Community Spirit – Episode 27

THERE was little room for Nate and Jeannie in the area behind the bar. On occasion they reached for the same pump or optic, but mostly they worked around each other easily.

Only after the second bell did the crowd start to thin. Nate managed to clear everyone out and they both tidied up. Within 20 minutes the place was as good as new.

Nate pulled out a chair and indicated Jeannie should sit. When she tried to protest, he wagged a finger at her and pointed to the chair. She sat whilst he poured her some wine.

“No arguments. You deserve it,” Nate stated.

Jeannie smiled and took a sip. She sighed.

“That’s nice,” she said.

“You must be worn out,” Nate declared, sitting next to her.

“In a nice way,” Jeannie replied. “It’s a feeling of accomplishment, you know? To feed so many people and for them all to be happy.”

“You’re very good at it,” Nate told her, brushing a stray hair away from her face. She settled in at his side.

“I think it went well tonight,” she said.

“So do I,” Nate agreed. “They’re a good bunch.”

“Even Debbie and Fergus?” Jeannie teased.

“I’m sure they have hidden depths still to be discovered!” Nate laughed.

“I’m not so sure.” Jeannie frowned.

She could hear Debbie’s voice in her head telling her to find out Nate’s plans for the Mucklebury Arms, and felt disloyal. But she also wanted to know what his plans were for her own sake. It’s only disloyal if I pass the information on, she thought.

“So,” she said brightly, “what are your plans for the place?”

Nate smiled broadly.

“Well,” he said, “I think tonight proves the Mucklebury Arms can be a valued community resource as well as a popular venue for food. This village needs a place for the locals to go, where they are welcome and which can be a focal point for activities. Tonight showed it can be all those things, and a strong food menu could really turn the pub around.”

He put his arm around Jeannie’s shoulder and pulled her close.

“I have you to thank for that. You’ve really shown me what is possible here.”

“Oh, it was nothing.”

“It was a huge effort,” he said, “and you were so calm the whole time.”

Jeannie blushed. The pub was warm, the lights dim, and Nate and Jeannie were comfortable together.

He stroked the side of her face and she turned to him, eyes wide, lips parted.

Nate closed his eyes and bent his head towards her, but their lips had barely touched when there was a crash from the floor above and the sound of feet pounded down the stairs.

The door to the bar was flung open and Tasha flew into the room, followed by Cally. Nate and Jeannie sprang apart as Tasha launched herself into her mother’s arms, sobbing.

“Tasha, darling, what’s the matter?” Jeannie cried.

Tasha was unable to speak and Jeannie’s eyes turned to Cally.

“She’s had a text,” Cally explained. “From her dad.”

“What did it say?” Jeannie asked.

Cally looked awkward.

“He has to cancel their summer holiday because of work. They’re not going to Spain after all.”

Tasha’s cries became louder. Nate gave Cally a hug and they both waited helplessly by the bar until Jeannie had calmed Tasha enough to take her home.

Alison Cook