Those Summer Nights

By: Mandy Baggot
1





Southampton, England




‘I’ve bought something.’

Imogen Charlton’s breath caught in her throat, and her hand, under strain from a Gut Buster Breakfast Special, started to tilt forward. Baked beans swam their way to the edge of the plate. Her brother Harry’s statement had the café noises fading away. Local radio playing the latest from Olly Murs, banter from the truckers, fierce sizzling from the griddle in the kitchen and Old Joe’s bronchial cough – it all slipped into the distance as her brain caught up with the three-word sentence.

Steadying the plate, she looked her brother in the eye. It was a bloody boat. She knew it. A speedboat. Some hideously expensive Sunseeker he’d got for a bargain price from someone at the pub. She scrutinised him closer, wondering if she stared hard enough she might be able to see details of the purchase written on his face. How much money he’d thrown away. How many horsepower and what colour – the listing on eBay when it was confirmed a dud and not good for anything but parts.

‘Aren’t you going to ask me what it is?’ Harry asked in a sing-song tone.

Imogen came to, looking at the plate of sausage, bacon, egg and those watery beans on a slide. She tightened her grip on the china and brushed past Harry, heading for table five. Harry was hot on her heels like an eager, untrained puppy. If he started to pant they really were in trouble. Panting had happened before, just prior to him telling her he had bought a trailer tent.

‘Here we are, Brian, sorry about the delay.’ Imogen slid the plate onto the Formica table near the window in front of their resident hairy biker.

‘Out of Daddies here, darlin’.’ Brian held up the empty bottle of brown sauce.

Imogen smiled at her customer. ‘Can’t have a fry-up without Daddies. I’ll be right back.’ She about-turned, pushing stray strands of her blonde hair back into place and heading off to the kitchen.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw Harry’s smile drop. ‘Why do I get the distinct impression I’m being ignored?’ he asked, crossing his arms over his chest and looking affronted.

Imogen turned back to him, feeling bad. The sparkle in Harry’s blue eyes was fading, his floppy blond hair slightly losing its bounce. She wiped her hands down the front of her apron and forced an upbeat look. She was betting, if it wasn’t a boat, it was something in bulk. She still had a hundred bottles of antifreeze ‘capable of thawing Antarctica’ in her garage.

Harry’s smile was back and Imogen braced herself. Not a boat. Not a boat.

‘I’ve bought a restaurant.’

Be a boat. Be a boat. Her first urge was to thump Harry squarely in the chest to stop him saying anything else. He couldn’t be serious. It would be something else. A joke. Or maybe it was Lego. Yes, wasn’t he constructing something serious with Tristan? They’d done the Millennium Falcon and everything in between. Now maybe it was time for a building-brick Harvester.

‘Lovely,’ she said, swiping up two finished mugs from table two. ‘How many hours is that going to take to complete?’

Harry blew out a breath, his arms folding behind his head, hands on the back of his skull. ‘Wow, I don’t know.’ His abdomen expanded as he bent his torso back. ‘I mean, you can’t tell everything that’s involved from the pictures.’

Imogen nodded. ‘And the instructions are always pretty useless too.’

She watched Harry’s brow furrow. ‘Well, I have had a couple of really detailed emails.’

‘From Lego?’

‘What?’ Harry laughed.

Imogen grabbed a bottle of Daddies sauce from table two and held it tight in both hands. It wasn’t Lego. He’d said the word ‘restaurant’ and he really meant ‘restaurant’.

‘Like this place?’ Imogen asked, waving the sauce bottle to highlight the tables and chairs and people eating their way to heart disease.

‘Oh no,’ Harry said, shaking his head. ‘Not like this place.’

What did that mean? She didn’t know what to say next. Brian’s waving became frenzied and Imogen rushed over to table five and handed over the sauce with a quick apology.

Coming back she took Harry by his plaid shirt-covered arm and tugged him over to the serving hatch where more orders were waiting for her. The scent of deep-frying wafted through the opening as she pulled a white slip off the door.

‘Harry,’ she begged. ‘The other week you said you were thinking of starting a local club for fans of Castle.’

‘I might still do that.’ He looked sheepish. ‘Maybe in the winter.’

Imogen shook her head. ‘You can’t have bought a restaurant.’

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