Jasmine stood in the queue. Five people deep. Tommy could see her as he worked the
counter. His finger raised to signify
his readiness for the next order of Sunday roast or Saturday morning fry. Mrs Dinnegan was next. His hands moved at speed, his head down inside
the cabinet before she'd even pointed to the stainless steel dish, packed deep
with redness, or called the number she required. He grasped her slippery choices with claw
like precision. She bought for the
week. Two of everything. Pork chops, chicken breasts, steaks, chicken
marylands and sausages. That one always
baffled him. There was no way Reggie
Dinnegan would be happy with one sausage on his plate. But it wasn't for him to question the whys
and wherefores of the households on Battery Row. If he hurried he might get to Jasmine
first. He knew that order too. From where he bent, he eyed her ladybird rain
coat, and the tails of her plaited hair; tied up to perfection with one yellow
and one pink bobbin.
He smiled at her as she took her turn. Standing on tiptoe, she reached over the glass arc of the counter to put the message down. He wiped his hand on his red striped apron before taking it lightly. Not marking or creasing it any more than necessary; after, he'd put it with the rest.
'How's all in number 54?' He asked.
'Mam and Dad well?'
'Right so, what do we have today?'
½ pound of streaky
½ pound rindless
He looked down at the handwriting, not even reading what it said, but moving his lips, pretending at the words. He thought about Rachel's hand and how it's slenderness would have held the pen. He thought about the sleeve she might have pushed up to give her the freedom of movement. He thought about her arm and imagined the muscle's curve as her fingers created the letters.
'Right you be.' He said, lifting the tail of his white coat, placing the note in his jeans' pocket.
He moved along the counter, taking his time, letting the other lads pass before slotting into position and bending his body in search of the juiciest, fullest pieces. The earthy smell of the fresh cut meat reached deep inside him as he wondered whether her hand still shook. He had seen her in Kerrigan's last night with Derek sitting up at the counter. Him as loud as ever, with his big laugh and that 'what are you lookin' at head. Opposite, her painted blue nails tapped at her glass, the slice of lime bobbing like a buoy in choppy waters.
'What d'fuck's wrong with you?' he heard Derek ask her.
'Nothin' I'm grand. I just want to get back. Bernice can't stay long.'
'Can a man not have a drink in peace of a Friday?' Her hand shook as she curled that strand of long black hair behind her ear. She saw Tommy watching her, brave as you like he held her stare. Derek noticed her distraction and began to turn to see who'd caught her eye. But she pulled at his arm and kissed him full force on the mouth. Kissed that drunken bollocks, like she loved him. He watched Derek push her toward the door, thinking he was on a promise. But before she left, she glanced back to Tommy just long enough for him to see her cheek grow red and bright.
He handed over the white plastic bag to Jasmine and she pushed the rolled up tenner over the counter.
'Ah no love, you're Mammy paid me already, you're grand.'