Learning from History

 Brenda took her drink and turned, leaning back against the bar, and surveyed the crowd. She sighed. Had it come to this? The place was a meat market, and if the girls jumping to a band she’d never heard of were the sacrificial lambs, that made her mutton. When Tina had cancelled she should have just stayed at home with a tub of ice cream and a chick flick. Yeah, because weepy spinster home alone on a Friday night was so much better than desperate maneater in a club alone.

She became aware of a man a few feet away, staring. She ran her tongue over her teeth, even though she’d checked her appearance a dozen times before leaving the house.

“What?” she said. “Do I have spinach on my teeth? Three eyes? What?”

“Oh, sorry, sorry. No, I just thought I knew you.”

Brenda laughed. “Haven’t we met before? Really? You’re going for that old cheesy pick-up line?”

His laugh echoed hers.

“Yeah, I guess it does sound like that, but honestly, we haven’t met?”

She looked him over, under the guise of trying to remember. He was tall, not overly muscular but certainly not running to fat. A rugged look to his face, contradicted by baby-blue eyes.

“Good try,” she said. “No really, I’m flattered. I’m sure there are girls here too young to have heard that line before. Keep at it, it’ll work eventually.”

He held his hands up in mock surrender.

“On my life, it wasn’t a pick-up line. I genuinely – look, never mind. Can I make it up to you by buying a drink?”

Brenda held up the full glass. “You’ve just seen me order a drink, so you know I’m going to say no. Hmm. Cheesy and also cheap. You just get better and better.”

She took a sip to hide her grin.

“Hey no, I got money. How much do you cost?” He made a show of reaching for his wallet.

Brenda coughed unladylike into her glass. “Excuse me?” But she couldn’t hold onto her mock outrage, because he looked just so damn cute when he laughed.

****

“No, stop it. I’ve got to go.” She drew her head to one side and nestled on his shoulder. She felt like a schoolgirl, kissing a first date goodnight. She half expected her dad to shout out from the window. What would the neighbours think? Well, shame on them if they were twitching their curtains at this time of night.

“No,” he said, holding her tighter. “I’m never letting you go. It’s going to make driving a little awkward, true, but we all have to make sacrifices.”

She gave him a gentle punch on his shoulder. “Idiot,” she said, leaning back to look into his face again.

“Come on, one more kiss,” he said. He bent his head, and she felt the novel sensation of his lips on hers, unique as a fingerprint. What was that cologne he was wearing? His fingers worked up her back, then massaged that one spot, just there, the one which…

She moaned into his mouth. He pulled back and smiled.

“You like that.” It wasn’t a question, but she nodded anyway.

He leant in close, his lips brushing her earlobe. “You’ll like it more when it’s my tongue.”

She shivered with a shocked thrill, like cursing in church. She knew then he wasn’t going home that night.

****

Four weeks. She had no right, not after only four weeks. Brenda looked at the phone lying on the kitchen table. They hadn’t used the L word, hadn’t moved in together, hadn’t done any of the hundreds of things that meant a long-term committed relationship. She had no right.

But there was an implied contract. They didn’t need to say the L word if they felt it. They spent so many nights together, even if this was his flat and she still had hers. No, it was a healthy relationship. It wasn’t a one night stand, and it had potential. It would grow.

So if they were that close, why was she sat in his kitchen at four in the morning, nursing a camomile tea and staring at his phone? It could have been a wrong number. That happened, didn’t it? Texts went astray, and if it was nothing, then why shouldn’t he delete it when she asked who it was from? Same as muttered conversations on the phone, suddenly ended when she walked in. He had his own friends. She didn’t want to force herself into his space. After all, she had her own circle of friends.

Friends she didn’t sleep with, though. Friends she wouldn’t try and hide. Friends without benefits.

She grabbed the phone in one violent swipe. She glanced towards the closed bedroom door, then flicked the phone open. He’d let her look if she asked. It would hurt, though, and she couldn’t bear the reproach of those baby blues. No, she’d save them both the pain.

She scrolled through the texts, noting the repeated numbers. She chose one at random. The explicitness of it shocked her. Swear words captured in text seemed so much more shocking than casual spoken ones that evaporated into the air. She chose another. The same thing. There was another repeating number. The same thing. A different style, but no less graphic. One of them had a picture attached.

She slammed the phone shut and silently screamed obscenities at him in her head. How could he have done this? Wasn’t one woman enough for him, he had to juggle three? What sort of man would do that? Well, he could juggle with one less. She held the phone between finger and thumb over the mug of tea and released it with a satisfying plop. Then she grabbed her overnight bag and left.

****

“Ms Thomas?” Kurt smiled, but not with his eyes.

“Hi.” Brenda shook his hand.

“Ms Thomas, my name is Kurt, I’m in client liaison, and this is Mr Jefferson.” The older man nodded. He didn’t smile, nor offer his hand. “I’m sorry to have kept you waiting. We’ve, um, we’ve been considering your requirements very carefully. Please, take a seat.”

The three of them sat in the comfortable armchairs around the coffee table.

“Is there a problem?” said Brenda, glancing from one to the other.

Kurt looked towards Jefferson, who leant forward, holding out a sheaf of papers.

“Ms Jefferson, this is our standard contract. If you look at this paragraph here.” He tapped a passage with his pen. “You’ll see it clearly states that this is a best efforts service and not bound by civil law to provide enforceable results or consequences. All undertakings are at the second party’s risk.”

“Sorry?” Brenda frowned at the paperwork.

“What my colleague is saying, Ms Thomas, is that we don’t guarantee results,” said Kurt. “We do our very best, and in virtually every case our best is exactly what the client wants, but sometimes even our best efforts aren’t enough.”

“I don’t understand. What are you saying? You can’t remove that bastard from my memory?”

The two men looked at each other.

“Ms Thomas,” said the older man, who Brenda had already labelled as ‘lawyer’. “What is it exactly you want from us?”

“I want you to remove Paul from my memory. The night we met, the dates we went on, the, well, you know, everything. Every memory of him and how he made me look such a fool.”

“And that’s all? You’re not looking for any fiscal remuneration or penalty? Just a memory removal?”

“Yes. Just that. That’s what you people do, isn’t it?”

“Would you be prepared to sign a document to that effect?”

“Of course.”

Jefferson turned to Kurt, shrugged and nodded.

“Ms Thomas,” said Kurt, smiling with his mouth only again. “I think then that we might be able to do that. With no guarantee, of course, but best efforts.”

“And as a show of goodwill and no admission of liability,” added Jefferson quickly.

“And of course there’ll be no charge,” said Kurt.

“What?”

“We’d be happy to do it gratis. For free. No charge.”

“Free?” Brenda shook her head in puzzlement. “Why would you do that?”

“As a token of our commitment to product quality,” said Kurt.

“Not that we are admitting any lack quality in your case,” said Jefferson.

“Sorry? Look, what’s going on?”

“Look, I’ll be honest with you,” said Kurt, waving away Jefferson’s protest. “We perform hundreds of these procedures every week. It is the safest and most reliable treatment you can buy. Do you know how many people die in surgical procedures? How many people prescription medicines kill? We’ve never killed anyone and the overwhelming majority of these procedures go according to plan. Forgetting the salient points of a four-week period? It’s text book, especially if it’s done soon afterwards. In our entire history of operation, we’ve not had a single case of spontaneous meme regeneration. That’s a record I’m proud of. You’re the first. I want to put this right.”

“Even though we didn’t do anything wrong,” added Jefferson.

“Regeneration?” said Brenda.

“Yes. You see, we’ve already cut the memory out once. For it not to take is unprecedented.”

“No, you don’t understand. I’ve not had the memory erased. I’m a new customer.”

Kurt took the sheaf of papers from Jefferson. He showed Brenda the first page. “This is you, correct? Brenda Thomas?”

Brenda scanned the details, her address, her date of birth. She nodded.

“And…,” he leafed through the papers. “Here. The gentleman’s name, Paul Lee? Here’s his photo. Yes?”

“Yes. How did you get his photo?”

“From you, Ms Thomas. When you came here last. And here, on the consent form. This is your signature, correct?”

Brenda looked at the form. She couldn’t deny it was her signature.

“Yes. But this isn’t right. The date. That was last year.”

“Yes.”

“But I only met him six weeks ago.”

“Six weeks ago?”

“Ms Thomas,” said Mr Jefferson, waving his colleague into silence. “I can see now where the confusion arose. I regret to inform you that our offer of a gratis memory removal is rescinded. You may still apply, of course, but our standard charges will apply. Kurt, I think my usefulness here is over.” He rose and nodded to the others.

“Wait,” said Brenda. “What do you mean? How come you have my signature there? What’s going on?”

“We were concerned that your earlier procedure had been unsuccessful, that your memory had somehow grown back. I’m relieved to say that is not the case. Our procedure, and hence our reputation, has been vindicated.” For the first time something like sympathy crossed Jefferson’s face. “You’re not remembering again what happened a year ago, Ms Thomas. What you forgot a year ago has simply happened again. Might I suggest that you choose your future partners with a little more care in future?”

   


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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!

2 Responses to Learning from History

  1. I loved this 🙂 Very Eternal Sunshine!

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