Community Spirit – Episode 57

NATE clammed up. He didn’t want Steph to know about Jeannie. The women were complete opposites. Jeannie was good and kind and caring, and Steph had nearly torn him to pieces when she’d left without a backward glance.

“It’s not going to happen, Steph. Get it out of your mind and move on. Get out!” Nate made for the stairs.

He knew the pub was open but he had to get away from her before he said something he’d regret.

“A girl needs her mother,” Steph tried again.

At the mention of Cally, Nate stopped.

“We’ve been doing all right,” he said quietly.

“I’m sure you have. You were always a great dad,” Steph agreed, “but she’s going to go through a lot of stuff soon and there will be things a girl can’t talk to her dad about. She’ll need to talk to someone, and who better than her own mother?”

Nate’s shoulders sagged. All this time he’d been thinking about how he felt about having Steph back when the only person whose feelings mattered was Cally.

Of course a girl should have her mother. He could never deny Cally that.

“She hasn’t seen much of you for the last two years,” he said evenly.

“And I’m going to make it up to her,” Steph said firmly. “I’m going to be there for her every step of the way. It will be like it used to be.”

Nate’s tone hardened.

“It will never be like it used to be,” he said.

“Come on, Nate. You were never one to hold a grudge.”

Nate took a step into the bar.

“A grudge?” he said loudly. “A grudge is for when someone prangs your car, or digs up your prize marrow in the allotment. What I harbour towards you and Terry is more . . .”

“Morning! All right if we come in?”

Nate was forced to stop glaring at Steph as several locals bowled into the pub, including Major Bowes-Smith, Reverend Frank Jarvis and his wife Meredith, Pamela Cartwright, Arthur Regis and Miss Grace.

“Hello,” he said, trying his hardest to smile. “What brings you here this morning? An early tipple?”

“It’s too early, even for me.” The major laughed, looking Steph up and down as if sizing up a new recruit on the parade ground.

“We heard you’d had a visitor,” Miss Grace put in.

“A man in a suit.” Arthur added.

“Perhaps from the brewery?” Pamela asked.

“It’s my fault,” Frank confessed. “I saw him arrive and mentioned it at the parish council meeting. We thought there might be news.

“Anyway, I can see we’re interrupting so I think we’d better go.”

“Not on my account, I can assure you,” Steph said breezily. “I’m Steph. Nate’s wife.”

Alison Cook