all is well?
The weeks leading up to Christmas that year were full in every sense. Graham came round to the cottage once and complained about how slow the progress was in the last few weeks, but I managed to sweet talk him around, and the work continued. I would pop in to see Maggie every day, and we inevitably ended up in bed, which I found a very satisfactory arrangement. She went out to buy clothes more suitable for a winter by the coast, but I told her to keep the leather jacket as a keepsake. In any case, it would have been too hard to explain to Betty why I was suddenly wearing it again. For Christmas Maggie was going to stay with her parents but promised to be back early in the New Year. This made life less complicated, but I got a lump in my throat thinking I’d not see her for a week or so. It also meant that I could catch up on some work on Graham’s cottage, so I was happy to work right up to Christmas day.
It was three days into the New Year that I ran into Ruby again. I had gone to get some painting supplies, then as it was lunchtime, I stopped at the Jolly Anchor for a pint and a sandwich. The Jolly Anchor was right in the center of town, but I’d not been in there for the last six months or so, and I was taken aback to see Ruby working behind the bar.
We chatted for a while, and I asked about David. She told me they were very happy, and we talked about how Betty and I were getting on. She then went on to ask about the older woman she had seen me with. For a second, I was stumped but then realized that she meant Maggie. I didn’t think of Maggie as “older” but I suppose she was to Ruby. I told her that she was an out-of-town person that owned a cottage near to where I was working, and had treated me to a meal for some work I’d done in her place.
I asked what the occasion was that brought her and her husband into that fancy restaurant, and she told me that David had just had a big promotion and pay rise, and so they were celebrating. I wondered why she was working in the pub then and said that she just liked to get out of the house and meet new people. Something about the way Ruby told the story made me think that is was not entirely accurate, although I was sure it was, at least, a version of the truth.
I stayed for a second drink, and then found that Ruby’s shift was over in half an hour, so offered to drive her back home. She paused for maybe half a minute, then said, “Do I hear you’re driving a Jag nowadays?” When I told her I did, she said, “Sure, why not, that would be nice, thanks.”
Nothing happened on the trip to her house, which was a new soulless development in an outlying village. We exchanged phone numbers, I found out when her shifts at the pub were, and I gave her the address of the place I was working. We parted with her accepting a kiss on her cheek, but no invite in for coffee, and I carried on with the rest of my day.
At home that night, I told Betty that I’d seen Ruby and that I’d driven her home. I find it’s a good policy to tell people things that they will find out anyway, and I was pretty sure that word would get back to Betty about us meeting up. She asked what we’d talked about, and I told her about David’s promotion, and how Ruby was working part time in the pub just to meet new people. I also told her about where her house was, and she agreed that she’d not want to live in one of those new developments. That led into a discussion about building styles and neatly avoided me having to talk any more about Ruby and me.