The People's Friend

Riverside by Glenda Young

A surprise visitor turns up at the salon . . .


UNCLE JIM, have you got a box? Any size will do.” Jim looked under the bar counter. “There’s a box of crisps down here that’s almost done. I’ll take out the crisps and you can have this one,” he replied. “What do you want it for?”

He handed the box to Sam.

“It’s for the phones,” Sam explained. “When poetry night’s on, no-one’s allowed to use their phones, so we turn them all off and put them in a box so no-one’s distracted. It would spoil it for everyone.”

Jim shook his head. “You mean to tell me that I went to all the bother of having Wifi installed in the pub and you’re turning off your phones? What about your social media that you young ones are always banging on about?”

Sam took the box into the back room and held it out for his college friends to drop their phones into.

“Sometimes, Uncle Jim,” he said, “everyone needs a bit of peace and quiet.”

Jim smiled. He couldn’t argue with that. He was proud of the way Sam had organised these poetry and and pint nights.

And with new barmaid Claire helping out, Jim might actually have a chance to listen to one of Sam’s poems.

“Do you come in to work by bus, Claire?” Jim asked as the two of them worked together at the bar.

“No,” she replied. “I just walk over. I live in the new flats on the riverside.”

“Just you and the baby?” he asked, wondering how on earth she could afford to live in such style.

“No, we live with my mum and dad. That’s why I moved from working at the Pig and Whistle to work here. It’s the closest pub to home now.

“Mum and Dad look after my little boy. The flat’s lovely and there’s a lift for the pushchair, but there’s nowhere for Brady to run around outside, as there’s no garden.”

Since Claire had started at the pub she’d impressed Jim no end, using her initiative and getting on well with the customers.

He’d never known such a friendly and enthusiast­ic member of staff before.

She was everything Sam wasn’t, yet she and Sam seemed to get along great.

“Are you doing the same course as Sam at college?” he asked, intrigued.

“Books aren’t my thing. I’m more hands-on. I love making things – crafts and that, you know? I’m on a fashion design course. I want to be a designer.”

She looked at Jim’s old sweatshirt and the jeans he was wearing.

“In fact, I’m in need of a project for when term starts. I was wondering if you might let me design a uniform for you, me and Sam. You know, like a brand for the Ship.”

“It won’t cost anything, will it?” Jim smiled.

“Just the price of three T-shirts,” Claire replied. “You’re on,” he told her. He held out his hand and Claire shook it heartily.

The next morning, as Anna fished in her handbag for the keys to open up the hair salon, Jenny was on her way to work there, too, walking along the riverside path, making the most of the sunshine before her day began inside Anna and Carol’s Beauty Salon.

She was enjoying helping out there, and she and Anna, if not exactly the best of friends, got along well enough at work.

Anna’s keys turned in the lock and the salon door swung open. After turning off the burglar alarm, she waltzed straight through to the back room to switch on the kettle.

“Today’s the day,” she announced when she saw Jenny walk in.

“What for?” Jenny asked, hanging up her cardigan on the coat rail.

Anna pointed to the door. “That sign above the door’s coming down. I’ve given my sister a fair chance, but I’ve not heard from Carol for weeks now.

“There’s little chance she’s going to come back here any time soon. It’s time I took her name down.”

“But I thought Carol was still your business partner,” Jenny replied.

“That was the plan,” Anna said firmly. “But she’s not invested a penny. And I’ve given her long enough. I’m going to order a new sign today.”

At that very moment, outside in the sunshine, a small sports car pulled up opposite the salon on the riverside road.

The driver’s door swung open and a dainty foot with five painted toenails peeking out of open-toed high-heeled sandals stepped on to the pavement.

The feet were followed by long, lean legs wrapped in black jeans, then a flouncy red top and blonde hair cut in a short bob.

The woman gathered herself to her full height, locked her car and walked towards the salon.

It was Jenny who spotted her first.

“Your nine o’clock appointmen­t’s a bit early,” she told Anna when she saw the woman heading towards the salon.

Anna turned to greet her customer, but when she saw who it was she had to grab the back of a chair as she reeled with the shock.

She could hardly believe her eyes as the woman strode into the salon.

“That’s not my nine o’clock,” she whispered. “It’s my sister! But what on earth does she want?”

More next week.

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