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Goodbye To Greg

Series: The Adventures Of Cindy George

Chapter 1

“Blonde but not forgotten. That sums her up in a way. Yes, I knew Cindy George. We all did. It was hard to miss her if you went in the bars round town in those days. It was like she saw it all as her playground, a stage on which she could dance and preen and strut her way through life.

I need hardly say that this isn’t the story of her life. It’s the story of a short period in her life, a fleeting moment if you like. Perhaps we all have times when we shine bright, live it as if we mean it. No one knows what will happen in the end, how things will turn out. It doesn't matter. That isn't what this story is about.

I play a role in her story. A small one. In as much as I was there for part of it, going in the same bars, the same clubs, walking along the same streets. Some of this I will have experienced at first hand. Other parts are hearsay.

But let's go back. I suppose, if you wanted to date it from a particular point, it was when….but let’s stop there for a moment. Let’s allow Cindy to tell the story. It’s all recorded in her journal after all.”

There's a song on the jukebox that has been on about three times tonight. It's an old love song and it's started to irritate me. I used to like it, once upon a time. But now I've heard it too much. Greg used to whisper it in my ear when I first met him and we used to sit in these seats. He doesn't do that anymore.

I used to like it when he did that. It must be two years ago, if not more. Now, I'm sitting here talking about last night's television with one of his friends who I hardly know. I don't think he knows him that well either. The guy's nice enough I suppose, but maybe a bit dull if I'm honest about it.

Greg's sitting next to me and is in the full flow of conversation with this guy he knows about travelling. They haven't shut up about it for about half an hour. They're talking about the best places to go in Europe, how it’s all opening up, the cheapest way to get there, where to stay, how much to take with you. All that sort of stuff.

I throw my blonde hair back and poke Greg in the ribs and ask him if he's going to buy me another drink. I suppose I should go myself, might make some new friends. But I'm feeling lazy. Once he would have known when I want another drink.

He gets up and wanders over to the bar, his pint in one hand. His denim shirt is unbuttoned one too many. I don't know why I notice that. But I do. He leans on the bar. He engages in conversation with two girls and a lad he knows and they stand laughing and joking. After a few minutes, he catches the barman's eye and he's served. At last. You could die of thirst sitting here, while he socialises. All the time, the guy opposite is talking to me about something. I don't know what. I gave up listening.

It's getting warm in here, must be the alcohol and the people. I unbutton my shirt cuffs and roll the sleeves up. That feels better. Greg has a couple more jokes with his friends at the bar and then he comes back, puts my gin and tonic down in front of me. He looks at me and smiles. That smile. The one that can melt my heart and everything else. I smile at him and he puts his arm round me and kisses me.

"Talk to me,” I say, after a few moments. "Don't leave me with him.”

"Oh I see,” says Greg, laughing. He leaves his arm round me. His friend, the one he was talking to, looks at him and says he has to leave.

"Fair enough,” says Greg. "Maybe catch up another time, all that travel stuff is interesting.”

"Do it while you have the chance,” says the guy. And he gets up and leaves.

Greg sips some beer and looks at me and smiles.

"Have you ever thought about going travelling?' he says.

"Not really,” I say. "Never been able to afford it.”

"That's what I was talking to him about,” he says. "He says you can do it on a pittance. You just have to sort out where you're going in advance. Plan it.”

"Suppose so. Anyway, what's happening later.”

"What do you mean?”

"Are you going home or are you staying at mine?”

"Don't mind.”

"It's a 'staying at Bob's' night.”

"Your Mum's out all night?”

"Yes.”

"So your house is free?”

"Yes.”

He sits back for a moment and smiles.

"Well, Cindy George,” he says. "I think I should stay at your house. It would be rude not to.”

"That’s what I thought.”

He leans over and kisses me and that record comes on and I push my fingers through his thick brown hair. Then we finish our drinks and take the familiar walk, down the alleyway opposite, across the road, and round to my house.

 

We're walking through town. I've got my arm in Greg's. He's been dossing all day. Lucky boy. It's what you do when you're a university graduate. Or, as he puts it, a poet gaining experiences. In between dead-end jobs in factories.

I think about suggesting we go for a coffee but it's getting late. We're going out tonight and I need to get ready. We walk past this clothes shop that I look in sometimes which has got lots of tops and dresses that I fancy. He's talking about going in the record shop that’s at the top of the High Street. He normally likes a good look at what they've got on offer. We go in and he goes over to the indie section and I look at the soul LPs.

I'm flicking through and I become aware that I'm being watched and I turn my head. The boy behind the counter's looking at me and, as soon as I glance back, he looks away. He starts to look embarrassed and his cheeks go a little pink and he quickly sorts through some records. I smile to myself. He's a similar age to me, maybe a year younger.

I look over at Greg. He's sorting through records and finds one he wants and goes up to the counter and the boy comes over. He's managed to lose his self-consciousness and he takes the record from Greg and puts it in a bag and he pays. I smile at him before we leave and he looks away.

On the way up, Greg goes into a travel agent and picks up a couple of brochures which he takes home. He goes for the bus and I go to get ready and tell him I'll see him tonight.

 

We've been to The Ship and Greg has gone home. He was talking to that guy again, the one who was telling him about travelling. I'm sitting at the table at home and I'm talking to Mum's friend, Bob. They've been out somewhere and he's popped back for a nightcap. He's got to be up early in the morning, or something.

Bob's telling me about cars. There's this guy he knows who knows someone who's selling one, or something like that. He's told this bloke that I'm looking for one and he says he'll keep a lookout for me. I don't know whether Bob knows what he's talking about or not. But it's positive that he's looking, anyway. I could do with some wheels, get me about.

Bob says he has to go and I go upstairs. Leave them to it. Mum's only known him a month or so. It's early days, but she seems happy enough.

I walk upstairs and into my room and get undressed and into bed. I wish Greg was here. I could do with some company right now. But it doesn't matter. I'll be seeing him tomorrow.

I look round my room, on the walls. The Hollywood actors and rock stars who I've cut out of magazines. They're my boys. They'll have to keep me company now.

I reach over and take my diary out of my top drawer and give a description of my day. I can't stay up too late. I've got to be at work again tomorrow and I'm not in the mood for it.

 

Greg was reading those brochures he picked up. He says it gives you all these places to stay in Europe, small hotels and hostels and places like that. He's got something from the library as well, which gives you cheap places.

We're sitting in the usual spot in The Ship and I've nearly finished my drink. The guy he was talking to last night has arrived and sits down next to him, in the usual spot. I think the one who was talking to me is coming over again. I can see how it's going to be. Greg talking to his friend. Me talking to the other one. It's going to be boredom. It's not what I've come out with Greg to do. I grab his arm and say I want a drink but he doesn't respond and starts talking to his friend. I tap him in the ribs and he turns round and I wave my glass in his face.

"In a minute,” he says.

Fine, I think. In a minute. I sip the last bit of my drink and wait. I'm not wanting this. I need a drink. I get up and lean over and ask him if he wants another. "Yeah,” he says. I'll have a pint, please. It's always "yeah" with Greg. I smile. It's what he's like. Why I love him, I suppose. I move out of the seats and across the pub and go to the bar.

There are some girls here who I've seen a few times. I've had an occasional chat with them, nothing much. I walk up to the bar and one of them looks me in the eye. I think her name's Donna.

"All right darlin,” she says. She's wearing a blue button-down Ben Sherman. Looks quite good.

"All right,” I reply. "How's it going?”

"Good,” she says. "Loverboy got you to get the round in?”

"Something like that.”

"You want to watch that. He'll be wanting all sorts next.”

"I think he already does,” I say. They laugh.

I throw my hair back and lean on the bar and try to catch the barmaid's attention. I don't know if she's ignoring me. If she doesn't come over soon, she'll have to deal with me when I get angry. And she doesn't want to do that.

I am getting noticed though. More than one male pair of eyes is looking at me. It's like in the record shop. If Greg wasn't here, I'd have met someone by now. I'd be sitting in the corner with him, getting nicely intimate. Then I'd be taking him back to mine because it's a "staying at Bob's" night.

Instead, I'm standing here, waiting to be served, being a good girl. Talking to Donna.

"What are you doing later?” she says.

"Nothing much,” I say. "Just going back to mine.”

"With him?” She glances at Greg.

"Yes,” I say. "He's staying.”

"That's not so bad, is it?” says Donna. 

"True,” I say.

"We're off to the back of The Bull,” she says. "Should be meeting some guys there. She pulled the other night.” She looks over at a friend. A girl with long shaggy brown hair in a yellow vest. "Didn't you Marie.” The other girl doesn't say anything. She's too busy talking to some boys. "She's not listening,” says Donna. "She's making her war plans for later.”

"Fair enough.”

"It's true. We're meeting these guys again. But the one she ended up with has got a girlfriend. We think she's heard about them. The word on the street is she's going to be there.” I laugh.

"I see.”

"Marie's ready if she is. She’s determined to end up with this guy again. And she doesn't take prisoners. Should be fun and games whatever happens.” She laughs.

"Do you always have such wild nights?”

"Every night,” she says. "There’s always something kicking off. You should come out with us sometime.”

"Sounds good,” I say.

I look at Greg. I can't see him being too happy me rampaging round town with this lot. It would be fun though.

And then the barmaid sees me and I get served.

 

I've bought a car. Not just any car. A cool car. A little white mini. Mum sorted it out for me. A friend of her friend Bob was selling it. It was the one he was talking about the other night.

It's parked outside the house when I get home from work. I wonder who's it is at first and then I go inside and Mum tells me. You can't keep me down.

We go for a drive. Through town. On the main road. Into the country. We have the windows down and the early Spring air comes into the car and freshens everywhere up. I could hug my mum even now, when I'm driving. This car is going to make such a difference to my life and I'm going to have so much fun. I can pick Greg up on hot Summer days and we can go into the country or to the coast. It's got a cassette player so we can play all sorts of music. And it looks so good. A white mini. I never thought of anything better.

The only thing that worries me is money. Who's paying for it? My mum smiles and says she's paid for it and I can pay her back. But only when I'm working. If this temporary job goes, I wait until I've got another one.

I drive back and ask her if I can go round to see Greg in it. She says it’s my car and I can do what I want.

So I drop her off and turn the music up and drive over to Greg's. Town’s still quite busy for a midweek night. I drive round and park outside and ring the bell and he comes to the door. Look what I've got, I say. He smiles and says it looks cool. I say we should go for a drive in it now and he agrees.

We get in and drive to the places I said. He brings this tape with him and we put it in and turn it up. We go through town and into the country and drive round for a bit and stop at a country pub. I'm on my second half of lager when it occurs to me that I'm driving back and need to avoid drinking too much. So I make this one last and then we drive back.

And then he tells me.

 

These lyrics used to make me feel aroused. That's what I'm thinking, sitting here in The Ship. It's the song that was on the other night. When Greg used to whisper them in my ear, I used to tingle all over, I used to feel a shiver down my spine. And everywhere else. We used to go to the park in those days, after the pub shut, and find a quiet spot. They were the days before "staying at Bob's" nights. When I couldn't take him home.

He's trying to talk to me about stuff. All sorts of stuff. I'm not really responding much. I'm making the odd comment here and there. I don't know if he can tell I'm not amused. He's not giving any indication that he can. I'm not surprised. Sensitivity has never been Greg's thing. Maybe that's something I like about him. I can't be doing with soppy boys who are all over you. Maybe that's something I have to get used to. I can't have strong feelings without sensitivity, and the opposite. I don't know. I'll have to see.

He's talking and I'm not listening to what he's saying. Instead, I'm looking at Donna and the rest. They're standing at the bar and they're having a laugh. Flirting with some boys. I want to ask them about the other night.

Instead, I sit and listen to Greg. I look at him. He does something to me, sitting here, his mass of brown hair flopping forward. I want to spend the Summer with him when it comes. I've built my life around him.

I put my arm in his and he looks at me. Kiss me, I say. And he does. Then he stops and takes a break and I move my head away from his. I'm getting angry again. I don't want to kiss him now.

I have a drink and the song's still playing and I can hear the lyrics but I'm not feeling aroused. Not right now. It's the end of the night and it's past last orders so when we've finished these drinks we go. I get up and put my jacket on and so does he. He asks me what the rush is and I don't say anything, just tell him that I'm tired.

We walk out onto the street and I let him walk me down the alleyway because it's quiet and I don't like walking down there on my own. When I get to the bottom I say I'll walk the rest of the way and he looks at me and asks why. I shrug my shoulders and walk home. I look back and he's going the other way.

 

Greg's going away. That’s what he told me when we were driving home in my car. He wants to go away. Travelling. With some friends from university. I was cross at the time. What a time to choose to tell me. There I am, going round to pick him up in my brand new car and I'm on a high and he tells me that. Why? Why then? Why now? Didn't he think it might bring me down?

He seems oblivious to the effect it might have on me, that I might be just a little upset that he's decided to go. It's like he doesn't realise I care for him and I've built my world round him. He just seems to think I'll be here, waiting for him to come back and just carry on as if he'd never gone. I've waited for three years for him to finish at University, after all. Doesn't he realise? Doesn't he understand that there were other boys I could easily have gone off with during that time? Well, the odd one I might have. But we don't talk about them. Anyway, I know what he got up to at university. So what's good for the goose and all that.

But he's back now. Or at least I thought he was.

And I'm getting myself used to the fact that he's back. Making plans. Plotting out our future together. Thinking about our next step. Dreaming of growing old with him. Believing in him. Supporting his job search. Accepting that he's got to find the right job. Not expecting that he takes the first thing on offer. Letting him find himself. Do his thing.

Yes, that’s what happens the day I get my new car. I take him for a drive, think we've had a great time. Then he tells me that.

 

I'm sitting at my desk. It's getting hot and I'm feeling bored. I need a break from these files I'm still going through. There's a pile of them on my desk. I can't wait until the job is over.

Then the phone rings. Someone else who I hardly know takes it. It's Greg. I pull a face and say I'll call him back. I don't.

 

Things have happened quickly. Greg's going on Saturday. I can't believe it's so close. We're sitting in The Ship and he's excited. Very excited. He keeps talking to me about it. Saying what he's going to do. What time he's going. That sort of thing. I've had enough. I don't want to hear about it anymore.

I'm glancing round. Looking at people. I've found I notice people in here more since Greg told me he's going. It's strange. I never used to do that. They used to be an anonymous mass, a bit of a blur. Now they're becoming more distinct.

The jukebox is playing this old soul song that makes me want to get up and start dancing. Maybe I should. But it isn't really the place. I need to be in a club to do that. Or with loads of other girls who are going to do the same.

Talking of whom, Donna and the others are at the end of the bar, which is their normal spot. I want to go and have a chat with them. But I don't. I sit here for now and listen to Greg and his enthusiastic talk and join in from time to time.

But I can't help myself glancing round. There's a boy standing at the bar and he's got a battered guitar that is light blue and has a chiselled face. I can't stop glancing at him I have a sudden desire to kiss that face. I want to take him home. I look away and throw my hair back and try to cool down. Then the boy moves away from the bar and sits down with a friend.

I carry on talking to Greg.

I just want to say, "Are you taking me with you?”

But I can't.

 

I'm sitting in Greg's room, on the bed. He's standing in front of me, going through his wardrobe. He keeps asking me what he should take. He takes shirts out and tops and pairs of shorts and jeans. Should he take this shirt, he asks me, that shirt. Do I think the blue one's better than the red one, or the white one?

I want to ask why he's asking me. Are you asking me which tops suit you best? Which ones make you look hotter? So the girls will fancy you? So the Italian girls will fancy you, the Spanish girls, the French girls, the Dutch girls? Like they did at University? You know what you're like Greg. They'll fancy you anyway. They always have done before, so they will again. It doesn't matter what top you wear. So why are you asking me?

He comes over to sit next to me. He smiles that smile. Puts his arm round me. Then he starts again with his talk, the sort of talk he used to come out with when I first met him and still does when he feels like it. I look into his eyes, those big brown eyes, the ones that could melt the heart of the hardest. I smile. Yes, I think, I know how much I mean to you. So much that you're not taking me with you. I look at him.

And like a fool, I don't resist.

 

Saturday comes quicker than I think. I walk down to the station with Greg. I think about giving him a lift but there's no point. It isn't far. He has his backpack and is wearing a denim jacket and white t-shirt and looks excited. I try to keep my feelings to myself and put a brave face on it. I smile and walk with him and try to look excited as well.

We get to the station and he buys his ticket to London or wherever, where he's meeting his friends. Then he takes me in his arms and kisses me and tells me he'll be back. "I'll be back Cindy,” that's what he says.

He gets on the train. I can see his figure through the window, putting his backpack away and putting his jacket on a table. I stand and watch, hands in my jeans pockets. It's a warm day. Full of possibilities.

He comes to the window. He looks happy as he leans out, a smile on his face.

The train pulls off and he waves and I wave back. The train gets smaller as it disappears into the distance. And it’s there no more.

I turn and walk away. There are two types of people, the leavers and the ones left behind. I'm one of the ones left behind. For now. But I won't be forever, I'm sure of that.

So what now? I saunter out of the station. The cars pass. The people walk by. All living their own lives. I walk up the street.

You know something. I feel free. For the first time in ages. That's the overwhelming mood right now. I was feeling disappointed earlier. But, as soon as I saw the train pull away, I felt a weight lifted from my shoulders. Greg's gone. And, with him, any responsibility for him.

The only person I'm responsible for is me. And that feels so good.

 

I stop on the way home. I want to buy some clothes. I need to do it. I need a new look. I've been sensible for too long.

I'm at the shop now, one of my favourites. There aren't that many in a small town like this but this one is about right. I walk in and they're in front of me, the sort of thing I'm looking for.

I need to get rid of the sensible shirts and nice party dresses I've been wearing. I go up to the rail with them all on. A raft of tops, in all the colours of the rainbow. There are baby blue, pink, white, black and red. I pick up a handful of them. Then I go over to the skirts, those of the mini variety, and take some. And then it’s the shoes, some punky heels that look positively lethal and some slip ons for summer. I take them to the counter and tell the girl I'll have the lot. Pay with my credit card. She puts them in bags and I walk out onto the street. I smile as I head home.

I get home and put my new clothes in the wardrobe. I hang them up, fold them up, make sure they don’t get creased.

This is it. The start of the new me. I don't want to be a good girl anymore. I've spent too long being good. I want to be naughty. I want to go clubbing, meet new people and stay out all night. I want to do all the things you shouldn't do. I want to do them now.

No one's going to take Cindy George for granted again. Ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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