‘Where’s the rest?’
‘I paid nearly nine quid for this!’
The school-aged waitress wrung her gloved hands.
‘That’s just how it comes.’
‘Well it’s a rip-off! I could make it myself for a quid! What we got? Half an overripe avocado; a few shreds of cheap-ass chicken. The lettuce is just padding—and even that’s limp.’
‘I’ll have to speak to my manager if you’d like to make a complaint,’ she mumbled, slinking off.
Tim eyed up Caroline’s rib-eye, then peered over her left shoulder. Everton had equalised with a Richarlison header. Not that the fans cheered, because there weren’t any.
The shift manager approached wearing a puzzled expression, his flimsy face visor splattered with red sauce at the bottom. He looked like he belonged in A&E.
‘My colleague Jackie informed me that you’re not entirely satisfied with your meal. Is there anything I can do?’
‘Wouldn’t say no to a complimentary dessert,’ grinned Tim.
Tim’s custard-swamped apple pie was ceremoniously delivered by the manager himself and placed beside his abandoned salad. Caroline was still attacking her cold steak with a blunt knife. Mid-slice, she sighed and slumped back, a dab of gravy browning her lower lip. Shoving her plate away, she reached for her flute of pink gin and drained it.
‘Don’t s’pose you saw the toilets? All these places look the same; they’re never where you expect ’em.’
Tim jerked his head to the left, his eyes refusing to stray from the big-screen TV mounted behind her. Fulham had regained the lead with a twenty-yard overhead kick from Kamara. Tim needed the toilet, too, but the multi-angled replay won out. His custard was still steaming. He followed in Caroline’s footsteps a minute later, receiving a cold stare from a pint-hugging pensioner at a tiny table near the bar.
Retrieving it from his pocket, Tim stretched it on, only to bump into someone as he rounded a dark corner. The man muttered something inaudible and strode off before Tim thought to apologise. Beyond a triple-stepped drop, a carpeted corridor split: left for men, right for women. But there was a queue. Tutting, Tim backtracked, taking the corner wide, aiming for an unmanned door that fed into the car park. Caroline beat him back to their table, kneading sanitiser into her palms.
‘Didn’t see you in the queue when I came out.’
‘I watered the hyacinths instead.’
‘Animal,’ she said, her thin lips twitching.
Oblivious, Tim plunged his spoon into the custard, ladling it over the pie. Its sugar-lashed crust was slightly burnt: his mum’s speciality. He proceeded to guillotine the triangular slice into minuscule chunks, whisking them into the custard, clockwise then anticlockwise. He wondered if the Coldplay song ‘Yellow’ had been inspired by Devon’s finest export.
‘Want some?’ he asked, re-establishing eye contact, his heaped spoon in flight.
Later, staggering into their bedroom, Caroline yanked Tim towards her. Undressing him as he swayed with half-closed eyes, she probed between his legs, expectant.
She couldn’t help but snigger. ‘Where’s the rest?’