Customers wandered around the shop looking for cheap stocking fillers, Chloe’s manager had banned decorations and limited festive tunes to the politically influenced ones. At half-past two, she took her cigarette break, brushed her hair and checked her phone, hoping to see a message from Rick.
“Hey babe,” she called out as she closed the front door behind her.
“Put the kettle on love.”
“Sure. Coffee Si?”
“Please.” She brought the drinks into them and sat down.
“Busy day?” Asked Rick, eyes fixated on his game.
“Draining, god, people moan.”
“Ah, tis the season to be miserable, tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la.” Sang Simon. Rick raised his eyebrow and warned him to not continue.
“Sometimes I wish they’d ban Christmas.” Neither of them responded, as it was one of her awkward statements, that dissipated into thin air. “Is Katherine coming over?” she asked, breaking the silence.
“She’s at yoga,” replied Simon. She cleared away the empty cups and said she was going to have a bath.
“Anyone need the toilet?”
“No,” they said in chorus, remaining glued to their game. When she left, Simon took a memory stick out of his rucksack and fiddled it in his fingers.
“What’s that for?”
“It’s a movie, you’ll love it.” He looked at the door. “How long will she be?”
“Good.” He inserted the usb stick into the TV and made himself comfortable on the sofa. Rick leaned his head against his hand.
“You’re joking right?”
“I’ll keep the sound down, Katherine hates it when I put this on.”
“Not surprised mate, it’s not my thing either.”
“It gets better,” he panted.
“Turn this shit off mate, Chloe will go crazy.”
“She’s in the bath though,” he scowled. “What she gonna do, throw scriptures at me?”
“Watch your mouth mate,” said Rick. Simon got up and ejected the USB stick, put on his jacket and left.
“Where’s Simon?” Asked Chloe, drying her hair in the doorway.
“I said I wanted to spend the evening with you. I still feel bad about the ring, I’ve been getting nightmares over it.”
“Oh no, I wish I hadn’t overreacted so much.” He wrapped his arms around her and peeked into her towel.
“You’re my world.”
“You’re my world too,” she smiled. They spent over two hours compiling lists of guests, potential venues, colour schemes, and food and drink.
“God, I’m exhausted,” sighed Rick, slumping back into the sofa. “Who knew weddings were such hard work?”
“We could do something smaller, if you like?”
“Do you mean that?” He sat up. “To be honest, I’m happy just to have Katherine and Simon there, and head to the Swan afterwards.” She lowered her gaze and stared hard at the list she had written. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” she hesitated, then said in a strangled voice, “I want to remember the day.”
“You will, and perhaps we’ll finish with a foursome eh?” He chuckled. “For god’s sakes, where you going, I was only joking, can’t you take an effing joke?” She hid in the bathroom and prayed. When she came out, he was adding to The World we Forgot.
“We haven’t decided if we’ll publish it on Amazon, or make a feature film – a three parter – for YouTube. We’ve had so many people turn up for auditions.”
“One woman,” he paused. “Do you mind women auditioning?”
“Why would I mind? I may audition myself,” she said in jest. He widened his eyes and told her they were only casting serious actors.
“I was joking Rick.”
“So this is a joke?” She shook her head and listened as he to ranted about trying his hardest, feeling like a failure, and never being appreciated. When he calmed down, she apologised for upsetting him.
“I’m not upset, but I won’t be discussing it with you anymore.”
“Rick,” she pleaded.
“What’s for dinner?”
“I’m sorry.” She touched his arm, but he nudged her out of the way and told her to bring his food when it was ready.
Tuesday evening in the Swan was quiet, apart from the old man ogling the barmaid, the middle-aged man playing on his iPhone, and the small group of young adults drinking cider, the place was empty. After Chloe’s shift, she tried to call Rick again, but his phone went to voicemail, so she called Katherine instead.
“Hey babe,” she answered in a sing-song voice.
“Hi, have you seen or heard from Rick?” Katherine glanced over at him and mouthed ‘Chloe’ he screwed his face, and continued drinking his beer.
“No, I haven’t honey, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing, it’s just that I haven’t heard from him all day, we had a row yesterday, my fault,” she trailed off.
“Oh no, that’s awful.”
“Yeah,” she sighed. “Anyway, if you see him, tell him I’m worried about him.”
“Will do babes.” She was about to ring off, when Chloe asked her if she wanted to meet at the Swan. “It’s hardly appropriate to go partying when your man is missing hun.”
“I wasn’t suggesting partying. Never mind, I’ll call Lucy.”
“Lucy?” At the mention of her name, Rick’s eyes dilated with fury.
“Yes, see you later, love.”
“Bye.” Katherine put the phone down onto the table, but before any words could come out of her mouth, he went into a rage.
“What you going to do about it?”
“She knows I can’t stand that stuck-up bitch. I wish I could stab her to death.”
“Oh?” she replied, noticing a few people sniggering at a nearby table.
“Whenever Chloe’s around her, she turns into a different person. She’s been trying to split us up for years.”
“Perhaps go home, and sort things out with her?”
“No, she thinks I’m a joke, always has, always will. Just because she’s got some lousy degree.” He continued in a mocking tone. “And a Masters in some shit, she thinks she can talk down to me.”
“I’ve seen it,” said Katherine. “I think we need to get her away from that church, god knows what they’re telling her.”
“Nah, she enjoys going,” he said. After a few seconds they laughed. “I only get so worked up because I love her so much.”
“I know hun,” she squeezed his hand. Simon entered the pub and frowned at them giggling together. He headed to the bar, and loudly ordered his food and drink, expecting that Katherine to come over, but she didn’t.
“I’ll be at that table,” he pointed to where they were sitting, paid for his order and strolled over to them.
“This looks cosy,” he said, dropping his bag on the floor.
“Hi love,” smiled Katherine. “How was work?”
“Craig had to go to the dentist, so muggins got roped into fixing his car too. It was only the brakes, but on top of all the other cars…” His voice trailed off as he became distracted by the menu.
“Sounds like a busy day. Hungry?”
“Yeah it was. I’ve already ordered my usual, just seeing if there’s anything new. How was work?”
“Quiet, so my uncle let me go early.”
“Nice,” he said stiffly. “Where’s Chloe?”
“They’ve had a row.”
“Why mate?” He asked, realising Katherine must’ve been offering comfort, rather than flirting with him.
“She thinks I’m a joke.”
“I think you’re over-reacting mate.”
“She laughed when I told her about the casting for the World we Forgot,” he blurted, bashing his fist on the table.
“What?” said Katherine in animated horror, putting the pint glass to her lips to conceal her urge to laugh. Rick reached over took it out of her hand and told her that ladies don’t drink beer. She grinned, then reminded him she wasn’t a lady. He looked at her lips, then back to her eyes.
“So back to the World we Forgot?” Snapped Simon, feeling flushed at their encounter.
“Yeah, what’s that all about?” said Katherine, feeling a little flustered.
“Simon, you tell her, I’m always taking the glory for this project.” Aware that the group of twenty-year-olds were listening, Simon muttered it was a film they were working on.
“When’s the release date?” heckled one of them. Rick turned around, grinned, and said September 8th. “Nice, well done mate.” They clapped in unison.
“We need to this project moving, people are waiting for it.” Rick knocked back his drink and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “Well I better back to work.”
“It’s eight thirty?” said Simon, taking his plate from the waitress and thanking her.
“That’s how much of a hard worker I am, shame Chloe doesn’t realise this.” He said goodbye and left.
Rick knocked on his customer’s door and waited until she opened it.
“It’s nine PM, what happened?”
“Been run off my feet sweetheart,” he grinned, putting the ladder up against the wall.
“I don’t want my windows being cleaned now, my kids are in bed.”
“I won’t disturb them honey,” he poured the water from his container into his window cleaning bucket.
“Come back tomorrow please.”
“I can’t, you booked me in for today.”
“I know, but…”
“Then I need to clean your windows.”
“Mum,” yelled her son.
“Come back tomorrow, please,” she closed the door, and went to her sons’ bedroom. She tucked them both into bed and sat on the edge of her eldest son’s bed to read their bedtime story, however she was interrupted by Rick cleaning their window. Twenty minutes later, he knocked on the door, but this time she refused to answer it. He packed up, sat in his car and waited. As soon as he saw the lights switch back on, he got out of his car and tapped on her window, causing her to spill her tea in her lap.
“Go away, before I call the police,” she shouted through the window.
“What for? For having your windows cleaned? You owe me ten pounds.”
“Go away.” She closed the window and turned the light off.
He was fuming by the time he returned home, he had hoped for a quiet night in front of the TV, but instead he found Lucy consoling Chloe.
“Rick!” She threw her arms around him and kissed him, but he pulled away.
“I’ve been so worried, I’m so sorry about yesterday, have you eaten yet?”
“I’m not hungry,” he sulked, grimacing at Lucy, who stared straight through him, as though he didn’t exist.
“I can get a takeaway? It’s not too late.”
“I said I’m not hungry,” he hissed and headed into the bedroom and got into bed.
“Well, that was rude,” retorted Lucy, checking the time on her phone. Chloe frowned and said they’d catch up soon. Lucy smiled, gave her a hug, and left.
“What was she doing here?”
“She’s my best friend,” she said timidly, sitting on the edge of the bed.
“I thought Katherine was,” he remarked. “I bet she was slagging me off.”
“No, she wasn’t, she was worried about you.”
“Yeah right. Has she gone?”
“Yes.” He snorted and turned away.
“I’ve had such a bad day, I don’t want to talk about it,” she felt guilty by her relief, but wasn’t surprised when he continued. “Some stupid cow books me in to do her windows, a ten pound job, I do the windows, and she tells me to fuck off.”
“What a cow.”
“I know,” he sat up and rolled a joint. “Sorry I snapped at you hun, I’m so mad at the moment, people are always taking the piss out of me.” She stroked his back as he vented. “Hmm, you’ve got such lovely hands.”
“Thank you.” She continued massaging him. “So have you thought about moving?” She admitted that she hadn’t given it any more thought as the upheaval would be too much hassle. “We could move closer to your mum?”
“You hate my mum,” she said, pausing the massage.
“No I don’t, I just hated the way she let Ollie…”
“She was scared,” she interrupted, pulling away from him.
“Too scared to protect her daughter from a paedo?” Chloe stared at him and rebuked the enemy in her mind. “Anyway, that’s all ancient history,” he grinned, sliding his hand up her top and unclipping her bra. “You’re so beautiful babe. Sorry I’ve been so ratty.”
“Not your fault, sweetheart, are we okay now?”
“Yeah,” he gulped as he rolled onto her body. “We could buy a house in Medlow, or Ashington?”
“Ashington is too expensive and I don’t want to move back to Medlow.”
“You can’t keep living in the past Chloe, it’s time to move on.”
“Medlow has too many bad memories for me,”
“That doesn’t matter does it? You’re not eight anymore, are you? Perhaps talking about it will help,” he whispered.
“I don’t want to,” she turned her face into the pillow.
“I won’t stop until you do,” he smiled, increasing his speed. Her voice became childlike as she told him about Ollie. When he finished, he asked if she had any videos of it.
“No,” she choked, turning her back on him.
“I saw Kat earlier. God, I love her boy tits.” He propped himself up on his elbow. “By the way, I’ve seen the ring I’m going to buy you, it’s stunning.” He leant over to and asked if she was in a mood.
“No,” she trembled. “Thank you.”
Thank you for reading this chapter. If you liked it please like and leave a comment. Chloe Richards is available to download on Amazon.