First part of a short story
‘There is something I’ve always wanted to ask you.’
He looked at me through his thick glasses. Small, beady eyes. Pale skin. His abundant, untidy, blonde, almost white, hair.
Although it had been nearly twenty years, it seemed that not a day had passed since we had last seen each other. We had never really been friends.
Five people in their early twenties sharing a flat in London, whilst in their first jobs.
Most Friday nights, the two of us used to go to the pub round the corner to drink beer together, chat about things, mainly about how our jobs were going, but sometimes we talked about other, more personal matters.
‘It was Carol Philips,’ he said. ‘I still remember the night she fell off the balcony. The police say she was alone in the flat. But were you there, too?’
I looked at him.
‘But I was in the pub with you. You said that to the inspector yourself. And Diego, the barman, backed you up.’
He laughed. How I remembered that sneering little chortle. People never change.
‘You and I know that’s not true. It was a Saturday night. We only ever went out on Friday. You said you were with me and I wasn’t going to let you down. And Diego saw so many customers that he really couldn’t be sure, although he said he was.’
I had never told him that Carol had been blackmailing me and I was not going to tell him now. Her death solved a lot of my problems and I never looked back. I was able to change my job, move to Manchester, start a new life.
And now this chance encounter in a pub off Trafalgar Square whilst on a business trip to London.
‘Carol and I were good friends.’ I answered. ‘I was so sorry when she died. But as I remember it, I was in the pub with you. That’s what you and Diego told everyone.’
His eyes seemed to get smaller under the thick lenses. He finished his beer.
‘Well, that’s settled then. Another pint?’
‘I have to run. I have a meeting in half an hour. Good to see you again. Take care!’
I walked out of the pub, into the square and the sounds of traffic and the chatter of people once again put my old life behind me.