The streets were muddy from the recent rains, but James felt in high spirits regardless. Classes were back in session at Manchester University, and that meant old friends would be returning while new friends waited to be made. The summer had been a particularly boring one, but at least he'd made some pretty decent money working at the factory.
The tavern was bustling with energy that night, filled to capacity with returning students and professors alike. The end of the first day of classes was always the busiest night of the year, and James found himself looking forward to it more than Christmas.
As he pushed open the doors, he found himself stopped in his tracks by the sound of a group of students singing a particularly raunchy bar song. This wasn't unusual in and of its self- raunchy bar songs were a way of life in these parts. What was unusual was the way that they were making the song sound like a work of art- hitting every note and singing in perfect harmony through the occasional outburst of laughter.
One particular voice stood out from the others- a strong tenor coming from one of the younger students in the crowd. James had never heard a range quite like his before- he seemed to be able to hit the highest and lowest notes with the same ease as those in the middle.
When the song ended, the group dissolved into chaotic laughter as the tavern erupted in applause. James made his way over to the young singer, pushing past several people in the process.
James: "That was an amazing rendition of that song, I just had to tell you. Let me buy you a drink for entertaining us!"
The young man let out a nervous laugh, clearly not used to all the attention he was suddenly getting.
Tristan: "Thank you!"
James: "Thank you! James Selwyn."
Tristan: "Tristan Payne."
James: "So, Tristan, I'm going to assume you're studying over at the university."
Tristan: "Indeed- it's my first year in the music programme. How about yourself? Are you attending university?"
James laughed loudly and took a long drink of his beer.
James: "No, not me. I'm just a lowly factory worker."
Tristan: "So you actually live around here year round then?"
James: "Since I was born, as a matter of fact. Is this your first time away from home?"
Tristan's smile faltered briefly. He took a few deep breaths, doing his best to overcome the fleeting feelings of homesickness he'd been too busy during the day to notice.
Tristan: "Yes, it is."
James: "Are you far from them?"
Tristan: "No, I guess not really. We live just a few miles out of town."
James: "It'll get easier, you'll see."
Tristan: "I suppose it will."
James: "I know it will! C'mon, I'll introduce you to some of my friends!"
Tristan felt swept up in James' apparent passion for life. He seemed to know just about everyone at the tavern that night, and was quick to make friends with the few he didn't. He had an easy laugh, a vivaciousness that quickly drew in those around him.
Hours passed, and the room began to empty as students and workers with early morning engagements made their way home to their beds for the night. Fairly soon James and Tristan were the only ones left, sitting at a table by the dying fire.
James: "So you want to make sure that you're not giving anything away with your facial expressions."
Tristan: "I guess openly laughing is out, then?"
Tristan: "It may be useful for faking someone out."
Tristan triumphantly laid his hand out on the table- complete rubbish, much to James' shock. He was quick to cover it up, however.
James: "I let you win that time. I felt bad for beating you all night."
Molly: "Ok boys, time to pack it up for the night."
Molly: "If you'd bothered to look up from those cards once in a while, James, you'd have noticed that the rest of our patrons went home hours ago."
There was good humor in Molly's voice as she spoke.
James: "Oh bollocks! Tristan, I hope you didn't have class in the morning- I didn't really intend to keep you up all hours!"
Tristan: "I have the morning off, so no worries."
James: "Will you be back tomorrow night?"