"How is [History Boy]?" Bar Boy asks, swivelling round on the chair opposite from me.
"I don't know" I say. I feel a pang of something I can't quite place, at the realisation that in some quarters it has become the norm to ask me about History Boy as it is in general to ask me about Dean.
"I thought..." Bar Boy trails off. "Haven't you seen him?"
"No". And then because I know that this is all too stark "He's busy".
It is the truth. And I could go on - I am busier still. I am so busy that I am using Tesco online and contemplating having them deliver to work.
When Bar Boy has gone, though, I cannot help but wonder for a second as the implications of all of this unravel in my mind. And, not for the first time where History Boy is concerned, I have no answers.
"Go after him" J urges.
I shake my head, not quite sure what exactly is happening. But aware of one thing.
He has left.
And I'm acutely aware of the significance this has taken for the group, they having watched us talking over ashtrays and the people in between us this evening. The group thinking that they were going to get some resolution to the soap storyline. Me thinking that I was going to get some resolution.
"Go after him" J says again.
But I cannot. What would I do if he kept on walking? And if he stopped what would I do then, strangely drunk and emotional as I am? Because I want to swear at him, I would not put it past me to hurl one of my shoes at him just to provoke a reaction. Which, even now, I can see is not fair. I cannot decipher whether his negligence is unintentional or not. And whilst there is that doubt it is unfair to subject him to shoe throwing women in the middle of Leeds.
Dean comes back from having followed him to the door.
"I bottled it" he says.
He is, I suspect, not the only one.
Dean hugs me. The bar starts to wobble ominously.
Dean takes my hand and moves me away from the group. We stand in the entrance to The Wardrobe and Dean brushes the hair away from my face.
"You know what you need to do?"
"What?" I ask.
"You need to kill him off".
"Killing him off in my writing is one thing..." it fades so I do not finish the sentence and I do not have to articulate the reality of what I know, even angry and upset as I am here, I cannot quite do.
I walked to work through the first clutch of fallen leaves this morning.
As I sit at my desk History Boy pops his head round the door, the familiar hesitation.
We talk; teasingly, effortlessly.
It is all so easy. Different. But easy.
After he has gone and I have returned to my computer I cannot help but wonder how I got here.