I wrote this as an entry for a competition where the theme was ‘A Friend in Need’. It was a bit of fun really, and I enjoyed writing it, even if it didn’t catch the judges’ eyes.
A Friend in Need
By Jason Gibbs
Paul sat fidgeting at the table, wondering when the waiter would come. Laura looked at him and mentally shook her head. He’d be great if he’d just sort himself out.
“Do you love me?”
Paul froze, caught in the headlights of the question. The problem was that he did love Laura, or at least thought he did. It was just that she was, well, demanding.
“Yes! Of course!” Squeaking out the yes didn’t help.
“Oh Paul. I love you too, but when are you going to get serious? How is the job going?”
“You were fired… you quit?”
“No, actually.” He looked a bit abashed, “They promoted me, and asked me to become a permie.”
Laura was shocked. Maybe he was finally growing up, she was worried he’d stay a man child for ever.
“That’s great Paul! We should have something to celebrate!”
Paul kind of thought coming out to a nice French restaurant counted as celebrating, but given the smile on Laura’s face he didn’t want to disappoint her. As she waved the waiter over his phone buzzed. It was Terry, but he didn’t have time to read the message before Laura turned back. She’d been very clear with him that he wasn’t to check his texts, or answer anything other than an emergency, while he was sitting with her. Or she’d storm out. Again.
The waiter came over and Laura ordered some Moet, which he hated. Perhaps there was something he could teach her for a change. He stopped the waiter, and said, “Actually, do you have any Veuve Cliquot?” The waiter nodded his reply and went off to get some.
Laura was impressed, she didn’t realise Paul knew anything about Champagne, or indeed anything that wasn’t in the Urban Dictionary.
Paul’s phoned buzzed again. He managed not to make any sign. Laura was looking particularly beautiful tonight, and he thought he might have properly impressed her for a change. He didn’t reveal he’d learnt about Champagne during a summer serving at weddings.
When they’d first started going out she’d seemed quite happy with his jokes, and she never seemed bothered when he went out with his mates. He’d spent time with her friends, who all seemed nice enough. He’d even tried to set up Carol with Terry. That had been a disaster though, and it felt like that had been the turning point. From then on Laura had been pushing him, get a proper job, don’t drink so much, had he ever seen a gym, on and on. The problem was, he did really want to be with her, he just wasn’t ready for all this responsibility. The money from the job helped though.
After the starter she went to the toilet. He’d had a dozen texts by this point, and he now read them. They were all from Terry. The first one was just ‘Help!’, they got worse and worse from there. He was in big trouble, real trouble and he needed Paul. Desperately. Paul was certain it was to do with those gangsters Terry had been doing a deal with. Clearly it had gone bad. Damn. How was he going to explain this to Laura?
He tried. Her mouth slipped from a luminescent smile to a frown before ending flat and angry.
How could he? She just didn’t understand him. She’d tried to tell him that Terry was bad news, so many times. This was it.
“Paul, if you leave now, then we’re over. Don’t ever bother me again.”
He had no choice. He left eighty quid on the table, grabbed his jacket and headed out without another word. After all, what could he say? He wasn’t going to abandon his mates.
He jumped into his motor and sped home, hoping he’d be in time. Terry called, and his car automatically answered.
“Mate, I’m on my way.”
There was a grunt of relief.
“I thought you were leaving me hanging! Look, I can hold them off for a few more minutes but..”
There was the sound of gunshots.
“Where the hell are you?”
“Back of the warehouses, behind the Fedex office.”
Paul screeched up to his house.
“I’ll get tooled up and be right there.”
Paul ran into the house, and dived into the games room. He jumped into his control chair, with the keyboard on one side and the controller on the other, and hit un-pause. The speakers squawked, and the logo of East End Wars came up on the screen, along with a Ray Winstone quote he no longer noticed. His character already had a load of weapons ready, he just needed to dump them in the Jag and get going. He had to hurry, his friend was in real need.