Once again, life is smooth.
I heard that Ruby was back in town. Rumor had it that she had split up with her husband and had moved back in with her parents. I happened to be down in the cellar one day when Judy shouted down to me that someone wanted to know if we needed more staff, and could I come and talk to her. I finished what I was doing and went up to the bar.
There stood Ruby against the light coming in from the window. I thought my heart would stop. I walked over to her and touched her gently on her shoulder. “Ruby?” I said.
It was Ruby’s turn to be surprised, and she stammered that she couldn’t talk as she was waiting to speak to the manager here. When I told her that I was the manager, she went white, then pink and stammered an apology.
“It’s OK Ruby,” I said, “Here, come and have a seat in the snug and we can talk. Judy, I’ll have a pint and get whatever Ruby’s having.” Ruby asked for a coke, and we took our drinks and sat down.
We talked about my car accident and what had happened afterward, and she confirmed what I’d heard about her and David splitting up. She was back at home with her parents now and didn’t have much idea what to do. She surprised me with the news that she had a little girl, Lucy, 2 years old now, and she showed me pictures of the youngster.
“I came here looking for a job because I’d worked here before, I never thought about you being the manager,” She said. I just nodded. In truth, we really didn’t need another barmaid right then, but I knew that she would be an asset to the place. In any case, just seeing here brought back all the feeling I’d had for her, so I said that I’d be happy for her to do some shifts here. Although I wasn’t sure where I could fit her in, the next day one of my regular barmaids announced she was pregnant and would be leaving, so Ruby was able to walk right into the slot that was now vacant.
It was a few weeks later that Ruby came up to find me in my flat early one morning. “It’s like this,” she said. “It’s getting really claustrophobic living at home, and I know you let rooms here to a few youngsters, I wondered if me and my kiddo could move in here? I’d pay proper rent, mind, I get some maintenance off David, and Lucy’s really well behaved. I know we had some history in the past, but that was years ago now, and, well…” she stumbled to a stop.
I’d never thought of having a child on the premises and wasn’t sure how George would react. But the thought of having Ruby so close to me was something I couldn’t even have dreamt about, so I said yes without a second thought.
“One thing I want to make clear,” Ruby said. “This is just a business arrangement. Whatever we were in the past, well, it was in the past, over and done with, agreed?”
“Absolutely Ruby, purely business.” I knew that for me, it would never be totally a business arrangement. Even though I was sure there was no way that Ruby and I could ever get back together, there was still that fluttering in my heart whenever I saw her. Somewhere deep inside I had the feeling that we should have been a couple.
Ruby moved in and became almost like a house mother to the tenants, even though she was only a few years older than most of them. Ruby took a room at the far end of the building, on the opposite side to the snug and the late night drinkers, so that it would be quiet for the baby. It also meant that they were on the same corridor as my rooms, and in the mornings, I often caught a glimpse of Ruby slipping into the bathroom in her nightdress. I guess I must have caught sight of most of my guest, male and female, in various states of dress and undress, but in my memory, it’s only Ruby scattering along that corridor that I recall.
Lucy was a charming little child that entranced everyone she met, and soon it was impossible to imagine the Jolly Anchor without this happy youngster about the place. A few of the older drinkers liked to grumble about having a baby in the pub, but it was evident they didn’t mean anything by it from the sparkle in their eyes when Lucy was anywhere near.