Nothing good ever happens after two am, at least that was what Evelyn told herself as she sat heavily down upon the curb opposite the Cross Keys.
It was a Monday night in early January and Nottingham City Centre was all but deserted, in fact the only reason Evelyn was out, scantily clad on such a night was due to the fact her band had finished a set not two hours prior down the road. The after party was still in full swing with beer and spirits flowing freely, not to mention the veritable cocktail of drugs being handed out by the security staff.
Struggling to keep her eyes open despite the fact she had taken more uppers than was probably good for her, she chewed the inside of her cheek as she stared at the building across the road.
It hadn’t always been a solicitors office beside the pub, or the restaurant or the bistro or whatever the cool kids were calling it. Back when she was in college, back when Evelyn was certain she was going to headline Glastonbury Festival before she turned twenty-five, it had been one of the top venues for student bands in Nottingham.
It had been The Old Vic and she could still hear the drunken cheers, the calls for their third encore. She could still taste the bile in her mouth that directly followed the promise that if she followed him to the gents and took care of his big problem, he would make sure her demo tape landed upon the desk of every record company executive in the country.
The final thought brought back not only the memories but also the bile and she leant to her left, retching and vomiting quite noisily over the flagstone curb.
Evelyn breathed deep, wiped the back of her hand across her chops and not caring at all that her hair was full of chunks of whatever solid food she had eaten in the last twenty-four hours, which did not constitute a great deal, she stumbled to her feet.
She followed the tram tracks along Fletcher Gate, swaying and floundering as her feet and legs refused to work as effectively as she knew they were supposed to, to the corner where the road took a smooth left curve down towards Slab Square where she stumbled right and down the hill of Carlton Street, knocking over a couple of chairs in an al fresco dining area as she took a turn down towards the Broadway Cinema.
The buildings lining the street were closely packed and tall, giving Evelyn the impression in her drunken, drug-addled state that she was in some kind of tunnel as the clouds in the sky above released intermittent flurries of snow.
She danced ineffectually between the snowflakes and before she knew it she was at the end of the street beside the much wider Parliament Street.
Taxis and late night busses sped by, carrying passengers who were likely in a state similar to Evelyn but rather than hail a conveyance her legs took her right down towards NG-1, Nottingham’s primary gay bar.
She caught her reflection in the window and glared at herself, recalling many a night spent within during her college days; fumbled encounters not only in the toilets but in the booth, the third up on the right hand side.
Evelyn turned and ambled out into the road, ignoring the honks and hoots of the vehicles that had to swerve in order to miss the drunken girl, and made her way up Huntingdon Street.
Two hundred yards or so further staggering and she found herself at her destination, the twenty-four hour petrol station that had she taken the most direct route she would have reached within minutes.
A taxi was in the process of pulling away from one of the pumps as she stumbled across the forecourt to the shop. She fumbled with the door but at the fifth time of asking she did manage to open it and once inside headed straight for the refrigerated drinks unit.
Evelyn grabbed a can of Red Bull, cracked it and knocked it back in one. She repeated the process with a second can and then a third, and was just about to go for number four when someone cleared their throat behind her.
She turned, the fourth can in hand, to see a young man perhaps four or five years her junior with a heavily stubbled face and a polo shirt emblazoned with the petrol station’s company logo. He had the look about him of a man who really did not get paid anywhere near enough for the job that he did but knew that it was far too easy a form of employment to complain.
“You’re gonna’ pay for them, right?” he asked, yawning as he spoke. “Not gonna’ lie though, I could do with one myself.”
Evelyn did not reply though she did try to do so but instead, she gagged and vomited over herself and the floor.
“Awh, c’mon!” the young man sighed. “Shit, did you have… hey, are you all right?”
The door opened once again and he turned to see one of his more regular visitors, an NHS walk-in centre nurse he knew only as Michelle, entered.
“Morning, Chris,” she said, far too cheerfully for post-two am. “Everything all right there?”
“All good, Michelle,” he replied, turning back to Evelyn just in time to catch the girl as she fell heavily forwards into his arms.
“Shit, Chris,” she said, making her way quickly over to where the youth was struggling to get the girl down to the floor. “Looks like I came in to get my nightly pack of twenty at just the right time!”
“What do we do, Michelle?” Chris asked, rather panicked. “What do we do?! She just came in and started drinking Red Bull and then, well…”
“Yeah, I can see what she did after that,” the nurse replied, doing her level best to avoid the spreading pool of vomit as she got to her knees beside the girl. “Do you know her name? More importantly have you got any idea what she’s taken?”
“Other than Red Bull?”
“Fair enough,” she replied. “Now what we should do is phone an ambulance but I suspect that whatever she’s taken will get her into a lot of trouble; we can deal with this here, just get me plenty of water and you do fresh coffee, right?”
“Yeah,” he replied, getting to his feet.
“Good. Give me all the water you have and make three really, really strong coffees.”
“Yes,” she said in reply. “I figure you and I are both going to need one, too.”