Sesame Seed: Chapter Three.

by | Aug 27, 2023 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

“I’ve been let down by her family, not the system. How can the service deal with something it knows nothing about? Do you know her sister is one of your lot? How can someone who lives with a person most of their life not notice something when it’s their job, their profession?” Tony replied, stroking his forehead. He reached for the glass, lifted it then changed his mind.

“One of us?” Alan rubbed the scar vigorously as if trying to erase it. “you mean she’s a psychiatrist or psychologist? Surely I must know her from somewhere. It’s Shelagh, isn’t it?”

“Nah, she’s a psychy nurse. A manager at Saint Nick’s. She deals with head injuries, strokes, that kind of thing. Or at least the aftermath of it,” Tony replied.

“Tony, that’s a completely different ball game. It’s care, not diagnosis or treatment. Like asking an oncology nurse to diagnose a tumour,” Alan whispered. The pub had suddenly gone silent as everyone, coincidentally, stopped talking at once. The chitchat started again as abruptly as it had stopped and the two men took a sip of their beers.

“You’re kidding man, she acted like a proper shrink. Honestly, she was always psycho-analysing you. I’m surprised that dull husband of hers hadn’t installed one of those couch things that you have. ‘So how does that make you feel?’ She used to say.” Tony imitated his sister-in-law in a high-pitched voice and wriggled the fingers of both hands in front of his face.

Alan snorted, trying to stifle a laugh. “This is a serious matter mate. Let’s get back to you and Marie.”

“Sorry buddy. Apologies for the shrink thing too. I appreciate what you are trying to do. As I said, when it comes to that bloody family I see red. Her brother’s the worst. He threatened me at the funeral. He’s a big lad, works out and that but I would still have punched his lights out. Kicked him in the bollocks at least. Arrogant twat.” Tony sniggered and put a hand to his mouth. The doctor couldn’t hold it in and they both burst into laughter, “Jesus, man. This is worse than laughing at a funeral.”

“He comes in here too, doesn’t he?” Alan said.

“Aye, drinks lager. I don’t know why he bothers coming here. His mates, I suspect. They’re all canny lads, at least they used to be. They virtually ignore me now, thanks to him. Marie used to say, when she told me about the past, that he was a bigger victim than her. He didn’t even speak until he was four and couldn’t write in junior school. That father of theirs had a lot to answer for and Pat too for doing nothing about it. I think Shelagh was immune to it, being ten years younger and only two when he fucked off back to Egypt.”

Alan listened intently to Tony’s monologue without interruption. He picked up his glass and took a long slow sip, allowing the other man to continue.

“Anyway, the upshot of it was that she was diagnosed with BPD two years ago. I had threatened to leave unless she sought help and then it took another six months to get a diagnosis.” Tony drained his glass and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, “same again Alan?”

The doctor nodded. Tony slid from the stool and made for the bar. The door squeaked and Tony’s brother-in-law entered right on cue with a couple of friends in tow. He pushed in front of Tony and leaned on the counter.

“Pint of lager Yorkie Boy and whatever shite these two are drinking. I didn’t know you served murderers here,” Robert said to the barman, gesturing to Tony with a nod.

“Come on Rob, give it up son. Two more Tony?” Dave picked up two glasses and made for the pump on the side wall.

“So, not only do you serve them but they get to jump the queue, eh?” Robert deliberately walked into Tony, sending him staggering along the bar.

“Steady lad. There was no need for that. The fella was here first. Just give me a second.” Dave’s permanent smile faded. Robert made to grab Tony by the jacket but a shovel of a hand caught him by the collar.

“I wouldn’t if I were you, little fella,” Alan Smith whispered into Robert’s ear as he pulled him close. The other man, while bulky, was dwarfed by the giant frame of the doctor. There were a few seconds of silence when they were frozen together in a still image on the back page of a newspaper. Robert relaxed and Alan let go of the other man’s collar. The smaller man pulled away as if to turn and retaliate but was frozen in his tracks at the sight of the giant behind him.

“Who the fuck are you? Ah, wait. You’re that shrink from up the street. I’ve seen you around. Fond of defending killers, are you? That’s bound to lose you business if anyone finds out.” Robert looked into Alan’s eyes then followed their gaze to Tony, “ wait a minute. You know this guy? What is he? A patient or your bum chum?” He sneered at both men and took a step back, straightening his coat.

Alan’s face broke into a smile. Then in a flash of blue and ginger, he had the other man sitting on the bar with one hand around his throat. Robert’s face turned puce and his eyes bulged like a hanged man. He tried to speak but his words were drowned in his own spittle.

“I suggest that, on this occasion, you and your associates find another watering hole. Isn’t that right Dave?” The big man released his grip leaving Robert sitting on the bar like a child in a high chair. His two companions made for the door and Robert slid off the counter and joined them. Dave’s smile returned and he placed the two full glasses on the counter.

The door groaned, signalling the exit of the three men but not before Robert left a parting shot. “Wife killer. See you around.”

Tony leaned on the counter and placed his forehead on the cold brass. He allowed the tears he’d suppressed earlier to come. His shoulders heaved and he let out a sob. Everyone in the bar turned towards him. A wave of sympathy flowed over him and Alan wrapped his giant fingers around his neck like a mother cat with a kitten.

“Come on mate. Let’s just enjoy the afternoon.” Alan shepherded Tony back to the stool and the murmur of normality spread through the tiny bar, “no more memories, just drink, and craic.”

“Where the fuck did I find you?” Tony said, jumping back onto his stool, “one doesn’t get mates like you. Let alone a shrink. The way you stood up for me was incredible. You have a lot to lose, had that gone tits up. How did you know he was all mouth and protein drink?”

“I’ve seen that type before Tony. They may look like Arnie but they’d be like a blancmange on a rugby pitch in January.” Alan’s face was deadly serious but Tony almost choked on his beer.

“Hahaha. You’re some fella when you take that suit off. You could charge double for your social time,” Tony spluttered, pulling his hand down over his mouth.

“Tony, I don’t make a habit of this. You are a special case. I usually avoid guys like that but that fellow is hurting just like you. He’s lost his older sister. He’s grieving too. It’s just that he deals with it in a different way from you.” The big man shuffled on his stool and took a deep breath and a mouthful of ale.

“That doesn’t mean that he can go around slandering my name. Life’s bloody hard enough,” Tony answered.

“It’s complicated mate. The family is in pieces and not just with grief. There is a lot of internal finger-pointing going on. Anyway, I’ve said enough. Let’s enjoy this beautiful brew in this special place.” As he said that, Dave’s Spotify launched into John Martyn’s May You Never. Both men froze and then slowly looked up at the permanent fairy lights suspended from the ceiling. They closed their eyes simultaneously and let the words wash over them like a warm Mediterranean wave. Slowly lowering their heads they picked up their glasses and touched them together. “Marie,” Alan whispered in a quiet toast.”

“Marie,” Tony responded.

The ale flowed and evening approached. The low January sun moved across the windows of the building opposite, lighting up the tiny pub. Tony shielded his eyes from the secondary glare and noticed a carrion crow hopping between the spikes of the railings of the building.

“I’ve always wondered what that place was,” he said to his buddy.

Turning around, Alan squinted at the view behind him. “That’s the Bruce Building. It was something to do with the brewery in its heyday. In fact, this whole area was brewery related. Now it’s student accommodation. Pretty decent by all accounts, if a bit pricey. One of our partners has a daughter there.”

Following the black bird as it jumped between the railings and the pavement, Tony felt a shiver rush through his body. Closing his eyes, he turned to the big man. The last of the sun deserted the building, leaving the Cat in post-eclipse darkness.

“Alan, I know you said beer and craic, but I want to tell you about her eyes,” he whispered.

“Eyes? Marie?” Alan responded.

“Yes, the first thing that caught my attention. They were incredible. Like sapphires but almost backlit, luminescent. I’d never seen anything like it in my life.” As he spoke, the crow crouched briefly and launched itself, wings spread, towards where they were sitting. It landed on the small fence outside the window and glared at the two men with one of its onyx eyes. Tony was frozen to the spot as the bird almost curtsied and stretched out its neck. The crow opened its beak and let out a loud caw. This routine was repeated three times before it was gone in an inky flash.

“Interesting. So this was your first meeting – date? Tony? Hey, are you OK?” Alan was conscious that his friend had slipped into a semi-trance. The other man didn’t acknowledge his comment but continued to stare at the bare fence outside the window.

“Corvus Corona,” Tony said without breaking his stare.

“Pardon?”

“The Carrion Crow. Corvus Corona, king of the crows.”

“I see.”

“Associated with death.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Yes, death and intelligence. Did you know that if a crow was faced with a pitcher of water that it couldn’t reach with its beak? I wouldn’t push the pitcher over? Instead, it will fill the pitcher with stones until the water is easy to reach. Incredible eh?”

“It Certainly is mate. Tell me about Marie’s eyes. You mentioned that they drew you in, on your first encounter. How did you two meet, by the way?” Alan tried to bring his companion back to the conversation.

“Eyes? Oh, yes. Her eyes. I tell you, man, they were haunting. Full of sadness but vulnerable. They said, ‘Help me, care for me, look after me,’ you know?” Tony dragged his eyes from the view outside to Alan, “I was out with a friend of my ex-girlfriend, Susie. Nothing serious, just a drink and a chat. Helen, her name was. She’d been a rock during the break-up with Susie.”

“This must have been a while back. First love? Sounded serious,” Alan said, leaning towards Tony. The bar was filling up with the Friday evening crowd, signalled by the constant whining of the door and the increased volume of conversation.

“I thought she was the one, Alan. Susie, we’d known each other from junior school. Anyway, it wasn’t to be. She moved away to college and I stayed here in Newcastle. We drifted apart,” Tony replied, raising his voice over the din.

Alan nodded enthusiastically, “carry on.”

“Helen was a good mate. We were having a drink in the old 42nd Street in Whitley Bay when Marie walked in with a friend. She looked across at me and I was smitten. Then she clocked Helen and looked away.” Tony looked around, suddenly aware that the place was crammed, “to cut a long story short, Helen saw the look on my face and knew. Later that evening, Helen followed Marie into the ladies. When Marie came out she shot me another x-ray stare and I almost melted. This was followed by a faint smile, turning me into a puff of smoke.”

“Let me guess, Helen got her number,” Alan said, a wry smile flashing over his well-worn features.

“Got it in one mate. She was fucking mental man. That’s what I loved about her. Well not loved exactly. You know what I mean.” Tony did the fingers on the forehead thing again and closed his eyes. Looking around, he too leaned closer, “tell you the truth, Helen had a real soft spot for me. I was totally oblivious until the end of the evening. She handed me Marie’s number and just said, ‘ring her, she’s expecting it.’ I was blown away. Then she hugged me and started bubbling. She kissed me and I reciprocated. Man, that was the weirdest moment of my life. Like kissing you, all of a sudden.” Tony felt his cheeks burn at the last comment.

Alan’s green eyes shone and his smile broadened. “Steady mate. So, in summary, Helen walked into the toilet, asked Marie for her number and she agreed?”

“In a nutshell, Bonny Lad. A week later, I summoned up the courage to ring her and we met the following weekend.” Tony’s face took on a moribund look, “the rest, as they say, is history. The biggest roller-coaster ride of my life.”

Chapter Four

Alan drained his glass and slapped a giant hand on the table which creaked under the impact.”Let’s call it a day fella, this is potent stuff and your mind is fragile enough…

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