“That was it?”
Martin sighed as Douglas looked at him incredulously.
“Yes, that was it. Well, unless you consider me watching him on television a relationship of some kind, but he never even knew I did so I don’t think that counts.”
“And now I have to go to the wedding and it’s going to be so uncomfortable.”
“I know it’s a wild suggestion, Martin, but you could always follow the path of many former sweethearts throughout history and not go.”
Martin was silent for a moment.
“But I... I want to see him,” he said softly. “I know nothing’s going to happen, nothing needs to happen, but I really do want to see him.”
Douglas looked thoughtful. “If I were in your situation- not that I would be, but if I were- I think I would arrange to meet him beforehand. It won’t be strange of you to ask, since they’ve broken the ice by sending you the invitation, but if it goes horribly wrong then you can conveniently have other plans for the night of the wedding.”
Martin considered that. It sounded quite reasonable, actually. His own immense social awkwardness aside, he and Tim had always got on well. He’d probably have to meet Dawn too, but he’d grown quite attached to her when he was following The Office, and she seemed nice.
“And who knows,” Douglas added. “If you do go, you might meet someone there. Weddings are renowned for that sort of thing.”
Martin held back a sarcastic comment about Douglas knowing all about that, since he’d listened and given advice without teasing him too much. Martin couldn’t imagine himself meeting anyone at the wedding, though. Even though he complained he never had a chance to meet people, a wedding was the kind of situation where he’d have to be instantly impressive and interesting and not completely awkward. It just wasn’t going to happen.
“Thanks, Douglas,” he said, and tried not to think too much about Tim for the rest of the flight.
Martin hovered uncomfortably in the corner of kitchen, waiting for the students to clear out so he could use the phone without interruption. He didn’t want to use his mobile; he kept it strictly for emergencies since the cost otherwise was terrifying. He was immensely grateful when Mike appeared to realise he was waiting for the phone and subtly herded the others into the living room. Then the only thing stopping him was his own ridiculous fear.
Eventually he stopped turning the invitation around in his hand and picked up the outdated phone. He dialled the number and willed his heart to stop thumping as the phone rang. After what felt like an eternity, there was a click and a distinctively female voice on the other end.
“Hi, erm, my name’s Martin Crieff, y-you must be Dawn. I’m a friend of Tim’s.”
“Martin! From Wernham Hogg? Tim’s told me all about you!”
Martin laughed nervously. “A-all good, I hope.”
“He’s been looking forward to hearing from you. He’s just popped out, though. Do you want his mobile number?”
Martin fumbled for a pen and paper, took down the number and told Dawn he hoped he’d be able to come to the wedding if he didn’t have to work. When he hung up he stared at the phone number he’d scribbled on the edge of an envelope. The temptation to simply text Tim was almost overwhelming, but he knew that wasn’t quite right after so many years.
He decided to get it over with before the kitchen was invaded again. He dialled the number and waited.
You are an airline captain, you are not a teenage girl. Open your mouth and speak, man.
“Hi, Tim. It’s Martin. M-Martin Crieff.”
“Martin! Hi! You got the invitation then. How are you?”
“I-I’m fine. How are you?”
“I’m great. I’ve been waiting to hear from you. Are you coming to the wedding?”
“I’m not sure, I hope so, but I never quite know about work.”
“Oh, that’s right, the crazy life of an airline captain. I hope you don’t mind that I Googled you. Saw the website.”
“I’m not to be held responsible for that website in any way.”
“No, it was... cute.” Martin could hear the smile in Tim’s voice. “You’re doing what you always wanted, that’s all that matters.”
Martin couldn’t quite bring himself to agree without blurting out the truth about his employment. He’d tell Tim later.
“You sort of inspired me, you know,” Tim added.
“I- I inspired you? How?”
“You went out and did what you wanted. I was always thinking about it when I was stuck in that awful job. When Dawn and I finally got together I just thought, sod this. If Martin can do it, so can I.”
“Did you go back to university?”
“Yeah. Finished my psychology degree, and a doctorate eventually. I’m working in a little private hospital in Maidenhead, eating disorders, that sort of thing.”
Martin smiled. “Does that mean I have to call you Doctor?”
Tim laughed. “Only if I have to call you Captain.”
Martin attempted to laugh in response, but suspected it came out as more of a whimper. There was a moment of silence during which he assumed they both remembered the last time they’d seen each other and the fact that Tim was getting married in a few months.
“Anyway,” Martin continued, when a sufficiently awkward amount of time had passed. “We should... catch up. Have a drink, or something.”
“Yeah, that’d be nice. I’m a bit flat out for the next couple of weeks, though. Have you got any days off? You could come see me on my lunch break. I can take a long lunch.”
“I’m off on Tuesday if nothing changes,” Martin replied, trying not to sound overjoyed that Tim wanted to see him. “I could head down in the morning. Mum would probably like to see me too.”
Tim told Martin he’d text him the details of where to meet him, and they said their goodbyes. Martin let out a deep breath as he hung up the phone.
Mike popped his head back around the doorframe.
“Who was that?” he asked, teasingly. “Your boooyfriend?”
“Shut up,” Martin replied, and tried not to blush.