Negro, I’m not blind. Can’t I appreciating beauty when I see it? And that coming from you?”
“Whatever man, To think that your wife believes you’re a saint,” Andy shook his head in affected wonder, “when will women realise that a man is just a man?”
They negotiated the last set of steps on to the busy Princes Street above. As usual, the street was a mass of people and vehicles moving in every direction. Tourist moved around in groups, some with cameras around their necks, others busy taking photos of each other. The spectacular Edinburgh castle, perched on the edge of the high cliff overlooking the Princes gardens, served as the backdrop. The view of the castle from the street was breath-taking, as were the gardens sprawled beneath the castle in their beautiful greenery of trees and well-manicured grass. Today the scenery was made even more beautiful by the perfect weather and clear blue sky above.
“Welcome to Edinburgh.” Gabby said as they took in the sights of the crowded street.
“It’s a beautiful city.” Andy said looking around him.
“Scotland, my friend, is gorgeous. Such natural beauty…”
“Let’s pass through the French Connection store. I need to see someone.” Andy suggested.
“One of your girls, you mean? Dean’s gonna be at the house soon though, and the game is starting in less than an hour.”
Andy shook his head with a smile. “The crazy white boy! I haven’t seen him in years. Is he still getting himself into fights as usual?”
Dean was a long-time friend of the two men. They had met while at university. Dean was a small time cannabis dealer at the time, and the two friends were is suppliers. They’d proved to be reliable dealers and he a reliable customer. In a business where honesty and trust were alien concepts, the three of them built a strong friendship that grew as the years went by.
“He is still crazy as hell, but no more fights, he is a respected psychologist now, it just wouldn’t do to be spending weekends in a police cell.”
“Psychologist? How ironic is that?” Andy laughed as they walked into the store and headed for the stairs to the men’s section.
A tall attractive girl with long golden brown hair stood behind the sales counter. Her seductive blue eyes were fixed on the two men as they approached, a mischievous smile playing on her lips.
“When she looks at me like that its as if she’s taking off her clothes. Look at that...!” Andy nudged his friend.
“I’m not looking at shit! Didn’t you just remind me five minutes ago that I’m married?” Gabby hissed back.
“Oh my God, is that you Andy Palmer?” The girl behind the counter exclaimed. She ran round and threw her arms around him in a tight hug, “Look at you! You look great in uniform.” She pulled back to take another look at him. “I’ve been calling you for ages and you never returned my calls.”
“You know I’d never ignore your call, babe. I was busy dodging bullets in Afghanistan.”
“and you never even said goodbye.”
“good news, babe, I’m back and I’m yours for the next few days. If you’re free tomorrow maybe we can get together and catch up over dinner, what do you say?”
She flashed him a smile, the mischievous glint in her eyes promising more than just dinner,
“Dinner huh? Well, I did miss you a little bit, so... it’s a date.”
“Great, I’m look forward to it.”
She nodded in Gabby’s direction. “Who’s your pal by the way, he is hot, eh? I wouldn’t mind having him for dinner.”
Andy pointed at his friend questioningly, “The mulatto you mean?”
Gabby was walking through the clothes section, arms folded across his chest. The tight fitting Prada shirt did little to hide impressive biceps. He wore a pair of slim charcoal grey jeans and black sneakers. The dark attire was a complete contrast to his light skin.
“You and your dirty mind! Too bad though, He’s already been domesticated,” Andy replied, waving Gabby over.
“Son, this is Jemma. Jemma meet Gabby.”
Gabby extended his hand “hey Jemma, it’s nice to meet you. Now I see why Rambo here couldn’t wait to see you.”
“Hmm, charming too? Nice to finally meet you. Andy’s told me quite a bit about you.” Jemma replied shaking Gabby’s hand.
“I hope it wasn’t all slander, don’t believe everything he says, he’s a troubled young man.”
He was even more good looking up close. His hair was perfectly trimmed short, a studded earring sparkled on his left ear and a black scorpion tattoo covered one side of his neck.
“Nah,” she laughed, “Mostly about your boyhood adventures. Interesting stuff though.”
“well, did he tell you about the time he was dating the two sisters and they found out?.” He smiled back at her with smouldering brown eyes and the thickest eyebrows she’d ever seen.
“wow! Wow! That’s enough, liar” Andy interrupted “now that everybody has met, we will leave you to your work babe, I don’t want my boy to get a whipping from his wife for staying out too long.”
“Alright,” She replied. “I hope you will tell me that story some other time, Gabby.”
“Believe me, It will be a pleasure.” Gabby assured her.
“He’s a bad influence babe, if you see him again walk the other way.” Andy said.
“See you tomorrow soldier, if I’m feeling patriotic who knows, things might be ...” she winked as the two men said goodbye.
They walked out of the store toward the car park around the corner.
“Dean just texted me, he’s on his way to the house,” Gabby told his friend.