He didn't expect to find Chloe, assuming she was out somewhere having fun with Josh. He found a note on his bunk, though, and it said, "Josh and I are at Strong's, having fish or something. Come join us? -C."
Well, she's still around...
Alan was relieved though still troubled, but most of all he was hungry, so he walked over to the tavern. Chloe saw him right away and waved him over to their table. At least it's not the one we sat at last night... Alan pulled up a chair and sat.
"How was the sketching?" asked Chloe. "You must have found my note."
"It went well enough." Alan said briskly to both of them, "And Now I'm ready to eat something." Apparently they hadn't eaten for a while, so he went ahead and ordered fish and chips for the three of them. Alan couldn't help but wonder what they had been up to all day, but he definitely wasn't going to ask.
They chatted on as if everything was fine; mostly it was Josh going on about how sare-an-dipitus it was to meet up with Chloe out here of all places. Josh's expansive grin, slightly slurred words, the three empty glasses at his elbow, plus Chloe looking a bit annoyed, gave Alan an idea of the situation here.
By the time the food arrived, Josh was becoming more incoherent. He then stopped talking altogether and simply fixed his gaze on Alan, which was quite unsettling. Alan sat there looking back at Josh, and then a little switch went off. "So Josh, what are your plans? Where are you headed?"
"Uhhh, dunno mate. I was just gonna ask Chloe here the same question. (Chloe was busily eating.)
"Well," said Alan, "Chloe and I are heading south, to Hoodoo Beach, then on to Tower Head, in case you want to join us."
Josh to Chloe, "So, yer goin' on with this American?"
Chloe, "Yes I am, Josh, and like Alan says, you can come along if you'd like."
"Aw crap. I was hopin' you'd come-a with me up to the Hook. We could, uh, have a great time hangin' out there..."
"Well, Josh, I was just up there and now I'm headed south, and (with a quick look to Alan) we need to get going soon if we're going to get anywhere before dark!"
Josh looked balefully at Chloe as she went to pay the cashier, and Alan gathered his pack. "The fish is on us, Josh," said Alan, and left him sitting there. As they went out the door Josh raised his glass in what Alan thought was a salute, but it was only to flag the server for another drink.
They silently walked back to the bunkhouse and packed their gear. Once they were on their way, Chloe finally let out a long breath and said, "It all came back to me as we chatted on for the while you were gone. We did play together as kids, but only during the visits of our mums, and he and I were never really close. I hadn't seen him since my university days in Putney, and he was a pill then; good at football and always full of himself. Now he's a drunken lush. He spent most of our conversation talking about the fun he had in his years at school, and then all his plans to go to Australia and make some real money, though by what means he didn't explain. I'm glad you spoke up back there."
She was walking fast, her face flushed.
Alan then led them up to the same dune-top (it was actually a short-cut) from which he painted his sketch, and stopped when they came upon the view of Womby. "This is where I was all day."
Chloe nodded, and said, "Nice. You probably had a more pleasant day than I did."
Alan looked at her and said, "Well, not really. I worried all day that you wouldn't be there when I came back..."
She gave him a quick smile, and said, "Come on, let's get moving, because it really will be dark soon. We can probably make it to Lizard, and I remember a friend of mine telling me about a place there called the Lizard Inn.
|Lizard, near the point called Ghost Heads, was about two miles away.