tagRomanceBryan & Carla after the Supermarket Ch. 03

Bryan & Carla after the Supermarket Ch. 03



It was a brilliant walk to the Fisherman's Arms in the early evening. It was alongside the river most of the way, on the sunnier side of the bank. The developers of Cooper's Meadow had landscaped the area near their section of the river to provide a wild area with a village pond to one side, already populated by ducks and a pair of mute swans. There was also a small park with a fenced off play area, which I thought would be ideal for Brie to play in, even if it was only during her visits. I was beginning to cover all bases, aware that even if the best of plans didn't go according to plan, I had a fallback. All part of my training as a troop commander of armoured tanks or Scimitar reconnaissance vehicles.

As I had one of the better (in my view) corner plots of the development, I was close by the river and the furthest downstream so I just had fields and meadows on one side and a little landscaped walk from my back gate, down to the riverside walk.

Although the sun was low in the sky, I could still feel the heat on my face, but there was a light breeze running along the river which was cooled by the water, so it felt quite pleasant. I had thought it would take about twenty minutes, but I walked quickly, as I was keen to actually get inside the pub as soon as possible. It was just in case Carla started working at seven and I didn't want to miss seeing her for a single minute, so it only took about ten minutes from my back gate to the edge of the pub car park, and I was nicely warmed up and joints feeling loose by the time I got there. The grounds of the ancient pub actually extends down to the waterside, so the path takes a couple of ninety degree turns to around it, before you find yourself walking by what used to be the main road into town, before they built the bypass. It is a quiet road now, with speed bumps and pinched access nearer the town.

As I walked along the picket fence around the car park, I fancied I saw Carla striding purposefully across the still largely empty space, heading towards the pub. I didn't shout out, as I didn't want to embarrass her. Besides, she might have been running late for her session. She veered off from the bar entrance and went through a gate at the back, clearly a staff entrance. I ascertained her route through the car park to locate her car; though I didn't need to work out any fancy trigonometry in my head. I saw immediately where she had parked, even if I hadn't recognised her car from earlier at the supermarket. She had sensibly parked as far as she could from the pub entrance, to preserve her old banger from more that the few normal wear-and-tear dents the car had gained in its useful life, and under a street light set slightly further back, which was perfectly placed so that she could see anyone loitering around the car at the dead of night when she left the pub.

Carla always was a bright cookie, she stood out of the crowd for me even when she was just a kid. Really, she should have, and I had fully expected her to have, gone far in her life, much further than being a barmaid in a local pub.

That stopped me dead in my tracks. Bloody hell! Me, I was the problem here, I was the one that had changed Carla's life for ever, and not for the better!

I was the one who messed with her career by making her pregnant. I was the one who defaulted on the father's contribution to her child's upkeep and to pay for childcare. That's why she was reduced to working part-time in this pub and forced to drive an old banger to work and down to the supermarket. Then another brick in the wall of her current lifestyle slapped me around the head, she wasn't just shopping to help her Mum and Dad with pulling the BBQ together, she was doing the household shop because she is probably still living at home in her parents' house.

Here I was, happily looking forward to the fun of idly watching the woman I love work, but maybe it wasn't fun for her, and clearly I had been idle for long enough. This was serious stuff.

I had turned a bright, beautiful, talented young woman, with a wonderful future ahead of her, into a single, abandoned, unmarried mother with a fatherless child, falling back on parental support and forced into doing meaningless servile work to fund any little extras or for the feeling of having at least some degree of autonomy in her life.

There's only a fraction of the responsibility here for the mother to bear, and absolutely no blame for this situation on the part of the child. Little Brie might have been fatherless and born out of wedlock, but she was the totally innocent party here and I will never accept that she should bear any share of the blame for the situation of her birth.

No sirree, if anyone was the Bastard in this drama, if there ever was a villain of the piece, it was me, I was the Bastard here.

I had been, and still was in ignorance of the existence of this situation, but that has got to come to an end. I have serious commitments here and a considerable amount of catch up to do.

I am remembering more of our conversation during that long date four years ago with Carla. Oh how she spoke about her career at the time, just starting to learn about typographical design and the technical side of preparing layouts for print and web. Her art came naturally to her, it was using the technology to translate her ideas into reality that was fascinating to her. She just loved putting together design concepts, first with sketches and then paring the requirements down until producing the final artwork for approval. She was such a creative person, smart and a great visualizer of what was required to fit the bill.

I know there is an argument that I should have been informed by Carla from the outset that I was responsible for Brie, but I can understand the pressures of family and society. Having had to deal with the problems of the men serving under me, boys from so many different backgrounds, some so far removed from the comfortable surroundings that I grew up in and has drawn me back here. There's pride and shame of the poor girl, as she was then, that has to be taken into account.

Maybe Carla didn't want to say to her parents who the father was, maybe she was sacrificing her reputation for mine. I can see her doing that, taking on her delicate-framed shoulders all of the responsibility. But I should have taken the time that night to have donned that condom, those two condoms in fact. I didn't take the responsibility that I should have done at the time, and that is inexcusable.

As a tank commander in hostile territory, I wouldn't dream of leaving for patrol without ensuring all the men wore their body armour and weapons and everyone's comms equip was checked passed muster. All right. I could argue in my defence that I was extremely horny at the time, and boy was I! But I am not a beast, nor a rutting animal, I should have taken care of it there and then. There should have been no second guesses about safety, whether the engagement involved was with a mate or the enemy. I was in the wrong, big time, of that I had no doubt.

And I should be the one who has to pay for being in the wrong. I should take care of my responsibilities now, and I am determined that I will.

I wondered what my now ongoing father's contribution should have been. I am sure it must add up to a significant amount, even at the barest minimum. I had no idea how much it cost to keep, accommodate, feed, clothe, mind, and entertain a youngster for three and a half years. That is over 1000 days. Say sixty, no, make it seventy a week, ten quid a day, that's seven grand, minimum for 1000 days. Then there was the nine months leading up to the birth, loss of wages, feeding for two, birth stretch mark creams, increasingly bigger mother-to-be clothes, trips to pre- and ante-natal classes, nursing bras, nappies, more creams and cleaners than you can shake a stick at, changing mat, carry cot, sleeping cot, pram and push-chairs, nappies, baby clothes ... all that washing! My God, the list was endless. I had got to round it up to ten grand as a bare minimum!

Shame that I have just bought this brand new bloody big house, I used up a lot of my savings for the deposit, and a big chunk of my salary will be paying off the mortgage for the next fifteen years. I could probably scrape up five thousand from a savings bond and the deposit account, and top up the regular payments to spread the other five 'k' over the next year or two. At least, a lump sum should buy Carla a newer car, and newer cars are generally safer for kids because that is an area where most improvements are being made.

I better man up soon and talk to Carla about how she sees her future, find out the lie of the land and see if Jenny's mother was correct and Carla actually believes that I am the father. That has to be the first step. Once that is established I have to make it absolutely clear to her than I am fully committed to be an equal partner in bringing up Brie and want to make any back payments owed to her as soon as humanly possible, with my efforts in the future and what handy cash I have available immediately.

Ideally, I wanted to cover my responsibilities in partnership with Carla, assuming she wants me. Worse possible case would be that she'd want support only and not have me in her, no their lives except for legal visitation rights. I had to be prepared for what Carla wanted, she outranked me and I would have to suck up whatever she was prepared to concede.

First step was to locate my target of choice before I bring my big guns to bear.

The bar I entered was the same one I was in last night. It was all dark mahogany tables and leather seats, black beams in the beige ceiling. It looked darker than it had last night, but that is because it was still bright and sunny outside by comparison. Last night I treated my old friends to a leisurely steak dinner at my hotel before walking down here, by which time it was already dark.

This bar has a row of booths along one wall closest to the road. There was just some old guy, about Dad's age working behind that bar and a couple of dozen customers lounging around in the booths. This bar was for the serious drinkers, the other bar was for the younger crowd, who tend to start late, party harder and longer.

I remembered back to when I came here that first time with Carla, four years ago, it was spring and a bright day, so we used the other bar which looked out over the lawn and down to the river. I remembered that the bar area there was light and airy compared to in this dark lounge. I walked through the double doorway into the other bar.

I could see now that the lawn bar was actually a conservatory running along the outside wall of the pub, with thin blinds drawn overhead to keep direct sunlight out, but was still much lighter than what must have been the original pub bar area. This place was still empty, the office workers who start early on Friday night, who drop in after work, are probably at the new bar's Opening Night in the centre of town. They were handing out flyers at the supermarket, as well as leaving one under my windscreen wipers, plus I had seen them pasted on several of the lighting columns on the riverside path on my way here.

I noticed this fat guy serving in this bar, a younger version of the guy in the other bar, probably his son, but he was not cut in exactly in the same groove as his father.

The old guy in the first bar had greeted me with raised eyebrows and a beaming welcome smile the moment I entered his bar, but I was too far away to begin any kind of conversation. But he showed me he'd seen me and was expecting me to partake of some refreshment rather than simply take advantage of his hospitality without contribution to its upkeep. As soon as I pointed with an index finger to the doors leading to the other bar, he acknowledged the customer's right of choice with the slightest of nods before switching his gaze to the entrance and overseeing the welfare of his existing customers once more.

However, Junior Fat Arse here in this bar was just standing with a vacant expression on his face, looking straight past me, even through me, although it was clear he hadn't seen me. He was clearly bored with his duties and I imagined he was just wishing his shift was over already. Damn, I thought, no sign of Carla in this bar either. She may have other duties beside the bar, of course, perhaps waitress, or paperwork to fill in or something. I was told she worked here and wore the ring to deflect customers, so I may have assumed 'barmaid', but I could easily be wrong.

Still, this was my bar of choice, and I strode up to one of the bar stools, considering that although it was early, I might as well enjoy my drink of choice too. I was watching Junior as I strolled to the bar, and he never moved. He must have seen me in his peripheral vision, but just stared ahead, like he was in a dream. I dragged the bar stool noisily across the strip of quarry tiles which aligned the bar, and turning round to look behind me to see if Junior was transfixed by a topless model or something equally arresting, but he was staring at a blank wall. What a waste of space! I settled myself as comfortable as anyone can on a bar stool, especially if this is not a common environment for me, and prepared to order my drink. It looked as though I was going to have to take the initiative, as it seemed the landlord was reduced to employing his son in the full knowledge that he would never have the gumption to make a go of anything by himself anywhere else.

"Huhhummm!" I opened with, and he shook his head as if his daydream had only slowly evaporated from the few grey cells he was born with. So I spoke quite slowly, carefully, like a Drill Sergeant addressing, for example, a team of empty-headed civilian civil servants and Members of Parliament visiting the base for an inspection or briefing.

"I would like an Imperial Russian Stout and a glass, please young man, preferably one of those oversized balloon glasses you have that can accommodate a decent head." Well, what can I say? Something like 'that's how I like my women, strong, dark, full-bodied and good head' ... well, it always raised a laugh when drinking with the lads, and I felt Carla was a good enough sport to put a similar take of her drink of choice.

Anyway, while pleasant thoughts ran through my mind, I really wasn't sure if anything was going through Plump Duffer's grey cells.

He looked around the bar shelves as if he wasn't sure where the stouts were, immediately displaying his ignorance by checking through the chillers first. Any idiot, even an apprentice barman being given free rein on his first solo night, should know that such a drink is served at or only one degree below room temperature, not one degree above freezing.

Still, I was on a mission to occupy this bar counter space until last orders and drinking up time, which was not far short of a full four hours, and one glass per hour of this drink would send me home relatively sober but definitely with a light buzz, especially as I had only consumed a soup and some crackers all day long. So I had plenty of time to relax and build my anticipation of both the tipple of emperors and sight of the girl of my dreams.

Great, he found the bottle on a plain shelf below the bar price list, along with a few other speciality and imported craft beers. Then he check the list for the price and, just like Santa, he checked the bloody thing twice because he missed it the first time around. There, realisation dawned late on the poor fellow's simple brain before he removed the crown cap with a hiss of escaping gas, and picked up a glass and poured.

Wait ... that's the wrong fucking glass!

"No, stop what you are doing, man! I want to pour that," I said, but too late, because the dumb bugger had started to pour my beer into a straight-sided Excise-stamped glass designed as a legal measure for draught beers without a head. And, because he had used the wrong-shaped glass, the stupid bastard just sloshed it cascading into the bottom and it had foamed up to the extent that I had three inches of creamy foam at the top and a quarter inch of dark stout in the bottom of the glass.

"Right-ho, mate, it's all yours," he said, just as carelessly as he thumped the glass and bottle on the counter in front of me as if he was a grocer and this ale was about as worthy of any reverence as a bottle of Toilet Duck. "That'll be seven pounds ninety-nine pence."

No '... please, Sir', 'sorry I fucked up your drink, mate', from Fat Boy Dim, I noticed.

He continued, with a smug expression on his pasty face, "You know fella, you can't find this special beer just anywhere, but the Fisherman's Arms has the biggest turnover of this bottled beer than the entire brewery round put together."

I handed over a tenner from my wallet, "Thank you, that's interesting to know ... it makes me wonder why you couldn't find it."

I could've added that he didn't know what glass to use, or that it was bottle conditioned and therefore needed to be poured into the correct glass slowly, smoothly and carefully, in its entirety in one smooth movement, to ensure the settled yeast deposited on the bottom of the bottle remained in the bottle.

He took the tenner, "Ah, that's because I usually manage the other bar." He twitched his head in the direction of his dad's bar.

I wondered what his father would say about that if he had overheard the son. I doubted that Information Overlard could manage a fart without a laundry issue.

When he brought me my change I asked innocently, "So, who manages this bar when you're not around, then?"

"Oh, I sort of manage this side as well, but normally we have a couple of hottie part-timers serving around here, but it looks like one of them has cried off sick tonight, so you will be served by just one delightful young lady."

Bugger! It looked like Carla had popped in through the back way to tell the boss that she couldn't work, rather than go through the front door, and had probably already left to go home.

I was concerned that perhaps Brie was poorly, I don't know much about kids, but some of my men were married or had partners with children at home, and childhood ailments usually figured higher in their conversation than the latest football scores did. Still, it wasn't a wasted walk, the river was lovely today, and I will drink this beer up and make my way back along the river and look forward to seeing them tomorrow.

I had only taken a sip, through a head that had collapsed down to about an inch and a half, while the stout was more like an inch deep in the bottom of the glass, before Idiot Fat Boy turned his back on me and I thought I could hear Carla saying something brief and, I thought, rather tersely to him.

By the time I had laid down my glass, struggled off my precarious perch on the bar stool so I could peer round the broad-beamed barman, I caught sight of the much more delectable rear view of Carla gaily skipping down the steps into the cellar without bothering to use the rope hand holds, like this venture was an everyday event to delight in.

If I worked with Fat Arse in that bar, I'd go down there every chance I got just to escape him, and I am not all that comfortable with spiders because I have seen a few nasties in my travels. I had my doubts that I-Don't-Drink-Zero-Boy would fit through the trapdoor or even have enough wind to pull himself back up on the ropes.

I didn't bother to sit back down, just in case Godzilla's Fat Uncle got in my way again, so I leaned on the bar counter, peering into the depths of the cellar (not that I could see much), took another pull on my Stout, and found that the satisfactory flavour had increased tenfold in reflection of how much more alive I felt since "my girl" showed up.

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