Everyone at work was feeling the pinch on our finances as our bills soared. Our regular Friday drinks after work had become our end of the month drinks. Evenings out with our families had reduced to a takeaway and a film night in. The fashionistas among us were obviously mixing and matching rather than buying the latest fashion.
In short, it was all pretty miserable and, therefore, no surprise when someone (probably Sally, it was usually Sally) said 'Sod it, let's cheer ourselves up and go out for a drink after work.'
So we did. And to make it special we agreed to congregate in the bar of the posh hotel in the centre of town. I was last to arrive apart possibly for Deidre – she was so low key that it was easy to overlook her arrival, her departure and, for that matter, her presence. The gang were crowded around the table in the corner, some on the curved bench and others on chairs purloined from nearby tables.
'Come and sit next to me,' Phyllis called, shoving her hip into her neighbour Carol to make some space.
As I was squeezing in, a woman walked away from the bar and settled at a table, sitting sideways on to the entrance. Blue two piece that looked like business attire, except that she had one too many buttons open on the jacket and the skirt was slit so high you could see the flesh above her stockings.
She had almost finished her drink when a man came in, middle-aged, nothing special, looking slightly rumbled, like he's just arrived after a long flight. He looked around and walked straight over to her. They exchanged words, she gulped down the rest of her drink and rose to leave with him.
It was only when she walked past our table that I recognised her. Wendy. She lived close by, a stay at home mom who was always running her kids around - to and from school, or after-school clubs, or weekend sports. I was used to seeing her in jeans and t-shirts.
They passed by without a glance in my direction. Or so I thought.
The next Saturday I was having a coffee in a café in town when she walked in, spotted me, came over and sat down.
'You saw me, didn't you.' It was a statement, not a question.
I nodded and waited.
It did not take her long to begin a long explanation.