"Sure! Say you and your friends look like you're having fun."
"Yep, we just started our two-week term break! Can't believe it's two weeks without getting up at 6am!"
"Well, have a great night", the bartender smiled.
"Thanks!" I grinned as I made my way back to the tables where my fellow teachers were sitting.
The pub was usually busy on Friday nights, but this one was the start of a two-week school holiday, so people packed three-deep at the bar, and late-comers were forced to stand around with their drinks since there were no free tables. The music over-powered everything else - making people shout to hear one another or escape outside to chat with friends over a smoke.
We were having an amazing time. For the first time since Jeremy left, I'd managed to stop worrying about him being so far away, or the fact that I was going to be alone for 4 months in a foreign country. It felt great to laugh again. Several games of pool were played, pints downed, and horrible 80's songs danced to before it was time to head home.
Normally I didn't enjoy taking the train late at night, but Kelly's brother dropped me off at the station in Bethnal Green, so I only had to take the Central Line home, instead of switching from the Victoria Line first.
I found a wrinkled copy of the London Lite to read on the train, and the stops flew past in a happy blur. There were lots of people on the train, huddled in drunken groups or sitting alone, pretending to ignore the party-goers as they shouted to each other about their night's adventures.
"Oi! I don't CARE that Prince fucking William parties there! I'm not spending 30 quid or 2 hours queuing up just in case we catch a glimpse of His Royal fucking Highness!"
They weren't easy to ignore...
Finally, I reached the Queensway and jumped off the train with a handful of other people. Only a couple more blocks until I'd be home telling my parents about my night. Unfortunately, I realized I had to pee RIGHT NOW, and popped into one of the locals for a quick trip to the ladies' room. Too tipsy to feel guilty, I smiled my way out the door and back onto Bayswater Road. The night was cool and clear, with people wandering around, and traffic winding it's way around the park.
I loved that my neighbourhood was so cool and that my parents were getting a firsthand taste of the British Adventure. Showing off the local shops, the close proximity to Portobello Road and Hyde Park, I loved seeing it all again in their eyes.
"Hi Mom! It's just me! I'll be home in just a few minutes! Yep! I had a great time tonight! Lots of dancing WHAT THE FUCK?!! OHMYGOD!"
A slight tug on my shoulder had turned into fierce pulling on my (actually Jeremy's) laptop case by a man with a slight build and striped polo shirt. Despite the fact that my laptop wasn't in the bag (I used it for carrying papers to mark and other teacher things), I wasn't letting go. While my mother listened helplessly, I screamed over and over, screwed my eyes shut, fell to the ground and wrapped my legs around the bag. He wasn't strong enough to get it away from me, but did manage to drag me on my back across the street as I shrieked.
Finally, the pulling stopped and he ran away as people came running. My phone was still in my hand (somehow) and I picked it up, babbling "I'm okay, I'm okay, Mom? I'm okay"
The couple who had scared away the mugger guided me to the sidewalk and asked me questions that I wasn't coherent enough to answer. After less than a minute, my dad came rushing around the corner. Crying and rambling, I leaned on my father as we headed back to my flat.
After a strong drink of rum and a phone call to the police, I was calm enough to tell my story. As it turned out, the couple who'd come to my rescue had also called the police, leading two Scotland Yard agents to my door within 10 minutes of our call. I wanted to curl up in a ball on my mom's lap, but held it together long enough to explain what happened and the fact that the man had run eastbound on Bayswater Road.
The nice Scotland Yard men (who didn't mind me having a drink while talking to them) expressed apologies and promised to follow up immediately, including taking my laptop bag for forensic testing. I never did figure out what they expected to find, but awkwardly emptied the bag with the policemen and my parents watching and handed it over. '
"Okay Miss, we've got everything we need for now. If you remember anything more, or have any questions, please give us a call."
Off they went into the night with my laptop bag.
Months later while packing to return to Canada, I realized not only had I never heard back from the police, but I had also lost the phone number for the Scotland Yard guys and couldn't trace my laptop bag.
Standing in front of a cash register in a shop on the Queensway, I realized how ironic it was that somebody had failed in their attempt to steal my bag, then it wound up being "stolen" by Scotland Yard.
And I wondered how I was going to explain the new carrying case to Jeremy.