Community Spirit – Episode 69

JEANNIE’S eyes darted around the bar as she and Tasha entered the Mucklebury Arms, but there was no sign of Steph.

Cally was reading a book by the unlit fire, and a couple were just finishing their drinks and leaving.

“Dad! Jeannie’s here!” Cally shouted, and Nate appeared in the door to the kitchen seconds later.

“Thanks very much. I’ll see you again,” he said cheerily to the departing couple, before coming around the bar and taking Jeannie’s hands.

He led her over to a bar stool and sat her down as Tasha and Cally started comparing video clips on their phones.

“Thank you so much for coming,” Nate said. “I wasn’t sure if you would.”

“I wasn’t sure I’d be welcome here,” Jeannie admitted, looking around.

“It’s OK, she’s gone,” he said. “And of course you are; you will always be welcome here. I mean, you are now. Not that you weren’t . . .” Nate stopped, flustered.

“So why did you ask Cally to ring Tasha?” Jeannie asked.

Nate blushed.

“In case you said no. I knew, between them, the girls would hatch a plot to get you over here. I’m sorry I didn’t give you a fuller explanation of what was going on at the time.

“And I’m sorry Steph was unkind to you when you came over here looking for me.”

“How do you know about that?”

“Cally overheard her talking to you, although she only told me about it this morning after her mother had left.

“Anyway, it’s all been rather complicated and I do need to explain it all to you, and probably apologise another thousand times, but she has definitely gone and won’t be coming back.”

“I do understand, you know,” Jeannie assured him. “It’s all about the girls. They must always come first.”

“You’re right,” Nate agreed, “but I think we forget sometimes they’re not girls any more. They’ve grown up, and don’t need us to make decisions for them quite as much as they used to.”

“That’s very true,” Jeannie admitted.

Nate looked a bit sheepish.

“I do have another motive for asking you over. There’s something else I need to clear up this evening.”

“Oh?” Jeannie raised her eyebrows.

“The brewery has decided to sell the pub. The area manager came last Monday and since then I’ve been putting off telling the reverend, Arthur and the others, as they’ve done so much to save the place and I feel like I’m letting them all down.”

“Of course you’re not!” Jeannie exclaimed. “No-one could have done more. You could have come in, done the bare minimum and then left, but you put your heart and soul into trying to save the pub.

“They’ll understand that. They’ve watched you live and breathe this place for the last six weeks.”

“I hope so.” Nate looked away. “I feel wretched about telling them, and they’ll be over in a while after Evensong. Would you be here with me when I tell them?”

“Of course I will,” Jeannie agreed, trying not to think about what this might mean.

Nate saw what she was feeling.

“And I’ve asked the area manager for somewhere local, so we’ll still be nearby,” he told her shyly. “If you’d like us to be . . .”

Jeannie blushed this time and Nate squeezed her hands even more tightly.

“Of course I would,” she said.

She told him about accepting the job at the bakery in town and that she had resigned from the Goose and Gander.

He asked her how Debbie and Fergus had taken it, but before she had a chance to answer the door opened and the Evensong crowd rolled in, in high spirits.

They were convinced they had done enough for the brewery to save the pub. Only Arthur was more guarded and looked intently at Nate but stayed silent.

Nate served up drinks and tried to avoid the many expectant glances. Jeannie sat on the bar stool, and Cally and Tasha watched from over by the fireplace.

“Well, come on, lad, don’t keep us waiting,” the major demanded. “What news do you have?”

Alison Cook