Community Spirit – Episode 56

NATE stopped pleading with the brewery’s area manager and nodded his resigned acceptance.

“What’s the timescale?”

“As soon as possible,” Mr Forman replied, shuffling the papers together and placing them in his case. “You’re to stay on and keep things ticking over until a buyer is found, but we don’t expect it will take long.

“If none of the big chains are interested we’ll put the building up for auction. There’s one next month, I believe.”

“OK,” Nate said, “but I do have to say I’m disappointed – for the village.”

“You know better than most that it’s a numbers game, and the numbers just aren’t there for the Mucklebury Arms.”

“But they could be,” Nate appealed one last time.

“I’m sorry, it’s a no. You’ll be looked after. We value you, Nate, and there will always be a place for you as long as we’ve got beer in the pumps.” Mr Forman stood up.

“About that,” Nate said, also standing. “I’ve been thinking, and talking to Cally. She’s in her GCSE year, as you know, and we’d like to settle again if there’s a more permanent opening.

“Somewhere close by so she can stay at the same school, but a nice place we can put down a few roots again.”

Mr Forman held out his hand.

“I’ll see what I can do,” he replied.

Nate saw him out and left the door open as it was just after eleven. There was no-one waiting outside, but as he turned to go back to the bar Steph emerged from the shadows by the door to the private accommodation of the pub.

Nate flinched to see her there. He’d never thought the two of them would be in the same place again.

“How long have you been there?” Nate asked.

“Long enough to know you’ve asked for your own place again,” Steph said, stepping out into the bar.

Nate said nothing.

She crossed to him and put a hand on his arm.

“Don’t you see it’s a great idea?” she said. “It’s just the thing for us as a family – a new start. Put the past behind us and move forward together.”

“Seriously, Steph?” Nate asked, shaking his arm free, her touch leaving a tingling imprint on his skin. “Do you think you can just turn up on the doorstep and waltz back in where you left off?”

“I know it will be hard at first, but we can work on it,” Steph pleaded.

Nate thought about how this was all he’d dreamed of for months after she left – her return, begging him to take her back – and now it had happened he didn’t know what to think.

“Why are you back?” Nate said. “What happened to Terry? I thought you couldn’t live without him, or some other nonsense like that.”

“It didn’t work out.”

“He threw you out?”

Steph stayed silent.

“Unbelievable!” Nate cried. “You wreck our lives, and when your fancy man casts you off you expect to come back just like that.”

“I know it won’t be that simple,” Steph admitted.

“Did it even occur to you I might have moved on?” Nate asked.

“Have you?” Steph’s eyes narrowed.

Alison Cook