He saw her bicycle leaning against the backyard wall. He checked the time. He wasn’t late, anyway. He tied on his apron, hoping to slip into the bar without being seen.
‘Still work here then?’ Juan was grinning at him.
‘Why wouldn’t I?’
Juan went back to butterflying sardines, whistling tunelessly as he worked.
No sign of Gloria in the kitchen. Dave took a deep breath, as he pushed the door into the bar.
The usual early afternoon crowd. Malcolm and Sarah looked up from their All Day Breakfast. ‘Turned out nice again.’ Malcolm’s regular joke. If it’s not funny the first time, Dave thought. A local Spanish couple enjoying a white Rioja with their fish, some teenagers playing table football, a few customers outside on the pavement.
Where Gloria was, taking an order. A couple in neatly ironed clothes with pale skin: first day of their holiday. As she lifted her head towards the doorway, Dave dropped his eyes and made a show of wiping down the bar. If he just acted normal then maybe nothing would change.
Wiping towards the till, he noticed the fliers were missing. His adverts for Dave’s Gardening Service were always there. He moved behind the bar to look for them.
‘A cappuccino and a glass of red, table three,’ Gloria walked through to the kitchen. No smile, Dave noted. But she hadn’t fired him.
He delivered the drinks, subconsciously tracking Gloria, as the couple quizzed him about life in Spain. When he got away from them, he went to the kitchen.
‘Juan, have you seen my fliers.’
Juan just grinned and pointed to the Spanish sign: ‘Don’t forget to recycle.’
Dave muttered ‘Judas’ and opened the box for paper recycling. There were his fliers, crumpled on top of yesterday’s newspapers. He’d blown it. All this time working for Gloria and keeping his feelings in, gone in a moment of drunken idiocy. He couldn’t even stay away on his night off. That idiot Juan kept topping up his glass and saying, ‘Tell her, Man. Just tell her.’
Dave had taken Gloria’s hand and looked, or tried to, into her eyes as he opened his heart. All she said was, ‘Take him home, Juan.’ And that traitor had giggled all the way.
‘Gloria dumped my fliers?’
‘No, Man, it was me. Just a joke.’
Pepe walked in. They never worked the same shift. If Gloria wanted Pepe that meant she was sacking Dave. He took off his apron and headed for the door.
‘And where do you think you’re going, Hombre?’ That cool, dark voice. His legs melted. He turned.
‘Listen, Gloria, I’m really sorry about last night. But I just want you to know, drunk as I was, I meant every word.’
‘Pepe, you’re in charge. David, I’m taking you out to lunch. Juan, close your mouth before you swallow a fly.’
She pulled him through the door before he could make sense of anything. He heard Juan’s giggle: ‘I told you, Man.’