January 13, 2022

Extract 24

By aarondkey

He returned to the dining area. As he passed the bar he looked over and noticed the two men’s drinks were low again. He caught Lizzie’s eye and asked her in signs if she wanted another. She pointed at Paris and mouthed Coke with another shrug.

“Why aren’t you drinking?” he asked Paris quietly as she came over to help him with the drinks.

“I thought we were supposed to stay sober,” she said with a cheeky grin. “How are we doing on the grand plan?”

“We’re getting there, I think,” he looked back at Will and Gerard and then at the table. Everyone had finished eating: their plates lay mainly empty on the table.

“I think, though I’m beginning to sound like I’m on a mission to get you fattened up, that we’re going to need puddings and probably liquor coffees.”

He raised his eyebrows. If he and Paris were definitely trying not to get drunk, that meant that the social drinking was left to Lizzie which was never a good thing. Anyway he saw Paris’s point. They needed more time, not stretched out awkward time, but normal casual time so puddings were definitely going to be required.

They brought the drinks over. Will said thank-you happily and Gerard eyed the new drink with, he thought, a slight glaze. Perhaps he had not been lying then, about mainly drinking water.

The downside of Paris drinking coke he saw quite rapidly was that it meant Lizzie was finishing the bottle of wine on her own, and Lizzie was inclined to be critical of him when she was drunk. Still he didn’t really care about that now. On the bright side it also meant that just for a little while she would be entertaining and loud.

His recovery from not being wanted by Stolid had left him free as a bird…no, a house fly, able to shake off any criticism, any depressing thought. Also the sudden freedom had left him aroused, interested and alert.

“Are you feeling okay?” Gerard asked. He definitely slurred the words ever so slightly Timonthy thought triumphantly.

“You rushed off as if you felt ill.”

“Just a call of nature,” Timonthy said and looked straight into Gerard’s troubled eyes as if he could see the truth in there. He didn’t see the truth but definitely a lightening of spirit.

“I’m sorry that must have seemed rude,” he continued ploughing through his own disappointment which was no longer there. “Did I really hear you say that Stolid sent you to me as a present with his compliments? Then I ran off as if the gift displeased me. I didn’t mean it like that.”

Now Gerard didn’t look so pleased. He looked worried as he said,

“Not a present: just a recommendation to one friend that they will probably like another, as people used to send letters to accompany their friends on journeys to ease their paths.”

“I’m sorry again. I used the wrong word.” Timonthy bowed his head and knew he was being a cad. It was not Gerard’s fault. It wasn’t even, if he was honest with himself, Stolid’s fault. He had never encouraged Timonthy to love him. He had never shown him any interest at all except as a friend until the night, Timonthy realised now, he had let him sleep with him out of a mixture of pity and loneliness. A cad and a fool!

A waitress came, cleared the table and took the orders for dessert. Both Will and Lizzie were louder than normal now. Paris gave him a pretend look of dismay as he smiled reassuringly at her. Timonthy hoped that Paris was paying attention to that end of the table as he knew he had work to do this end if he was going to retrieve his position at all.

“Did what he say about me recommend me?” he asked too plaintively for his own liking.

“He said that you were a good friend, an honourable man: someone who could weather storms well and always knows how to act for the best in every situation.”

“That’s quite a good recommendation. What do you think he would say to me about you?” Timonthy smiled to encourage him.

“I think he would say that I’m a loyal friend,” Gerard looked away as if thinking about it. “I keep ending up in trouble because I’m too impulsive and I like helping people but at least I’m not boring. I know some people find me too much but I am good with horses. Not that that is very useful in this place but where I used to live, horses were like cars, indispensable.”

“Stolid was a bit boring,” Timonthy said to relieve his own chagrin. “I can tell that you’re not.”

The desserts arrived and the conversation became general again.

“Are you going to get some more drinks?” Lizzie asked loudly. Timonthy pursed his lips. He had grown tired of the plan: tired of trying to make Gerard drunk enough to tell him something useful. He was happy with him in the state he was in: not drunk just pleasantly relaxed.

“Does anyone want another drink?” he settled for asking.

“Yes please,” Lizzie said. “A bottle of red would do. Will wants to try some as well.”

Timonthy looked at Will who shrugged helplessly. Gerard said hesitantly,

“I think I have had enough, thank-you.”

“You will be very unwell if you have red wine now,” Paris said sharply. “Do you remember last time?”

“No, I don’t,” Lizzie said happily. “I was probably drunk.”   

“Well, I remember. You told me to never let you drink red wine again. You were sick everywhere and ill for days after.”

“Shush,” Lizzie said annoyed. “Don’t tell everyone. Anyway that won’t happen again. I must have been unwell.”

Paris rolled her eyes, and Timonthy quickly removed himself to the bar again. He compromised by getting two red wine glasses.