Friday, June 30, 2017. Daily Brit Wit.
A telephone answering machine; voicemail.
"Friday night and I'm down at the pub, which honestly isn't unusual for me. I'm a social drinker and considering my social life is rather… lackadaisical, the inner social drinker is as lazy. It also probably needs to be said I'm a lightweight. But I do manage to be social on purpose perhaps once every four to six weeks, just so my friends continue to keep me around.
I stifle a yawn and find myself bemoaning about working third shift at least for the fifth time since I've agreed to going out. But nightshift has already drawn a wedge between us and I'd rather not lose the few people I honestly care about over something as mundane as nocturnal schedules. Maybe I should have started out with a shot instead of a pint?
Thankfully, the ladies arrive at the same time I'm eyeing the bar. We grin like loons upon seeing each other, and I stand to hug the three of them.
'Isabelle, I thought I would have to drag you out of bed in order to get your arse down here!' Taylor, my best friend since infancy and cousin, shouts in greeting. She squeezes my midsection so tightly I'm glad I don't have broken ribs. Then again, she could have snapped one.
I roll my eyes. 'Tay, I promised I would be here. And here I am,' I deadpan.
Annalise and Hope laugh behind us. I pull away from my cousin to embrace our other friends. Besides Taylor, I've known Annalise the longest since we first met in primary. Hope was my roommate first year at uni, but became Taylor's in short order. Those two have a strange relationship that I stopped dwelling on ages ago.
'Where's Dee?' I ask once we sit down in the booth. 'I know she can't drink now, but the one time I actually manage to come out and she stands me up!'
I don't get the reaction I was aiming for and immediately know something's wrong. Annalise guzzles her pint and Hope refuses to make eye contact. I pin down my cousin with my best no-nonsense, bitch-brow that works for the more testy patients at hospital and Taylor isn't fazed by it.
'She hasn't heard from Robert in over ten days.' My cousin informs me.
I suck in a harsh breath, eyes clinching shut, and heart pangs for Dee. She's closest to Annalise, always super quiet, but that girl would do anything for the four of us. And her husband is a soldier. Also, she's eight and a half months pregnant.
'It's not good,' Annalise murmurs. Then she signals a passing waiter over and orders a second round.
I flirt with the idea of questioning further. On the one hand, pub nights are spent on unwinding and no unnecessary drama. (Drama is acceptable when dishing out our life happenings.) Yet I don't want to know about my friend. Perhaps I ought to assume the whole "no news is good news" tripe. Ignorance and bliss and whatnot.
'So how's work, Belle?' Hope asks and I'm thankful for the change in subject; though I make a mental note to visit Dee soon.
I exhale out a noise somewhere between a groan and a sigh. 'Not bad when I'm not coming off a double,' I answer.
Hope starts. 'When did you get off?'
'Seven hours ago,' I say after looking down at my watch.
Hope throws a wadded up napkin at Taylor. 'You said she got off yesterday!'
I grin over at Annalise at the bickering my cousin's omission starts and her brown eyes roll upward faster than her smirk. They don't even pause when the waiter returns with the next round. I won't intervene because I actually like that someone cares about my sleep schedule and Annalise won't due to the free, live entertainment Hope and Taylor provide. It's a win-win.
Once their argument changes directions, I ask Anna about her job and new fiancé. She confesses to wishing he'd agree to elope and after teaching third years she may never willingly have children. Not that I would blame her.
'And what about you?' Anna asks with a sly grin.
'What of me?' I deflect.
'I know you, Belle.' She raises a well-groomed blonde brow at me. 'You weren't allowing nights at hospital to dictate our pub nights. You've a new beau.'
I groan and petulantly bury my head in arms on the sticky table.
Annalise jabs my side until I'm sitting properly once more. Her smirk is devilish and frankly scary; when she gets into these moods, I tell her that she's perfected the Ice Princess persona and to give up her day job.
Then my mobile goes off. Quick as a biting toddler, I decline the call and send it straight to answerphone. My hand hovers over the screen to withhold the identity.
I've now managed to attract Hope and Taylor's attention. My cousin is smug from her lips down to her crossed arms and relaxed posture against the booth cushion. And while I'm distracted by Taylor, I don't manage to spot a mocha hand sliding across the table until Hope's snatched my phone.
'Hey!' I cry.
'Is this the bloke you've been standing up us for, hmm?'
'Ooooh, let me see!' Annalise practically throws herself over the table to peer at my phone in Hope's hands.
Taylor swipes my phone from Hope and since she knows my passcode, opens it, and starts snooping. But once she sees who sent me a text after the declined call, her eyes widen and find mine.
'Now who's the smug one?' I quip.
'What did I miss?' Hope presses, her head shifting between me and my cousin.
'Obviously Taylor knows Belle's beau,' states Annalise.
I giggle mostly at Anna's matter-of-fact inflection and Hope's rather, uh, hopeless demeanor at her friend's reaction, but partially I'm amused by my cousin's stupor. So I allow Hope to pull Anna into a bickering contest, knowing full well Anna's equal and no doubt will win, and wait for Taylor.
I don't wait long.
'Is this…?' She breathes, cerulean orbs wide and spacey.
'You tell me,' I shrug.
'It is!' She crows. Her exclamation jolts Hope and distracts her pestering Anna. 'Are you for real?!'
'What?' Annalise and Hope parrot.
'Is it serious?'
'Of course it's serious! Or it will be….'
'Wait! You knew?!'
I throw out my arm to halt Taylor from crawling across the table or anything as equally crazy to get at Annalise. And I take ownership of my phone again, tucking it away in my jeans pocket for good measure. I glare at Taylor until she sits back.
'You told her before me?' She whines childishly. If she was standing, I could see her stomping her foot.
'No–' I attempt to correct.
'Tell us–' Hope speaks over me.
'Ladies, let's settle–' Anna projects.
All three of us shut up once Taylor continues.
'The anesthesiologist that works days, Isabelle?! How on earth did you even land that bloke?'
Hope's pint clatters back down to the tabletop and Annalise immediately latches onto my forearm. Her nails dig in. Taylor stares me down like I'm an ethereal goddess come down to mingle with the mere mortals. Okay. That's probably a lie. But it's heavily implied that my cousin dislikes me right now and that she's upset I allegedly withheld information.
'He's been on call?' I offer. 'Also, for the record, Anna didn't know.' I stress and swat at said woman's tight grip on my arm.
She lets go. 'That's a bloody shame, too.' Anna laments.
'Course, mayhem breaks out at our table and I can't get a word in edgewise. Thank God the pub is packed and we're not attracting unwanted attention. Yet. Taylor is badmouthing me; Hope is confused and hides it by badgering Taylor and me but mostly Taylor; and Annalise injects comments every so often just to rile them up some more."