A few evenings later George was standing at the window of his own apartment and looked out across the river towards the Complex. From there he could only see the western part and he was thinking about Christmas and the way Charles Dickens had described it. The snow, the open fires, the crowded streets, the decorations, the grubby, happy faces.
The story of the Christmas Spirit. He thought about the dirt, the grime, the poverty and cramped living conditions inflicted by generations of democracy that the Corporation had sensibly made a thing of the past.
‘What an imagination Dickens must have had,’ thought George, ‘to have made all of that up in his own mind. No wonder he was such a popular writer. That’s what the best writers do,’ he remembered being taught, ‘make up places that can seem so real when, in fact, they had never existed at all.’
He poured himself a whiskey, lit a smoke and began to mull over Edgar’s words of the other evening. He certainly respected his advice but sometimes could not be sure that Edgar really understood what living in the modern world was like.
He hadn’t really done anything, apart from muck about in his laboratory, for as long as George had known him. And, probably, for many years before that too. He thought about Mira.
And he thought about Tibha and her expressive description of something he realised he knew nothing about. And so he began to write a list of questions, that he wanted to ask Edgar, onto his hy-dev notepad.
3: My mother and father.
4: The last government.
5: His role in the Corporation.
6: His experiments.
Finally he looked up at the time on the wall screen. It was hour 1 and so he placed his device upon the surface in front of him, took a sleeping tab, drained the glass and fell into a deep sleep with his feet up on the table.
The following afternoon George was sat at the seafood bar where he had arranged to meet Will and Marnie in the Central Complex Hydroport. He selected his skyphone app, tapped the icon called Mira and waited. There was no reply. This time he tapped out a message; ‘in Hydroport, should be in Cape Town City by H18. Want to meet at H19.30?’ He placed it back on the bar and received an instant reply.
Mira; ‘Yippee, can’t wait. See you later. Travel safe babes x’
‘She must have seen me calling, it was ten seconds ago,’ thought George. ‘Why not just answer?’
‘Don’t try to understand them son.’ Edgar reminded him, from somewhere deep inside. The trouble was that George wanted to understand. George wanted to understand everything. He tapped onto his hy-dev notebook to add another question for Edgar. The page was blank; the list was no longer there, even though he was certain he had saved the text. He was annoyed with himself. How could he forget to add the list onto his server?
‘Shall we get some food here,’ asked Marnie and she and Will sat down.
‘No let’s eat later,’ Will suggested, ‘drink?’ he offered, and picked up George’s bottle of chilled white wine and poured a couple of glasses.
‘We have thirty minutes,’ warned George. ‘Drink up and let’s get on the plane.’ Within fifteen minutes they had found the boarding gate, scanned their ident-cards, which charged their accounts the twenty-five-dollar ticket fee to Cape Town from the Central Complex. They swiped their fingerprints, grinned at the photo-recognition camera and they were permitted to board the Hydrosonic.
George settled into his seat, pulled out his hy-dev and selected the application that would automatically inform the motor storage unit at the Cape Town Hydroport that he would be collecting his car on arrival, around ninety minutes later.
That would give them plenty of time to check her over, charge her up, change the fluids and have her ready at the collection point from the moment he arrived. Ninety-year old vintage cars were not uncommon, especially in Cape Town, but they needed looking after properly if an owner was out of town for long.
The motor storage unit were constantly running old engines, checking batteries and servicing the petrol to hydrogen conversion units. Hydro-converters had been fitted to all old cars as soon as hydrogen fuel became free to all members of the Corporation, just after the take over. Free energy had been promised for everyone in the lead up to incorporation. It was one of the things that made the transition so seamless.
Who, in their right minds, would want to continue paying heavy government imposed fuel and energy taxes when the alternatives were offering the newly developed hydrogen energy for free, to everybody? The cost of living had then dropped by seventy five percent in a single year.
George then selected his notepad application, opened a new page and patiently tapped in the words;
3: My mother and father.
4: The last government.
5: His role in the Corporation.
6: His experiments.
This time he carefully chose the auto-save option that would send a copy of the note to his personal remote server storage that he would later be able to access from anywhere and from any device, if necessary. He also saved a copy directly onto his hy-dev, settled back into his seat and watched through the window as the aircraft left the earth’s atmosphere and turn on its hydrogen powered Pulse Plasma Thrusters.
At six thousand kilometres per hour, and skimming the ozone layer, they should all be safely on the ground in Cape Town within seventy five minutes. At the same time Hugo would be speeding through one of the Sub Atlantic Tunnels, on the Pulse Plasma Hydrotrain, at around five thousand kilometres an hour. One of those would deliver him to New York in around forty five minutes.
At the Cape Town Hydroport all three scanned their ident-cards which automatically allowed them access to the African Division. Their hy-devs also sent a location back to the central servers which their supervisors could monitor, if it was thought necessary. Will and Marnie headed for the City-Link which dropped them within a short walk of George’s house in Sea Point, on the side of the mountain range known as Lion’s Back.
George had a housekeeper who had been informed as soon as he scanned his ident-card in the Central Complex Hydroport that he was only a few hours away and she would be ready for them to arrive. He made his way to the motor storage unit and could see the staff polishing the spoked wheels of his beloved Old Calendar 1972 Jaguar XJ6 Coupe. The car had been locked in the garage of the house when it had been passed to him and he then spent two years lovingly restoring her.
After collecting the keys and paying the fee with a quick scan of his ident-card, George fired up the straight six cylinder engine which purred into life and pointed it towards the big flat topped mountain known as The Table, which towered above, and protected, the city from its sometimes inclement weather.
George felt full of life. His first week at the Corporation had gone well, he had met Tibha, and he was now in his favourite place in the world. And that was the driver’s seat of his old Jaguar and heading towards the Mother City. He snapped on his sunglasses, selected some tunes and poured on the power.
In fifteen minutes he was pulling into his car port and would be where, these days, he considered to be home. Will and Marnie would have already arrived and hopefully were opening the wine.
‘You’ve been away a long time this time,’ snapped Constance, his housekeeper.
‘It’s only a few months,’ he replied as he gave her a warm bear hug. Constance had been living at the house for her whole life after her mother had been given a suite of rooms on the ground floor when she began working for the previous owner.
Constance didn’t remember the previous owner, or at least said she didn’t. But she adored George and made sure everything was looked after for him whenever he was back at the Albion Central Complex during his final years of training.
George had no bag to unpack; he never needed to take anything to Cape Town apart from his hy-dev and ident-card. But his wardrobe was full of freshly ironed clothes suitable for the warm climate he could enjoy now that he had crossed the hemispheres from the cold Albion winter into the warm African sunshine.
On the terrace Will was drawing the cork from a fine bottle of white from the Jordan Wine Estate, one of the many in the wine-lands dotted around the Mother City. He poured Marnie a glass and sat back to admire the magnificent view across the Table Bay, along the West Coast and out over Robben Island, a seven star holiday resort that had been built forty years earlier, just after incorporation.
‘I remember my grandfather telling me that was once a prison island,’ Constance told him as she walked past with another case of wine for the cooler. She was well aware that when George was home she would need to keep the wine and whiskey cold, the ice drawers full and the smoke box topped up. Other than that he asked for very little, apart from the occasional blind eye.
George joined them, sat down, took a long draw on a tumbler of wine and announced, ‘I am off to a jazz club later, you guys coming or do you have other plans?’
Will looked at Marnie who shrugged her approval and replied, ‘of course we are coming. Jazz on the Long Street of a Friday night, what is there not to look forward too?’
‘Ok,’ said George, ‘we are meeting Mira at hour 19.30, she said she preferred to join us there instead of coming here first.’ Constance stopped and looked at George, before saying nothing. He continued, ‘we are meeting Marvin, Beth, Gus, Gemma and a few others and Ben E’s Jazz Band are playing live. I have asked him to reserve us our favourite table.’
Marnie clapped her excitement.
‘Good work Georgie Boy,’ said Will. ‘A quick shower and we are ready to go.’ Marnie followed him to their bedroom. Will had chosen it from George’s four spare rooms, several years earlier, for the view across the bay. And for the large walk in bathroom.
Marvin was the first to arrive at the Long Street Caf?, a large two part room with a long bar on one side and a small stage at the far end, partly hidden by a mirrored dividing wall. The owner of the club, Costas, a long time friend of George and Will’s, noticed Marvin and greeted him warmly.
‘The others on their way?’ he asked as he led Marv to the big table. Before he could answer Gemma and Beth danced in through the doors, creating attention for themselves.
‘I can see they have started early,’ said Costas as Marv waved the girls over.
Both in their early twenties Beth and Gemma were typical examples of what George called the Cape Town Pirates. Like so many of their age group they were on their final ASPP but really couldn’t be bothered to learn much. They were only interested in the next party and who was going to pay for it.
It was a sense of entitlement girls in this town had if they were pretty and well dressed. They flirted with everybody and anybody who might give them something for nothing. They never gave anything back; despite suggesting, or even offering, so much. They were raiders. They were takers and leavers. They were pirates but, even so, fun to have around.
George had slept with Beth once after she had passed out at his house and he had woken up with her climbing into his bed. She was a beautiful girl and it was an opportunity George had taken advantage of. He didn’t regret it but was not so proud of himself either. The following morning he had strolled to the local deli for coffee and pastries after leaving her fast asleep. When he returned she was gone. They never spoke of it again.
Will, George and Marnie were next in and sat down; Costas brought a bottle of fifteen-year-old Jameson to the table and joined them. Marvin produced a small glass bottle filled with cocaine and the girls giggled as they asked, ‘may we?’ Marv nodded his approval and the girls snapped it up and headed for the bathrooms.
‘You know you are not going to get anywhere with those two Marv?’ Costas told him. ‘They are in here every week poncing off someone or other. I have never seen them pay for a drink, or leave with anybody except each other, despite flirting around the bar all night.’
‘Cape Town girls,’ said Marv, ‘take them or leave them.’
‘Leave them,’ said Will, as Marnie nodded her approval.
‘Take them,’ cried Costas, ‘I do.’
George looked down at his hy-dev and tapped, ‘we in Long Street Caf?, where you?’
There was no reply. Girls were different here than they were in the Northern Hemisphere and two perfect examples danced back to the table, giggling with each other. They were dabbing numb, tingling noses with delicate knuckles and grooming their long hair with bony fingers.
Gus arrived and said to them, ‘you two have started early haven’t you?’ They ignored him and Costas poured out another glass.
Gus looked around, ‘No Mira?’ he asked George.
‘Not yet,’ he shook his head, before checking his hy-dev. There was still no reply. Another girl tottered across on high heels, leant forward and planted a kiss on Gus’ forehead.
‘Maria,’ he said.
’How are you?’ she squealed. The word ‘you’ was delivered in a tone that changed three times and sent poisoned darts into George’s ear drum. Her perfume, which thickened the air, was cheap enough to taste.
‘Has somebody been polishing the tables?’ Marv asked nobody in particular. With that, Maria turned quickly to look over Gus’ head at somebody else and then off she went in a new direction.
George looked at Gus. ‘She is..’ he started,
‘I’m not interested,’ interrupted George.
‘Ok, but don’t you just love that old fashioned lycra material they use again these days?’ George had to admit that he did and the pair watched as she sashayed towards another table in her cling-tight top, hipster jeans and dangerous heels. Maria knew George, and knew he didn’t like her.
‘The shine of her star will fade soon enough;’ said George, ‘and then nobody will be looking at her anymore.’
‘I violated her in the back of a taxi about a year ago, for the small price of a single line.’ Marv added. ‘With a couple of shooters and a few lines inside her well, you can get almost anything you want inside her.’
George checked his hy-dev again, to find nothing. He glanced towards the door and out into the street. There was still no sight or sound of Mira.
Beth and Gemma were chatting the chat they began in the bathroom and they all knew that within twenty minutes they would be feeling fantastic about themselves. They would become city princesses and everything would be going their way. It would become their world and the rest would be simply living in it, making it happen for them.
Costas ordered them a pair of shots each. He knew they wouldn’t be buying anything tonight and so what the hell. Maybe they would one day, when they grew up. The girls love the magic dust. It feeds extra feeling into their nerve endings like pouring warm oil into the soul, or as writing a beautiful line for them will. Everything tingles. Tummy’s turn, defects real or imagined vanish in the haze. For a while.
‘We might as well join them,’ Marvin offered.
‘Rude not to,’ replied Gus.
They all then took their turns on the little trip to the tiled shelf in the bathroom. Finally the glass vial was passed to George, who had told himself he was never doing it again, as soon as he had finished his training and started contributing. But it looked as though nobody had heard him and so off he went too. Gus stared across at the giggling girls opposite who were counting down from five before tossing back their free shots.
‘I wonder,’ he thought, ‘what your contribution is going to be? What will become of you when the Corporation realise you have nothing to add to society?’
Ben E, the tall double bass player wandered over to the table with a home grown hash tab dangling from his lips.
’Looking good Bennie,’ called Will.
‘Cheers dudes,’ he drawled. ‘If I am going to be steaming tonight then I at least want to be stoned too.’
Without introduction the band sprang into life with a drum fill and Ben E hurried towards the stage. Behind the keyboards sat one hundred and fifty kilos of rhythm and blues meat. The legendary Clem Hemming had his head hunched low and his jet black hands jumped and danced along the snow white keyboard, spraying arcs of sweat as he played his intro, which sounded like the first thing that came into his head. He had his own beat.
‘You are all crazy tonight,’ he yelled into the microphone. He was probably right.
‘You don’t have to die to find paradise,’ he cried. ‘No man, take some of those jumping beans over there and come with me just for one night only.’
He meant, of course, ecstasy. It could be bought in most bars at the weekends since the Corporation legalised all previously banned drugs. It kept the profits up and the potential trouble makers otherwise distracted for a few days. It also meant they could control which areas of the Divisions received exactly how much of what kind of recreational drugs that they alone decided were suitable. Keeping the main part of the population superficially happy and partly docile had been company policy since Incorporation. That was also why anybody could pick up diazepam from almost anywhere for a single dollar a box.
Clem hunched and he rocked and he played. The girls were up and dancing, heads were bobbing, fingers drumming and hearts were bumping. Ben E rolled back and forth to the beat with his eyes closed and his slim fingers laying a rhythm down beneath Clem’s twinkling tunes.
‘Man alive,’ shouted Marvin as the cocaine started to work its way into his single-inch brain. ‘This place is hard core, we are all alive tonight like we have never lived before.’
Gus laughed and looked at George. He laughed too, looked towards the door and finally saw Mira. She was two hours late. Her short, slim frame was dwarfed by the doorway as she brushed her long, dark hair away from her face and looked around. George watched as she peered across the crowded room. He wasn’t sure if he was pleased she had finally turned up or not. Time would tell. He turned away to watch the band and moments later Mira slipped quietly into the seat next to him placing the palm of her hand onto his thigh and quietly attracting his attention. She smiled warmly as he looked at her and then jumped up and wrapped her arms around him.
‘Welcome home babes, I’ve missed you,’ she whispered. George’s heart immediately softened. It always did. He couldn’t help himself.
’Sorry I am late,’ she pleaded. ‘I was having sushi with my sister. She has boyfriend problems, do you want to hear about them.’
’I thought not, anyway I am here now, let’s order shooters.’ George nodded, Costas overheard and, with a wave of his hand, made her wishes come true.
‘Why didn’t you answer your skyphone yesterday?’ George asked her.
‘I told you babes, I didn’t hear it. I was on my bike all afternoon. I had a lovely ride all the way along the seafront and right down to Camps Bay. And then all the way back again. Aren’t you proud of me?’
‘But you said you were on the beach.’
Mira studied his face before replying, ‘yes at Camps Bay, I saw some friends and sat with them for a while, that must have been when you tried calling.’
George thought about this and decided it was at least plausible. But something with this girl just didn’t add up. Mira didn’t make sense to George, despite how he felt about her. He decided this was the weekend he was going to tell her.
‘Come on babes drink up,’ Mira was already banging her shot glass back down onto the table before George had even reached for his. He quickly caught up by the time she had downed her third from the tray-full in the centre of the table.
George looked across towards the stage. By this time the music was beautiful but the girls raved as if they were in a school disco. One of them danced so wildly that she almost took out the drummer. She was untamed. But the mess was cleared up and put into a taxi. The band played on and the evening was gearing up to be a memorable one.
‘Man dig that geezer over there’, cried Marv as he returned from the bathroom dabbing his nose with a handkerchief. ‘He’s done so many drugs his soul is skeletal. That’s not dancing, he’s unrolling his bones. Listen Gus, imagine this. Imagine if we never came down from here. What would life be like, don’t you think, do you ever think what would happen. Is that a love dance he’s doing over there? Who is she?
Mira pressed her head into George’s shoulder and he stroked her long, brown hair. ‘Can we go soon babes?’ she asked him.
‘You’ve only been here half an hour,’ he told her.
‘Yes but can we go somewhere quieter please, please babes.’ This was typical of Mira. She thought that George’s friends didn’t like her and, in truth, they didn’t much. Especially the Cape Town friends. Will, on the other hand could take her or leave her. George signalled to him above the music, stood up, nodded to Costas and Gus and led Mira to the door.
‘You are going to have to tell him,’ Gus told Costas.
‘You tell him.’ Costas replied. They watched as George and Mira walked past the window and out of sight.
’So,’ George asked as they strolled along the street, ‘another bar? Which one?’
Mira thought for a moment, wrapped both her arms around his waist and said ‘the bar at your house. George’s bar is my favourite bar and it is such a beautiful evening. We can sit on the terrace, enjoy the view and listen to music, just the two of us. I have missed you.’
‘Yes I could see that,’ George told her, ‘by the way you were two hours late.’
‘Don’t be like that,’ she scolded him. ‘I told you, I was talking to my dad on the phone.’
‘You mean eating sushi with your sister,’ George reminded her.
‘That’s right, like I said, I was with her when my dad phoned.’
This did nothing to ease George’s troubled mind but at least they were heading for his house. He might even get laid again and so he stopped asking questions. There was no point in provoking a fight and Edgar once again reminded him, ‘don’t try too hard to understand them son.’ George liked Edgar.
‘Please babes,’ Mira pleaded, ‘I just want to be alone with you. And anyway, you know I hate those noisy bars in town. I never go there. Take me home, please.’
‘Then why didn’t you just come straight to the house in the first place?’ he asked her.
‘Look how beautiful the moon is tonight,’ she replied.
As they turned the corner from the main road everything was quiet and the rest of the city was still. They crossed Strand Street and walked up the hill. To their right hand side the harbour lights shimmered and reflected in the calm sea beyond. An amateur band rehearsed in a nearby garage and the ships in the bay lay at anchor, waiting to be called into the port. The low African sky looked as though a thousand diamonds had been thrown, at random, across a black blanket and George said so.
Mira looked up at him and squeezed his arm, ‘you say the most beautiful things,’ and then she buried her head into his shoulder. She clung onto him like a limpet. George wondered if she was trying not to fall over.
‘You choose some music and I will open a bottle of wine,’ he said quietly as he tapped in the alarm code at the front gate.
‘Shooters first, shooters first,’ she cried as she danced across the room towards the Tequila.
‘Whatever you like,’ George called after her as he reached into the cooler for a bottle of Merlot.
‘Aren’t you supposed to drink red wine at room temperature?’ Mira asked as she lined up eight shot glasses.
‘You certainly are,’ replied George, ‘if that room is in the cellar of an old manor house in the Northern Hemisphere and it is Old Calendar 1744.’
Mira gave him a blank look.
‘Here in the summer of AI43,’ he continued, ‘nobody should be drinking warm wine. Either red or white,’ and he reached for a couple of tumblers. ‘Even this isn’t cold enough,’ he remarked as he took a sip. George dropped a cube of ice into his wine and was about to do the same for Mira when she placed four of the shot glasses in front of him.
‘What are you doing?’ she demanded. ‘Don’t water my wine down.’
‘Don’t worry,’ he assured her. ‘The alcohol doesn’t jump out of the glass. Putting ice in there doesn’t make it weaker, just colder.’
‘I prefer mine without ice thank you and here, it’s shooter time.’ With that she downed another two, took her glass out onto the terrace and waited for George to catch up. He sat down opposite her and, with his arms resting on his knees, he leaned forward and quietly asked, ‘ok, what’s going on Mira? What’s with this unusual behaviour?’ She looked hurt and said nothing. He continued. ‘The missed phone calls and immediate messages, why don’t you speak to me?’
‘I told you I was on my bike.’
‘Or the beach,’ George added. ‘And that’s another thing, all those odd little stories that don’t add up and I don’t just mean this week, I mean for the last six months.’ Again, she said nothing ‘Are you going to talk to me?’ he encouraged her.
‘Ok, ok. It’s just that I am scared of losing you.’
‘You have said this before, and then go ahead and behave in exactly the way that is likely to make that happen. Lying to me, turning up late and sometimes not showing up at all. The last time I was here you sent me a message at H2 saying ‘I want you now.’ I replied telling you I was still awake and to come over. I then didn’t hear from you again for two days. Was that message even meant for me? Because that’s how to lose me Mira, we are either together or we are not. Right now it feels like we are not and yet here you are again, here we are again.’
‘I want to spend the rest of my life with you,’ she announced quietly and without looking up.
George was stunned.
She then looked straight at him with her green, shining eyes and said, ‘it’s ridiculous. The way I feel about you scares me and that’s why I keep trying to push you away, out of my mind, out of my thoughts. But you never go away. If anything the feeling gets stronger and that frightens me, it scares me to death. It frightens me that one day you will just say ‘that’s all, that’s it, go away silly girl. I couldn’t bear that. Every time I see you or hear your voice my heart starts pounding and it scares me to think that it might be for the last time.’
George reached across and took her hand.
‘How long have you felt like this?’ he asked quietly.
‘Ever since the day we first met.’
George was shocked.
‘That was four years ago. So why did you take that marriage licence and then renew it?’ He asked her.
’Because you were with somebody else and I thought you didn’t want me.’ She admitted. ‘I was desperate for you to stop me. Do you remember when I came round here and told you I had set the date? Do you remember what you said?’
George was embarrassed. ‘That I knew a good marriage licence lawyer you could use.’
‘Exactly,’ she shouted. ‘Here I was, desperate for some sort of sign from you, just something to say I shouldn’t go through with it and you congratulated me, and even offered to arrange it for me. You’re an arsehole.’
‘Yes I do remember,’ George admitted quietly. ‘I remember it clearly.’ He felt ashamed. ‘But why didn’t you say something?’
Mira snatched her hands away and pulled the hair away from in front of her face. George could see she had been crying and she then confronted him angrily.
‘Because all you could talk about was that slut you were going into contract with.’
George laughed, ‘she is not a slut but yes, I remember that too.’
Mira then spent the next thirty minutes reminding George of all the other signs she had given since the day they had met and he reluctantly had to agree with each of them. Mira remembered everything and was right about all of them. Finally George admitted he had felt the same way as she had from the very beginning.
‘You are a fucking idiot,’ she told him. You call yourself a writer? Aren’t you supposed to notice things, see things that others don’t?’ she demanded.
‘You also might have made it easy for me and simply said something,’ he replied. ‘I thought you were happy with your contract and I didn’t want to interfere.’
‘Fuck off,’ she shouted. ‘And bring some more wine when you come back.’
‘What are we going to do now we have both admitted all of this,’ George asked her.
‘Spend the rest of our lives together, have a family and be happy, but only after you have fucked off first,’ she replied. ‘And then come back.’
‘Can we start slowly by just dating properly?’ George suggested.
‘Give me some time to think about it,’ Mira said as she finally offered a small smile. And then came the uncontrollable laughter that George so adored in her. When he returned he noticed that the four remaining shots of tequila were now on the terrace table and two of them were empty.
‘Come on babes,’ she said. ‘You have some catching up to do, and we have some celebrating to do.’
George downed his tequila, sipped his wine and stood staring out into the darkness of the bay that was punctuated only by the intermittent flash of the Robben Island Lighthouse. He thought carefully about what had just happened and considered the advice Edgar had given him only days earlier. Mira, meanwhile, was tapping something into her hy-dev.
Finally George sucked air in through his teeth, tugged on his earlobe and turned around.
‘Ok, let’s do it,’ he said, against all of his instincts and Edgar’s advice. ‘Let’s be together. We can ignore the past, the other people we have been involved with. How about we never mention any of it again and start with a new screen, from right now, a brand new start.’
She looked up at him. ‘But you shagged my sister,’ she shouted. ‘I’m not sure I can forget that. Why, why why?’
‘Because, Mira, you were married to somebody else and she and I were both single at the time. And we liked each other. You encouraged us, remember?’
‘I didn’t mean to. It hurts like hell, I can’t get over it.’ Mira stood up and announced, ‘I have to go.’
George was confused. ‘We are in the middle of a conversation, where are you going?’
‘I have some friends in from Johannesburg; they have just told me they are in a bar in Long Street and I am going to join them. I don’t want to look at you right now, I can see you tomorrow.’
‘You said you didn’t like the bars in Long Street?’
‘I never said that.’ She argued.
George was becoming concerned; it was after midnight. ‘I can’t let you go back to Long Street, I will worry too much. You are drunk and it is dangerous down there at this time. You can stay here, with me or in your favourite room, you choose, but you mustn’t go to Long Street now, it’s too late.’
‘You controlling bastard, call me a taxi right now.’ She screamed.
‘Well, ok, but you can call your own taxi. If you want to leave then you can sort yourself out.’ He insisted. ‘Phone for your own taxi.’
George didn’t see the first punch coming but it caught him squarely on the side of the face, knocking the glass from his hand which then shattered across the terrace. Before he managed to react a second blow landed directly into his ribcage and the third, a kick that was aimed at his testicles, was parried away before it connected.
‘What the hell are you doing Mira,’ he shouted as she ran towards the front door and started butting it with her head in an attempt to open it. George finally restrained her, but not before taking two more blows to the face and a solid kick in the ribs. He managed to sit her back down into a chair and calm her down.
‘What on earth are you doing?’
‘I want to see my friends. I told you they were in town and you won’t let me leave.’
‘You can leave Mira, in fact I will insist, get out. After all we have just talked about I can’t believe you are behaving like this again. The door is open, now leave and don’t come back.’ Mira ran out into the night, down the road and was gone.
George reached for his whiskey and when Will and Marnie finally returned they left him as they found him; fast asleep in his favourite armchair.