Paula tried to join her colleagues on the final leg of their Christmas night out but a jobsworth bouncer crossed his beefy arms and blocked the pub doorway. She recognised him as Brian, Rob’s best mate. He grimaced, showing his teeth. Rob’s friends carried a grudge now he was gone, like she was being unfaithful somehow.
“We’ll go somewhere else, Paula can’t get in here,’ said Leanne from the office, standing just inside the pub wearing comedy antlers that glowed at the ends.
‘Nah, it’s ok. I’m knackered.’ Paula pretended to yawn. She’d started rebuilding her life after Rob by exploring new things, living fresh experiences and tonight had been magical just like she dreamed. Her first ever Christmas night out with the girls! She didn’t want to spoil it. Any excuse and Brian would cause trouble, she’d hate that.
Independent Woman, she hummed in her head. She loved Beyonce.
‘You go on, enjoy yourselves,’ Paula said loudly, so Brian would hear. ‘Thanks for the voucher. I’m getting my nails done tomorrow.’ It touched her, the girls clubbing together and buying her a special Christmas gift.
Brian stared. His eyes flashed mean and dark. Paula twinkled her fingers for emphasis though her nails were short and she’d put tonight’s sparkly polish on herself, badly. Despite the messy job she made, the sparkles caught the pub’s window lights and transformed her nails into shiny Christmas baubles. You’d think a simple thing like badly applied nail polish wouldn’t cause upset, but Brian fumed. She felt his angry breath on her face, tasted the sour tang of nicotine and backed away, hiding her pretty fingers.
Still, her heart leapt. Because of the girls she’d wear festive red nail varnish tomorrow, delicious scarlet talons. Rob hadn’t liked her wearing make-up in public. When Rob was in her life she wore stick-on acrylics hastily pulled off before she left the house.
‘My nails are going to look amazing. Very feminine,’ she said.
Brian snorted, a bullet of spit hitting her cheek. He hated her, refused to accept Rob was dead, that Rob was Paula now. As a man Rob was gone, never coming back. Paula was the same person inside but Brian didn’t want to hear about that and swore at her instead, loud and filthy. He was about to lose it. Well, tough. Paula was no longer a secret, hidden indoors. She thought of the life she had in front of her, the one where she wore vampy red nails whenever she liked. Paula had no Rob to answer to anymore, and definitely no Brian.
‘Have a nice Christmas!’ shouted Leanne.
‘I will!’ Paula blew a kiss, waved back and walked away smiling, leaving the noisy pub behind her, wobbling on unfamiliar but happy heels, admiring her Christmas sparkles as she went.
(c) Cath Bore 2014