The Brass Bell pub stood prominently on the street corner with lights blazing, sign swaying and music blaring out of windows. People streamed in and out of the doors, their laughter drifting over our car as we edged it into the kerb.
The oldest pub in the neighbourhood, it featured two separate entrances. One door sign read “Public Bar” and was where tradesmen in jeans and boots stopped for a pint on their way home, or brought their wives later in the evening for a game of darts and friendly banter with their mates. The other door read “Saloon Bar” and was where dark- suited city workers just off their commuter trains gathered to mull over the day’s economic news, or brought their girlfriends for a quick drink before dinner or the theatre.
From experience we knew we’d get less reaction if we used the Public Bar. Antonia’s mini dress and my slacks and shirt were giveaways and some smart mouthed chap might throw a remark about “two birds needing a real guy.” But that was rare. In the Saloon bar we knew we’d have received frosty looks and a show of backs. Those close to the bar would have fallen silent and turned away as I approached to order drinks.
The long bar served both rooms. It ran across the middle of the building and separated the two worlds. I nodded at a couple of local lads I’d played darts with, and found us a table in a corner. Once Antonia was comfortably seated, I manoeuvred my way through the crowd to the bar.
“A scotch with water, no ice, and a glass of chardonnay, please”. The bartender nodded and as I waited I idly looked over into the Saloon. Loud teasing voices and laughter floated over from a group on the other side and told me that the previous evening’s football games were being torn apart.
And then I noticed a couple at the other end of the bar. They stood together, each nursing a drink, talking quietly and earnestly. Oblivious to the noise around them, they saw only each other. She was small, about five foot, and of slight build. She had dark curly hair and, when she looked up at him, I could see she was very pretty. He stood six foot tall with blond hair and handsome, familiar features. He had a charming smile and stood with one arm protectively around her shoulders. I’d never seen her before.
Suddenly, the bartender was placing our drinks in front of me, “That’ll be five and six, please”.
“Tell that man at the end of the bar the drinks are on him.” I replied.
The bartender walked over, leant towards the man and, pointing to me, said, “She says her drinks are on you”.
As he looked up and across at me, I raised my glass before turning my back on my father.
Born in Canada, raised in England and California resident for last thirty years. She writes predominantly creative non-fiction. When not writing, she spends time in her glass studio creating fused glass bowls and platters.