Megan’s parents pay a visit to the cafe
It was mid-afternoon post-lunch rush when Mum and Dad turned up. Dad, a big burly man, immediately started his regular inspection walking round the café, peering at things and nodding. Mother came to the till where I was standing poking the touch screen buttons to bring up different displays as if I was busy and hadn’t noticed.
Mother flicked her dyed blonde curls over her shoulder, folded her manicured hands on the counter, and cleared her throat, delicately.
I looked up, a mask of innocence.
‘Mark tells me you left without giving him a chance,’ she said looking down at me as if I was still a small child. ‘How will you ever meet a man if you don’t put in the effort?’ She spread her hands. ‘Where will you find a decent one round here?’
I looked over my shoulder at Jimmy. He’d stopped in the middle of wiping down the counter and was giving her a dagger look. She didn’t even appear to have noticed his existence.
‘You can’t be a waitress for the rest of your life,’ she said, as if my voice was background noise. ‘How will you ever get a detached house and shop at John Lewis?’
I groaned. ‘I –‘
‘And a garden. Back and front.’
‘The possibility of a garden front and back isn’t worth having to put up with Mark from Marketing,’ I said. ‘All he did was talk about himself and -’
‘He has a lot of achievements worth mentioning.’ She sniffed. ‘Unlike some people.’ Her gaze flicked between me and Jimmy.
‘Janet!’ Dad snapped from the other end of the café.
The regulars from the old people’s home and the Am Dram society all looked at us as if we were an episode of a daytime soap.
‘Jimmy has –‘
‘Thirty-one and back doing the same job she did in university.’ She straightened the sleeves of her coat. ‘A complete lack of ambition.’
Behind the counter I flexed my fingers as if I was going to throttle her. ‘That was a pub.’
‘Pish-posh.’ She wafted her hand. ‘You’re a clever girl. You could go far if. You. Just. Applied. Yourself.’ She punctuated each word with a prod of acrylic nail against the counter.
Jimmy came out of the kitchen wiping his hands on a towel and stood beside me. ‘This place couldn’t run without Megan, she’s the best manager we’ve ever had.’
I slid him a sidelong look and suppressed a smile. It looked like I’d got an on the spot promotion, I wondered what benefits would come with it.
‘Managers make enough money they don’t have to live with their grandmothers, young man.’ She sniffed again. ‘When will you begin paying my daughter befitting her station?’
‘What?’ she said, with a false innocence that put my attempt to shame.
‘Your grandmother is rubbing off on you, madam.’ She bristled. ‘I certainly didn’t teach you to speak to your mother like that.’
‘No, you’ve taught to roll in my children’s place of work, have a go at their boss, and probably get them fired.’
‘She’s got you there, dear,’ Dad said, peering at the cake selection in the cooler.
She sniffed. ‘I merely want my children’s talents to be appreciated. Yours are not.’
Jimmy and I shared a look.
‘I don’t think it’s Jimmy not appreciating me,’ I said.
‘Well, you try to improve your children’s lot so they have it better than you and you get no appreciation.’ She clicked her tongue. ‘Look, at Rick. Think where you’d be now if you’d stayed with him.’
I stared at her.
‘That’s enough of that, Janet.’ Dad patted her arm.
‘I’m just saying I bumped into him a few weeks ago buying a very nice suit.’ She adjusted her bag strap. ‘Tailored.’
‘You told him where I was?’ I asked.
‘Well… I may have mention –‘
‘Don’t tell him anything about me, Mum. Don’t speak to him. Snub him, whatever, just don’t go telling him about me.’
Beneath the counter Jimmy squeezed my hand.
Her nostrils flared. ‘Don’t go blaming me for the fact you can’t keep a man.’
I jabbed my chest. ‘I left him.’
‘Perhaps if you’d been more forgiving –‘
‘Enough, Janet.’ Dad looked her straight in the eye. ‘Meg made the right choice for her.’
‘If it was up to you she’d marry…’ She waved her hand vaguely at Jimmy. ‘Some man with no money and terrible dress sense.’
‘It’s not up to us,’ he said. ‘Go to Lakelands and buy an avocado tool or something.’
‘Don’t patronise me, Jonathan.’ She flicked her hair over her shoulder and trounced towards the door. ‘I’ll be looking at the new Le Creuset kitchen range when you’ve finished lowering our daughter’s aspirations. If they can get any lower.’
Unfortunately, she didn’t try to slam the door behind her.
Dad sighed and squeezed the bridge of his nose. ‘Yes, dear.’ Under his breath he muttered, ‘God is testing me.’ He inhaled sharply and exhaled. ‘Can I get a slice of Victoria Sponge?’
Jimmy frowned at him.
‘With extra cream?’ I asked, getting my Victoria sponge café knife from its spot beside the cake stand.
‘Ooo, and tea.’
‘Aren’t you going to go after Mrs Donovan?’ Jimmy asked.
‘Nah, she’ll be perfectly happy for a good thirty or forty minutes.’ He leaned over the counter. ‘You wouldn’t happen to have a paper, would you?’
Jimmy passed Dad his paper from beside the till.
‘Bloody lovely.’ Dad took the paper and went to sit down.
‘What just happened?’ Jimmy whispered.
‘My mother.’ I sighed.
‘Are you alright?’
‘Nan says Mother is a “just-so person” and “ain’t none of us just-so enough”.’
He considered this in silence as I plated up Dad’s cake. There wasn’t much to be said about being a constant disappointment to your own mother. They did say you couldn’t please everyone but I suspected that wasn’t quite what they meant.
I leaned my hip against the side of the counter. ‘Don’t pay her any mind, you’re fucking sexy whatever you wear.’
He smiled at my potent combination of compliment and diversion. ‘For your sake I’d like to get on with your mother but I think she’s… not very nice.’
‘I wouldn’t bother, I leave the getting on with her to Bella.’
He leaned against the counter beside me. ‘Do you think I have achievements worth mentioning?’
I picked a piece of fluff off his jumper. ‘Many. And I’m proud of every one.’
He leaned in then glanced at me Dad frowning at the paper in the corner and retreated. ‘I feel the same about you.’
I picked up the tray with Dad’s order on. ‘Then I guess we’re all set.’
‘I guess so.’
I turned away to deliver the tea and cakes to Dad. I didn’t feel all set.
For more episodes of Take a Bite Cafe click here.