Brian hauled his case up the stairs at Old Street Underground station and out into the familiar drizzle of London. In a strange way, the inclement weather was welcoming him home and he wondered why he ever left. He pondered his next move. On a whim, he decided to call Lucy’s number in the hope that she hadn’t changed her phone since they split up, although he realised it was a bit of a long shot.
After three rings, Lucy answered the call.
‘Lucy? It’s Brian. How’s things? I thought I would just give you a call and wish you a Happy New Year. What you up to?’
Lucy felt herself brighten up upon hearing his voice. This must be fate, she thought as she recalled almost texting him the other day. She wondered where he was as it didn’t sound like an overseas call and she had heard about him getting arrested in LA. He could be anywhere.
‘Hi Brian, nice to hear from you. I’m okay, thanks. What about you? I heard you’re still getting in trouble.’ She laughed.
Brian couldn’t deny he was ecstatic to hear her voice, and that she didn’t hang up on him. It had been a long while and it was a huge gamble phoning her.
‘All a bit of a misunderstanding.’ He assured her. ‘What are you doing with yourself nowadays? Are you back in London?’
‘Yes. Not up to much though. A bit of bar work here and there. Looking for something better, obviously.’ Lucy replied.
‘Oh, you are in London. That’s great. I’ve just arrived back and just got off the Underground at Old Street. Do you fancy a coffee?’
‘I’d love to. I’m staying at a friend’s flat in Pitfield Street. Do you remember the Hop Pole pub? It’s some trendy bar now. I’m next door to it in the new flats. I’ll come down and meet you in five minutes.’ She said excitedly.
‘Great! See you shortly.’
Brian virtually skipped through the drizzle to Pitfield Street. Was he happy because he might have found somewhere to stay for the night, or was it that Lucy was still happy to meet him and maybe re-kindle their relationship? It was probably a bit of both. From a distance, he could make out Lucy’s figure through the rain. She hadn’t changed a bit and his heart started beating faster with the anticipation of holding her again. He felt like a love-struck schoolboy as he rushed up to her and held her in his arms.
‘Oh Lucy, I’ve missed you so much. I’m so sorry you had to go.’ Brian sobbed.
‘I’ve missed you too and I’m as sorry as you. It just wasn’t meant to be after I got shot.’
They hurried up the stairs to Lucy’s friend’s flat and took Brian’s coat off and hung it by the gas fire to dry off.
Lucy put the kettle on and made them both tea whilst asking Brian what had happened in LA and why he was in London. Brian told her the full story about getting Bradley into trouble, getting drunk on the plane back to LA and subsequently losing his job and getting deported.
‘Wow! Sounds like they thought you were a major terrorist or something. Bit of an over-reaction, wasn’t it?’ Lucy asked.
‘It was in some ways. To be honest, I was getting fed up with life out there. Living and working in LA was too different from the real world. I had been talking to a head-hunter about possibly moving back for the right job. Or at least getting out of the US. This kind of sped things up a bit.’ He smiled.
She explained what she had been up to since they split, including trying to get her old job back and how she had to offer sexual favours to stand a chance. Having now accepted that she was too old for the stripping game, she was looking at other things which included doing the odd shift at the bar next door which catered for the ever-growing number of Hipsters that had moved into Hoxton. The money wasn’t bad, but she was having trouble finding a place to live that didn’t cost all her wages or was riddled with cockroaches.
They were both in the same predicament as Brian didn’t have any chance of getting a job back in the City and he too would have to seek alternative employment. They talked about setting up a business together, but didn’t have a clue what to do. He could probably get away with doing some consultancy work in finance but there were hundreds of ex-market individuals who were trying the same thing. It would have to be something completely different to what they were both used to.
Brian had always fancied owning a café or a small restaurant. He could cook a bit and with his background, he could certainly manage a business. They talked about this for hours, convincing themselves that this would be a great idea. All they needed now was the money to buy a place. That was going to be another problem.
Feeling hungry after all their catching up, Lucy suggested they head to a café she knew in Old Street where they could get some good value Vietnamese food while they discussed their dream. The rain had stopped by the time they walked down Coronet Street past Hoxton Square to Old Street where they found a modern looking café serving the best Banh-Mi and Pho, something they had both got into while in LA.
They carried on talking about buying a café or small restaurant while they worked their way through the nourishing bowls of Pho, constantly hitting stumbling blocks that would get in the way of achieving their dream. Not having enough cash was one problem and going to Brian’s bank and asking for a business loan wasn’t going to work out well, although he did say he would make an appointment to see the bank manager in the New Year.
Working out how much they would need offered no encouragement either. They would need money to buy the café, more money to fit it out, money for staff, money for stock, the list was endless. They couldn’t do much more than dream about it until Brian saw the bank. He reckoned they would need at least £30,000 to get it off the ground and he only had £5,000 from the US credit cards he intended to renege on and what was left from the sale of their house in Dunfermline, which had been spent in California having a good time and only about £10,000 was left.
Oh well, he thought, no point in worrying about it now. It was New Year’s Eve tomorrow and he had no plans.
‘So, what are you doing tomorrow night? Have a party to go to?’ Brian asked nonchalantly.
‘I wasn’t planning on doing anything other than sit indoors with a bottle of wine and some nibbles, before crying myself to sleep.’ Lucy smiled.
‘What about your friend who’s flat you’re staying in? Will she be back by then?’
’No, she’s not back until the 4th. Gone away to her parents up north. She was happy to let me stay and keep an eye on the place. Not sure how she will be with you staying here as well. She said it would be okay while she was away but it’s not a huge place.’ Lucy replied.
‘Well, I think the first thing I need to do is find myself a place. The cash that I have transferred to my account will be enough for a deposit. Let’s go and have a look in the letting agents’ windows.’ He laughed.
Holding hands as they left, feeling more positive than earlier, they wandered along Old Street where there were an abundance of letting agents each with plenty of properties to let. They weren’t cheap, though. All there was within Brian’s budget were ex-council flats on the Pitfield Estate which had a bit of a reputation.
Making notes on the best options, he told Lucy he would be looking at them as soon as they re-opened on the 2nd. With any luck, he could be in one of them before her friend got back.
There was, of course, one other fall back plan that Brian didn’t want to use but might have to in an emergency. Bradley. After all the sacrifices Brian had made for his son when he was younger, he hoped that he would like to repay him in some way. Trouble was, he hadn’t spoken to Bradley since spending Christmas with him and causing him more grief with his drunken exploits. He was aware that he wasn’t Bradley’s favourite parent right now and he was probably still angry at him for attracting more bad publicity for him. He hoped it wouldn’t come to that, but if the bank turned him down he might not have a choice.