Sassy and Jimmy let themselves into the pub using the set of keys Victoria had flung at them within minutes of offering the couple the job earlier that year. What had initially been advertised as a live-in post, rapidly became more of an exercise in both pub and ‘personal’ management, the pub being by far, the easier task. They’d originally intended to accept the offer of moving into the flat above the pub, but had concluded after only the first three shifts, that perhaps, for the time being,
“We’re actually really happy with our digs in Marchmont Street Victoria and we only recently signed the tenancy, is it ok with you if we stay there for a while longer, maybe we can discuss the live-in idea in a few months”
“Suit yourselves, just as long as you get here on time to open up and help with the deliveries It makes no difference to me, Lola was looking forward to having a bit of company upstairs, but she’ll survive, she’s got me after all eh?”
By the end of their first month at The Coach and Horses, the couple had shelved all plans to move into the pub and in turn, also relieved themselves of having to add, babysitter/doctor/social worker and therapist to the job description.
By now, they both understood, that as with most Mondays and increasingly often, more than a few other days of the week, this lunchtime shift would be their sole responsibility. Not that either of them minded too much, as dealing with leery, thirsty, market traders, low-level but always charming, criminals, plain clothed police officers and ‘off-duty’, sad and frequently, past their best, lonely prostitutes, was generally a much more enjoyable task than having to cope with a hung-over landlady/boss.
Victoria had grown up in the pub and over the years, by some sort of Soho osmosis, had soaked up and appropriated many of the characteristics of her customers. One minute, she’d be as convivial as any of the barrow boys after a few pints on payday, the next, as cold and distant as a 50 year old whore who’d been turning tricks for decades. There was an obvious sense of decency to her, far outstripping that of the some of the coppers who frequented the pub, but often, just as it was with the working girls she sometimes drank with, it seemed like her real, un-intoxicated happiness had been gradually obliterated. Diluted and washed away by a lifetime echoing with the sound of doors closing behind another man who wanted nothing more than what was between her legs.
Victoria was lost somewhere inside the combined personalities of her regular customers, most of whom, whether they knew it or not, drank in her pub to subconsciously pass judgement on each other in order to make themselves feel better about their own existence. Apart from the boys from the market, they just liked getting pissed after a hard days graft before they went home.
Sassy greeted Mrs Jackson as they entered and began to get the pub ready,
“Morning Elsie, good weekend luv?”
“Mustn’t grumble, ‘he’ was pissed again after the football, missed his bloody dinner an all that, mind you, that’s nothing unusual is it, bloody men eh?”
Sassy giggled and rolled her eyes in recognition of Elsie’s plight.
“’er ladyship’s upstairs, but I don’t fancy you’ll be seeing her anytime soon though, she looked bloody dreadful when I saw her coming back from taking Lola to school, poor little bugger.”