Molly sat hunched opposite him, her face hidden behind long blonde hair, the smell of cheap bacon a nasty tenant in her nostrils. He rested on his elbows, raisin eyes fierce in a doughy face, a giant above her – angry being with her, angry she couldn’t stem the tears, angry she couldn’t open the top off the brown sauce. She glanced at the doorway to the way out of this greasy spoon, just a quick look, in case he read her thoughts and ripped out her spinal cord. She fiddled with the little teddy bear pendant on her necklace.
Steph mopped the same bit of yellowed tile for the third time. She’d ridded it of grease ten minutes ago but this pair, a big man and his daughter, had come in just as she’d buried the work day in a concrete pit. Phil, alone at another table, didn’t have much left on his plate, though by the look of his sad soppy eyes he had something on his mental dish. Did it really take him this long to finish?
She’d had to reach into the bin for the sad bacon which she’d thrown out because it wouldn’t last the night. Ah well, she’d have to wait a little longer to hit the town for the start of the weekend’s manhunt.
Still, look at that poor little poppet. I bet her pet has died or something.
Steph is so lovely Phil could have hung her on the wall and stared at her all night. Brunette hair high in a palm tree that swayed every time the door opened to a gust of wind. But she danced with the stupid mop and made eyes at the only other occupied table. She must be daft. Phil comes in here more times than is healthy for his ticker and she still doesn’t have a clue why. Well, she should.
Maybe she does. She wants a man. A man must seize the moment and ask her straight out. She’d like that. But … what if she says no? For God’s sake, Phil wished this dad and daughter would bugger off so he didn’t have an audience to his humiliation.
Why couldn’t she just escape from him? He’s not that fast. His jaw wobbles with every slow step he makes and his breath rasps and wheezes enough to scare a doctor. He’d never catch her and she’d be in London by the time he made it to the door. Molly blew her nose on a serviette and tried to open the bottle top again. Not that she wanted to eat. He snatched it from her, his nostrils flared, his pupils became tiny dots.
“Don’t get snot all over it, for God’s sake.” He slammed it on the table and hunched into his shoulders, the devil in his examination of her.
Molly’s eyes wandered to see who took note of her predicament. The waitress’s lips puckered in sympathy, and the man over there had put the same woman on some kind of pedestal.
Steph held the mop over the same tile but the swish had gone clean out of her. The poor poppet cried over more than a dead pet. Steph had a fish that died once. She never cried like this. Big, silent, heaving sobs and sniffles? Never.
The girl was such a delicate thing and her dad was a giant. A brute. Eyes so cold, grey, and tight they must have seen the inside of a prison wall. He looked nothing like the girl. Steph’s grip on the mop loosened and it whopped against the hard floor. She ran a dozen pictures of missing girls she’d seen on Facebook through her mind.
God, Steph looked an angel with worry on her face. Phil followed where her attention led once he’d recovered from the flinch caused by the whop of the mop against the tiles. The dad and daughter didn’t like the food? Ingrates. The girl had never stopped crying. Her big beast of an old man had frozen. Embarrassed? Caught out by something?
Phil gripped the table at some realization. Steph eyed the man with suspicion. That’s why she’d dropped the mop. Phil had had some romantic notion Steph realised his love for her, but no – the man’s so big and the girl’s so small, they cannot possibly be related. Which means … If Phil could rescue the girl, then what a man he’d be for a woman like Steph to fall into his arms.
Molly locked the burgeoning smile tight behind her hair. The two adults had seen her plight and they moved as cheetahs on the prairie. They only needed to pounce. This would teach the big man.
Steph wondered why Phil came over like that. He’d already paid. His face had a sheen, red as the ketchup by his plate she’d have to bloody well clean. Hang on … he had the same suspicion. His eyebrows arched, his lips had turned into a cold thin line, his head nodded to the man they stood beside. Steph wished he wouldn’t make it all so obvious, but her lip twitched. She had an ally in Phil.
Steph’s lips moved up. Up, up and away. For him. She saw in him an ally and she’s grateful. Phil would get this kid away from the ape, see her off to social services, and Steph would invite him into her knickers for the weekend. He wouldn’t need fancy words of courtship or any of that nonsense – action is the ticket. Thank you, ape, for coming in here today.
Molly’s hands shook so much the bottle of brown sauce almost flew out of her hand and smashed on the floor. The two adults had taken their place. The big man sat opposite had set his eyes so hard on her he couldn’t swivel them to her rescuers. Molly parted her hair, blue eyes magnified by the tears, and whispered to the strangers, “Help me?”
The big man heard her, couldn’t quite believe his ears, and slapped his hands on the table. Molly thrust the bottle to-and-fro towards him so brown sauce splattered his face, made big brown buttons of his eyes, and had him growling at the vinegary sting.
“You little …”
Molly scraped the chair backwards and tilted away from the man’s swipe.
Oooh, the poor little dear. Steph jumped back at the man’s climb into the thick, violent air. She squinted up, sure she could see the crackle of lightning by his head. Phil stood half-a-foot shorter, she doubted he could manage a beast like this. She snatched the mop from the floor and hit the big man’s knees hard while the brown sauce distracted him.
His yell shook the pans in the back, she was sure of it. She hit him again while Phil slammed a fist into the man’s ribs. He fell and Phil jumped on his big, whale-like torso. Steph pulled the kid into her bosom and hid her face there. She’d been through enough.
Every punch took Phil closer to Steph’s lips. He could feel them on his, already – soft, wet, eager. The man waved his arms about a bit, but Phil got through the gaps until the man’s arms flopped by his side. Phil stopped, a hard-on bulging his jeans. Shifted to hide it from Steph. Caught his breath. He checked his shoulder, proud at the admiration which beamed right off the woman he loved.
The woman’s big boobs provided a bit of comfort but Molly pushed away to prevent suffocation. Molly leaned over the big man, satisfied at the swirls of red mixed in with the brown. She barked a “ha” and pointed at him.
Phil wiped his red hands on the man’s jacket, relieved his ardour had retreated into its shell. Steph had called the police and now rubbed a hand up and down his back when he stood up. She leaned in. So warm. So soft. All those months of fattening his body and jamming his veins with cholesterol had been worth it. All he’d need to do now is ask her out to dinner.
He opened his mouth, thrilled at the words which sat on his tongue ready to leap off and sweep her off her feet. The kid filled the air before him.
“Good. Good. I’m glad you’re hurting. You’re the worst dad, ever. Just because I stole a lousy fiver. Who cares about a fiver? I needed it. You can’t take my phone away for a lousy rotten fiver you big lump of useless lard.”
Phil tracked between the girl and the man. The little red bubbles which came out his nose ballooned and popped, ballooned and popped. Phil turned to Steph. She let him go, backed away, and Phil saw his chance pop the same way.
Bio Jason Beech is a Sheffield native, New Jersey resident — writes crime fiction. His coming-of-age crime drama City of Forts was described as “tense, atmospheric, and haunting” by UK crime writer Paul D. Brazill. You can buy Jason’s work from Amazon and read his work at Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey, Close to the Bone, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Punk Noir Magazine, and Pulp Metal Magazine.His next novel, Never Go Back, is out in late 2019.