I'm so glad to be part of a what seems to be a Ballyk fanfic revival! I hope that the series being shown on TV here in Aussie-land brings more people & writers to the fold.
Thanks for all the reviews so far, it reminds me I'm not just writing this for myself.
Disclaimer: so not mine. If they had been, the first 3 series would've been longer and the only character to be electrocuted would've been one of Eamon's wooden sheep.
Padrig and Brendan were the only ones in the bar when Peter arrived not 15 minutes later, donning civvies and carrying an apron.
"Evenin' Padrig. Evenin' Brendan. Either of you seen Assumpta around?"
"Peter, please tell me you're here to calm that woman down!" Brendan remarked.
"Is something the matter?" All manner of reasons as to why she'd asked him there started to form in Peter's mind.
"Nothing SERVING CUSTOMERS wouldn't cure." Padrig said loud enough to be heard clearly in the kitchen.
"She's been tearing round the place, giving us more grief than usual. And not so much as a refill to cushion the blow." Brendan grumbled, downing the last of his Guinness.
"Say, if you're here to help out," Padrig started, taking a good look at Peter, "you can start by quenching the thirst of two loyal parishioners."
"He'll do no such thing." Assupmta cut in, bustling into the bar and studiously ignoring all but Peter. "Niamh was supposed to be working this afternoon, but Kieran's not well and Ambrose won't be home for another hour. I'm going to need your help in the kitchen. I see you've come prepared." she nodded towards the apron.
"Ah, yeah. Well you did say..." he trailed off, not knowing how much he should say in front of the others. "I'm not sure how much help I'll be to you. Washing up is about as far as my culinary skills extend."
"I'm sure you're just being modest. I'll be back there in a minute if you want to get started."
Peter could see that Assumpta was frazzled, and took the hint. He could hear Brendan begin his attack as he left the room.
"Did ya hear that Padrig? Some courtesy, and to the clergy no less. While the two people who she should be using some of that pleasant tone on, sit and..."
He was glad he didn't have to witness the rest of the exchange which he was sure would involve threats and possibly a barring. Looking around, he noticed that laid out on the kitchen table was an array of vegetables, meat and other ingredients. He was no cook, but even Peter could tell that the collection in front of him would create something fancier than your standard meal. One of the scenarios that he'd dismissed just before suddenly seemed more plausible.
Surely she wouldn't ask him to help her get ready for a date.
Assumpta stepped through to the kitchen and shut the door on a protesting Brendan and Padrig. She leaned against it for a moment, composing her thoughts. It was clear that whatever was going on had her distracted.
"Er, Assumpta? Are you OK?"
"Grand." came the automatic reply, as she started to move about the room getting pots, pans and utensils out, not once looking at Peter.
Date. Definitely a date. A sinking sensation that was becoming all too familiar these days, settled in his stomach.
"Look. I know you're hard pressed for time, but I'm hardly the best choice to help prepare for your, ah, special evening."
"As long as you can follow a set of instructions, you'll be fine. They're not a picky bunch."
"And who might they be?" He tried his best to sound indifferent. It was a completely normal and reasonable question to ask, and much easier since that sinking sensation had disappeared.
"Just some friends from uni."
"The ones who were supposed to come at Christmas?"
"Yeah. The 'old gang'."
Leo. She didn't need to say his name, the sudden pang in his gut told him. No wonder she was distracted. Fortunately he had time to compose himself while she rummaged in a cupboard.
"Right, here it is," she said, putting a piece of paper down on the table, "the Fitzgerald secret family recipe. Guard it with your life."
Peter picked up the sheet. The paper was yellowing and it was covered in spatter marks, some of which obscured parts of the instructions. Reading over it, he realised that it was written in the shorthand of someone who'd made the dish hundreds of times; hardly the type of recipe a neophyte chef would be able to follow.
"Guard it with my life? What for? It doesn't make any sense!"
"What are you talking about?" she snatched it from his hand to check it. "It's all here."
"It's a load of gibberish."
The look she gave him was one he was sure Brendan had received not long ago.
"You're telling me you can decipher the words of God from texts that have been through multiple translations and reinterpretations over thousands of years, but you can't work out a simple recipe written in English?"
She was right. He was grasping at any straw he could to get out of helping her prepare for an evening with Leo. It was uncharitable. She was his friend, at least he hoped she was, and he was being an arse.
"Humour me?" he conceded.
"Boil those, brown that, fry them, then add each remaining item at 5 minute intervals. I'll be down before you get to the part where you have to put it all together. I'll be able to help you then."
The fight in her had dissolved as she listed what he had to do, and by the end she just seemed tired.
"Sorry. I haven't done this in a while. Running a pub is one thing, entertaining friends is another. I guess I'm just a bit nervous."
"Well I would be too with me at the helm." he joked, trying to lighten the mood. "You'll be fine. It's just like riding a bicycle."
"I thought that was sex."
"If it is, then you're doing it wrong."
Assumpta had hoped that by unsettling Peter with a reference to sex, she'd feel better about her own nerves. Peter had hoped a little bit of innuendo would get her mind off what was really bothering her. It succeeded, to an extent. Peter felt uneasy about the oblique reference to what he was sure would happen between the publican and the reporter that very night, and Assumpta was distracted by the thought that Peter's knowledge of that was more than just theoretical. She suddenly had a pressing need for a cool shower.
Peter knew he needed to rescue the moment before they sank into an uncomfortable silence. He picked up the recipe again.
"The Dead Sea Scrolls are easier to read than this."
"Oh shut it and get to work." Assumpta said, making her way out of the room. "I'll be down in a little while."
"Contain a nice easy unleavened bread recipe too." he called out to her retreating form.