I never thought of that
The atmosphere inside the pub's main room was in complete contrast to the cold and empty night. The general chatter of it's patrons went part way to drowning out the latest chart releases on the jukebox, and it was deliciously warm. That in itself was enough to put a small smile back on Sandy's face, Lisa noticed.
"I'll get the drinks in" she offered, pushing her way to the bar before the protest she could see on Sandy's lips could be given voice.
As Lisa paid for the drinks, and waved to Danny’s frined, and by all accounts Ben’s very good friend Tony Vincent who was part of a large party of A&E staff, she glanced over at Sandy sitting on her own, hunched over timidly. Despite all Lisa's frustration at Sandy's foolishness there was something about her sickeningly well meaning spirit that made Lisa sympathise with her. It wasn't her fault that she had about as much common sense as a lump of Play-Doh, she did try...
And now she'd made this huge sacrifice; selling her father's ring in order to pay off such a small fraction of what she owed that it was hardly worth it.
Lisa picked up the two chilled Bacardi Breezers and glasses and headed back to the table, narrowly missing a collision with a tall, broad shouldered and immaculately attired man who she vaguely recognised as the A&E consultant. Once back at the table she handed half her purchase over to Sandy.
"I can't accept this money Sandy, not now I know were it comes from".
"What's that got to do with it?"
"Look, since my parents broke up I realised just how much they both mean to me. And if your ring is all you have of your Dad then I just can't accept the money for it. Take it back, go down the pawn shop and get the ring back".
"It doesn't matter" Sandy said, chewing on her bottom lip and shaking her head.
"You don't fool me Sandy. It's a really sweet thing to do, and I do appreciate it, but it doesn't seem fair".
"What I've done to you isn't fair".
"Well, no, it isn't..." Lisa mentally kicked herself as Sandy's face made a perfect puppy dog expression, "...but my Dad's always said that two wrongs don't make a right".
She pulled the money from where she'd stashed it in her pocket and placed it in the middle of the small circular table.
"Well pick it up then, before someone clocks it and decides to rob you on your way out!"
"Oh, yeah, right," Sandy giggled, "I didn't think".
Lisa shook her head despairingly, and took a serious gulp of her drink. "So what happened with you Dad then?"
"Dunno really. He and Mum were married, then he had an affair, before I was born. Mum kicked him out and told him never to come back. And he didn't."
"Not ever? But what about you, he has responsibilities to you as his daughter!"
"He'd gone just before Mum realised she was pregnant. She just went through with the divorce and never told him. She said the last time she heard he was shacked up with his bit on the side - a law student - and they were talking about getting married".
Lisa felt her jaw hang open and closed her mouth quickly, "So he doesn't know you exist. That is well harsh! And you've never wanted to find him?"
"Dunno where to start looking. I don't even know his name, except that he’s a Harper too. Mum never changed her name back, her maiden name was Sidebottom"
"Sandy Sidebottom" Lisa muttered under her breath, fight back a giggle and in the process snorting like a pig with a head cold, "Sorry, it’s just, well, I can see why she preferred Harper". She took a sip of her drink to compose herself.
"Problem is, it’s a pretty common name. There are loads of Harpers"
"And you don’t know anything more about him?"
"Well, there is one other thing: I think he’s a nurse"
"You think he is?"
"When I told Mum I wanted to go into nursing she was really surprised at first, ‘cause I wasn’t always that good at school, but then she said ‘Well, I suppose it’s in the blood’ but when I asked her what she meant she wouldn’t say anything else. Just kept going ‘Oh it doesn’t matter’ "
Lisa took a moment to think about this. "Might not be a nurse, he could be anything medical… If that’s what she meant".
"Like a doctor or something," Sandy replied, "I never thought of that".
"Do you want to find him?"
Sandy shook her head, but in a hesitant and from Lisa’s point of view decidedly unconvincing manner, "Nah. Not ‘specially"
"I think I would…" Lisa speculated.
Sandy picked up her glass but stopped short of raising it to her lips and instead simply stared down into the cloudy pink liquid. "If I did find him he’d probably be married to this other woman, who’d be, like, a really important lawyer by now, and he’d be a really important consultant or something and they’d have loads of kids of their own and he wouldn’t want me"
"Of course he’d want you".
Sandy glanced up, "I know what you all think of me, and you’re my friends".
Lisa immediately felt guilty for every comment she’d ever made against Sandy, and reaching across the table to give the nurse's hand a brief squeeze she whispered "It’d be his loss".
"You mean that?"
Sandy beamed. "So does that mean we can get a new flat together?"
Lisa forced her enthusiastic smile to stay in place "Yeah, well, we’ll see…"
"Great!" she downed the last of her drink, juddering slightly as she felt the bubbles take the alcohol to her brain, and stood up, "’Cause there’s this letting agents just down the road and hey have some nice places in the window. We could go and have a look now".
Lisa tried not to let her groan sound audible, whilst simultaneously tried to come up with a good excuse for not living with Sandy. After all sympathy would only take you so far…
"There’s no rush Sandy"
"Yeah but we could have a look, we could talk to Danny about it in the morning. Come on!"
Sandy had already yanked her jacket back on, and to Lisa’s mind had taken on the mannerisms of a small terrier desperate t go for walkies; practically bursting with excitement. Reluctantly Lisa rose and slipped on her own coat. "Alright, but they probably won’t have anything" And as she shoved her hands in her pockets she crossed her fingers tight.
Sandy meanwhile was already at the door, and tempting as it was to sit back down and have another drink, Lisa made her way across the now heaving pub, and out into the cold once more.
No sooner was she through the door than Sandy was burbling away again, excited at the prospect of moving back in with her friends. "We could get a proper house this times, it’d have more space, or one of those new flats down by the docks perhaps they look really nice, but are probably a bit expensive I suppose, even to rent…"
Lisa tuned out Sandy’s voice as they strolled down the street. Moving in with her Dad and having to put up with seeing him canoodle with Kath Shaughnessy was more appealing than living with Sandy again. Well, maybe… But, she admitted to herself, at least she had that option to fall back on, and that was clearly more than Sandy did.
"Your Dad… If he is a doctor he’ll be on the GMC register, you could find him like that? He might even live locally…"
"You think so?"
"Yeah. Hell, he might even work here!" Lisa laughed.
"Hey, yeah, maybe…" Sandy replied hopefully . Lisa shook her head, still grinning at Sandy’s gullibility. "What? Oh, you were joking…"
"Well, come on Sandy. What are the chances of that. It’d be the biggest coincidence in history ever!"
"I s’pose so, I never thought of that".
Behind them, the consultant Lisa had nearly crashed into stumbled out into the street, the afternoon’s drinking having got the better of him. Luckily his realisation of this had coincided with his wife’s phone call and within seconds a black BMW pulled up in front of him.
"Fabulous timing Mrs Harper"
She unlocked the door from the inside, and he pulled it open, sliding gracelessly into the passenger seat and slamming the door behind him.
"Good for you that we managed to reach an out of court settlement, or I’d probably still be at the office. Anyway, what are you doing getting drunk at this time of the evening!"
"Simon’s birthday. We all got a bit carried away. You should see the state Charlie’s in!"
"I’d rather not thank you. We’ll have to leave your car here; you’ll be getting the bus in tomorrow you know. I’ve got too much on to be chauffeuring you about. You should have left it home this morning, I could have dropped you in today".
"Yes boss," he nodded, with a charismatic grin that just managed to stop her from hitting him, "but the problem is, I never thought of that".