Community Spirit – Episode 65

NATE hurried back to the pub. Inside, he closed and locked the door. Through the window he saw Jeannie making her way back towards the cut-through to her house, shoulders rounded and head down.

He turned away from the window to find Steph standing in front of the bar.

“Who was that?” Steph asked.

“Just a friend.”

“She looks a bit upset.”

Nate spread his hands.

“Steph, what do you want from me? You turn up and expect to walk back into our lives like nothing ever happened. You walked out on us two years ago.”

“I told you. I want to make a go of it with you; be a proper mum to Cally.”

“That would have been great to hear two years ago – a year, even – but so much time’s passed. Do you think we can go back?”

Steph’s eyes shone with tears and she twisted her finger into the chain of her necklace: a sure sign she was feeling vulnerable.

“It’ll be hard, but not impossible,” she pleaded.

“You seem to assume that we’ve been sitting here waiting for you. You haven’t thought for a moment that we might have moved on with our lives; that other people might get hurt by your return.”

Before Steph could answer there was a loud banging at the door.

Nate let Fergus in.

“Only me.” Fergus held out a basket of croissants and muffins. “I wanted to thank you for the loan of the wine last night. Saved my life – they would have drunk me dry without it. Oh, hello.”

He pushed the basket into Nate’s arms and held out his hand to Steph, who was smiling brightly.

“Fergus Walsh, landlord of the Goose and Gander. I don’t believe we’ve met.”

“Steph Hopkins, nice to meet you.” She shook his hand. “The Goose and Gander? You have a very nice pub there, Fergus. You must be very proud.”

Nate looked on as Steph chatted. Fergus preened with every compliment and his face bloomed crimson with pride.

Was this what had happened with Terry? Had Steph flattered and charmed, all part of the job, before it turned into something more?

Could it happen again with someone else? Nate couldn’t get past the feeling that she could betray him again at any point.

Fergus left, a final glance over his shoulder at Steph as he went.

“It’ll take time,” Steph said, turning her attention back to Nate as easily as flicking a switch. “But we’ll get there. It’ll be how it was before, you, me and Cally.”

“Cally, yes,” Nate agreed, batting his thoughts aside. “She needs her mother.”

“And you need your wife,” Steph told him firmly, kneading his arm.

Nate shook her off.

“I needed her two years ago, but I’m not sure I need her now. For the time being let’s focus on Cally and giving her the two parents she deserves.”

“You need me, too,” Steph urged. “Don’t you?”

Alison Cook