The contrast to the day before couldn’t have been bigger as Henry pulled up outside the An Fidleir Dubh in his jeep. Today the sun was shining and there were a few people sitting at two small tables that had been placed outside. There was Mariella, her black hair shiny, reflecting the sun rays. She was taking an order at the table nearest the entrance and gave Henry a smile and a wave of the hand that was holding the pen she used to write down the orders of drinks and various sandwiches and an Irish breakfast. A black board outside the entrance was advertising its all day availability in large, confident, yet playful and curvy handwriting. Possibly Mariella’s handwriting Henry mused, it would seem to fit her personality as much as he could glimpse it. Not that he had that much to go on given that this was only their second encounter.
Inside the place was a lot less busy than it had been yesterday. The Spanish surfers that had crowded the small pub yesterday and filled it with the animated sound of their chit chat which seemed to be spoken at the velocity of machine gun fire and with their laughter and the clinking of pint glasses must be out doing what they intended to spend their time doing when they chose to spend their holidays here. It was only barely less dim inside than it had been the previous day, the cosy atmosphere on the inside rather sheltered from the bright day outside. The two stained glass windows toward the front of the pub filtered out most of the sunlight.
John was sitting at a table next to one of the windows and waved them over to join him.
“Mariella is just serving a couple of tables outside. She’ll be back in a bit to take your order. I recommend the all day Irish if you’re hungry. Goes well with the decent stout they serve here also. You look a bit starved, both of you.”
John fixed his eyes on both men in turn as they sat down. “I envy you your genes, neither of you has an ounce of excess weight and don’t tell me you’re exercising and eating healthily all the time. I know you’re not. Me on the other hand. I go to the gym once a month,” he chuckled and patted his little belly pouch fondly, “and I lift weights at home, in moderation, and these days whenever that young lad is putting them down for a little while and lets me have a go at them which is practically never, but I ramble. Good to see you again, Junior. Henry tells me you’re taking an interest in the mysterious lady from the ditch.”
“Good to see you, too, and I am, yes. Did dad tell you that I googled her name last night and couldn’t believe the number of hits I was getting. That’s quite some story. I’m fascinated and curious to find out more. I’d love to meet the woman actually. But what’s this about a young lad hogging the weights in your house. Last time we met must have been about a year ago, right, and you didn’t have any offspring then. If that’s changed since then surely the boy wouldn’t be old enough yet to exercise with dumbbells.”
“No, it’s not my lad, it’s Mariella’s …, ah, there she is now. She’ll take your order.”
“Ciao belli,” a deep southern voice and very pleasant to the ear. So this was John’s new girlfriend. Junior felt a pang of envy at the ease with which John seemed to enter into consecutive relationships with it had to be said very attractive women.
Mariella winked at John, “I see you have multiplied your friends times two since yesterday, caro. Good on you. I have met Henry, but who is this new young man, will you introduce us?”
“I’m Junior,” Junior volunteered with a slight blush to his clean-shaved pale cheeks.
“Junior, this is not your real name though, am I right. It is a kind of nickname. Why do they call you Junior if you don’t think me too nosy to be asking such a thing?”
“That would be mine and my wife’s fault I have to confess,” Henry chipped in with a grin, “We all felt that Henry the second sounded a tad too pompous so settled for Henry Junior which then quickly got shortened to just Junior and it kind of stuck. Sorry son.”
Junior shrugged his shoulders and beamed a broad smile up toward Mariella.
“I like it,” she announced in return, “thanks for indulging me with an explanation. I am still learning the ways of this country. So tell me, gentlemen, what can I get you?”
They placed their orders of Irish breakfasts, a stout each for Junior and John, and a regular coffee and glass of tap water for Henry who was diligent about not drinking when driving and still a little shaken after the incident with the tractor on the way into town. Once Mariella was out of earshot, Junior felt it was safe to quiz John some more about that young lad.
“Did you mean to tell us that Mariella has a son who is old enough to exercise with weights? And is that why you asked me if I speak Italian, although if Mariella’s command of English is anything to go by that shouldn’t be necessary to be able to communicate with a child of hers.”
“No, no, no. Not her son. He’s her brother, Mario. Over for the month on a break. Allegedly heartbroken over a girl back home in Italy who dumped him for his best friend last month, although I have a feeling he uses that to his advantage. He’s eighteen, a spoilt little brat, not so little actually and totally obsessed with keeping his muscles toned. His English is very limited, unless he is faking that which I wouldn’t put past the sneaky little you know what either. A total mamma’s boy, used to being waited on hand and foot. Makes himself totally dependent on Mariella and crowds me out. He is going to be here for another three weeks, near enough three weeks, and I’m desperate to find a way of getting him out of my hair a bit. Not a word to Mariella, please, he is family,” John rolled his eyes up toward the low ceiling in dramatic fashion, “and we have to give him first class treatment otherwise there will be hell to pay if mamma hears of anything not meeting expectations.”
“Hm, I don’t speak Italian, but I was thinking of going surfing one of the days this week if the weather holds up. I could see if he wants to come along. Might break the ice a bit and make him feel more confident about mixing with folks outside of your house.”
“Junior, that’s a great idea. Good man. Just make sure nothing happens to him, don’t let him drown or anything like that, or…”
“Or there’ll be hell to pay if mamma hears of any mishap, I know.”
A round of laughter erupted from their table and a couple of old men who were propped up against the bar with their backs turned to them swung around to scrutinize them.
Mariella arrived with the drinks and indicated that the Irish breakfasts would follow shortly. “You three look very happy together. You should meet your friends more often, caro.”
© Ash N. Finn, 2016