It was also about time to go behind the makeshift curtain because the first couple of acts had almost finished – each, David thought with a sense of self-gratification, ignored by Andrew. Perhaps it was his night after all, in more ways than one. The point was, where was Schaden, if indeed she had come? It was theoretically easier to look out at the shadows in the back of the room when he was on stage, but the lighting would dim his clarity. So he took a moment, standing by the edge of the stage area, to look outside the focus of the stage lights.
He saw Andrew first, almost mythically large and dark like the lord of the underworld, looming to the right of the tables at the back. He was leaning back, watching the stage, a look of endurance on his face as the compere (if you could call the hack that ran the pub something as celebrated) threw out his tired jokes as fillers before introducing David.
But he wasn’t looking for Andrew, no matter how enticing their conversation had been. He was looking for a girl – he was sure of it – and there were a few to choose from at the tables. Only one, though, who seemed likely. Most were gathered in groups and David felt sure Schaden would have arrived on her own. So the one that sat to the far left, in the darkest part of the room, slowly sipping what looked like a cocktail, had to be her. It was Schaden’s type of place to sit. It was Schaden’s type of look – or what he’d imagined – very slim, rather angular in looks just like David was, very dark, with intense eyes. And there was what had to be the final proof. Those eyes, hawklike, glittering, steady, were looking back at him.
It was her all right. He could feel her wicked humour telegraph to him as clearly as it did over the internet.
David risked a smile in her direction but did not have time to see her response. The compere was calling out for him to go on stage.
He alighted adrenalized, hopeful, expectant. The lights in his eyes for once did not dazzle him. His patter for once went completely smoothly. Even in the haze before him he could at least see the signs of mirth and laugher in the audience and particularly in the hulking girth of Andrew. Schaden was harder to make out – she’d chosen her spot well, as though she knew with almost a professional performer’s eye, where to hide. Of course, she would. He wondered momentarily if she was actually a performer also, though he’d never seen her around the traps.
Nevermind, he thought. He was sure she was watching him. He felt it, like a glow that caressed him with approval and amusement.
His excitement was hard to contain. He reached the end of his ten minutes to sincere and enthusiastic applause and approval and bounded off the stage area.
‘Great show!’ the compere told him, and for once it didn’t seem to be the automatic and hollow rhetoric that it usually sounded like.
‘Very good,’ another voice said behind him, and he turned to see Andrew.
David didn’t want to stay to talk, he wanted to go and find Schaden, but he wasn’t going to walk away from Andrew. He had a profession to think about, and another – accountancy – to escape. This was definitely the nearest he had got to achieving that so far.
‘I want to talk with you,’ Andrew said, ‘Call me during the week. I can’t stay now. I have to go. Something’s come up at home..’
‘Oh,’ David said. Andrew shot him a look that said, what’s a guy to do? David nodded. They communed on a man to man level – guy to guy – both understanding the secret code about domestic affairs and their inhibiting effect on ‘their’ lives.
The man mountain turned and left him. David took a moment to calm himself, then headed out to the hotel tables in search of Schaden.
The balloon deflated in an instant, and suddenly even the promise of success seemed bitter on his tongue. He looked over to her table, expectant, eager.
And she was gone.
(c) Helen M Valentina 2015, All Rights Reserved