Copyright 2015 Nobo13
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I welcomed my guest. He was nervous. The cold winter air didn’t faze him but tonight’s event was getting to him. I told him to relax, and to calm down but I knew deep down this was his last chance. I’ve done this a million times before, but truthfully I still don’t know what to say. Even though I run a business on this, I still don’t know how to bring happiness to someone.
My business is a tiny tavern a little out from the city. It serves just a few people at a time. I have always been able to see the last regrets of people as a child. It was a gift my mother told me. So I decided help them. This is what my tavern is about. It’s a nice scenic place people can hire out for private events. I reunite old friends and lovers so that these regrets can finally be over.
Tonight I had the place booked for a young man called Charles. He said ‘Charlie’ was what his friends called him. My tavern can be booked for up to ten people, but normally it is only serving two or three people at a time.
Charlie had booked for two people. Himself and a friend. Knowing the look he had when I first approached him, I knew it was someone more than a friend.
Earlier that day, I had gone into the city centre to stock up everything I needed. I had to learn how to make sushi as my guest requested that for dinner. I had to hire a chief in the end. I stocked up on the required drinks though. When I showed Charlie, he seemed so pleased.
‘Thank you’ he almost cried
‘Not at all,’ I patted his back, ‘Tonight is a big night. I want it to go right as well’
‘Sorry,’ he sniffed, ‘It’s just so nerve racking’
‘I know. I know’
With little under an hour to go, I wondered what I could do. I helped Charlie choose what he wanted to wear as we made small talk.
‘So your friend,’ I asked, ‘What’s her name?’
‘How do you know it’s a girl?’ he replied blushing
‘Well,’ I smiled gently, ‘You don’t strike me as being interested in men like me, and who else would you invite here but a lover?’
‘Ah,’ he lowered his head to hide his face, ‘Grace’
‘That’s a lovely name. Is she special to you?’
‘Yes,’ I noticed his confidence in saying that, ‘She is. Very’
‘I…,’ he grew silent before taking a breath, ‘I don’t like myself, you know’
‘I can understand that feeling’
‘I liked others before… but she’s different. I fell in love with her, and in doing so I fell in love with myself. She made me love myself. I hated everything in my life. But all my mistakes and everything I thought was wrong with my life, she made me love them. I believe now that everything that has happened to me allowed me to meet her. I am not saying it was fate, or that she’s irreplaceable, but the truth is I met her, and I changed because of that! Right now, she’s the one person I care about most…’
I stared at him. He seemed like a different man now. It was nice seeing a man letting his true feelings coming out.
‘That’s what you need to tell her tonight then’ I smiled
I laughed as he returned to his usual timid self.
Grace was about to arrive. There was ten minutes left before the arranged time. Charlie was becoming a nervous wreck, so I sat him down.
‘It’s ok, clam down’ I told him
‘I know,’ he sighed, ‘But I’m so scared’
‘Of what?’ I asked
‘Of…, what if,’ he stopped and turned to me, ‘What happens if all my feelings, if everything I feel means nothing? What happens if she doesn’t like me back? What happens if she’s found someone, or if she likes someone? Right now, these feelings of mine are my only source of happiness. What happens if I lose them?’
I watched him cry. Love can be cruel I thought to myself. I was a little envious of Charlie. To be in love seemed so nice from where I was standing. I sat next to him and rested my back against the wall.
‘You know,’ I told him, ‘That’s what tonight is for, right? It’s for finding out. Are those feelings worth a damn or not? And if they’re not, that’s ok as well. Because that doesn’t mean you have to stop loving her. And it certainly doesn’t mean your happiness wasn’t real! You have changed because of her, that’s what you said. And just because she may not like you back, it doesn’t seem you’ll become a different person. It doesn’t mean you have to return to being the person you hate. You’re going to regret it even more if you don’t find out, right?’
There was a knock on the door as I turned to him. ‘Well, it’s time to find out then’
It’s rude, I know. But I can’t help it. Maybe it’s because I don’t understand happiness, or even what love really is, but I listen in to my guests and their conversations. No matter how private they may be, in this tiny tavern I can hear everything.
Grace had arrived a little over ten minutes ago. I welcomed her, and seated her with Charlie. She seemed happy to see him, and they began small talk straight away. I served the wine Charlie requested, and she was happy to know I had it. It was very expensive.
Charlie avoided the questions about himself, and changed the subject to her. He was like all the other guests really. ‘What are you doing now?’ seems less important to him than knowing what she was doing.
I stood at the counter as I avoided eye contact as much as I could. Their small talk had ended and there was now a silence. I eyed Charlie. He took a deep breath.
‘Grace’ he said
‘Hmm?’ she replied
‘You know,’ he paused, ‘You remember that one time in college?’
‘You mean that night we walked about town all night?’
‘Yeah, it was fun. I haven’t done anything like that since’
‘Yeah,’ he smiled, ‘To be honest, I had never done anything like that ever’
‘Well, you never really went out late. Weren’t you living with your Grandma?’
‘Yeah, it’s just… I wanted to go that night’
‘Because I invited you?’
There was another silence as I clenched my fist. Just say it already, Charlie! I let a sigh out and walked over to refill their drinks.
‘I’m really glad you came,’ Charlie said, ‘I wasn’t sure you would’
‘Ah,’ Grace smiled while sighing, ‘I wasn’t sure myself either… I was… happy to hear from you. It’s been so long… I wondered if you even remembered me but here you are. I… I’ve missed you’
‘I’ve missed you too as well… look’ he paused
I looked up as I saw him stand up. He held his hand out and asked her to join him for a walk in the night air. I saw her take it and the two left for a bit. I smiled at the courage he showed there.
The two had walked down through the nearby forest. The night sky was clear so the stars put on a show for the two. Charlie told me they chatted better then. The walk had opened him up, and freed them from sitting around uncomfortably. I suppose my tavern isn’t suited to everyone.
They returned after an hour’s walk. I served the sushi and then desert. It was finally late into the evening, and close to tonight’s end.
‘Thank you, Grace. For coming tonight I mean’ he said
‘No, thank you for taking me out on a date… that’s what this was, right? A date?’
Charlie turned bright red as he hid his face into his shirt. He nodded. The two held hands as the night drew closer to its finale. I sat in the opposite room to give them space. Though I like to listen, I understand when I am not welcomed.
‘Grace,’ he said before stopping for a bit, ‘I really like you. I have done since college’
‘I knew,’ she replied after a long pause, ‘And I liked you too. Since college’
‘I…,’ Charlie’s voice started to go weak, ‘I have something to say’
‘I think I love you. You’ve always been my muse. You’re the reason I want to be a better person. When I think about you, I feel like nothing’s impossible. But… I can’t be with you. No matter what, I can’t. You’ll always be a part of my heart, and I will never love someone else, but we can’t be together. I wanted to see you one last time… to say goodbye’
There was silence. I have heard this conversation a million times. Every reaction is different, but this was one of the first times I heard this one.
‘Ok’ I heard her say softly
There was another awkward silence before I heard her again. It sounded like she was fighting the urge to cry.
‘But… can we just pretend just for tonight, we’re lovers?’
Suddenly, everything seemed new to me. Though I was looking with my eyes the whole time, my eyes had opened. Though it was without doubt I was using my ears, my ears heard for the first time. I felt myself crying as the two said their final farewells as lovers.
It was two in the morning. Grace had left in a taxi. Charlie was in his seat crying. I walked over and said ‘well done.’
‘That’s it,’ he smiled while crying, ‘I’ve finally told her’
‘Do you feel better now?’
‘Yes,’ he stood up and hugged me, ‘Thank you, Tony. Thank you for doing this’
‘It’s what I’m here for’
‘If there’s ever anything I can do’
‘Not at all,’ he hugged him back, ‘You’ve done well. Rest in peace now, Charlie’
‘Thank you’ echoed the empty room
Since I was a child, I have always been able to see the last regrets of people. That is what my mother called them. I knew later on that others called them ghosts. My tavern is a place for them. A final place for them to say their goodbyes.
The next day Grace appeared. She knocked at the open door as I greeted her.
‘Tony, is it?’ she asked
‘Yes,’ I nodded, ‘Grace, right? How can I help’
‘I,’ she paused before finding some courage, ‘I wanted to ask you about Charlie’
‘Oh,’ I said, ‘How can I help’
I didn’t like this part of the job. I stood with my chest out, and my back straight. I wanted to address her properly.
‘Is,’ she paused again, ‘Is he dead?’
Often, my guests want to see people they haven’t seen in years or decades. In most cases, the people do not know they have died. It was one of my preferences when dealing with guests. Charlie ensured me Grace didn’t know he was dead.
‘How did you know?’ I smiled
I saw a faint sign of her heart breaking but she hid it straight away.
‘One night, we were out all night. All we did was walk to the sea and back. But at one point, we took a nap at a bus shelter. I was pretending to sleep when I heard him say he liked me, but it’ll take death for him to ever find the courage to ask me out’
‘That’s very like him’ I laughed
‘He was always honest,’ she cried, ‘Even in death’
I invited her in and offered her tea. We chatted about Charlie and her feelings as well. After a while she stood up to leave.
‘Thank you, Tony,’ she smiled, ‘For letting us be together’
‘Not at all, Grace’
I sighed with a tiny bit of happiness. Though it can be painful sometimes, running this tavern was the right choice. As I watched Grace leave, someone new arrived. Someone with one last regret in their lives.
‘Are you Tony?’ she asked
‘Good afternoon, Miss. How can I help?’
“Whoa, the first damn story I’ve finished in a while! I deserve a pat on the back.
I hope you enjoyed the story. Right now I’m feeling a lot like Charlie. I’m pretty much a coward so I think I will be taking these feelings of mine to my grave. Even if I regret it even more. But maybe, I’ll find the courage one day, who knows?”
For those who are tragically obsessed, Nobo13 was born 1987 in Cambridgeshire. He spent four years doing a Physics degree but spend most of the time doodling and writing. Currently he is somewhat of a teacher.
Nobo13’s pen name is derived from using his surname, just look above! His more unusual hobbies are collecting headphones, yoyos, staring aimlessly out the window (which consumes much of his time) and messing about with musical instruments- at the moment these are ocarinas and ukuleles.
Please check out my website and my other works, thanks for reading!
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The Man in the Desert:
Lost in the Painting
Fixing Broken Promises
The Empty Necklace
Time left over
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