This corner of the club smelt like the toilets, probably because it was next to them. Margaret looked up and scanned the crowd for what seemed like the four hundredth time that evening. Claire was nowhere in sight. She looked at her phone again, to see no new messages or calls. It was dingy and badly lit here, and the leather booth seats were beginning to crack apart, which made Margaret suspect that they weren’t really leather. In fact, they felt like plastic now that she really thought about it. If only it was lighter in here, she could really inspect them. Oh gosh, she thought, I’m inspecting a booth in a club. Where is Claire? Just then, a figure approached the booth. Margaret’s heart lifted as she called out, “About time!”
“Well I was trying to figure out if you were staring at me or not. I finally realised you must have been when I saw you trying not to seem obvious.”
“Sorry?” Margaret asked. The music was loud and the lighting was dark, but this person did not actually look or sound like Claire close up. In fact, the voice and stature were distinctly male.
“That’s okay,” said the mystery man, “It wouldn’t be the first time a girl has eyed me up. You look like you could use some company in this big, lonely booth of yours.” With that, the man sat down and sidled up to Margaret. He smelt of Tequila, misery and sweat and that was just his breath. The rest of him smelt like it had been dipped in a vat of cheap aftershave (though Margaret could unfortunately feel that no shave had happened recently) after having worked with marine life all day. His hair was a mousy brown colour, and absolutely covered in grease to create that ‘comb-tracks’ look that he seemed to think drove the ladies wild. Margaret could sense that this situation was soon to get a lot worse, so she was extraordinarily grateful when Claire arrived, scanning the booths at the back of the club for what had been described to her as THE WORST ONE IN HERE, BY THE LAV. SORRY! X. She had skipped over the booth Margaret was in as the club was too dark to make out facial features and there were two people there. Now, though, she noticed that one of those people was wearing the top she’d lent Margaret 3 weeks ago and looked very uncomfortable, being pawed by the man next to her.
“Excuse me,” she said, trying to channel Jill, Lucy and Georgia all into one attitude used to drive away strangers, “I think this is my booth.”
“Oh my apologies,” said the man, looking aggravated at having to disentangle himself from the girl who Claire could now confirm was a very awkward and uncomfortable Margaret, “We were just leaving anyway.”
“I don’t think she wants to go with you.” Claire was trying to muster up all her courage in order to free her trapped friend.
“And how would you know what she wants?”
“Margaret, are you going to go with him?” Claire asked. The man looked shocked at the realisation that the two girls knew each other. Margaret, crippled with fear at the prospect of going home with this creep, said nothing but instead slightly shook her head and whimpered. Claire knew that this was when she was supposed to call this greasy thing a whole host of swear words and then send him away with a witty put-down. That was what her friends would have done. But she settled instead for saying “Bye, then.” She was still trying to avoid making scenes in public after the whole debacle with Steve. With that, the man sloped off, probably to target some other poor, unsuspecting girl.
“Thank goodness for you,” Margaret gasped, “He just wouldn’t get off!”
“He looked like my great-uncle Willis when he was young. Nobody deserves Willis hanging off of them,” Claire explained. Margaret burst out laughing.
“I had an uncle like that! His name was Terry! He used to drive a white van and always offered me sweets!”
“Oh my gosh, really? Was he genuinely a paedophile?”
“No! He was just really strange!”
The two girls were in peals of laughter, each clinging to the other for support when someone else arrived at their table.
“Don’t tell me, let me guess,” said Clive, “something funny happened.” The girls jumped, they hadn’t seen Clive approaching as they were too wrapped up in their hysterics. Still laughing, they explained the incident with ‘Willis junior’ and their discovery of Margaret’s uncle’s dubious pastimes. Clive found what he understood amusing, but the girls were too far gone in their hysterics to make enough sense for him to join in their level of glee. Once they had contained their excitement enough for Clive to join them, they began to talk about the plans for the evening.
“It’s already 10 o’clock, what are we going to do once the club closes?” Margaret wondered. Claire thought hard about this, trying to find a solution.
“Are you seriously willing to stay here until the club closes? It’s rubbish here and once the pubs close, all the drunkards and morons come in – there’ll be ‘Willis juniors’ everywhere!” pointed out Clive.
“Clive, this is your club!” exclaimed Claire.
“Therefore, I am the only one who can truly tell the truth about it.” Clive countered with an air of an indignant parent. “Besides, it’s my dad’s club. It just so happens that it’s named after me in an attempt to win back my affections after a childhood of neglect.”
“Neglect? If that’s what you think neglect is, I wish my parents had been more neglectful of me!” declared Margaret.
“Having money doesn’t mean I had good parents, it just means I had a pool.”
“Oh you poor thing! However did you survive such hardship?” Margaret’s voice was dripping with sarcasm and Claire could hear scorn in her voice. Just once, she thought, could we have a Friday night where you two don’t butt heads over your childhoods? Margaret was from a broken home, and that’s all that anybody knew. In fact, she hadn’t even told Claire about her past, other than to say that it was terrible and that she didn’t want to talk about it. You don’t seem to mind bringing it up around Clive.
The argument was approaching unstoppable at this point, meaning that Claire had to step in. Two lots of confrontation in one night? This can’t be good for me.
“Guys! Be quiet! Please?”
The arguers looked stunned at the interruption. Then, seeing the look on Claire’s face (which she imagined must have been a mix of anger at the two of them for fighting and pain at the ordeal of having to break them up), they both looked down, silent.