He had noticed her sitting at the bar. Fiona Begley, who often dressed in dour business suits and sensible shoes, was now in a light, well fitting dress, fashionable high heels, and make up.
He had never noticed Fiona Begley wearing make up. Never noticed her legs. Never noticed she had a figure.
“Hello. Fiona isn’t it?” he quickly stepped up to the bar and ordered a Guinness, while she tried to place him. A recognisable face in an unexpected location.
He thought he would help with the lengthy pause that had eventuated “I’m …”.
“Oh, of course, Michael. Michael Baggot. You’re the …” Her face showed recognition and an uncomfortable expectancy. “Hello, how are you?” Her eyes darted to the mirror to see who was entering the bar from the street door. No one she recognised. “You know, Michael, I wasn’t expecting to see you in a place like this. Do you come here often?”
He laughed quietly “Do I come here often?” he asked with a wry smile.
“Oh, I mean …”
“Is that a line you use often when you’re not expecting anyone?”
She looked at him surprised. “You know what,” she said “I have never asked that question out loud before. It’s embarrassing. It’s just …”
“But you’ve thought it”, he goaded.”No, no! What are you saying? I told you I had never said it before.” She dropped her head, offended, slightly angry, her face flushed.
Michael was taken back by the weight of the response. “Oh, look, I apologise” he said, “can I buy you a drink?” He pointed at her empty glass and put on a smile that didn’t quite fit his face.
“No!”she replied tersely. “I don’t need anyone to buy me a drink.”
“Boy, did we get off on the wrong foot. I wasn’t … I was just …”
“It’s okay. I know, it was just a friendly gesture, colleague to colleague. Break the ice so to speak.” Her tone was functional and clipped. She took in a long breath and continued “I am waiting for someone and … you know …”
“Oh,” he suddenly realised his error, and quickly grabbed his drink from the bar “I apologise again …”
“God, Michael, you’re doing a lot of apologising. Please stop.”
“Sor… I mean have a good night.” he turned and walked back to his seat at a table near a window and sipped unhappily at his Guinness. “Fuck, fuck, fuck” he exclaimed under his breath. “You’re an idiot!”
He looked up at Fiona sitting at the bar, her head bowed. She ordered a drink from the barman who quicly made himself busy with glass, ice cubes, Campari and soda.
The door to the street opened and Michael noticed her head lift and dart over. Michael’s eyes followed hers to a man who had just entered. He was young, far too young for her. The man’s eyes searched the bar until they landed on a group of similar aged people. He quickly strode over to join them.
Fiona’s head bowed over her drink again trying to become invisible. Michael saw a small tear escape her eye. As she wiped it away, she looked up and their eyes met. Michael gave her a quick smile of recognition, the edges of his mouth pushed wide in what was supposed to be a friendly gesture. Fiona looked away as if he wasn’t even there.
He quickly drained his drink and stood to leave. “Good night, Fiona.” he said as he passed her, but there was no response.