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   Chapter 28 No.28

Bound By Julie Embleton Characters: 10147

Updated: 2018-02-11 12:02

Genna Clancy set her address book on the bar counter and flipped it open at the 'x' section. She didn't know a single person whose surname began with an 'x', 'y' or 'z' so scribbling her many lists in the tail-end of the little book made perfect, non-wasting-of-money sense. Determinedly clicking her pen, she leaned over the page and added the value of her latest pay cheque to the end of the column marked 'Money In'. In the neighbouring column, 'Money Out', she filled in her expenditure from the last couple of days; rent, food and her favourite magazine 'Catering World'. Betty Kirk, the owner of Kirk's Homestore, took delivery of it for her every month. And every time Genna went in to buy it, Betty would make a big deal of presenting it to her, still encased in its plastic wrapper. It made Genna feel obliged to offer gushing thanks, followed by Betty habitually commenting on how Genna might one day open her very own restaurant or hotel in their little town of Rochfort.

Adding up her columns, Genna pulled a face. If she didn't spend any money for the next three days she'd hit her monthly savings target. "I can go three days without solid meals, " she announced to the empty bar. "A girl can live on bar nuts alone. And I can suck on some lemon slices for Vitamin C. What more could I need?"

The inner door squealed on its hinges and her regular first customer of the day ambled in. Bob Kincaid had a newspaper tucked under his arm and he whipped it out to give Genna his customary salute as he made a beeline for his favourite table in the far corner.

"Good morning, Bob, " she waved back, closing her address book.

"Genevieve, " he greeted, insisting on using the version of her name she only ever heard when her mother was annoyed.

"What'll it be, Bob?" she called from behind her station, already dropping three ice-cubes into a tumbler.

"Let me see, " he called back in his tobacco-worn voice. "I think I'll have. . . a beer."

"One beer coming up, " she said, pressing the tumbler against the Scotch bottle optic.

"You know -, " he began, and she mouthed his words in tandem as the first measure of amber liquid splashed over the ice, "make that a Scotch instead."

"A single?" she asked, filling the glass with a second shot.

"Of course, " he replied, and then, "well. . . why not make it a double."

She placed the glass in front of him a moment later. He had his paper spread open on the table already and was peering over the rim of his glasses at the headlines. He'd sit there for the next hour and a half, work his way through three shots of Scotch - one double and then a single, cos, good God above, two doubles would be sinful at this hour of the day - and by the end she'd know exactly what was going on in the world. Which was of benefit, she told herself, aiming a swipe with her cloth at one of the table tops as she crossed back to the bar. With Bob reading out the contents of his newspaper to her every day she didn't need a TV or a radio. Yet another way in which she was able to save money.

The recital began and Genna allowed herself to slip into standby mode. It meant propping her butt on the shelf wedged between the sink unit and the decrepit glass washer, which wasn't the most comfortable perch, but a perfect spot from where she could see a strip of glass in the outer door while giving her feet a rest. If any customers, or her boss, Tony Black, happened to wander in, she'd have enough time to straighten up and look busy. Not that keeping Bob Kincaid in Scotch was going to keep her any way near busy, but she didn't want Tony wondering if he was paying her to wedge her butt on a shelf while she thought about being in places that weren't his bar in the sleepy town of Rochfort.

Bob read out a headline and loudly gave his own opinion on how no-one needed to be told how depressed the economy was; everyone was acutely aware of it. She agreed with the first of many automatic 'uh huh's' and allowed her mind to drift away, wondering what she had in her fridge that could provide a decent, cheap meal for dinner that evening. The irony of realising how she was living like a money-strapped student made her laugh quietly. It was her friends, Shaun and Tina, who had the right to moan about student life, not her, the one who was employed and renting her own place

"Good Lord. The price of oil is going through the roof, " Bob broadcast, taking a sip from his glass. "What is this world coming to?"

"Uh huh."

Shaun and Tina had escaped Rochfort last August and were now ensconced in college life, far, far away from her. She would have been with them only financial restraints held her firmly in place, and would continue to do so until the balance in her bank account had more zeros. Their Hospitality and Tourism course was what she longed to study too. Tina kept her informed on every little detail of their classes and the only time she'd properly felt like spitting with jealousy was when Tina had told her they were to take an eight week block in cookery after Christmas. Ge

nna's dream was to be the head chef in her own restaurant. While she served behind the bar in Black's, her duties also included cooking a daily lunch from the small kitchen out back. Three days a week, she also worked in the local retirement home as a general, do-a-bit-of-everything chef. What she served in Black's Bar and Willow Lodge wasn't what her dream menu would contain, but it was cooking, and she loved it, so for now, it would keep her sane.

She was lucky; she decided. Two well paid jobs within walking distance of her rented cottage was more than most people had. And if she stuck with her plan she'd be out of Rochfort before three years were up. Three years, she sighed, shifting to ease the pressure on where the counter edge dug into one hip. That was a long time. Would she still be sane after another three years of Bob's daily news reports, three years of the same old grind in Rochfort and Black's bar, three years of cooking food that wouldn't even make the front cover of '101 reliable dinners for those without teeth', and three years of counting every single coin that passed in and out of her bank account? Probably not, she decided, stretching over to grab a fistful of nuts. She'd be completely bonkers by then. But rich and bonkers - so that would make up for it.

A buzzing from somewhere below jerked her into sliding off the shelf. Scrambling through her bag she fished out her phone, smiling as she saw Tina's name flashing on the screen. "Hey Tina T!"

"Hey Genna C, how's you and your things?" Tina's voice greeted. "What's happening in Sleepyville?"

"Nothing and some more nothing. Tell me about you, what's going on there?"

"This is a quick hi. I've a lecture in five minutes, but I had to call you with some juicy news."

"Tell me, " Genna demanded, keeping her voice at a suitably respectable level.

"Shaun has a hot date tonight."

"No way!"

"Yes way! There's a guy in our accounting class, Stephen, who's been flirting with him. He asked him out last night."

"Does he seem nice? Is he decent?"

"I think so, I hope so."

"So do I. Aw, Tina, that's brilliant!"

"I know. Imagine; our little man Shaun is all grown up."

"Tell him to ring me with all the details tomorrow."

"I will, don't worry. He's already having a good melt down over what to wear."

Genna gave a sad sigh. "I wish I was there."

Tina blew a sigh too. "So do I. It's so unfair that we're here and you're not."

Genna made a noise of agreement.

"Did you think about talking to your mom again - or the bank?" Tina asked delicately.

"I don't want to put Mom under any pressure. You know, with everything that happened, it's - I -."

"No, sure, of course. I understand."

Genna glanced over her shoulder at Bob. He was shaking his head as he bent over the paper, his glass still half full.

"So, have you been doing anything besides working?" Tina wondered.

"Not really. I stayed with Mom last weekend, which was nice. She says hi."

"Tell her I said hi back."

"Actually, " Genna suddenly remembered, "it wasn't all nice. Wait 'til I tell you what happened. I took a walk into the forest on the Saturday morning. I didn't go far, " she assured Tina quickly, knowing how strangers were the only stupid enough people to wander deep into the forest hemming the edges of the massive mountain range that loomed over the town, "- but next thing I heard snapping twigs and when I turned around there was a massive wolf standing right behind me."

"Whoa, " Tina breathed. "Seriously?"

"I nearly peed my pants, " Genna said. "I swear to God this thing was huge."

"What did you do?"

"I freaked, " Genna replied. "I went to run, fell flat on my ass and ended up screaming."

"And what did it do?"

"It ran off."

"Bloody hell, Genna. That is not funny."

"I know! I was shaking so much when I got back to the house that Mom had to give me a brandy."

"Wow, " Tina said. "It's been years since I've heard of wolves coming that close to the town."

"I know, and it absolutely scared the life out of me."

"It's scaring the life out of me, " Tina said earnestly. "Promise me you won't go near the forest again."

"You needn't worry. I have no intention of going anywhere near it."

A muffled knocking sounded out from the background of wherever Tina was calling from, and a second later Genna could hear Tina's name being called. "Damn, I have to go, " Tina sighed. "I'm sorry. I'll call you later, though. Half eight okay?"

"Yeah, perfect. My shift in Willow Lodge ends at eight."

"Okay, talk to you then. Mind you and your things."

"You mind you and your things, " Genna replied back customarily. The line clicked dead and she closed the phone, glad to have chatted with Tina, but feeling the familiar tug of loneliness for her friends. "Shaun has a date, " she said to herself quietly, turning back around to slip her phone back in her bag. "Lucky guy, " she sighed. "I get stalked by a wolf and he gets a date."

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