Community Spirit – Episode 19

THE crowd started to thin and Nate looked around at the collection of unwashed glasses on the tables. A happy feeling settled over him; he might not have kept on top of the washing-up, but the Mucklebury Arms had had a good night, and so had he.

Pamela urged her ladies to carry their empties up to the bar.

“I’ll stay and help, if you like,” Jeannie offered.

“I couldn’t let you do that,” Nate replied, putting the first load in the dishwasher under the bar.

“You can and you will,” Pamela told him. “I don’t want it known that the Much Mucklebury WI leaves a mess. Come on, you two.”

She tried to shoo out a couple of stragglers but Debbie broke free and grabbed Jeannie.

“Find out what his plans are,” she whispered before Pamela hauled her away.

Nate watched the back of Jeannie’s neck go red as she plumped cushions and straightened chairs. When she finally turned around again her colour was back to normal.

“Drink?” Nate asked, stacking the last of the glasses next to the dishwasher.

“I’m supposed to be helping you tidy, not making more washing-up,” she said.

“I haven’t sat down all evening. Just one?”

Jeannie laughed.

“Just one. A soft one, please.”

She sat on the bench seat in the window and waited for Nate to pour their drinks. He brought them over and sat next to her.

“To a good night in the Mucklebury Arms,” he said, raising his glass.

“And to many more,” Jeannie added, chinking her glass with his.

“Our girls seem to have hit it off,” Jeannie said.

“I’m glad,” Nate admitted. “It’s a worry moving somewhere new, but Cally always makes friends.”

“She’s a lovely girl,” Jeannie told him. “She came over this afternoon. She and Tasha spent about an hour upstairs giggling and singing. How does she feel about moving around?”

“She was fine about it the last time I checked, which must be six months ago now. I guess a lot can change for fifteen-year-old girls in six months.”

“True.” Jeannie nodded.

“But she’d tell me if she didn’t feel right about it all. My biggest worry is not having her mother around.”

“I’m sure you’re doing a great job,” Jeannie said, putting down her drink.

“But you never know for sure, do you?”

“That’s as much true if there are two of you parenting as one. Cally seems well-adjusted and happy. I think that’s about as much as we can ask.”

“Sorry,” Nate apologised. “I didn’t mean to offload on to you.”

“No problem.” Jeannie sighed. “Try being the only single mum in the village. I thought I’d be used to it by now, and that things would be getting better, but our situation seems to be going from bad to worse.”

Tears sprang to her eyes, surprising them both.

“Hey,” Nate said gently. “Please don’t be upset.”

“Sorry,” Jeannie said. “It’s been a rough few weeks.”

“I’m sure it’s been up and down for a lot longer than that. Break-ups are never easy.”

Jeannie nodded, unable to speak.

“Come here.” Nate opened his arms wide for a hug.

Jeannie settled in at his side, head resting between his neck and shoulder. Her hair tickled his neck and her arm curved around his waist where she clung on to the back of his shirt.

Nate held her for a long time. When she finally moved, he released her a short distance, her head close to his, her lips inches away.

Nate barely had time to think about the butterflies in his tummy before he leaned in. She was trembling, too, but leaned toward him. As their lips touched, Nate felt a rush of emotion he hadn’t felt for a long time.


Alison Cook