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Same Time Tomorrow

by The Scholar

Part 30: A Deep Breath.

Carl wasn't sure if he wanted the journey to end, as he sat in the back of a taxi travelling to the hotel where he knew he was finally going to meet Allan. It was as if this was all happening to someone else, somehow he felt detached from the whole scenario, like an outsider looking in on events unfolding between other people and he just wanted the taxi driver to keep driving for as long as possible.

Allan's telephone call had come at around two o'clock that afternoon.

"Hey, babe, sorry I haven't called before now, but my flight got delayed and I've just checked into the hotel about a half an hour ago."

"So, you're in England?"

"Well, unless they detoured me completely, yes, I am," Allan laughed.

"That's cool. You won't have had time to do anything yet, I guess."

"Well, not a great deal, no. I still have to unpack and stuff, but the suite they got for me is real nice and I checked the restaurant and that looks okay, so if you still want to meet up and have dinner that would be good, but it's your choice, I'm not forcing you to do anything that you don't want to."

"Hey, of course, I'm meeting up with you, we already agreed that, right?"

"Well, yeah, but…"

"Hey, no buts, I'm gonna be there, just like I said I would be, around eight, yeah?"

"That'd be great," said Allan, a smile in his voice.

Well, okay, you better get some rest after your flight and I'll see you later."

"Okay, I'll see you in the restaurant around eight, I booked the table in my name, so make sure you ask for it by that."

"Okay. See you later."

That had been the sum total of their conversation. Carl already knew the hotel where Allan was staying, now all he had to do was find something decent to wear for their first meeting.

In fact, that had been relatively easy, as he didn't have that many clothes to choose from, but he did have a suit that he wore for weddings, funerals and the occasional job interview, so he decided on that. He polished up his shoes and laid everything out in readiness and then decided to grab a couple of hours sleep, as he felt sure he hadn't had too much during the night.

When he woke up again it was a little after seven, he had slept longer than he had expected and he quickly took a shower and changed into his suit. Walking downstairs, he entered the living room to tell his parents that he was going out.

"Where on earth are you going all dressed up?" asked his mother.

"I'm meeting a friend for dinner," Carl replied.

"Must be a pretty smart place," his father remarked, as he glanced up from his newspaper and looked his son up and down.

"Yeah, I think it is, so I thought I'd better dress up, so what do you think, do I look alright?"

"You look very handsome," said his mother, as she kissed him on the cheek.

"Yeah, right, thanks."

"Here," said his father, standing and pushing a hand into his pocket, "better take this." He withdrew his hand and handed Carl two twenty-pound notes.

"What's this for? I don't want your money."

"If it's smart enough for you to dress up like that then you may need it."

"No, dad, honestly, I have some money."

"Well, good, but a little more can't hurt, can it?"

"I guess not. Thanks, dad, I'll pay you back."

"Go have fun," said his father sitting back down and picking up his newspaper.

The sound of a car horn sounded and Carl announced that his taxi had arrived, throwing in: "Don't wait up, I may be late."

"We never do, " said his mother, "you just take care."

"I will, see you later."

Checking himself in the mirror, he left the house and climbed into the waiting taxi.

"This is it, mate," said the taxi driver, as he pulled up outside Carl's destination.

Climbing from the taxi, he handed a note to the driver and accepted the change and handed back a tip before climbing the steps of the building.

Taking a deep breath he entered the hotel and headed for the reception desk.

"Yes, Sir, can I help you?" a uniformed female smiled at Carl as he approached.

"Yes, I'm meant to be meeting one of your guests for dinner in the restaurant, can you point me in the right direction?"

"Certainly, Sir, if you take the door to your right and walk down the corridor you'll come directly to the restaurant bar, through the bar is another door and that is the restaurant."

Carl thanked her and followed the directions giving, his heart was beating fast and he felt sure everyone would hear it, but he chastised himself for such a ridiculous thought as he entered the restaurant bar.

The bar was large and reasonably busy and without glancing too much at the other occupants he walked straight towards the restaurant, where a tall man dressed in a black suit confronted him.

"Good evening, Sir, may I help you?"

"Yes, good evening, my name is Mitchell, Carl Mitchell, I'm meeting a guest of your hotel for dinner – Allan Hunter?"

"Mr Hunter, let me check that for you, Sir."

The man dressed in the black suit consulted a book on a nearby desk and confirmed that Allan had, indeed, booked a table for two.

"Mr Hunter isn't seated at present, Sir, would you like me to take you to the table, or would you prefer to wait for him in the bar?"

"I think I'd prefer to wait at the table, if that's okay?"

"Certainly, Sir, if you'd care to follow me."

The man in the black suit led Carl into the restaurant and guided him to the table pre-booked by Allan and pulled back a chair for him.

"Thank you," said Carl, as he seated himself.

"You're welcome, Sir, may I get you a drink?"

"Err, yeah, that would be great. A pint of bitter, please."

"Certainly, Sir."

And with that the man in the black suit walked back to the bar, returning a few minutes later with Carl's requested drink.

Carl took a couple of mouthfuls and instantly felt better. He surveyed the restaurant as he waited in anticipation for Allan to arrive. He checked his watch and read 8:05 and just hoped Allan hadn't been too tired after his flight and fallen asleep.

He need not have worried about that, as Allan had made his way to the restaurant and was greeted by the man in the black suit.

"Good evening, Sir, may I help you?"

"Yeah, Allan Hunter, I have a table booked for two for eight o'clock."

"Yes, Sir, your guest is already seated. May I show you the way?"

"No, that's okay, thanks, I'll find him."

"Certainly, Sir."

Allan walked into the restaurant and looked around. There were barely three or four couples in the room and he quickly spotted a young man sitting alone at a table and guessed that must be Carl. For a moment he just stood, looking in Carl's direction as the young man gazed absently around the room, his head, for only a second or two turning in Allan's direction, though Carl failed to notice him standing there.

Allan took a deep breath, turned and walked out of the restaurant.

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