The table we swarmed was a mess, but we took it anyway. I swept most of the napkins, or should I say serviettes onto one of the trays, except for one that looked like it might still be usable. I dropped it into my pocket for future reference. The pub we descended on in Cambridge village was used to the comings and goings of the students from the nearby university, and crazy busy because exams were done, and we wanted to celebrate our freedom at least until the next set of finals fraught our world with sleepless nights of revision and study.
I hadn’t the heart to tell my mates this was the last one for me. The telegram in my pocket called me home. Father was ill, not expected to survive and as the eldest son, I was no longer free to pursue any studies. I watched the door, and the constant revolution of patrons. The burly man at the door, made sure the balance was maintained. Only as many eager drinkers as there were seats available. He cut groups into singles and pairs with the ruthless precision of reconstructive surgeon repairing a disastrous genetic defect.
My foray into the world of literature and writing was coming to an end. The Earl of Errol was about to breathe his last.
I snorted as I thought of the napkin I’d placed in my pocket. None knew me as an Earl’s son. I’d been raised in New York City by my mother, who fled with me early in her marriage. The romance of being swept off her feet by a handsome Scot twice her age with an intriguing accent, rapidly gave way to a cold manor house on the remote moors of northern Great Britain. No fun anywhere as she told me every time, she could slip the reminder into our rare phone calls.
I would have the moors now. They had never divorced, only a generous stipend deposited into her account each month made it clear my father had any care for me at all. I could have the moors and become a hermit dedicated to my pen and the words it drew from my heart.
Again, the napkin crossed my mind. What had caught my eye as I swept it into my pocket? The itch to pull it out and look was as incessant as the clatter of dirty dishes drowning in the sink of the old kitchen behind the long oak counter where the wizened gray elders of the town perched on chairs like cats ready to pounce at a mouse hole.
The waitress swung the pile of trays, with the mountain of serviettes and used utensils onto her hip.
“I’ll be right back to wipe that up and take your order.” Her pert lips were cherry red, and her curly black hair swung saucily across her shoulder blades as her hips swayed hinting at a sensuous delight awaiting her lover.
“Just bring us a Guinness each,” Terrance called after her.
“Six Guinness, Tommy,” she called, her voice shrill above the din of dozens of different conversations.
I found myself smiling at the boisterous banter, both beside me and beyond. I was ready to retreat, if I could find my notebook, the one I knew I’d left behind the last time I was here, then it would be off the stone walls of Castle Errol and the windy heather strewn moors close to the Loch bordering the estate.
As the evening wore on, we stood in the back tossing darts at the board betting on various scores, and the skill of the next throw, and I finally had to go. I mean my bladder put an emergency call out, and I sought the loo and the comfort of a cubicle. Finally, an opportunity to check the napkin. The image of an infant’s dirty bottom slid in front of my bleary, beer confused brain as I drew it out of my pocket, a bit worse for wear.
And written across the pale yellow flower embossed tissue was a name and a number. Sorcha with ten digits behind it. As I unfolded it, a business card dropped out as well. She worked for Harper Collins. On the back in neat elegant script a message. I have the notebook, if the author comes looking, give him my card and call me.
Time stopped. My ideas, the plots, the characters, and the worlds I had built were safe. The conundrum? Would she follow the author of her discovery to the remote moors, away from the lively entertainment of a simple English pub?
Did I dare to hope she saw promise in my literary doodles? Or was she only curious about the deranged mind behind the treasure trove of story ideas I had scribbled across the lines. I put her personal contact information into my cell phone and slipped the business card into my wallet.
Hope springs eternal, I thought and decided to make my escape then and there, wondering which of our gang of six would discover I was missing and be the first to message or call. I went out the back door without another thought. Harper Collins is a well-respected, long established publisher. I’ll be paying you a call Sorcha. Even if I have to track you down at work. I recognized the Scottish four digit prefix to her number. My father’s steward had the same one.