Shadow on the Sun Ch.5: Choices by Nils Durban

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SUMMARY: Wherein our hero is faced with two very distinct decisions that will shape his future in more ways than one.....

"You've got some nerve, lad," said Kevin O'Mara, "turning up out of the blue like this." He finished pouring the pint, before setting it down on the counter before Sleet.

"I had good reason, Kevin, believe me," Sleet replied, "and I'm sorry about it."

"It's not me ye need be apologisin' to, you know that I presume?"

Sleet picked up the drink, not having allowed it time to settle sufficiently, and quaffed the froth from off the top.

"You mean Helen."

"Of course I mean bloody Helen!" O'Mara vented as he fussed about the optics at the rear of the bar, "who else might I be referrin' to?"

"I have an explanation, Kevin, like I said. I'm sure she'll understand."

Further down the bar, Declan choked on his Guinness and a series of coughs and gasps ensued. Once he had recollected himself he glanced over at Sleet, "just went down the wrong way, that's all."

Sleet raised his eyebrow quizzically, "yeah, thanks for the vote of confidence!"

A series of brisk footfalls heading through the kitchen at the rear of the bar allowed Sleet to exchange a concerned glance with Kevin before Helen bustled into the room. She did not notice his presence initially and preceded to stack glasses beneath the counter from the tray she had carried through with her. Sleet remained silent, whilst Kevin began whistling a little Irish ditty in a somewhat nervous fashion and Declan stared into his pint, as if some miraculous salvation would rise up from it at any moment.

She picked up on the atmosphere immediately. "Is there something wrong....," as she turned around to scan the bar their gazes locked, "Oh, it's you, is it?" she said haughtily, raising her chin up in an unconscious attempt to look down upon him, as she might upon some vagrant that had wandered in, scrounging for scraps of food. It wasn't that long ago, he thought to himself, that he had been in exactly that position.

"And what do you think this is, Sleet James," she demanded, "some kind of drop in centre you can waltz into just whenever it suits you?"

Declan looked up from his pint. "Isn't it?" he enquired, with apparently genuine concern.

The look that he received for his troubles could have turned men to stone, "You can mind your own, Declan Moran!"

Declan immediately returned his attentions to his drink.

Helen ploughed on relentlessly, "have you ever seen one of these?" she asked in her most sarcastic tone, waving a mobile phone in the air before her. "It's the latest craze you know, all the kids have 'em."

"Look, Helen," Sleet attempted to interject, "if you'll just let me explain..."

"Oh, you've nothing to explain," she shot back, "it's all as clear as crystal, isn't it. Clear what a bloody idiot I've been!"

And with that she spun about like a whirlwind and fled back the way she had come, leaving a single pint glass teetering on the brim of the counter. It wobbled momentarily before finally deciding to end it all with a resounding smash upon the vinyl covered floor, which served as a particularly fitting climax to the exchange.

Silence ensued, and the three men pondered their individual situations.

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