Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Five Dates: American-Style Cheesecake

This week I'm sharing a short story series inspired by The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts.
You can read on for part one here
Part Two:

‘I’m a carer,’ Natalie told her date as her fork slipped through the creamy, vanilla-flavoured filling of her cheesecake. ‘I work out in the community, helping people with their meals, shopping and … other things. It isn’t very glamorous, and the pay is pretty crap, but I enjoy it and I feel like I’m making a difference. What do you do?’
She popped the fork into her mouth, trying not to moan with pleasure. Bloody hell, this was good! This cheesecake was worth getting dressed up for, worth wriggling into the unyielding tummy-and-arse-control pants, worth the awkwardness of speed dating. Of dating in general.
‘I’m a busker,’ Jay, her date for the next thirteen-and-a-half minutes or so, told her through a mouthful of cheesecake. ‘I sing and play guitar in town, usually outside Boots. Until the cops move me on.’ He grinned at Natalie and she tried not to notice the bits of biscuit base stuck to his teeth.
‘Are you any good?’
Jay shrugged and shovelled another forkful of cheesecake into his mouth. ‘I suppose. I make enough cash to keep me in weed.’
‘Oh. Good for you.’ Natalie surreptitiously swiped at her chest, brushing away the damp bits of biscuit base that had taken a trip over from her Jay’s mouth. ‘What about other bills?’
Jay gave a one-shouldered shrug. ‘Don’t have any. I live with my mum. She pays for everything.’
Not new clothes, evidently. Jay was wearing a pair of ancient, saggy jeans and a holey T-shirt. It was nice to see he’d gone to so much effort that evening. Natalie’s insides were being slowly crushed by the control pants she’d wrestled herself into – the least Jay could have done was put on a half-decent set of clothes.
‘What did you say your name was?’ Jay, having finished his cheesecake, licked his finger and ran it along the plate, collecting the crumbs left behind.
‘Natalie.’ She tried not to sigh, but she’d told him less than two minutes ago.
Jay tilted his head to one side, observing her through narrowed eyes. ‘What school did you go to? St. Joseph’s?’ Natalie shook her head, opening her mouth to answer but Jay got in there first. ‘Never mind. I could have sworn I shagged you at the leaver’s do. Must have been a different Nicola.’
‘My name’s Natalie.’
Jay shrugged and placed the crumby finger in his mouth. ‘Whatever. Wasn’t you.’
This guy was charming. She couldn’t wait to tell Gina and Jade that signing her up for the speed dating evening hadn’t been a waste of time at all.
‘Are you going to finish that?’ Jay jabbed his fork towards her cheesecake. She hadn’t touched it since her initial mouthful, convinced it had been showered with Jay’s crumbs and spittle. It wasn’t so appetising now that thought had entered her head.
‘I’m not really hungry.’ She placed her fork down on the side of the plate carefully, making sure it didn’t clatter. The other participants were engrossed in their own dates but she didn’t want to draw any attention to herself.
‘I’m starving.’ Jay reached over and took the plate, setting it down on top of his own – with a clatter – and proceeded to dig in heartily. He barely paused for breath as he hoovered the dessert from the plate. Natalie sat in silence while he ate, not wanting to invite another cheesecake spray, mentally planning her evening once she managed to escape. She’d try and catch Gina and Jade in the pub and tell them to never, ever set her up like this again. After a well-earned drink or two, she’d go home and catch up on Corrie and Gogglebox. Her evening wouldn’t be a complete flop.
She may have become a little stuck in her ways since the break-up with Hugh.
‘Cheers for that.’ Having finished the dessert, Jay threw his fork down before raising his arms into the air for an overly vocal stretch. Natalie spotted another hole in his T-shirt, right in the middle of his left armpit. ‘That was good cheesecake.’
Yes, Natalie thought bitterly as she looked across at her empty plate. It had been.
 ‘So, Jay.’ She decided to give him another chance, to prove there was more to him than grubby T-shirts and sponging off his mum. ‘What do you like doing when you’re not busking?’
He pushed both sets of plates away and shrugged. ‘Not a lot. I like a good smoke. And women.’ He winked at Natalie and she fought hard to keep her lip from curling. ‘The footie, obviously, and the pub.’
‘Which pubs do you go in?’ Natalie hoped he didn’t frequent any of her locals. If the date continued on this dire path, she’d be forced to avoid them. ‘Any from round here?’
Jay shook his head. ‘Nah. Barred from most of them.’
‘Right.’ Natalie wasn’t sure what else to say about that. She could ask the reasons for the bans, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to know the details.
‘We could go for a drink after this,’ Jay said. ‘I think I can get in The Starr now it’s under new management.’
Shit. The obvious answer was no, but Natalie was far too polite to turn him down so blatantly. She was the kind of girl who listened to hours and hours of spiel from doorstep salesmen. The kind who signed up for catalogues and dodgy-sounding charities and monthly draws while shopping on the high street.
‘I can’t really hang around,’ she said with an apologetic shrug. ‘I have plans.’
Jay shrugged and pressed a finger onto the tablecloth, picking up a tiny crumb. ‘Fair enough. Guess it’s just me and …’ He frowned and looked across at the neighbouring table, where he’d spent his previous date. ‘That one.’
‘You’ve already made plans?’ Charming!
‘It’s only a drink. It’s not a date or anything.’ He looked across at the table again. ‘You don’t know her name, do you? She’s proper fit. Don’t want to offend her by admitting I’ve forgotten it already.’
Thankfully the bell rang, signalling the end of the date. Jay scraped back his chair and headed for the next poor woman. He had a hole in the arse of his jeans.
 Part One   | Part Two   | Part Three | Part Four  | Part Five
About The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts

From fairy cakes to first dates!

Maddie Lamington’s dreams are crumbling around her. If she doesn’t come up with a plan to save her little teashop on Sweet Street soon, it might be too late…

So when she sees how the perfect apple crumble brings together her lonely father and faithful customer Birdie, inspiration strikes: she’ll set up a dating night involving all her sweetest bakes.

Luckily, seriously gorgeous Caleb is on hand to help sprinkle a little magic – and a lot of sugar! Could one night of scrumptious first dates fix Maddie’s heartbreak and save her beloved teashop, too?

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