by Andrew Foote
When I woke the following morning, Aruno had dressed and I could hear the rattle of bottles so presumably he was doing the cellar.
My watch showed eight o'clock so I roused myself then noticed a mug of hot coffee on the bedside table together with a note.
'Bottling up. I think you need much sleep my Mimi-cu!'
What's with this Mimi-cu gig? I must remember to ask him again.
I dressed and made my way downstairs.
"Hey? How long have you been out of bed? I mean all the bottling up's been done, the empties put outside and the place looks immaculate!"
"Dawn. My usual waking hour. I have taken a swim, been for a walk then when I got back, a man gave me these for you."
"Newspapers for our shop. Thank you.
Are you hungry?"
"No. I ate earlier. You have really tasty fish in your lagoon!"
"Lagoon? What lagoon?"
"Where you keep your boat. Is that not a lagoon?"
"A harbour but lagoon works for me!
What fish did you catch?"
"I'm not sure. They were quite small but they make a fine breakfast. I have some left over, they're in the pail if you want to see?"
"I think I'd better."
"Sprats and you said they're okay to eat? I think I'll take the scrambled eggs on toast option!
How did you cook them?"
I made a small fire on the sand then skewered the fish to a sharp piece of wood and roasted them."
"Yes, alive. It is the best way. Better taste."
"I have no idea why but all of a sudden, I'm not hungry anymore!"
"Not very alive when I ate them! I think very dead. You should try them."
"Whatever. Perhaps another time…… maybe!"
"What do we do now?"
"I don't know. Normally I drag myself out of bed and have do everything myself and by the time I was finished, it was time to open so I'm not sure."
"Can you play that piano?"
"Yeah but don't expect me to sing."
"Play to me then?"
I sat myself down and studied the keyboard.
It had been ages since I had either the time or the inclination to do something like this.
I had shown an aptitude for music when I went up to Cambourne High but rather than piano, I went for brass and even if I do say so myself, I was a pretty good cornetist and went on to play E flat Soprano and latterly I bought myself a trumpet but after having played in an orchestra, solo playing became boring and I gave up.
I took up piano but I couldn't get my head around two staves of written music so I'm self-taught. I could bang out tunes and songs which got our customers roused on winter nights. End of story.
"So what would you like to hear?"
"Anything. You choose but maybe something lively?"
I whacked out a couple of Scott Joplin's stuff then turned to some things Jon Mayall had recorded years before I was born but it was a genre my Father loved so I used to play them for him – sort of honky-tonk blues and I started to feel a bit emotional.
Aruno had his eyes closed which gave me the chance to study him again which didn't help matters so I went for broke and played my absolute and 110% favourite piece of music – Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata in D.
On reflection, perhaps electing to play something so moving wasn't my best idea ever as I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. It fitted my mood, that of adoration for this boy standing behind me, those unspoken feelings I held for him and the guilt I felt as a result. He was fourteen and me seventeen, yet I wanted to spirit him away to a place where we could be together without worrying about critical outside eyes.
I knew Aruno had feelings for me. He'd kissed me, not with a sense of urgency but rather one of intimacy and dare I say it, love. I don't even think it was a kiss that suggested any sexual innuendos, it was a kiss that I hoped said I love you, not Take me to bed.
I finished playing and turned to see him looking at me with his own emotions clearly on display. He wiped a tear from his eyes then with the same finger, wiped one from mine and gently wet my lips before doing the same again but this time, wetting his own before leaning into me for another kiss.
"That, Mimi-cu, is powerful medicine in my village. You will understand. Not now, but later."
We were snapped out of the moment by a rap on the front door.
"What's keeping you Simeon? Five past eleven and we're in need of beer and lots of it!"
A normal Saturday and it was manic-busy.
I left Aruno to sort out the initial rush and made my way through to the kitchen where Cathy was hard at work prepping up food.
"I didn't hear you arriving? How long have you been here?"
"About twenty minutes ago. You were at the piano and I didn't like to disturb you.
"Busy sorting drinks for the early birds. I was playing for him…… he asked if I would."
"Did he ask you to cry for him too?"
"What? No of course he didn't and anyway, what makes you think I've been crying?"
"'Cos you look as if you've been watching back-to-back episodes of Gathering Storm, that's why. No shame, honest."
"Never heard of it."
"You're too busy working when it's on but I reckon it's aired to encourage us girls to go reaching for the tissues at every turn, in fact it would surprise me if Kleenex weren't sponsoring it so as to increase sales.
I'm a lot of things but stupid passed me by so why don't you tell him Simeon?"
"Tell him what!"
"Oh for fuck's sake! Tell him that you love him!
Look. Sit down for a moment and I'll try to explain.
With Sam, everything is black or white. He isn't like us in as much as he questions the correctness or otherwise of his feelings and intuitions because that's how he used to survive. He'd have to make snap judgements, kill or be killed, cross that river or wait, trust that person or walk away, he lived life through instinct, survived on his wits, so no shades of grey, either he did something or he didn't.
He's told me how he feels towards you and under different circumstances, he might've told you himself but remember that comment you made the day you met him? How he should be more circumspect? He learns very quickly and for him, that was lesson number one about how to conduct himself here. The long and the short of it? He believes that it isn't like the Done-Thing to tell you.
Oh – and one other thing. I know what Mimi-cu means and much as I love you as my closest and dearest friend, a Mimi-cu you are not!"
Where is my Mother when I need her!
That had been the busiest Saturday I'd ever witnessed and how we managed to cope amazed me.
Aside from local trade we'd had incomers again, many asking for meals which kept Cath from commenting further on my mental wellbeing.
Aruno appeared to make light work of bartending and when he wasn't serving, he moved around the tables making polite conversation, collecting empty glasses and stacking them in the washer.
His easy attitude and gentle personality sat well with the locals but there was one episode that clinched the deal which all came about when a lad from a neighbouring village attempted to lift a twenty pound note off the counter which had been left there by another customer who had gone to ask his friends what they were drinking.
How he'd noticed, I'll never really understand as he was pouring a measure of Scotch from an optic at the time, his back turned from the counter but as this boys hand snaked across the bar, so Aruno spun around, pulled a knife from the waistband of his shorts and stabbed it into the counter right between this lad's middle and ring finger.
The boy froze in terror but Aruno just held his gaze, not saying a word until he pulled the knife from the woodwork and slipped it back from whence it came.
"I think you should either apologise to whoever owns that money or leave. Please choose."
He apologised. Then he left.
The assembled were stunned into silence but Aruno waved away the praise merely pointing out the need for good behaviour and another time, the lad would be welcomed back with a lesson learned but it did have me worried that someone might go mouthing off and if the police caught wind of it, our licence might be at stake.
Our elder statesman came to the rescue.
He was an old boy who told stories about going to sea aged eight not retiring until he was gone eighty.
"I have the sea in my blood young Simeon."
Well I could see how it got in right enough, but ale replaced seawater these days.
"So what are you all gawping at? Young Aruno deserves a bloody medal from you, not silence?
It's just another quiet evening at the Nelson damn it! Someone get the drinks in and if anyone asks otherwise? Not a word, understood? We look after our own here."
That about said it all. In less than a week, Aruno was a part of, a member of the village community, something which was almost unheard of.
We have a family who live fulltime in a house on the outskirts of the village. They're nice people, I used to go to school with their kids and we got along famously but even now, and although they do use the pub fairly often, they're still greeted as Mr and Mrs Carter rather than Margaret and Dave, still incomers, even after ten years. They're liked well enough but still not fully accepted into the fold.
I decided not to say anything to Aruno about that incident. None of those present would go around advertising it, and the lad concerned? I didn't think it likely that he'd go mentioning it as he would also be admitting to attempted theft.
Later on when things had quietened down, I phoned my Aunt and Uncle to get an update on my Mum.
"Good timing Simeon. Mum's just seen the doctor and it appears that she might have a duodenal ulcer – probably had it for a while but with all that sickness, she noticed that she was bringing up blood so anyway, the doctor has sent for an ambulance to take her to hospital so she can receive proper care. We might not know much more until Monday morning as very few consultants work over the weekends unless it's a life-threatening situation which this isn't.
I have a list of things she needs doing at the pub but I'll email it to you rather than have you writing it down.
How are things otherwise?"
"We've been very busy. The takings are up massively and even now at nine-thirty on a Saturday evening when we would normally be thinking about shutting up shop, we've still around twenty-five people here. Tell her we're coping well, I love her and to get well soon.
Is there anything I can do from this end?"
"No I don't think so. This isn't an emergency so don't go panicking to make a visit.
I'll pass your message on and call you tomorrow if there's news."
I walked through to the kitchen where Cathy was finishing up.
"So what news?"
"They think that Mum has stomach ulcers so they're admitting her to Plymouth Royal."
"Oh poor thing. Dad had those but they thought that his drinking was the main cause but that can't be said for your Mum?"
"Unless a Gin and Tonic on a Friday and Saturday night would do it!"
"And you? Are you alright?"
"Concerned, but then who wouldn't be?"
"Yes. That goes without saying but I was thinking more about…… other matters."
"What other matters."
"Okay. First a general question.
If I was to ask you something, and if the question was awkward to answer, would you ever lie to me?"
"Never. We're best friends and best friends are always truthful no matter what.
Where's this going Cath?"
"Sam…… Aruno…… whatever.
Do you really like him?"
"Not awkward and yes, of course I like him!"
"Sometimes Simeon, I think I'd have better success wringing blood out of a stone.
Do you love him??"
"You don't pull your punches do you.
I'm not sure…… I've never been in love but…… difficult, difficult. That is the only rational explanation I can come up with so yeah. I think I might be.
Are you angry with me?"
"Angry? Why on God's earth should I be angry?
You're his Mimi-cu. He loves you, adores you, idolises you, so you have to tell him how you feel!"
"How. I don't know HOW Cathy! And anyway, what's with this Mimi-cu thing ?"
"Pick your moment. You're a kind and sensitive person so the time will come when you just know it's the right thing to do. He's waiting for you to either accept him or reject him and whilst he's strong both physically and mentally, he's young and he's struggling with all the not knowing, so one way or the other, you'll have to confront this.
Oh and the Mimi-cu thing? I'll leave that up to him to explain.
Safe to say, if that were me in your shoes, I'd be very honoured."
"Not helpful but I'll try."
I'm off home but I'll be back around lunchtime tomorrow."
We hugged then I saw her to the door.
"Sooner rather than later Simeon. Find courage."
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