It became clear to me, sitting with her for a short while on that shared couch in the Hogshead pub.....
That I still found her incredibly attractive.
I had honestly forgotten how alluring she really was.
Sweet Jesus above...
She was sexy......
But there was also that nagging, annoying personal conflict that raged in my mind.
The one I couldn't suppress.
The one that made me KNOW... deep down... that I was human.
All the aspects of the male mind that lead to your downfall.
This required deep thinking.
Common-sense - the good angel on my right shoulder - dictated that I should just bail out of there and make excuses, be a good soldier and move on.
She's an ex.
You fucked-up in the past and never got back on the proverbial horse.
There's a solid reason why she's an ex-girlfriend.
You made that decision.
Listen to yourself.....
But I felt an irresistible impulse to stay and get into her head.
Hell-for-leather - The evil demon on my left shoulder - whispered that I should follow my instincts, forget the past.
Get into her man.
The internal argument flew through my mind like an unexpected natural disaster.
Where do the broken chess pieces of your life decisions lie on the board?
The black playing pieces held sway.
Just TALK TO HER, MAN.
It felt like the more that we spoke, the stronger the connection between us became.
She kept brushing her hands against me lightly, flicking her hair, shooting me sideways glances.
My lips felt dry, my pulse racing. I knew she wanted me, the signals were all too obvious.
The only problems were the constant interruptions from Hayley the blonde, who was really starting to annoy the fuck out of me. Her trashy nature, simplistic ignorance and screeching "D'yer wannnaaaaa slap?" persona had become painfully grating - very quickly.
How she and Linda were friends was a mystery to me.
Linda was what - 27?
Whereas Hayley looked maybe 18, 19 tops. Hayley was hyperactive, non-stop chatter, coarse and aggressive. Linda was subtle, quiet, a listener. It eventually clicked - they must have worked together....at least that was the general vibe I felt I picked up on.
But still, I just wanted her to disappear.
There were still so many unanswered questions I had to put to Linda that had been burning in my head for almost 5 years, that demanded straight-up answers whilst she was still relatively sober.
But I couldn't get a word in sideways. I just sat there silent, yet attentive, nodding and smiling agreeably like a sad journalist at a loose, easy news story.
Deep down, I wanted a major terrorist act.
There was a brief, merciful few moments of respite from Hayley's incessant whinging about why her boyfriend hadn't called and that she was going to murder him, when she eventually got up from her seat and strutted away from us, presumably to the ladies room.
"So...where you two off to next then?" I asked, nervously running my fingers up and down the cool layer of condensation on the neck of my bottle of Miller.
Linda gave me a sly smile and a sultry look from the sides of her eyes.
"Don't know....Kinda up to Hayley, she wants to meet up with her fella like...it'll be town though. You stayin' out yourself?"
This was too good an opportunity to let pass, and my spirits soared when she mentioned that Hayley might soon be occupied with someone else more docile to chat her mindless crap to.
And I always had the back-up option of calling Edgy or Leigh should things not develop positively, from a purely selfish perspective....
"Yeah, yeah I'm stayin' out tonight, definitely....Say, I may meet a few mates later on, was planning on catching up with them anyway. Would you like to join me?"
She went quietly coy, seemed to consider it carefully.
"OK...OK, yes. I'd like that..."
"Hey.....I was hoping you'd say that......."
I instinctively placed my right hand over her left, entwining my fingers with hers. She responded by squeezing them tightly. I consciously shifted closer to her on the gaudy orange leather couch, leaning my head close as I whispered in her ear.
'We've been here before, haven't we....? I know I made bad mistakes in the past, but it's a buzz to see you again Linda, really it is.."
She turned to face me, tantalisingly close enough to smell her perfume and see the gleam of her lipstick.
"It's a buzz to see you, too..."
I was on the verge of meeting those lips with my own when Hayley returned, screeching; "HE'S NOT ANSWERIN' ME FUCKIN TEXT'S, THE DICKHEAD!!"
She flung her phone at the table in the front-top of the couch, the casing almost shattering with the force of the impact. Several customers and staff at the bar turned in unison, a low murmur running through them. Linda broke away from me and jumped to her side, putting her arm around her and whispering something into her ear as Hayley started to cry.
Her boyfriend can't turn up quick enough. Need some other cretin to keep this crank occupied.
They then both vanished towards the toilets, leaving me on my own, sheepishly shrugging and mutely throwing my hands apologetically up to the audience she had garnered.........