The change in Rich was noticeable straightaway when they met in the worn, dark bar of the Royal Oak.
“Right then, what’re you drinking, uni boy?”
“Just a jar please.” The word caught, like a chair on a rug. Rich blinked and continued speaking, as though nothing was wrong.
Kieran brought the beers back, fingers splayed and straight to keep all three from slipping. The table rocked on a short leg, spilling foam onto the thin carpet. Later they ordered food: fat, glistening burgers bulging from disintegrating buns, and sides of tough chunky chips.
“What’s the damage?” asked Rich when the waitress brought the bill. Tom gave him a look. Rich tried to pay for them all, but eventually relented, although he insisted on leaving a tip.
They left together, jackets pulled tight against the dark chill of the evening. Rich turned, arms spread wide.
“Same again at Easter, lads?”
Originally written for Ad Hoc Fiction.