Chris checked his watch. 5:45pm. Searching his duffle bag, he found his brown chinos and Superman t-shirt. He stripped down to his boxers and quickly changed. Snatching his jacket off the rail, he sat down and began putting on his black Converses. After tying his laces, he picked up his jacket and slung it over his arms. He took one last look around to make sure he hadn’t forgot anything before leaving. The door gave a heavy sigh as it closed.
Quietly, Chris made his way down the hallway. It was dimly lit and pieces of obscure art were suspended on the walls. Through one of the rooms he could hear the TV. The old style narration suggested it was a movie from the forties. Chris continued on his way. The noise from his footsteps seemed to be swallowed by the soft carpet.
The next room belonged to Romy. His fingers produced a small echo as they rapt on the grey door. From inside, Chris could hear something crash onto the floor followed by footsteps. With a soft click, the door opened and Romy peered out and smiled.
“Hey you,” she said and held the door ajar.
Chris stepped in and looked around. A flat screen TV proudly hung on the wall. Opposite stood a double bed complete with a dark red duvet and cream pillows. To his left, he noted a clean and rather cosy en-suite through an open doorway. A small selection of makeup lay in a messy pile on the tiled floor. The curtains were pulled, revealing a view over a small children’s park.
“Ready for tonight?” Romy asked before shutting the door.
Nodding, Chris sat down the comfortable bed. His body sunk in slightly as he did so.
“Yeah. Should be alright,” he replied.
“Yeah, just lemme get changed and we’ll go.”
As quick as a flash, Romy pulled her sweater over her head. Her Incredible Hulk t-shirt also came off, revealing a dark blue lace bra strapped tight to her petite body. The absence of clothes exposed the tattoo she adorned to the right of her ribcage, her father’s name and date of his death. Unfazed, Chris continued to look around the room. Being “out” to Romy meant there was an unspoken agreement that they were comfortable around each other.
“Can you pass me that?” she asked as she pointed toward a black dress with a polka dot pattern.
Silently, Chris got up off the bed and grabbed the dress. It felt smooth and delicate between his fingers. Carefully, he handed it back before resuming his place on the bed. Still in her bra, Romy took the dress and moved away from the bed.
“I see you’re going with the Man of Steel tonight,” Romy said, pointing toward his Superman shirt.
“Yeah,” Chris said with a smile.
Chris smiled again and watched as Romy gracefully slipped into the dress.
“So how’s Olivia?” Chris asked.
Romy shrugged her shoulders and knelt to pick up her hairbrush.
“Okay, I guess,” she replied. “I mean Mum is never going to be happy with her being pregnant.”
“Yeah, but they are family so Mum’s got to forgive her at some point.”
With her hairbrush in her hand, Romy sat crossed leg on the floor. The brush lightly disturbed her blonde hair before falling into the rightful place.
“It’s just a really touchy subject right now,” she added. “But they both know that they love each other no matter what.”
Chris nodded before he asked, “So where are we going tonight?”
“My friend recommended a pub around the corner,” Romy said. “We could go there.”
“Sure, sounds good.”
The hairbrush continued to caress her hair, each individual strand was not left untouched. After she was finished, she stood up and straightened her dress. Her hair had been moulded into something that resembled a 50s pin up. Not being much of a girly girl, it was rare to see Romy done up in such a way.
“You look awesome,” Chris replied.
“Thanks amigo,” she replied with a smile.
She drew him into a tight hug and gave him a quick peck on his right cheek. Her cheeks brushed gently against his beard.
“I’m really excited about this weekend.”
Chris nodded. “Me too.”
Romy removed her Converses from her suitcase. Sitting beside Chris, she quickly put the shoes on. Her nimble fingers made quick work of tying the laces. Finished, she stood up and faced Chris.
“Shall we go?”
Picking up her denim jacket, Romy turned and walked towards the door. Following behind, Chris shut the door and they made their way to the elevator. The metallic doors pinged opened and Chris and Romy stepped inside. Romy pressed the ground floor button and turned to Chris.
“I was thinking,” Romy said, “that tomorrow we should check out the stalls?”
“Sounds great to me,” Chris replied.
The doors opened with a slight swoosh to reveal the ornate, but empty lobby beyond. A concierge sat by the desk reading a copy of The Sun. As they walked across the lobby, Chris felt Romy’s bony elbow nudge him in the side.
“Page 3 eh?” she whispered.
Supressing the urge to let out a laugh, Chris grinned.
Stepping out, Chris immediately felt the cold on his skin. He shivered and began to put on his jacket. It was a brisk evening. Down the street, the lights of the lampposts switched on, bathing that area in a pool of orange light. A black cab drove down the road. Its engine, which coughed and spluttered, sounded in dire need of a check-up.
“It’s just round the corner.”
Romy, grasping Chris’s arm, eagerly led him down the cobbled street. A siren wailed in the distance. On the other side of the road, a group of younger teens dressed in hoodies and tracksuits walked in the same direction. Chris could see they were deep in conversation. Oddly, he began to feel sentimental.
“Remember when we were like that?” Chris asked.
Looking over at the group, Romy shrugged.
It was Chris’s turn to shrug his shoulders.
Smiling, Romy used her other hand to brush her hair out of her eyes. As they turned the corner, Romy replied, “It’s weird though. I mean, it’s strange to think that just a few years ago we were learning and now we’re functioning adults who have jobs and responsibilities.”
With nothing to add, Chris just quietly continued to walk. They didn’t have to speak. For years, it was enough just to be in each other’s company. Further down the street, music could be heard coming from a pub. Presumably, Chris thought to himself, this was the pub that Romy was talking about.
Nearing the doors, Chris could begin to make out the sign. It read The Merry Gentleman in big bold black letters. Underneath, there was an old painting of a man sitting on a bar stool having a pint. Looking up at the man was a Dalmatian. The paint was crackly and bits appeared to be flaking off. Inside, a variety of voices could be heard.
“Sounds busy.” Chris said as they drew closer to the entrance.
Stopping by the doors, Chris looked around at Romy. She had an impatient look in her eyes.
“Come on its freezing out here,” she said.
Seizing Chris’s arm for the second time that evening, Romy led Chris into The Merry Gentleman.