Mack's Progress Ch. 07byDenham_Forrest©
I think it must have been about midnight when I broke the seal on that bottle of rum. I wasn't bad enough to drink straight from the bottle though and I poured a decent shot of the liquid into one of the tooth glasses I'd retrieved from the bathroom. God knows how long I lay there, trying to understand where my life was going.
And what was it about Lindsey that she kept bugging me like she did. Christ, I'd dumped her two years ago and I'd had relationships of sorts with Millie, Patricia and Michelle, not to mention Bev. But none of them had gotten under my skin as much as Lindsey had. The girl was the bane of my life; every time someone mentioned her damned name, I got this damned lump in my throat. I knew that I had to force myself to get over her somehow
Why the hell had I listened to Conway's wife. She'd convinced me I'd been wrong about Lindsey, but in my befuddled brain I'd forgotten that over two years had passed since the last time she'd told me she loved me. And in those two years, I'd treated her like shit. Was Lindsey taking her revenge on me for doing so?
Was that it? Was the whole charade that day to prove to me that I'd been wrong and then stomp on me whilst I was down. Come to that, had Conway and Lindsey's little speech in the car park all been choreographed out for me to hear? Maybe even Conway's wife being in the shadows was a set-up. Had I been conned again? Was I supposed to walk into that library and see the woman that I loved accepting a proposal of marriage from another man?
I couldn't understand how they could have known that I was going to be in that car park at that particular time. But I had to think that that was somehow a possibility. Perhaps they had been watching me, waiting for the perfect opportunity.
If that was the case, had what was said by anyone that day been the truth? And if it was, why did I find that jerk proposing to Lindsey?
"No!" I told myself. When they had come out of the hotel, I was much too far too far away for them to see me, let alone recognise me. All of these jumbled thoughts were going around in my brain, and to be honest I couldn't make head or tail of any of it.
Whether I'd fallen asleep or was lost in my thoughts, I don't know. But someone knocked on my door about half twelve. I ignored the knocks and I could hear the sound of a muffled discussion going on about whether or not I was in the room. But I couldn't distinguish who was speaking. After knocking several more times and trying the door handle whoever they were went away.
A very similar thing happened again about two AM. But this time I quite plainly heard someone saying, "The occupant of that room has left specific instructions that he was not to be disturbed." There was some further muffled conversation then it went quiet again.
The next thing I remember the telephone was ringing.
"Your morning call, sir," the girl said first when I answered it. "I'm afraid I'm a few minutes early but there's a lady on the line insisting that she speak to you. She claims to be your sister, sir."
Julia, I assumed rightly, was going to lay into me for going to bed without saying good night to anyone. I was correct; when the girl put her through, she went bonkers about not saying goodnight to anyone.
Then she asked in an angry tone of voice, "What did you say to Lynn this time that upset her so much?"
"I never spoke to Lindsey at all yesterday, Julia!" I replied.
"You must have done. Joan was looking for you because she said she'd arranged for you and Lindsey to sit down and talk."
"Yes, Conway's wife."
"Oh, is that her name? I didn't know. Well, whatever Joan was planning, I never actually got to speak to Lindsey. I saw her, but we never said a word to each other."
"Why ever not?"
"She was too busy, Julia. Busy talking with that guy she came with yesterday, if you understand me," I explained.
"That doesn't make sense. When we saw her she was crying; Conway and Joan were taking her home. Come to think of it, I didn't see that guy leaving with them."
"Well, the last I saw of them, Lindsey and that guy were having a very intimate conversation in the hotel library, not the sort of conversation anyone would want to interrupt!"
"Oh, shit! How intimate?" Julia asked.
"Very intimate," I replied.
"Embarrassingly, they weren't at it, were they?"
"No, I wouldn't have said that. More a conversation that most people would think impolite to interrupt," I explained.
"Then they weren't... you know?" Julia asked.
"No, Julia. That guy, whoever he was, was proposing to Lindsey."
"Holy shit! Surely she didn't accept?"
"I have no idea, Julia, but I should imagine so. It looked to me as if that guy was waving the bleeding Koh-I-Noor diamond under Lindsey's nose and I'd say that she was taking it from him when I walked in on them. I just got my arse the hell out of there, as quickly as I could. I was pretty upset at the time; bloody Conway's wife had just conned me into believing that Lindsey and I might be able to put things back... No, Julia, this is all just too upsetting for me; I don't want to go there. If you don't mind, I don't want to hear or talk about that woman ever again. The further I stay away from her, the happier I'll be!"
"No, Mack, you must have it all wrong again somehow. I spoke to Lindsey yesterday; she's still just as hooked on you as she's ever been. I know it!"
"Julia, everyone keeps telling me how much Lindsey loves me, but I stopped believing any of that crap before I left town; I have no idea why she's still keeping up this stupid pretence. I just can't figure out what kind of silly game she's playing or why. But guys don't go out and buy an f-ing great diamond ring like that bleeding thing he had in his hand last night on the off chance! As far as I'm concerned, Lindsey doesn't exist in my universe and I have no wish to ever hear about her again."
I got more than a little angry after that and reminded Julia that I had blanked her before when she had kept harping on about Lindsey and that I was quite prepared to do the same again. Then I ended the discussion by saying that I was going down for my breakfast.
Millie and Philip joined me at my table almost as soon as I got into the dining room. Millie began to say something about Lindsey, but I stopped her very quickly, reminding her that I was about to drive both of them back home and I could very easily travel alone. Luckily the newly weds arrived at that moment and Billie had news that was more important to everyone than Lindsey.
"Guess what, Mack. We're going to be your neighbours!" Billie gushed the moment she arrived at the table, "Philip's offered Laurence a job on his farm and we're going to live in a cottage in the village."
I quickly learnt that whilst Laurence and Philip had been talking at the wedding, the subject of where Billie and Laurence were going to live came up. They had planned to stay with Billie's parents until they'd found a flat or something that they could afford. Laurence is a mechanic of sorts and - as I've said he and Philip seemed to get on pretty good together - so Phil had offered Laurence a job with a tied cottage on the farm. That's what all the intrigue between the boys had been about at the reception. Although Laurence was a city boy, it was apparent that the plan was for Philip to teach him how to become a farmer in the long term.
Right after breakfast Brian turned up to drive the newlyweds to the airport, so there was no time for anyone to say anything much. Then the three of us headed back up to Norfolk. Conversation on the journey was a little strained. Mostly Millie was breaking the silence by talking to Philip about what needed doing to Bert's cottage, where Billie and Laurence were going to live.
"She was at the wedding, wasn't she?" Beverley said to me in the cellar a few days after we got back.
"If you mean Lindsey then, yes, she was. But I'd prefer not to talk about her," I replied.
"But did you talk to her?"
"Nope, I was going to, but there wasn't much point. I stumbled upon them whilst her fella was proposing to her."
"Oh!" Beverley said quietly.
"Yeah, very much, Oh! I think I was well and truly set up!"
"You remember that arsehole Conway?"
"Yeah, was he there?"
"Sure was, and he had his wife with him as well."
"But I thought they were divorced or heading that way."
"So did I. But it seems they are not. The story I got was that Lindsey had talked them into getting back together; anyway that's of no importance. What is, is that Conway's wife Joan, or whatever her name is, talked me into meeting Lindsey in the hotel library; but when I walked in there, the wanker that Lindsey had turned up at the wedding with was in the middle of proposing to her."
"Oh, shit! Did Lindsey accept?"
"Buggered if I hung about long enough to find out, Bev. I should imagine so though. That bloody diamond ring he was giving her was the size of a bleeding golf ball. What woman's going to turn down that kind of dough?"
"Oh!" Beverley said again, and then she stood there for a few moments, obviously thinking about what she was going to say next. "And you think that it was a set-up then, this Joan woman was cruel enough to send you in there so you could witness this guy proposing to Lindsey?"
"Yeah that's about it. All too much of a coincidence to be anything else. I mean, how did that Joan woman know that the library was even there; it's only open to guests and it's tucked away a bit. Neither Conway and his wife, or Lindsey were staying overnight at the hotel, so strictly speaking, none of them should have been in there anyway."
I went on to explain to Beverley the fine details of my talk with Conway's wife and the strange circumstances the meeting had taken place in. She, like myself, couldn't understand how it could have been pre-planned and Bev suggested that it must have been coincidental.
"Mack, maybe this guy had a crush on Lindsey and just picked an inopportune moment as far as you were concerned. Think about it, Mack. A wedding is a pretty good place to propose to someone, isn't it?" Beverley suggested.
"Guys don't go buying rings like that on the off chance, Bev!"
"Maybe you don't, but there's lots of guys out there who do. I knew a guy once who carried a bleeding great diamond ring around in his pocket. Well, he claimed if it was a diamond. I suspect that it was paste really; he pretended he was very rich and used to ask girls to marry him just to get them into bed. There's more than one greedy woman in this village who fell for his line of shit. You say it was a big diamond! Remember that old song 'diamonds are a girl's best friend'; well, there's plenty women who get married for money, you know. And there's plenty of men with money who will try to use it to get the woman they want."
"What? Are you trying to kid me that the guy asked Lindsey to marry him out of the blue?"
"Yeah, it's a possibility, Mack. I've had a few guys propose to me at the drop of a hat over the years; this pub is worth a good few bob, you know. Perhaps that guy thought Lindsey would marry him for his money. It's pretty obvious that the man she does love isn't going to marry her in a hurry."
I had a problem getting my head around that last comment of Beverley's, so I didn't reply whilst I tried to work out what she meant by it. Beverley must have seen the confusion on my face.
"Come off it, Mack. That woman's stuck on you and you're stuck on her. Mind, why she's still interested after the way you've behaved, I'm buggered if I know."
"You lost me, Bev!"
"Damn it, Mack, Lindsey has been waiting for you to come back to her. I don't know what the hell was going on when you saw her in that hotel library, but I'll stake my girls on the fact that Lindsey wouldn't have accepted any proposal of marriage from that guy."
"Millie told me that she was crying when she saw them leave the reception and that there was no other guy aground; just the Conway guy and his wife. Millie had had a long chat with Conway's wife during the evening and she told Millie that Lindsey just can't get you out of her system."
"Don't make much sense, Bev, if that was the case. Why did Lindsey turn up with that guy in the first place?"
"I have no idea, Mack. Perhaps she wanted to avoid being embarrassed about being there alone when you weren't; remember that Michelle had been invited to the wedding as well as your guest."
"No, I don't buy it, Bev; that guy was all over Lindsey right from the start."
"Just remember what George is always saying, Mack. What you see isn't always what you get. Have another chat with your sister Julia, see if she knows what really went on, on Saturday evening."
I did speak to Julia the following weekend. And she had obviously had a long chat with Lindsey and Julia assured me that the guy's proposal to Lindsey had come completely out of the blue. The guy worked in the same company as Conway and Lindsey, and had been somewhat besotted with her for a year or so. Lindsey apparently liked the guy and they'd gone out for the odd meal together, but she'd told him that there was no chance of a romance between them; or so Lindsey had claimed to Julia.
Julia tried to talk me into going back to town to meet up with Lindsey, "just for a chat," she said, and I told her that I'd think about it. This seemed to please Julia and just about everyone else in the pub. Someone must have been either eavesdropping or have spoken to Julia on the phone shortly after I did.
But then things took an unexpected turn. Word had quickly gone around the pub that I was thinking of taking off for warmer climes for a few months during the quiet season, and Craig - one of the guys who worked in the boat yard - approached me at the bar that same evening.
"I hear you're thinking of taking off for a few months, Mack," he said as I handed him his pint.
"Yeah, I've been toying with the idea of backpacking around Europe before I get too old," I replied.
"You do sail, don't you?"
"Yeah, I've done a fair bit, mostly little craft."
"Any big stuff, out at sea?"
"Well, I've crewed on some big racing yachts on occasions, yeah. Mostly on the south coast. Why the interest?"
"Well, there's this guy. He's bought this ketch rig motor-sailor. Sort of cross between a cabin cruiser and a proper yacht. Anyway he's asked me to sail the thing down to Med for him, Majorca somewhere and I'm looking for a second crewman to come with me. One of the guys in the yard was coming along, but he's dropped out; the job don't pay enough for him. I thought that if you wanted a change of scenery and I know you like pissing about in boats..."
"I'm interested, yeah. When do you need to know by?"
"Like yesterday, mate. I'm supposed to kick off next week."
I'm not sure how enthusiastic I sounded when he said that. There were still a couple of weeks of the season left to run.
"But what about Lindsey?" Bev asked, when I mentioned the trip to her later.
"What about her, Bev? She had her chance at the wedding and she dragged that gink (geek) along with her."
"I think the boy should go if he wants, Bev; it'll be a new experience for him," George piped up from behind us somewhere.
"George, stay out of this please. Mack's become like a son to me and... Oh, I don't know, I think he really needs to sort things out with Lindsey before he does anything."
"Bev, it's been two years and Mack here is old enough to make his own decisions."
"Like you were when you asked Polly to marry you?" Bev threw back at George with an edge to her voice.
This was getting out of hand; I couldn't have Bev and George arguing over me.
"Stop it, you two. Look, Bev, I've appreciated everything that you've done for me, you giving me a job, and a home here when I needed. But... shit, I really don't think there's any chance that Lindsey and me are going to get back together."
"Are you sure, Mack?"
"I can't see it happening, Bev. I'll admit that I still miss her, but... well, as George just said, it's been over two years."
"Mack, you don't know. But George and I... well, when we were young, we were both pretty stupid. We were together for years until... well, we fell out over something bloody stupid, didn't we, George?"
George made a noise that I took to mean he agreed with Beverley.
"Well, like a couple of donuts, we tried to make each other jealous. I took up with the son of the man who owned the Willows and George took up with Polly. We both got jealous all right; even more than jealous, we got even angrier at each other. Then things got completely out of hand, we tried to out do each other. Eventually we ran into each other out by the old windmill; it had always been our special place and completely independently we'd both gone out there to think things over."
Beverley looked at George who put his arms around her.
"Mack, we saw each other and well... The next thing you know, we're rolling around on the grass together like we'd never been apart." Beverley kissed her husband. "But then it all went to shit on us. That night Polly told George that she was pregnant with Jean. This is a small and pretty conservative community, Mack; well, it was back then. If George hadn't married Polly, then he'd have never lived it down."
"Then I discovered that I was pregnant with the twins, so I married Tom. The point I'm making, Mack, is that George was always the love of my life and every bugger in town always knew it. And even Polly knew that George loved me; that's why we were always at loggerheads with each other. Mack, I'm pretty convinced that Lindsey's got under your skin like George has always been under mine. Two years or twenty years, it ain't going to make any difference. You'll never get over her, and from what people tell me, I very much doubt that she will ever get over you either."
Beverley and George stood there staring at me, waiting for me to say something in reply. It had taken some nerve for Bev to tell me how they'd buggered their lives up all those years ago.
"I think that you may be right, Beverley. I can't seem to get her out of my system. I'll call her tomorrow evening when she gets home from work and then maybe drive down to town the next day if she really wants to talk."
"In the two years you've been here, that's the most sensible decision that you've made, Mack!" Beverley said, and then she kissed me on the cheek.
That night I lay in bed, still wondering whether I was doing the right thing by deciding to cut all the crap and call Lindsey. Eventually I decided we really did need to sit down and talk to each other no matter what had happened in the previous two years.
As always in my life things didn't go as I'd planned. I got no answer from Lindsey's flat the following evening. Kind-of brought back memories of when I'd pretended to call Lindsey from my mother's house that day; perhaps fate was repaying me? I kept trying Lindsey's number most of the evening. It must have been gone eleven when I finally decided to call Julia to ask her if by any faint chance she knew where Lindsey was.
Julia sounded extremely excited when I told her why I'd called. She had no idea where Lindsey was and told me that she'd make some enquires and call me back.
"She's out of the country, Mack. I just spoke to Joan and she says that Lindsey has gone off with her cousin and her husband; you know Jeffrey the soldier. Joan thinks that they are over in America somewhere, but she has no idea exactly where; the west coast somewhere. Conway thinks he heard mention of San Francisco when they were planning the trip, but he couldn't be sure. They invited Lindsey to join them, to cheer her up after..."