Surprisingly Useless Man - This story was written in April 2003
Sally turned the radio off as soon as she realised Alan was calling her, but continued brushing her hair until he called again.
‘Come on, Sal,’ Alan shouted up the stairs. ‘If you hurry up we can get a couple of drinks in at the Woolpack.’
Sally tossed the hairbrush aside and thundered across the landing to confront him. ‘We are not going to the pub tonight,’ Sally said, intent on keeping their anniversary a pub-free event.
He looked puzzled. ‘Why not?’
Sally threw up her arms in despair. ‘You know why not. If we go for a couple of drinks you’ll be rowdy at the theatre.’
‘Nice new bra, dear,’ Alan said to change the subject. ‘Should the frilly bit be tucked in on just one side?’
Sally looked down, snorted in contempt and buttoned up her blouse.
Alan changed the subject back again, believing he’d thrown Sally sufficiently. ‘Just one drink then? One little beer won’t do me any harm.’
Do him any harm? Sally pondered this for a moment and then it all clicked into place. ‘I know what you’re up to, you sly beggar. You’re plotting to get out of driving tonight.’
‘Yes you.’ Sally smiled at the thought of catching Alan out.
‘Well that’s not the case because I’ve booked a taxi. He’ll be here any minute.’
Outside a horn sounded, startling Sally but not Alan, who seemed to be expecting it.
‘Ah. That’ll be him.’ Alan said.
‘But I’m not ready! I need another 15 minutes at least,’ Sally insisted.
‘You look fine, Sal. Tell you what, I’ll talk to the driver and let him know you’ll be ready in a couple of minutes.’
Sally sighed. She wanted tonight to be really special. It was their tenth anniversary after all. She rushed back to the bedroom and finished brushing her hair, grabbed her vanity case and squeezed into a pair of sleek heels. Sally gazed down at the silver shoes that she bought especially for tonight. Not cheap, unlike Alan! She picked up her handbag on the way out and popped the vanity case inside.
As she came downstairs Sally heard the distinct bleeping of Alan texting on his mobile.
Suspicious, Sally asked ‘Who are you texting?’
Alan looked up from his phone and said, ‘Baz. I’m letting him know we won’t be going to the pub tonight.’
Sally tried to hide her satisfaction but she could feel the corners of her mouth crinkle into a smirk.
Five minutes into the taxi ride Alan’s phone rang.
‘Hello?’ Alan said. ‘Hi Baz. No mate, I’m taking Sally to the theatre tonight.’ Alan fidgeted with his tie as he waited for a response. ‘What? Oh, alright. See you in a bit then.’
Alan pressed the call end button, leant forward and spoke to the driver. ‘Change of destination, mate. The Woolpack on Wellington Street.’
Sally could hardly believe her ears. ‘What’re you doing? We agreed we weren’t going to the pub tonight.’
Her special night was going down the plughole right in front of her. How could he do this to her?
‘Baz has got us both a drink to celebrate our anniversary. It would be rude to not go now.’
Sally’s pulse was racing. Alan always made decisions without her agreement. He held his wristwatch close to her face and clicked the illumination button.
‘It’s still an hour before the play starts. Loads of time.’
The pub was only five minutes walk from the theatre so Alan was right, but it was the principle of it. Sally had hoped that for once her husband was going to deliver on his promise.
‘Just the one,’ Sally sighed.
Sally knew she should’ve seen this coming. His previous anniversary efforts were not memorable because they mainly involved going to the pub. But at least on those occasions he hadn’t deceived her into going there. Sally wasn’t going to forget this in a hurry.
The taxi pulled up at the pub entrance. Sally could see Alan’s mate Baz peering through the window, a half drank pint in one hand, a cigar in the other.
‘That’ll be a fiver, luv.’
Sally looked around and noticed Alan had already made his exit. She fumbled in her purse and pulled out a £5 note.
In the pub there was no sign of Alan. He wasn’t at the bar or on the fruit machine. Baz was still standing guard over the drinks.
Perhaps Alan was desperate for the loo, Sally considered, giving her husband the benefit of the doubt.
‘Sally! Happy birthday! ‘ Baz cheered, and lurched forward to give her a bear hug.
‘It’s our anniversary, Baz,’ Sally said, snatching her drink off the table and taking a big gulp.
‘Really? I thought you married Alan, not me!’ Baz let out and uncontrollable laugh.
Sally ignored Baz’s attempted humour. ‘Where’s Alan?’
‘Err, I think he went through to the backroom to play darts.’
‘I’m going to kill him,’ Sally snarled, and she stormed off towards the backroom. Baz followed her and shouted, ‘Don’t use the darts for that Sal. They’re heavy barrelled ones!’
Okay, killing him was drastic. Sally’s thoughts turned to thinking what she could do to him. Her heart was thumping in her head, but her thoughts became clear on what she would do. She was going to….
Sally was taken aback as 50 plus friends and family converged on her, setting off party poppers over her head. She spotted Alan in the crowd and raced over to him, with tears streaming down her cheeks. Killing him with darts had turned into hugging him to death. Now this was an anniversary to remember!
‘I love you,’ Sally sobbed.
‘I have a confession,’ Alan admitted. ‘We’re not going to the theatre tonight. We’re going tomorrow. The party was your mother’s idea.’
Typical, Sally thought. The best thing Alan’s ever done for me, and it was a great woman behind it all along.