A year after squatting

Paula was coming back from the library one day when she went past the pub where she had worked the previous summer and stumbled upon one of the Poles she had worked with. She looked so the same, yet so different. They hugged in joy and in surprise.
“My God, Paula! So great to see you! We have thought of you so much in the winter!”
(“Yeah, that’s why I’ve had so many letters from you”)
“I didn’t have that many letters though!” She was still smiling; his own smile turned apologetic but all was fine.
“This summer I am on my own. But we should meet up! “Where is your friend?!”
“He went back to Spain. He came only for six months, remember?”
“Ah, yeah, I remember that.”
“He still stayed for eight months, almost forgot his deadline, but then one day he remembered and ran to get a plane ticket back!”
They laughed.
“Hey, when are you next free?”
They arrange to meet another day and, unlike last summer, now Paula could afford to invite him to a pub and she chose one where, again unlike the previous summer, she knew there was live music.
“Wow, I didn’t now there was live music in pubs in London.”
“Yeah. You spend three months a year here and you have no idea about live music in pubs.”
“And neither did you know, last summer.”
“I did. I just couldn’t afford to get into any of them!”
“So, where are you working now, then?”
“I left the pubs. I went to Spain for Christmas, and when I came back I decided that I did not want to continue with that unstable life any more, and looked for a job in an office. I worked in a shop for a while too, but now I only work nine to five, Monday to Friday.”
“It sounds mainstream”
“It is dignified. I no longer count the pennies when I get home on Friday after getting my wages.
Paula was marvelled at the way this guy had improved his English.
“Hey, your English has improved!”, he said.
(Hang on a second. ‘I’ was supposed to say that about you.)
“How about you?”, she asked instead. He smiled.
“I am still studying drama, in Poland.”
“What about the other two that were staying in that squat?”
“They are there too. Seems last year it was too much for them, with the squat, the way that chef evicted us, then having to share a room between the three of us. They didn’t want to repeat this year.”
“And where are you staying now? Still waiting distance from here?”
“No. Far away. It takes me one hour on the tube. But it is cheap.”
“Still saving, eh?”
“For the rest of the year, yes.”
They listened to the live music for a bit. After more than a year in London, Paula still felt fortunate and privileged to live in a city with such beautiful possibilities.
“I went round to that squat the other day.”
“Did you?”
“Yes. It was full of drunks. All men. They looked pretty rough, very scary.”
“So your chef it not living with his wife and his little son there, then.”
“Hopefully not!”
“After all that effort.”
They promised each other to keep in touch this time. One of those promises.

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