Sarah had never walked this way down the hill before. She’d always meant to but once she’d got to the top of the hill she’d always stopped there. It was always as though a piece of elastic was tying her to home. But while it was strange, Sarah was quietly relieved. She hadn’t wanted to walk into a pub with this guy and find a bunch of her friends there instantly judging him. She wasn’t ready to share him yet.
They walked down the hill in near silence. Sarah could hear a bird twittering. Sarah always imagined when she heard this particular kind of bird that it was making cat calls at her. Like there was a group of builder birds who said things like, “oh yes we’ll build your nest extension and bird bath for you obviously, but that birch twig finish you’re after Mrs Robin… It’ll cost ya extra”. She imagined that these builder birds whistled at her but she thought it might sound a little mad and so she didn’t mention it to Steven.
The ground started to level out and soon they were walking on a country lane. There was a distinct smell of tilled earth mixed with the unmistakable pong of manure. Luckily this passed after a second. Steven paused for a moment and took in an artificially deep breath and said, “Ah, I love the smells of the countryside. Now if I’m not mistaken the pub must be just around this corner”.
Steven picked up his pace and Sarah followed. There, as promised, was the pub. It was an old stone building with flowers in hanging baskets. The only thing missing, Sarah thought, was a beer garden. Steven walked up to the door, opened it and stepped inside – holding the door open behind him. Sarah walked in behind him. She hadn’t been sure about the idea of going to the pub the whole time she’d been walking down the hill. Sarah couldn’t quite see how going to the pub seemed very adventurer-ish. As she was actually crossing the threshold she suddenly wondered what kind of drink he would have.
Sarah walked past Steven and into the pub. It had a cold stone floor which made the room feel very refreshing after the heat of the sunshine and the walk down the hill. She walked forward towards the bar and couldn’t help but notice that bartender only had one arm. Steven was right behind her, he walked closer to the bartender and said, “a pint of Guinness and a packet of peanuts please Pete”.
Pete looked over at Sarah, “what’ll it be for you missy?”
He didn’t wait for her, he’d already started moving over towards the Guinness pump. There was a “clack” on every alternate step – clearly Pete only had one leg as well. Sarah realised she was staring at him a little bit, and she looked round to Steven. Steven looked at her and smiled.
“Interested in old Pete eh? You’re right to be, he’s an interesting fellow Pete.”
“Urgh,” said Pete.
“You’re being too modest Pete. Pete used to be an adventurer too. Sadly he got a little bit too friendly with a crocodile. Now he serves drinks for a living.”
“And peanuts,” says Pete.
“What,” asked Steven, “would you like? I’d recommend the Guinness.”
“I don’t really like Guinness I’m afraid.”
“Ah, well then you better try something else. I never have so I can’t really recommend anything.”
“Can I have a whiskey?”
Pete walked towards the side of the bar and found a stool. He carried it back and started to climb on it and then, after steadying himself, reached up and plucked a bottle of whiskey off of the top shelf. He took out two glasses. Poured a large measure into both and then put the bottle back and kicked the stool out of the way. He picked up both of the glasses and thrust one towards Sarah. And then, looking at the other glass he said, “well I may as well toast a lassie who likes whiskey. Cheers.”
Steven managed to rescue his stout from the wrong side of the bar where it had been settling and they all toasted Sarah – even though Sarah seemed a tad confused by the whole thing. Pete took the end of the toast as a signal to shuffle off again and Steven tipped his head in the direction of a table in the corner of the room.
As they walked towards the table Sarah realised that it wasn’t quite a corner. The room wasn’t quite square and the table was in a little corridor. As they sat at the table Sarah found she was facing away from the main pub, she was looking down the corridor at a closed door.
“So,” said Steven.
“So,” said Sarah.
“What? Go on…”
“I,” said Sarah, “I was going to say, I was going to say the whole way down the hill that going to the pub didn’t feel like going on an adventure. But now I’m not so sure. I hadn’t expected Pete for a start.”
“No, not many people expect Pete.”
“And to an extent it’s an adventure for me simply because I’ve never been on this side of the hill, and here I am with a strange man, but for you it isn’t really an adventure is it? You’ve been on this side of the hill before, you’ve been to this pub before, drunk that Guinness.”
“Well not this particular pint of Guinness no, but would you be trying to claim with all of that that you aren’t a strange girl?”
“I’m not strange? I’m perfectly normal.”
“I am. I’m boring.”
“I don’t believe that. You might be bored but you’re not boring.”
“Can’t you be both?”
“People can, but not you. Your mind is too inquisitive.”
As he had been speaking Sarah had been noticing that a light behind the door was getting brighter and brighter. She was about to say something but then Steven said, “How many people do you think imagine birds are wolf-whistling at them?”
“What?” Sarah said, the light was getting brighter, but she couldn’t ignore what Steven had just said. “How could you know that?”
“I can’t tell you that for a moment. But it’s true isn’t it.”
“Things like that make you interesting. You never tell anyone about it because you fear what people might think of you. What you don’t realise is that admitting to the interesting things about you might make people more interested in you rather than less.”
Sarah could hardly ignore the door now. Bright white light was shining all around it and through the keyhole. Rays were dancing on the ceiling and floor, patterns on the walls and the light switch were so bright they were difficult to look at. She looked back at Steven.
“Ignore the door.”
“Just for a moment.”
“Admit that you are interesting and you don’t need something to happen to you to prove it.”
“Ignore the door.”
Sarah looked straight at Steven. His blue eyes really were amazingly bright, even in the relative darkness compared to what she had just been looking at. What had she been looking at? She faltered for a second wanting to look back at the door. But she could see in Steven’s eyes a pleading for her not to look.
“Okay,” she said, “I admit it. I am more interesting than I normally admit.”
“Good then,” said Steven, “now you are ready to decide. Do you want to go through the door?”
[Check back next Friday for the final part of the story.]