Home for Christmas

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.

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