Community Spirit – Episode 15

NATE was in the middle of a large order for Meredith Jarvis’s book club when Cally came down to the bar and said goodbye.

“Where are you going?” he said, trying to avoid the copies of the latest Booker Prize winner as he placed drinks on the tables in the window.

“To meet someone,” Cally replied airily. “They’ve offered to show me around the village.”

“Wouldn’t happen to be a boy, would it?” Nate asked, blocking her exit from behind the bar and folding his arms across his chest.

“No, Dad, it’s not a boy.” Cally rolled her eyes. “It’s a girl I met. She saw me when she was sitting on the green and we got chatting. We’ll be in the same year when I start school.”

“That sounds nice.”

“Her mum’s just got a job at the Goose, which is why Tasha was interested in what we were up to here,” Cally added, motioning for him to let her pass.

“Not Jeannie?” Nate asked, standing back.

“You work fast!” Cally grinned. “The only single mum in the village and you’re on to her already.”

“I met her when I went over there, that’s all.” Nate blushed as he busied himself wiping down the bar. “She’s single, then?”

“Bye,” Cally called over her shoulder, sailing out.

“Bye, love,” Nate replied, feeling wrong-footed by his teenage daughter.

Cally and Tasha sat on the wall of the graveyard facing the green with the Mucklebury Arms on the right and the Goose and Gander on the left.

The green was recently mown and the smell of cut grass hung in the air. The afternoon sun burned hot as they cooled off under the canopy of a sycamore tree.

“Well, that’s the village,” Tasha finished. “Church, green, shop, two pubs and a community centre.”

“It’s seems like a nice place to live,” Cally commented.

“There’s not a whole lot going on,” Tasha remarked, “unless you’re into cross-stitch, the WI, baking, bowls or local history.”

“My dad might like the local history, but I can’t see him doing anything else,” Cally replied, fanning herself with a large leaf.

“Where’s your mum?” Tasha asked.

Cally dropped the leaf and watched it spiral to the ground.

“She left,” she said matter-of-factly, “about two years ago.”

“Do you know where she is?”

“Yes, and she knows where I am, but that doesn’t mean I see her.” Cally shrugged at Tasha. “It bothered me at first, but not so much now.”

“How come?” Tasha jumped down and put her hands in the pockets of her denim shorts. She dug at a loose stone in the wall with the toe of her trainer.

“It’s the moving around we do. Each new place I meet some people I like and some I don’t and vice versa. My dad says you can’t make everyone like you and you shouldn’t want to. I figure it’s not too different with my mum. I can’t make her want to spend time with me, and . . .” Cally looked across the green to the Mucklebury Arms, the sun glinting off its clean windows.

“And?” Tasha urged, her foot suspended in mid-air.

“If I’m honest,” Cally began, “I’m not sure I like her very much any more.”

“You’re lucky.” Tasha snorted. “I have to see my dad with his new family every week. I watch them like it’s on a TV screen and I’m not really there. He’s so wrapped up in his new baby he forgets about me.

“Ava’s cute,” Tasha admitted, “but I’m not allowed near her without Rebecca, my dad’s wife, checking I’m not holding her wrong.”

Cally jumped down and they started circling the green once more.

Alison Cook