The Ties That Bind – Episode 31

Characters from the serial, Evelyn and Simon with Lynda and Alex in a bar.

“Evelyn! Over here!”

Evelyn saw Lynda waving as soon as she stepped into the bar and she smiled. She hadn’t seen her friend for several weeks and she’d missed her.

“Hi, Lynda – I feel as if I haven’t seen you for ages.”

“I know. Life gets in the way sometimes, doesn’t it?” Lynda shuffled along.

“Sit down. The quiz won’t be starting for another twenty minutes. Not everybody’s here yet.”

“That’s why I came a bit early. We can catch up before Simon gets here.”

“Oh, he’s here already. He’s at the bar,” Lynda said.

This was unexpected. Evelyn could feel her smile becoming fixed.

Was is her imagination, or was Lynda avoiding her eyes? This wasn’t the first time she’d had an inkling that something wasn’t quite right between them.

There had been a couple of occasions when they’d talked on the phone and it registered now that it always seemed to be when Simon was mentioned.

Lynda was still talking.

“Most of us came straight from work and had tea here,” she said.

“Oh. I didn’t realise that was the plan,” Evelyn said.

Not that she could have joined them anyway. Work had been extra busy and she’d had to stay on later than planned.

“It was a last-minute decision,” Lynda explained. “Just the work gang. We thought it would be easier than everyone going home and then all having to head back into town again.”

No, it wasn’t her imagination. Lynda was definitely on edge.

“Lynda, is there –”

“Hi, Evelyn. Perfect timing. I got you a drink.”

They both turned at the sound of Simon’s voice and Lynda jumped up to help him with the three glasses.

“Hi.” Evelyn looked at him curiously, but there was no hint of anything untoward about Simon.

He was exactly the same as he always was, bending to kiss her cheek before he sat down beside her and smiling warmly.

“Good day?” he asked, giving her his full attention.

“Not bad, thanks,” she said, smiling back at him. “How about you? I hear you all had tea here.”

“There were only four of us. Lynda suggested it, but most of them preferred to go home first.”

That’s not the version I heard, Evelyn thought.

Evelyn didn’t reply, but a swift glance at Lynda confirmed that she was still avoiding eye contact and there was a definite flush on her friend’s cheeks.

“It looks as if Pam’s working out the teams,” Lynda said. “I’ll go and see who’s making up our four.”

She hurried away and Evelyn noticed Simon didn’t give her a second glance.

This was a crumb of comfort, but she still felt uneasy. Something didn’t add up.

“Should be a good night. I hope you’ve been swotting.” Simon seemed perfectly relaxed and Evelyn gave herself a mental shake.

Stop being so possessive and suspicious, she thought.

“I was up all last night scrolling through Wikipedia,” she replied, and laughed to see Simon’s familiar grin.

“I’ll expect top marks from you, then.”

They both laughed. This was the way it usually was between them, laughing at the ridiculous.

“I’m looking forward to this,” she said. “I could do with a bit of fun.”

“Me, too.” Simon squeezed her hand. “Oh, looks like we have our fourth member.”

He indicated Lynda heading back towards them, followed by a curly-haired man wearing a checked shirt.

“Evelyn, Simon, this is Alex, a neighbour of Pam’s.” Lynda smiled. “He’s been put on our team.”

“Bad luck, mate,” Simon said with a friendly grin. “Grab a seat.”

The room was becoming crowded and when Simon stood up to move, someone else took his chair. In the following confusion, Evelyn somehow found herself wedged into a corner of the booth.

Alex sat down beside her and next second, she felt her hand enclosed in a warm handshake while a pair of bright blue eyes looked into hers.

“Nice to meet you, Evelyn,” Alex said.

“Er . . . hi. Hello,” Evelyn stammered, wondering why she hadn’t noticed before that moment just how warm it was in here.

“We should be in with a chance with this quiz, guys,” Lynda was saying. “I hear Alex is brilliant on general knowledge.”

“I don’t know about that,” Alex said modestly. “As I always say, the questions are only easy if you know the answers.” His eyes twinkled. “I’m profound like that, you see.”

It was the kind of remark Simon would make and Evelyn was glad. If they all shared a sense of humour, it would be a fun evening.

“. . . don’t you think, Ev?”

Simon’s voice interrupted Evelyn’s train of thought and she realised with a jolt that Alex was still holding the tips of her fingers.

She withdrew her hand and looked across at Simon.

“Sorry, what was that?”

“I said we need a good team name to start with. Any ideas?”

“Oh, yes. Yes, definitely,” she replied, flustered.

“Well, thanks, Ev, that’s a lot of help.” He looked up at her, amused, and suddenly it was Evelyn’s turn to avoid making eye contact with her team.

Fortunately, the other two had plenty of suggestions.

To be continued…

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