Sophie bounded down the stairs and almost knocked Tom over as he was entering his flat. He caught her in his arms as she stumbled.
“Hey, where’s the stampede?”
“Oh, I’m really sorry. I’m in a rush to get something done and, you know us girls, once we get a bee in our bonnet, we just have to get it over with.” Sophie was breathless. She realized she was being held by Tom and slowly untangled herself from his arms. As she did so, they locked eyes for a few seconds and smiled simultaneously.
“I’m really sorry,” she said walking away.
“You’ll have to buy me a drink sometime to prove you mean it.” He winked at her.
“Oh, yeah, right, deal.” Sophie disappeared round the corner. Tom assembled a few thoughts in his head and allowed a satisfying “mmmmm” to ease from his lips.
Sophie ran out into the street and turned towards the deli. It was busy with all elderly people. She spent a few minutes watching Dot run backwards and forwards along the counter, serving customers. She was surprised at how much she detested this woman but now was not the right time to get analytical. She reckoned that as she seemed to be rushed off her feet, Dot was vulnerable to maximum embarrassment. She barged in, sending the glass door swinging back fully on its hinges. It bounced against a rubber doorstop with a boing noise. The people in the shop fell silent as they stared at Sophie. It was like Calamity Jane had barged into a saloon with both guns drawn and the poker table noise and tinkling piano player just stopped in unison.
“Do you people know what kind of a bitch is running this dump?” screamed Sophie.
Nobody moved for at least a minute. Calamity Sophie had made quite a stunning entrance. Whip-crack-away!
“Somebody call the police,” shouted Dot. All the customers looked at her quizzically.
“Somebody call the police,” she repeated, this time more emphatically. The customers looked at each other as the penny dropped in Dot’s head. Of all the delis in all the towns in all the world, nobody in this one had a mobile phone. The tandem thoughts about the odds against that happening and the sight of a mad girl, hands on hips and pinch-lipped in the middle of her shop made Dot flicker her eyes and screw up her face in puzzlement. Sophie moved towards the counter.
“She’s a manipulative, conniving, devious old crone who thinks she can get her claws into my father. She once accused me of stealing. She’s nuts. She stands there, Mrs Businesswoman, all smiley, smiley, please and thank you but deep down she is a man-grabber, a slapper and a……………”
“Allllrrrriiiigggghhhtttt! That’s enough.’ Dot was furious as she walked round to the customer side of the counter. Sophie noticed that she was carrying a full size salami sausage. “Get out of my shop, right now.” The customers began to sidle towards the door. Sophie stood still trying to work out if the salami was just to give Dot confidence or if she intended to use it as a truncheon. She even had time for a fleeting deli joke to pass through her mind – truncheon meat. But this was no time to laugh. This was crunch time. This was her moment to force this woman to understand that she was not and was never going to be any part of her family. The customers were mumbling amongst themselves, trying to make sense of events, looking to Dot for some sign, some indication of leadership in this traumatic situation. They were inching to the door.
“Not you lot. Her!” Dot screamed, pointing the salami weapon in Sophie’s direction. The customers stopped moving.
“Now what’s your game, you little shit?” An old lady gasped at the expletive. She was comforted by another customer.
“Now look here,” said the comforting customer. Dot waved her hand at him.
“Shut up.” She glared. “I’m sorry. Shut up, please, sir.” Dot tried to smile at him sincerely whilst maintaining a serious expression for Sophie’s benefit. It ended up like an angry smirk and just made her look ridiculous. The man tutted and looked away. “All I wanted was a piece of cheddar,” he grumbled.
“Just stay away from my father and get rid of any notion that he would ever think of marrying a witch like you. Just stay away or I’ll stick that sausage where nothing has been for a long time.” Two of the male customers sniggered like schoolboys and one of the women shook her head in disbelief at the very thought of an inserted salami. She worked her face into a sneer, sniffed the air and turned her head in a melodramatic movement.
Sophie turned to go but not before Dot launched herself and hit her on the head with the salami. Dazed, Sophie rubbed her head, stuck a finger up at Dot and left the shop. Dot stood for a moment, salami in hand, sweating and breathing heavily. She sniffed a noisy snort, shrugged her shoulders to calm herself, threw the salami in the bin and went back behind the counter.
The cheddar cheese grumbler was the first to speak. “Is that salami free for the taking?”
“What?” asked Dot, irritated and shaking.
“Salami? Free of charge? Damaged goods?”
“Oh take it and get out of my shop the lot of you. I’m closing early. Come on, come on, out, out, out.” Dot herded the customers out, closed the door, locked it and turned the sign to “Closed”. She went to the little office, poured herself a generous slug of bourbon and knocked it back in one gulp. She poured another one, sat in the chair, put her feet up on the desk and stared at a small cobweb in the corner of the ceiling.
“Oh, Incy Wincey Spider, what lives we both have. We think we’re doing decent, hard work, you with your silky patterns and me with my little deli. It should be so simple but oh what a tangled web, eh, oh what a tangled web.” she said out loud.