During his lunch break, Vincent went into the bathroom at work. Shutting himself in a cubicle, he put down the lid on the toilet and, making sure it was clean, sat down on top of it. He took a look at the call history on his phone and selected Steve's number. Is it a badger game? he wondered anew. Surely someone like that would call from a private number?
He pressed the call button. The dial tone played for a little while. Just as he was about to wonder if he would ever pick up, he heard a grumpy-sounding voice say "Hello?" on the other end.
"Is this a good time?" Vincent asked. "This is Vincent, the guy you called recently." Steve said nothing in reply. "The one you told not to meet with..."
"Yeah, I get it. What's this about? I hope you're not going to tell me you've changed your mind about breaking up with her."
"No. It's not that..." He searched around in his head for the words. "Just tell me one thing. Which one are you talking about?"
"What do you mean, which?"
"I know two women with the same name."
He tutted mentally as soon as the words left his mouth. Wasn't this as good as admitting that he was two-timing? Praying that Steve hadn't noticed, Vincent went on. "So, I asked them both whether they knew a guy called Steve. They both told me they didn't." He heard a gulp.
"You spoke to her?"
"Yeah, I did. That's the quickest way to break up with someone, isn't it?"
"Of course, but..." He seemed bewildered. That's good, you get nice and confused, thought Vincent. "What do you mean, she doesn't know?"
"That's what I want to know. That's why I called you."
"She said she didn't know me?"
"Both of them did." He was growing tired of the conversation. "Tell me the identifiers of the one you know. What she looks like, or whatever. Then at least I'll know which one you mean."
"She looks like... Well, what should I say? She's really seductive."
"I know that. Something else! Whatever you want, like her hair colour or length, or something."
"Her hair's black."
At this point, neither of them fitted the bill. Katherine had red-grey hair, and Catherine's was blonde. Steve continued explaining on the other end of the phone.
"Her jaw's a little long. Her eyes are black, too. She has dimples when she laughs. She's petite..."
After listening for a while, Vincent interrupted. "That's enough. Just stop." He straightened himself and stood. "Sorry, but it looks like it was a case of mistaken identity after all."
"I do know a girl called Catherine, but not the same one as you. Nothing you just said matches either of them."
"Don't you fucking try to fool me!"
"Both the ones I know are white."
Everything about the girl Steve claimed was his girlfriend indicated that she was Asian. He could tell how agitated he was over the phone.
"I don't know who she is, but you've got the wrong person. Maybe she picked my number at random from the phonebook and claimed I was her boyfriend because she wanted to break up with you?"
"What are you... Then where's my Catherine...!?"
"How the hell should I know?" He did feel bad for him, but he didn't have time to be worrying about other people. Vincent himself had suffered plenty due to Steve. "Look, I'm not mad at you, but please don't contact me again."
"She's all I have left. I'm already in divorce negotiations with my wife... Jesus..."
So the other guy was a cheater too. He seemed to be in quite a serious situation, just like Vincent. Remembering Katherine's pregnancy, he felt depressed again. He was glad he had cleared up the Steve issue, but he still had a mountain of problems.
"I'm hanging up now, okay? Sorry."
"Christ, I feel like I'm going insane! It's going to attack me again!" he shrieked, clearly not sane. Vincent couldn't take any more.
"I'm the one who's going insane! Don't call me again!"
"Wait, don't hang up! I still need to tal-..."
Vincent ended the call without hearing the rest. Just to be sure, he blocked Steve's number. Closing the phone, he stared at the front.
"What the hell's up with him?"
He had no intention of getting involved again, but couldn't shake off a twinge of anxiety. Did he really have nothing to do with Vincent? Steve was cheating with a girl called Catherine, too. Could he really accept that this was a coincidence?
Nothing made sense. Vincent put the phone away in his pocket and opened the cubicle door.
"So it was all just a misunderstanding?"
"Yeah. She's not the Catherine he was talking about," Vincent said to Jonny.
"God." Orlando shook his head in amazement.
"What happened there?" Jonny appeared stumped, too.
The three, along with Toby, had arrived at their usual bar comparatively early. Vincent was telling them about his conversation with Steve that afternoon. Erica was standing around in the aisle listening to them talk as usual.
"Good thing it's only some moron's mistake, though, right?" Fiddling with his hat, Orlando leaned back.
"There are troublemakers everywhere," said Jonny.
"Anyway, Vincent - what are you going to do?" asked Erica. "About Katherine. You're going to do the right thing, aren't you?"
"Yeah." Vincent looked up, nodding in the direction of his rum and coke. "I decided this afternoon. Excuses won't cut it anymore."
"I'm going to settle things with the girl this time."
"You mean you're going to officially break up with your mistress?"
He of course wanted to get out of his predicament without getting married, but if Katherine and Steve really had nothing to do with each other then Vincent, as the child's father, had no alternative but to resign himself to his fate. All he could do in the end was make sure the future went the way it should.
"When it's all sorted, I'm going to officially propose to Katherine."
"Finally?" Orlando asked in slight surprise.
Vincent nodded. "Not that I've bought a ring or anything, though."
"You can do that whenever."
"Wow, Vincent, you're so cool!" Toby said cheerfully from opposite. Ignoring him, Erica put her hands on her hips.
"Then you shouldn't be sitting around here drinking, should you?"
"Yeah, I guess not." Vincent took out his phone, checking the time. "I'm gonna call her here."
"For real!?" said Toby.
"Seriously!?" said Orlando.
"Sorry, guys," said Vincent. "Could you go somewhere else for a while? I don't really feel like breaking up with her in front of you all."
"I get you," Jonny said, drinking down the last of his sake. Orlando and Toby looked unhappy.
"Hey, don't be so selfish. She's really cute, right? Let us see. You're gonna break up with her anyway. Let me try out for her next boyfriend!"
"Yeah. I don't mind about being her boyfriend, just let me see!"
"Hey, guys!" Erica glared at the pair. "Vincent's being serious about all of this, so stop talking like kids."
"Why? Do you want to be the only one who gets to see her?"
"No! In fact I'm going to take a break and keep an eye on you, so I can make sure you don't sneak a peek."
"I'll do the babysitting." Jonny stood first. "Come on, guys."
Tapped on the shoulder, Toby drained his glass reluctantly. "Alright."
"Guess I haven't got a choice, then." Orlando stood too, a bottle in one hand. "Good luck, yeah?"
"You failed last time. Make sure you come out and say it this time."
Vincent agreed. Silently, he was jealous that they were only onlookers.