In front of the books was a man, tapping his clammy fingers rhythmically and repetitively on the wooden table. He had an anxious look about him as he studied the room. Old men in hounds-tooth suits discussed politics and racing form. A shaggy Terrier scrambled around the sticky floor foraging for food but only ever finding scraps of peanuts and pork scratchings. The barmaid, middle-aged, buxom, tired and haggard, hummed to herself while polishing the brass of an ale pump. She looked as though she could right all the wrongs of her existence if she could just get that pump to shine well enough to show a tinted reflection of her worn-out face. The manager strolled behind her, head held high as if he was running a place to be proud of. A place people would want to come to. And the man just sat in front of those books, alone, waiting. Anyone who knew him called him Jack.
Maybe Jack was in the wrong place. Maybe this wasn't the ideal spot to meet a girl. He came in frequently enough and kind of liked it, but never really thought about it as a place to go for a date. He figured it couldn't hurt to try, but now, as he waited, he began to have his doubts. What if she took one look inside and walked on by? Surely the place wasn't that abhorrent. Surely she was just running late. Perhaps she had let it slip her mind, or didn't get the invite at all. He knew that couldn't be true. He saw her open the envelope he left on the side for her. He saw her face react to his carefully selected words as she sipped on the day's first coffee. Milky. Two sugars. As sweet as her eyes. He had been bubbling with excitement all day since she read the note, nervously anticipating her arrival. He took a mouthful of gin to ease his stomach and felt his head spin a little. He could feel his patience fading. He knew she'd come. He had watched as she placed the note back down on the desk carefully amongst her things. She was clearly interested. It was all the reassurance he could need that she'd be here for their rendezvous, so he slipped quietly from the window and headed straight to the bar, careful not to be seen while leaving her home. All day he sat there at the meeting point, waiting alone beneath those books. The few people who knew him called him Jack.