Actually, she'd probably ask if they had any vacancies.
Back at the cottage, Maria was beautifying herself in the bathroom, and Luke was reading one of the dull-looking smuggling novels from the shelf in the living room, so I went down to my room to unpack. It was half below street level, and under the carpets I could feel a hard concrete floor. The bed was huge, set under a built-in cabinet with lights to shine down on the pillows. Below the lights, cherubs were frolicking on the wall.
There were also cherubs in the pictures on the walls. There were cherubs on the mantelpiece. There were cherubs fucking everywhere.
"This is creepy," I told Norma, who was lying with her long nose on her paws, watching me with an expression of melancholy that I think was supposed to induce me to feed her. "You want to share it with me?"
"If you're offering," said a voice from the doorway, and I jumped to see Luke leaning against the frame, watching me.
I went back to putting my sweaters in the cupboard, my face pink. "Yeah, 'cos that would be a good idea."
"I was going to ask if you'd consider a swap," he said, "but on balance..." He regarded the plump-faced cherubs glaring down from all around. "I think I'll stick with the single. At least now I have a spare bed."
He didn't say what for, and I didn't want to know.
"Are you coming to the pub?" he asked.
"Yeah. For dinner. I can't imagine they won't do fish and chips. And it's about ten feet from the front door."
In that case, I thought, snapping my luggage shut, how could I refuse?
The pub was literally across the main street--the main street that was just wide enough for one car to wiggle round the bends. It was a proper pub: old, smelling of smoke and leather and beer and the faint tang of the sea that coats coastal places everywhere. There was a real fire scenting the air and real beers on tap.
"There's a beer called Doom?" Luke looked at the font.
"Doom Bar," I said. "Named after a sandbank in the Camel Estuary."
"And what's 'natural' cider?"
"Homemade. Room temperature. It's a bit of an acquired taste."
"How do you know all this?" Maria asked.
"I've been coming to Cornwall for holidays since we got Norma. You remember things like natural cider." Smells like manure and tastes like apples going to hell.
Luke frowned and regarded the beers on offer, and silence fell.
I was glad Maria was there, because I really couldn't have spent too much time alone with Luke. Things were just so horribly tense.
And they'd always been so easy before. We could be together for days on end and not get tired of each other. We worked together, we slept together, and once or twice when things got bad, we even lived together for a few days. It was easy, it was good. Since we broke up, I'd only seen him once or twice--
Okay, I saw him four weeks after the break-up, then six and a half weeks, then eleven, then fifteen. This will be week sixteen. The first three times I saw him in the office, the other at Tesco. All four times I looked a wreck--and consequently took to leaving the house in full makeup and heels even if I was going to the shop for cat food.
Happy now? I'm not over him. How could I be over someone like Luke? He's completely physically perfect--the body of a Greek god and cheekbones that could actually sculpt marble. I mean they could chisel it. They're that sharp. He's golden all over, he's smart, he's funny and he can be really sweet when he wants to.
"What are you drinking?" He looked at me expectantly.
"Oh. Er, Diet Coke."
"No natural cider?"
"They have Scrumpy..."
"I just want Coke," I snapped. "I'm going to find a table."
I went into the other room and threw myself at a settle. Maria followed me with some menus, her eyebrows raised.
She shrugged. "Nothing. Aren't you ever going to tell him?"
I shook my head firmly.
"You know, there is a chance--I mean, it could..."
"No," I said sharply, "it couldn't. There's no chance."
She backed off. "Okay."
Luke brought the drinks and we scanned the menu. I was impressed. For a pub that had its fair share of locals in fisherman's sweaters, propping up the bar, it had a pretty decent selection of food. Most of it was local seafood, and as Maria had said, there was lots of shellfish. But there were also three or four veggie options. I could see myself eating here quite a lot.
Eventually I reverted to comfort food and ordered fish and chips. Maria took our order to the bar, leaving me and Luke on opposite sides of the small table.
I examined my fingernails.
"Well done for driving, by the way," he said into the silence.
"You see, my driving instructor's faith was not misplaced."
"I meant--" he began, and then stopped. "Forget it."
Damn, why does he turn me into such a bitch? Why can't I be nice when he's around? I'm a lovely person, I really am.
This was going to be a long week.
Our food came, relieving the stilted conversation Maria tried to keep going, and the barman gave Luke an envious look. Sitting next to Maria, of course he'd be envious.
She had crabmeat, still in its shell, and I had to keep my eyes averted from it. You could see the eyes. It had been alive this morning. My cod was beer battered and boneless and headless and tailless, and it tasted beautiful--sweet and silky--but it didn't look like it had been alive at any time recently.
"Go on, try some," Maria coaxed, holding out her fork to me with a little bit of delicate pink meat on it. "It's really nice."
"It's crab," I said. "It has a shell." And claws. And antennae. And those eyes. Ugh. "I can't."
Maria shrugged and told me it was my loss. Luke watched us with interest. He rarely misses much.
"So how's your new bird?" Maria asked Luke, and the cod suddenly felt like lead in my stomach. "Carrie, Cassie..."
"Caro," he said, not looking at me. "She's fine."
"Didn't fancy a trip to sunny Cornwall?"
"Thought this was an SO17 thing."
"I'm joking" she bashed him easily. "What's she like?"
He shrugged. "She's nice."
"Well, duh. What does she look like?"
Another shrug. "Blonde hair, blue eyes, quite tall."
"Skinny or curvy?"
Maria's eyes slid to me. "I bet she's curvy," she said. "Long legs. Big boobs. I bet she has layers in her hair."
"Shut up," I said.
"So what if she does?" Luke asked threateningly.
Maria laughed. "Luke, you always said you never had a type."
"Right. So it's just coincidence that your new girlfriend resembles your old one right down to her cup size?"