‘Who the fuck wears deck shoes and tucks pressed pastel shirts into pressed pastel short slacks? For fuck’s sake! This isn’t a fucking Prep School away day to fucking Cowes, you wankers,’ Rhian stage whispered, looking beyond the objects of her ire. Her face puckered into a facsimile of childhood. The men clinked glasses of gins and tonics – a slice of lime fell to the ground between them – and laughed with mile long stares. Dead behind the fucking eyes; not so alive in front either. Rhian smoothed her Pop Will Eat Itself tee shirt, faded through infrequent washing since 1987; now more rock burns than material. Sample it, Loop it, Fuck it, & Eat it. Rhian lit another cigarette, slugged from her bottle of (rum and) cola, scanned the beer garden again, and favourited another tweet. The Pastels had pissed off. Above her, vapour trails crosshatched the honeyed sky; dissolute pigeons dropped their lunches in pints, on shirts, on tables. Supposed to be lucky. ‘Is it fuck!’ she said.
Rhian looked about the beer garden (Patio Terrace) to her left and scanned three hundred and sixty degrees. Two women, their twenties some summers passed, stood behind her, now: Louis Vuitton bags – fresh from the midweek market on their crooked arms – as authentic as their bottled tans. They stood, opposite hips thrust out and forwards, legs crossed so their little toes met, puckering, and not speaking. Life imitating life. Do they know each other? They were each holding mobile phones in their left hands and unlit fags in the other; somehow searching their bags, for lighters probably. Two men – sun’s out guns out – slouched yards from them, watching them, smoking Lambert and Butlers. Neither offered a light. What a lovely dance. Rhian watched the men watching the women watching the men. Phones stayed silent, so no one spoke. Have they known each other?
Deiniol came through the patio door waving at her, unsmiling. He sat down, took out his phone, and sent a text. ‘You all right? Not late am I? I’ll be with you now,’ he said not looking at her. ‘How’s Agatha?’ Rhian could hear the discordant tapping.
‘My aunt? She’s fine. What’s it to you?’ Rhian put down her half-finished pint of Cwrw Haf, stood, bouffed her hair again, and pouted. Winking daisies swayed in the half-filled carafe on the table between them. As she walked towards a table, twelve feet away, Deiniol eyed her disappearing arse, tremulous on unaccustomed heels, swaying over to the table twelve feet away. He smiled, took out a second phone from his breast pocket, and scrolled through a day’s text messages. Rhian stopped, pouted anew, twirling her hair, and thrust her breasts towards two men, pinstripe-suited, Brogue-booted, with open necked shirts, and scrubland chests. Uniforms uniform.
‘Yeah, sorry babes, yeah, I’d love to chat, yeah, but I’m just making money. Doing a bit of business, yeah,’ said pinstripe number one, slicking back his thinning hair with yellowing fingers, grinning at his pinstriped brethren, and winking at her. Ash dropped from his cigarette into his pint.
‘That pocket square looks shit,’ Rhian said to pinstripe number two, standing taller now. ‘Is it your nan’s tea cosy?’
Their voices carried across the shaded patio. ‘What’s she on about Dai?’ pinstripe number two said, looking at nobody, but noticing Deiniol for the first time. Deiniol had recognised him some minutes earlier and was smiling, chuckling into the ether of the springtide sunshine. Deiniol couldn’t be arsed to rescue her. He would let this one play out. He looked at his phone, properly this time, and saw the message from Rhian at 19.30 the previous evening. He clicked the home button without reading it and lit his first cigarette of the day. His official first cigarette. Deiniol had told Rhian, had told everybody that he was giving up, had given up, and was now a ‘non-smoker.’ He liked the idea, but couldn’t be bothered with the pretence. He would leave that to Rhian; she seemed to be doing well enough. He put down his phone and lit another cigarette, zeroing smoke rings through smoke rings.
‘Always good to see you babes, been too long, yeah,’ pinstripe number one said turning, his grey chest hair like an unused Brillo pad, ‘I’ve just got to finish up here, then I’ll be over in ten, yeah.’ He pointed at an invisible watch and winked at her. He pulled down his sleeve. More ash fell into his pint. ‘You here on your own?’
‘Might be,’ Rhian said, heels clacking on cobbles, as she walked back to Deiniol, but did not sit.