Best Friends

Andy jogged down his front path and stuck his head into the open window of the car idling by the kerb. Joe raised his eyebrows in surprise.

“Come on, Andy. What are you doing? The game kicks off in an hour, and we have to get there yet. Get your coat on, for crying out loud.”

“Sorry, mate. I can’t. Not today. Been called into work, haven’t I.”

“Work? What are you talking about? You’re a bean counter. What sort of great accounting emergency needs your attendance when City are playing at home?”

“Sorry. I have to go in. The big boss called.”

“Throw a sickie. They can’t just demand you give up your Saturday afternoons, not just like that. Especially not at this stage in the league. Not when I’ve fiddled seats behind the goal. They can’t do that.”

“I’d love to, mate. No, seriously, if I could, but staff appraisals are around the corner, and there’s talk of cutting dead wood. If I don’t show willing it’s not just Saturdays I’ll have free, if you get my meaning.”

“But I got the tickets and everything. Besides, it’s your turn to buy the booze.”

“Yeah, sorry. Still, look on the bright side.” Andy lifted the plastic bag in his hand. “I still bought the booze. Have one on me. Here, I’ll stick it in your bag.”

He stepped back onto the footpath and opened the rear door. He grabbed the backpack and stuffed the bottles inside. “I’ll bury it deep, yeah? In case they have a quick look inside at the gate.”

“No, look, if you’re not coming, don’t bother.”

“No bother, bro. It’s done.” He dropped the bag onto the rear seat and slammed the door shut. “Two weeks time, yeah? This time I’ll be there, even if I have to take it as annual leave.”

Joe frowned, tapping the wheel. “You really have to go in?”

“Don’t worry about it. You go, enjoy yourself. There’ll be other games.”

Joe shook his head and slipped the car into first. “There’d better be, bro. Thanks for the beer. You’re a good mate.”

Andy gave a wave with his right hand as Joe drove off, hiding his left hand behind his back.

+++

Dawn answered the door and gave a small start of surprise.

“Andy! I didn’t expect you.”

“Dawn. Damn, but you look sexy.”

Dawn laughed. “Yeah, right. Just let Joe catch you saying that.”

“Oh, that’s all right. We have an arrangement. I’ve let him know; the moment you dump him, you’re mine. He’s always known that the only reason you and me aren’t an item is because he saw you first. Lucky git. Anyway, talking of which, is the ugly old sod at home?”

Dawn frowned. “Joe? No. I thought he was with you.”

“No. Well, he was, but that was last night at the pub. Why would he be with me?”

“The game. He got two tickets for this afternoon. He said he was coming round to pick you up.”

“Today? No, I reckon you got that wrong. He must have meant next month or something. When did he leave?”

“Twenty minutes ago.”

“Well, there you go then. He never came round my place, so you must have got that wrong.”

“No. He was definitely going to pick you up. He said so.” Her hand flew to her mouth. “Oh God, you think something’s happened?”

“Between here and there? No. It’s a five minute drive. I’d have seen something if he’d had an accident. The road’s clear. Oh, wait.” Andy dropped his eyes to the ground. “Yeah, um, I was playing my stereo this afternoon. Yeah, that’s it. Giving it some rock and roll. Maybe he rang the doorbell and I just didn’t hear. Yeah, that’ll be it. He tried to pick me up, and then went on to the match without me.”

Dawn shook her head. “Didn’t you know he was coming?”

“Um, maybe I forgot?”

“Andy, look at me.” She gave him a thump on his shoulder. He looked up into her large brown eyes. “Don’t you dare bullshit me, Andy. Don’t you dare. What’s going on?”

“I don’t know, Dawn. I swear.”

“Where is he?”

“I don’t know. Straight up, I don’t know.”

“Would you lie to me?”

“No! No, you know I wouldn’t. I respect you too much for that.”

“If he’s not at the game, where is he?”

“If he’s not at the game, then I don’t know.”

“If you knew, would you tell me?”

“Straight up, Dawn? If he had a secret, well, he’s my mate, you know? I wouldn’t come running to you to tell tales. But would I lie to your face? No, I’d never do that.”

Dawn clenched her mouth into a thin line, staring through Andy as she tried various scenarios out in her mind.

“Look, don’t sweat it, Dawn. Okay, Joe can be a bit near the knuckle sometimes, but he’d be an idiot to mess around, not with you waiting at home.”

“He’s messing around?”

“No, no.” Andy held his hands up. “I never said that. He knows how I feel about you, and so even if he was that stupid, he’d never tell me, would he. I’m just saying, he’s not messing around, not if he has any clue, not with a girlfriend like you. Jesus, what sort of man would?”

“Okay.” Dawn nodded, eyes darting form side to side as though she were examining scenes in front of her. “Yeah, okay. He’s just, um, just missed you, yeah. Okay, Andy, thanks for that.” She went to close the door. Andy put his hand out.

“Oh, wait. Here. I nearly forgot. He dropped his phone last night.” He held out the phone. “That’s what I was coming around to tell you. Him, I mean. His phone.”

Dawn took it and nodded her thanks.

“Look, do you want me to stay? You know, just till he comes back?”

“No, that’s fine.” She smiled absently, then seemed to notice him. “No, that’s sweet of you,” she said more sincerely. “But I’ve got things to do around the house, you know?”

“Yeah, well, you got my number. Any time, you hear? And I call first dibs if you dump him, remember that.”

Dawn laughed. “Idiot,” she said, then closed the door.

+++

What the hell was going on? Why would Joe lie about that? It wasn’t next month. He’d been talking about it during the week, how City needed this win to be in with a chance of promotion, how the other team were renowned for diving in the penalty area, how he had two special tickets. No, he was definitely going to the game.

At least, he let her know he was definite. And with Andy too. Of course it would be with Andy. They were best mates, who else would he go with? So why didn’t Andy know anything about it? Because he never planned to go at all. That was stupid. He should have warned Andy at least, get their stories straight. Although, would Andy have gone along with it? They were men, after all. No, he probably wouldn’t have. Andy seemed as angry as her, underneath. He was a nice guy. All the more stupid to use him as an alibi then.

No, no, this was stupid. She could second guess all she wanted, but she wouldn’t know until he came home. No point dwelling on it. Anyway, there could be a perfectly innocent explanation. Maybe he was taking dance lessons. She liked the dance programmes on TV, so maybe he was trying to impress her. Or singing lessons. Or maybe casual work for cash in hand, so he could take her away for a dirty weekend in some posh hotel.

Yeah, there could be an innocent explanation. It wasn’t necessarily that he was banging some cheap whore. He wouldn’t throw away three months of living together just for some slut every other Saturday afternoon. No, not Joe. Please God, not Joe.

The phone rang, the sudden noise almost making her drop it. She looked at the display. A text message. She went to place the phone on the table, then paused. She looked at the display. New message. It was his phone. They lived together, but they were still at the yours and mine stage. Her laptop, her exercise bike, her vases. His flat, his stereo, his DVD player. His phone. Unspoken, invisible barriers. Football was his thing too. She’d never go. But then, apparently, neither did he. And if that barrier didn’t exist, if football was neither his nor hers, then why did any barrier exist?

New message.

She hit the button.

Hi sxy im naked hurry xxx candy

She stared at the message, reading it over and over in case there was some other interpretation. What sort of person had a name like Candy anyway? It sounded like a hooker name. She hit the reply button. Should she text the bitch, tell her exactly what she was? Dawn hit the cancel button and stared at the message again. Maybe she could call her. But what would she say? What, oh hell, what if he answered? And if she did answer, would that just give him warning? Would he have some new lie all wrapped up for her by the time he got back?

No! No more lies. Dawn slammed the phone on the table. She at least would retain some dignity in this.

++++

“Hi honey, I’m home,” called Joe, dropping his bag on the hallway floor. Dawn stood in the living room doorway, arms folded.

“Good match?” she said.

“It was all right. Two all, so at least we didn’t lose.”

“I thought you’d phone if you were going to be early.”

“No, I think some bastard has stolen it. It was in my bag, I could swear.”

“And how do you know the score? Did you hear it on the radio?”

“What? No, I was there.”

“Did you have the commentary on in the background while you did it?”

“Did what?”

“While you screwed your weekend whore.”

“What?”

“Don’t lie to me, Joe. Don’t you dare! I know.”

“Honey.” Jo stepped closer, arms wide, but Dawn’s glare stopped him. “What’s all this about?”

“You were never at the match with Andy.”

“I was. Okay, with Andy? No, I was going to, but he couldn’t come.”

“Don’t!” Dawn hurled his phone at him. It bounced off his arm and hit the floor. “I know about her, you understand? I don’t want to hear any more of your lies. I don’t want to hear another word from you, you hear? Don’t you ever, ever speak to me again.”

She grabbed the holdall at her feet and strode towards the door. Joe grabbed her arm and she slapped at his hand with such a flurry that the sheer fury of it made him release her. She turned in the doorway.

“I thought you were such a great guy, you know that? Not just a boyfriend, but a best friend, a companion, the whole deal. And you threw it away for a casual screw? I’ll send someone around for the rest of my stuff.” Then she spun on her heel, slamming the door behind her with a satisfying crash.

++++

Andy turned slowly in the centre of the room, spraying the air freshener into the air. There. The final touch. Should he light a scented candle? No, best not to be too obvious. His phone rang. He looked at the display and smiled.

“Hi, Dawn? What’s up, babe?”

“Andy? Andy, I’ve left him.”

“What?”

“He was with another woman, Andy. Some cheap slut somewhere he’d screw when he said he was at the match. I feel so stupid. So stupid. How could I not know? And he was doing it with her, then with me. God, I feel sick.”

“Jesus, Dawn. Are you sure?”

“Am I sure? No, I’m not sure. I’ve just blown away the man I thought I loved on a casual suspicion. Of course I’m bloody sure. What do you think?”

“Okay, sorry.”

“No, no, I’m sorry. It’s not your fault. Sorry. I just feel so angry, you know? I just want to rant at someone, and you were there. Sorry.”

“It’s all right. I understand. You want to talk? Give me a kicking? I’ve got shinpads around somewhere.”

“Aw, you’re nice, Andy. It’s just, I don’t know who else to talk to.”

“No worries. What are you doing now?”

“I don’t know. Back to my parents, I guess. At least for the moment. Back to sunny Todcaster.”

“Where are you?”

“Um, in town somewhere. Outside a pub called, um, The Red Lion?”

“I know it. Listen, stay there, okay? I’ll come get you.”

“No. I don’t want to put you out.”

“Bull. What are friends for? I’ll come get you, and we can go for a drink or something, you can get it out of your system, and if you still want to go back home, I’ll give you a lift.”

“But that’s twenty miles.”

“You prefer a train journey? Really?”

“Are you sure?”

“Positive. I’ll be there in ten. Okay?”

“Okay. Andy?”

“Yes?”

“Thanks. You know, for being a friend when it counts.”

“No worries.”

He hung up and grabbed his jacket. His phone rang: Joe. Andy let it ring out, then switched the phone off

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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

4 Responses to Best Friends

  1. Ha – I have a friend who would behave EXACTLY like that.
    Well I say have a friend, had.

  2. foldedflat says:

    Delightfully sleazy behavior, well written. I cringed through the whole thing once I saw it coming — very good story! Thank you for sharing it.

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