Warning: Contains sexual references
Jimmy gets some bad news from The Council
By the time I finished filling the dishwasher with the last load of dishes Jimmy was sitting at the little desk in the backroom frowning at his laptop, the screen reflected small scale in the lens of his reading glasses.
When he noticed me standing in the doorway, he closed the laptop, leaned back, and stretched. ‘Want to talk?’
I tucked my hands in my pockets. ‘Looks like someone else needs to talk. That was your serious trouble frown.’
‘It’s nothing,’ he said.
‘The day Jimmy Levine lets it show something’s bothering him is the day it really is.’ I shrugged. ‘If you don’t want to tell me that’s fine, you can say.’
‘It’s not…’ He sighed and rubbed his face. ‘We need to talk about Rick and your mother.’
‘I used to do that.’ I pushed the laptop back, perched on the desk, and rested my feet on either side of his legs. ‘Stick my troubles in a box and ignore them to focus on other people’s.’
He rolled his chair closer and cupped the backs of my legs. ‘Isn’t that what you’re trying to do now?’
‘No, you know what’s up with me, you’ve acknowledged it and offered help. You’re supporting me.’ I put my elbows on my knees and leaned towards him. ‘Saying you haven’t got a problem until it becomes too much of a problem because you’re putting everyone else first isn’t the same.’
He smiled and kissed me softly.
I ran my fingers through his hair and rested my forehead against his. ‘We’ll get through it together, Jimmy.’
He sighed, picked up a letter from the corner of the desk, and passed it to me. ‘It’s too many things together.’
I picked it up and scowled at the letter. Whoever wrote it didn’t have ‘dyslexic friendly’ or grammar in their lexicon. It was a perplexing mix of jargon, numbers, and total bollocks. ‘What’s it about, exactly?’
‘They’ve hiked the business rates.’ He sighed and rested his forehead against my knee poking through the hole in my jeans. ‘I don’t know how we’re going to afford it.’
My heart stuttered.
‘We’ll have to reduce costs, or put up prices, or get more customers, or…’ He squeezed my legs. ‘I don’t know what we’ll do.’
I put the letter down like it might explode. ‘I’ll help you.’
He raised his head and rested his chin on my knee. ‘How?’
‘I don’t know.’ I stroked his hair. ‘We’ll think of something.’
He pressed his face to my thigh. ‘Mum loves this place, she left me in charge and I’m going to lose it.’
‘It’s not going to happen.’ I rubbed his back. ‘We’ll find a way.’
He inhaled sharply and hugged my leg. I kissed the back of his head and kissed him until he ran out of tears.
Jimmy wouldn’t lose the café. It couldn’t happen.
I had no idea what to do.
He drew away and wiped his face on his hands. ‘Sorry, that was…’ He shook his head and cleared his throat.
‘Better out than in.’ I tilted my head to the side. ‘Much like vomiting.’
He chuckled faintly and dug about in the top draw for tissues. ‘I can apply for a reduction but that’s…’ He shook his head, it was mercy of the gods’ stuff.
‘Well, that’s one thing.’ I picked up a pencil and dug about amongst the papers on the desk for a blank sheet. I found a piece of cardboard from a box of pickled onion Monster Munch that would do and wrote a note about the reductions on the top. ‘Set up some social media accounts and a website. People like food porn photos.’
‘We’re a café, not a Michelin restaurant.’ He blew his nose.
‘Trust me, if it looks good people don’t care.’ I smiled. ‘Maybe I should put you in the picture with holding it with your sleeves rolled up but it might count as real porn.’
‘With my dad jumpers and my hairline beating a hasty retreat?’
I ran my fingers through his hair and kissed the widening gap that was his parting. ‘I like your hair.’
‘You might be biased.’
I suppressed a smile. ‘You spend all day getting ogled by old ladies and mums from toddler groups and you wonder if people would want you in a photo?’
‘It’s not the same.’
‘Trust me, babe.’ I caressed his face. ‘Every time you pull up your sleeves it’s dangerous for the man attracted population.’
He licked his lips and glanced away.
‘Male forearms are deadly weapons.’ I poked his shoulder. ‘Fact.’
He touched his forehead to mine. ‘Sometimes you know just the thing to make me feel better.’
‘Nan once told me whether it was a man’s ego or his balls just give ‘em a good stroke and he’ll do whatever you want.’
He snorted and shook his head.
‘You’re right I should put your face near my vagina and you’ll be happy as Larry.’
He laughed. ‘Is that an offer?’
‘Maybe later.’ I kissed the tip of his nose. ‘I can dust off my arty skills for graphics. Maybe make some flyers –‘
He kissed me, hand cupping my cheek, stubble scratching, coffee on his lips. I wrapped my arms around his neck and shifted to his lap.
He broke away and nuzzled my cheek. ‘You’re amazing.’
‘I’m a little ball of chaotic energy that occasionally has moments of wisdom.’ I kissed him softly. ‘But I’ll take amazing.’
He gently pulled the tie from my hair and gathered it over one shoulder. ‘Maybe we should put you in the pictures.’
‘The world just isn’t ready.’ I wiped the shadow of lipstick from round his mouth with my thumbs. ‘Trust me, sexy men who cook are a big hit.’
‘Oh, you think I’m sexy?’
‘You know I do.’
The delivery bell rang.
‘Are we expecting a delivery?’ I asked.
‘No.’ He kissed my neck. His phone started ringing in his back pocket. ‘Hang on.’ He shifted to prise it out from underneath us. ‘Dan?’ Jimmy’s younger brother. ‘I’ll let you in.’ He sighed and tucked the phone in his back pocket.
‘Meeting adjourned?’ I lifted myself off his lap onto the desk, careful to avoid sitting on his laptop.
‘Afraid so.’ He got up and gave me a quick kiss. ‘I feel much better.’
He flipped me the middle finger as he headed out to let Dan in.
‘Ouch,’ I called after him, grinning.
I hopped off the desk, checked my reflection and wiped away smudges of lipstick but most of it was still where it was meant to be.
The sound of traffic heading home after a long day intensified and Dan asked, ‘What were you doing?’
‘Accounts,’ Jimmy said.
I was collecting my things when Dan stuck his head round the door. ‘Heading out? I’ve never seen you with your hair down, looks nice.’ Dan radiated ‘nice guy’ with his big grin, smart but casual suits, and thick mane of black hair. I’d never seen him out of a suit and I’d never seen Jimmy in one, I’d seen him out of everything, and very damn nice it was.
I cleared my throat. ‘I might start thinking you’re flirting.’
He winked. ‘Only if you want me to.’
Jimmy appeared behind him and gave the back of Dan’s head a dagger look.
I shook my head to suppress a smile. ‘I’d better be off.’
Dan pulled a bottle of vodka out of his bag. ‘Stay, I have alcohol and cards, if you have money.’
‘I don’t play.’
‘We’ll teach you.’
Jimmy cleared his throat. ‘If Meg doesn’t want to stay don’t force her.’
I glanced at him. ‘Let me text my nan and move my bike round the back.’
‘No cheating,’ I added.
Dan put his hand over his heart. ‘On my honour. I’ll even sleep on the couch and let you have the spare room if it’s too much.’
I tutted. ‘If I turn up at work hungover my boss might fire me.’
‘I’m sure he’ll be understanding,’ Jimmy said.
I bumped his chest with my fist. ‘He better be.’
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