"I was never one to get settled down, you know, but you know how it is, the moment we stop planning, that's when something hits us." H__ shifted comfortably in his seat and took another long drag of the cigarette. Around us, the crowd had grown somewhat to include several other couples and a family of five. The air was beginning to get a little humid, and I could almost smell that sticky, heavy feeling that usually foretold rain. I didn't really mind, however. I had promised my time to this guest from my past, and he was going to make sure he got to use every minute of it.
"Back in the day, I used to go out with M__. Remember her? Man she was the hottest thing on two legs at the college, yeah? Anyway, that didn't really last more than a year or so, and after that my family decided I needed to be sent abroad, so -"
At this point he began his account of his tertiary education, which wouldn't really interest the reader if I recounted it verbatim, so I'll just summarise it here. After completing his fifth form education, he was whisked away for his A-levels, almost failed but was rescued by his father (or rather his father's money), scraped through again, got enrolled in a certain business school, sped off with a degree, did some time in banking (largely through his father's contacts again) and is now settled down in a rather cushy job with a firm I am not at liberty to discuss (this inability to pin down exactly where he is can be blamed squarely on H_, who turns out to be extremely paranoid about what kind of details I publish).
Having meandered about this path for nearly half an hour, I think he caught the glazed look in my eye and stopped abruptly, nearly choking down his sentence (it was about some other girl he got laid with during his second year) and then started apologising profusely.
"Sorry about that, Ash. You know how it is with memories, and all that."
I told him I knew, in very concise terms. I also asked him to please very kindly continue the story before I ran out of coffee, at which he laughed and told me I could have any number of coffees I liked. Hearing this, I relaxed and let him slip back into his narrative.
"The trouble started about a year and a half ago, after I'd broken up with this girl I'd been seeing. She was pretty and all that, but she just came on a bit too heavily for me, and I didn't think I could take it, you know? So in order to "forget" her, I took sometime off, visited my relatives overseas, that kind of thing. When I came back, I wasn't really looking for anything, but then a nosey cousin of mine decided that I was moping too much and arranged for this barbeque to be held at her house in S__, where she invited some girl friends she knew. It was nice of her and all, so I went anyway (besides my mum would have killed me if I didn't). Thinking back, I should have just faked being sick. At least I wouldn't have met K__ there. And boy, was that ONE big mistake."
H__ took a long breath, squashed the remnants of his now mostly-grey cigarette into the ashtray and got up to get some more coffee while I fought to stay awake through the caffeine induced lethargy that had set in. I stretched my legs and pondered why of all people this mostly successful man decided to choose me to tell his story to. I barely even knew the bloke save for some time we spent together in one of the many motivational camps I got shipped off to in my youth. He wasn't such a bad sort, only our backgrounds were far too dissimilar for us to create any particularly lasting bond, and as I moved away, I pretty much forgot about him, and a lot of other details as well.
"So what happened next?" I asked when he got back with the two tall lattes. "I gather you met someone at the barbeque, asked her out, and found out she was an axe-murderer or something, after which you tried to dump her unsuccesfully but she wound up getting even at you and your family instead."
He grinned."You have no idea how close you are, except for the part about her being an axe-murderer of course. There are worse things, you know." The damn fool knew I was too curious for my own good, but still he drew it out. "How it turned out was, I'd already met some pretty cool girls at the BBQ, and was already halfway asleep when my cousin turned up with this other girl in tow. She wasn't pretty, but she wasn't ugly either (which helps things) and I'd found out she'd done some really extensive travel of her own. So we chatted for a couple minutes, found out we'd gone to some of the same places, and liked the same things, and then well, one of my buddies found out his girlfriend was fooling around with another guy there, and well, things got a bit rowdy."
"The point being, of course, that I totally forgot about the girl, except that her name was K__, so it came as a slight surprise when she called me a couple days after and we chatted for a while, but it was nothing serious. I WAS busy, so we ended up chatting and swapping IM addresses (which I generally do anyway) and well, there was a really huge deal coming up and I had to fly out, with the result that I wasn't online for months."
"What I didn't count on was what would be waiting for me when I got back. I'd already been back a week or so, I was surprised when at this thing I went to with a couple mates who would I meet but K__? She was friendly, but somehow cold at the same time, as if I did something really bad to piss her off. I didn't get that at all, until my cousin called me up the day after asking me why I was treating K__ so badly when all she wanted was to get to know me better. You're surprised? Imagine how I felt!"
I really couldn't stop myself from smirking at this point. "Well, you DO have a way with the chicks, eh?" I said, but he quickly cut me off.
"she told my cousin that I gave her the cold treatment at the do, and she apparently went on and on about how some people are just snobs who drop their friends just like that, and well she just managed to make me feel guilty. So guilty in fact, that I ended up calling her up to ask her out the next weekend."
"I've done a lot of stupid things in my life, but that call was probably the single most idiotic thing. Ever."
Here ends the second part to the story. I'll probably post the continuation when I'm a little less rushed, but for those curious people out there rest assured there will be a point to this rambling madness, and that Mr H__'s story only gets more disturbing from this point onwards. Perservere, gentle reader!
to be continued...