Connie was having a bad day….But you know that already. You know her story of how she woke up late, rushed to get ready, had someone steal her money, accidentally burnt down her flat, got fired from her job, found out her boyfriend was cheating and then to cap it all off got murdered.
In every story there are moments where things could take an alternative route; that each different choice would open up more and more possibilities which in turn lead to even more eventualities.
Yet, inevitably, even if we chose to take a different path, no matter how unique the journey may be it always leads to the same place.
Maybe Connie chose to go home when she missed the train but that would have seen her trapped in her flat when it caught fire.
Or perhaps she did have enough money to get a taxi only to then be involved in a road traffic collision.
Different path, same conclusion. Connie died that day.
However in every story there is always that moment when the different path taken can change the entire narrative.
For Connie that moment was standing outside the dilapidated building that once used to be a Pub.
In its more glorious years this building would have been alive with the sounds of communal revelry. The tired facade now betrayed the once vibrant colours that lured many into its comfy interior.
Connie never went inside on the day she died; she thought it was closed, abandoned. Her curiosity of the building was not sufficient enough to see her try to enter. There was nothing inviting about this strange place.
However there had been something but in her rage and torment she had simply not seen it.
Haphazardly resting against the side of the building was a wooden board, it was the typical one you see outside pubs and restaurants that proudly exclaim ‘Come On In We’re Open’, followed by a list of drinks and written in chalk Today’s Specials (There were none listed).
In the moments before Connie arrived outside the building, the earlier inclement weather had knocked the board over so it rested hidden against the wall.
If Connie had been earlier she may have seen it before it fell and taken the sign up on its welcoming offer to ‘Come On In’. But she didn’t and she died.
Maybe even the presence of the sign would not have enticed her to go in. It was after all as worn out and broken as the building. Plus they didn’t have any Specials on that day.
She may have studied the sign but the revelation of her boyfriend’s infidelity was always going to send her into that rage which would conclude with her death.
Different Path. Same Conclusion.
But what if, rather than arriving earlier, she arrived a little later?
Connie turned to see Ann bounding after her. Connie desperately wanted to just leave and get home. She could not bear anymore humiliation and was fighting so hard to keep even a modicum of dignity.
When Clive had rather abruptly informed her that she was being fired she could feel the tears begin to bubble up, ready to erupt. With it would come the rage and Clive would never know how close he came to having his face smashed in with a stapler.
“I’m fine Ann. Go back to your desk” pleaded Connie as she tried to hide the fact she was very much not fine.
Despite her portly frame Ann surprised Connie with how quickly she was able to catch up.
“Are you sure?” Ann said, placing her thick hand on Connie’s shoulder.
There was a look of genuine sympathy in the eyes of Ann. This was surprising given her propensity to leave passive aggressive post-its warding off anyone who was tempted to swipe her tuna sandwiches.
Connie just wanted to leave the building, go home and cry her heart out. But she no longer had a home she to privately express her anguish in.
That thought was enough to set her off and she wept. Burying her head deep into Ann’s shoulder, all her frustrations as to why life would choose to be so cruel to her leaked onto Ann’s crocheted cardigan.
Each sorrowful recollection of the morning events were punctuated with a sympathetic ‘There. There’ from Ann.
During this outpouring Connie’s phone vibrated, indicating a message. Her hand moved down to retrieve it but was stopped by Ann.
“Leave it. It can wait” she said “You just let it all out.”
And that she did and when Connie had no more tears to spill she sniffled her gratitude for the kindness Ann had shown.
“Do you feel better?” asked Ann
“A little” Connie replied, forcing half a smile “Thank you. Best go see what is left of my flat”.
“Here” Ann said, pulling out a few bank notes and pressing it into Connie’s hand.
“I can’t Ann…This is too much” protested Connie trying to force the money back into Ann’s hand.
Ann stepped back raising her hands “Take it. You need it more than me.”
After one final hug of gratitude Connie left the building and took the same route that would lead to her eventual death.
She passed someone shouting obscenities towards a HGV which was disappearing into the distance.
“Way my luck is going today I’m surprised that weren’t me” thought Connie as she stared at the soaking wet angry pedestrian.
It was then she remembered about her text and paused her journey to retrieve her phone.
As she was about to type in her pin code something out of the corner of her eye caused her to look up from her phone and towards the crumbling old building.
The front of the pub looked as always uninviting and Connie would have returned to her phone were it not for the woman standing to the side adjusting a wooden sign.
It was initially the blue hair that caused Connie’s gaze to linger longer than she might have. The woman squatted down to write something on the board, her black sleeveless t-shirt riding up to reveal an intricate tattoo of a crescent moon on the small of her back.
The woman moved away revealing what she had written under the heading ‘Today’s Specials’.
It was a curious thing to write but nevertheless for a brief moment that simple phrase caused Connie to smile.
“Gotta write something.” said the woman breaking Connie’s intense focus on the board.
“No specials?” Connie enquired.
“We haven’t done anything special here for quite sometime” the woman replied.
“Are you okay?” she asked noting the rawness in Connie’s eyes from where she had been crying.
“Just having a bad day, that’s all” replied Connie.
The woman smiled, there was a kindness to her face but Connie was in no doubt that this woman could handle herself if need be.
“Come inside for a drink then” the woman suggested “As the sign says, we are trouble free”
“I didn’t think you were open” said Connie looking up at the building with it’s flaky paint and cracked windows.
The woman followed her gaze and shrugged “This place is never closed to the troubled” she said with a smile and then opened the creaky wooden door to go inside.
Connie paused for a moment, twiddling her phone between her fingers. It had been a rough day already. Maybe just a quick drink to collect her thoughts.
If the mysterious blue haired woman was right maybe it would be a trouble free respite, even if this was unlikely to be the most comfortable place she had ever been in. What harm would one drink do? It’s not as if her day could get any worse.
Putting the phone back in her pocket she opened the door and entered the pub.
That simple act meant she would not die that day; her story would continue. Yet it was now a different story and one that still may not necessarily end well for Connie….Or for anyone for that matter.