Gloria runs into her ex in the café.
Chapter 21Gloria went into town the next morning to buy herself a frock for the party. Although she felt no need for any refreshment, it seemed as if she were being drawn towards The Coffee Bar. Indeed, she arrived at the place and wondered what she was doing there.
She got herself a coffee and walked towards one of the tables by the front window. The place was crowded with shoppers, but her ex-boyfriend Simon was sitting to the rear of the place and she ignored him until she sat down. She glanced over and saw him smiling at her. She smiled back, more a smile of acknowledgement than of pleasure. She turned to look out of the window, but she was aware that he would probably come and sit with her. If he did she knew that she wouldn't send him away this time. Time had healed the bitterness towards him and she could not help feeling curious about what he would have to say to her and how he was getting on with his life.
"Hi, Glor. Can I join you?" he said, and without waiting for a reply he sat on the seat opposite her. "It's a bit cold over there for some reason."
"Yeah, it's chilly here as well. It's such a nice day as well; weird." She felt a little uneasy, although she didn't really want his company, she could not help thinking that he still looked very smart in his army uniform.
"It's a long time since we've spoken to each other," he said. "Why didn't you answer my letters?"
"Yeah, I heard you were courting strong now."
"I am, and I'm getting engaged next week," she said proudly.
"Well you just beat me; I'm getting engaged in July. There's no holds barred once you're engaged, he's a lucky man having you." He lowered his voice slightly. "I always hoped it would be me with you on your first time."
"Getting engaged doesn't mean that you have to..." She smiled at Simon realising that his opinion really didn't matter to her any more. "Oh never mind."
Simon took a photograph out of his wallet and showed it to her. "There she is my little Chelsea tart." Gloria gave a look of disapproval at his lack of respect for the girl. "No, it's, just a bit of fun, like a nickname. I call her Chelsea tart and she calls me Northern stud."
Gloria laughed. "That's nice," she said sarcastically.
The soldier took hold of her hand. "It should be you, Glor. You should have given me another chance. We looked good together. Lost it all over a stupid row."
"Oh come on, Simon, we didn't have a row and if we did it wouldn't have been a problem. I could have forgotten about it and the names you used to call me when you were drunk; I could have forgot about that as well. But I could never forget you having it away with that dirty little tramp round the back of the pub and all for a Bacardi and Coke, that's all it cost one sodding drink. She was some classy dame wasn't she?"
"It cost me more than a drink; it cost me the nicest girl I've ever been out with." Gloria's look showed that she was not impressed, but she didn't pull her hand away from his. His hand felt familiar and she thought of all the times that they had held hands; the times when he had been loving, gentle and sweet towards her. If only he had not had that drinking problem, things may have worked out different. "Look, Gloria, you were young, and I was frustrated that was all. You don't know what it's like being a young man, getting urges."
Gloria heard the familiar sound of Gordy's motorcycle. She eased back a little, partly concealing herself behind a window frame as she looked out, hoping that Gordy wouldn't be stopping, but he rode on past and she assumed he had not seen her. She suddenly thought of Ellis and how he was now the love in her life. What if Gordy had walked in and seen her with Simon. There is no doubt he would have told Ellis; he wouldn't be able to stop himself. This meeting was not worth the risk of upsetting Ellis. "Look, I've got to go," she said.
A young girl got up to leave. She was one of Evelyn's school friends and she said "Hello," to Gloria as she passed. Gloria gave a smile back out of courtesy, but she didn't speak to her and pulled her hand away from Simon's.
* * * * *
Ellis left work and was half way home when his motorcycle engine suddenly died and he coasted to a stop. "Can't be," he muttered to himself. He looked in the petrol tank and sure enough it was empty. He remembered checking it that morning before setting off for work. It had been half full and he wondered how the petrol had been used up so quickly. He thought that someone must have stolen the petrol while the bike was parked at the depot. He pushed the motorbike into a public house car park and caught a bus home. His father would be at home and he would get him to run him back with some petrol.
The bus was crowded with shoppers, but he managed to get a seat behind two young girls. Although he was not one for eavesdropping, he sat unintentionally listening to the girls' conversation.
"Guess who I saw in town?" Her friend returned a blank but interested look. "Gloria, she was with that soldier, her ex. It looked serious, they were holding hands and he was talking about getting urges or something." The girls giggled as they stood up and left the bus.
The girl's words were repeating through Ellis's mind. He thought that perhaps it was not his Gloria; after all, she can't be the only girl in town with that name, but it troubled him because the girls got off at the bus stop near to where Gloria lived.
His father brought him back with a can of petrol, but Ellis was amazed to find that the motorcycle tank was nearly half full. He could not understand how he could have made a mistake like that; he had even tapped the side of the tank with his key and had heard the empty echoing sound. He rode home a bit bewildered about the mystery, but soon dismissed it as he started to get ready for the party. He called at Gloria's house just after seven, but she was not quite ready and he sat in the kitchen waiting.
Her sister walked into the room first, grinning and pleased with her work. She had done a job on Gloria's make-up that any professional would be proud of. Gloria followed her into the room in a red Chinese style dress and a pair of red stiletto sandals. "Well how do I look?" she said confidently."
"You look superb, absolutely gorgeous," Ellis remarked.
"I didn't know if you would like the dress, it's real silk you know, cost a fortune. I only got it in town this afternoon."
"Were you in town on your own then?"
"I was yes, Evelyn had other things to do."
"No I didn't. You buggered off without me while I was getting ready."
"Well I didn't know you were going to town, did I?"
"Yes you did, I always go to town on Saturday."
"Are you sure you were on your own?"
"Of course. Why, what's the matter?"
"Nothing, nothings the matter." Ellis was thinking of the girls on the bus again. It all seemed too much to be a coincidence, but he thought that if she had met her ex then she would have told him. "Come on we'd better get a move on." He thought again and wondered if he should happen to meet and chat to one of his ex-girlfriends, would he tell her about it. Maybe he would, maybe he wouldn't; he wondered if it really mattered that much.
"It's not that far. You don't mind if I walk up, do you? It'll be a bit tricky trying to get on your bike with this dress on."
"Of course I don't mind. I'll ride slowly along side of you, proud as Punch."
"Pleased, it's pleased as Punch."
"Yeah, that an'all."