Something Old, Something New


My feet are cold. Mum warned me not to dip my feet in the sea (which, I mean, obviously — it’s March and it did snow a little last week), but I did it anyway. I haven’t done it in ages. Now I’m trying to dry them off with just my hands and the sand before I can put my shoes back on.

I had to get out of the house. It’s been three weeks since dad’s funeral but mum still cries at least a few times a day. I don’t know what triggers it and mum tends to want to be alone until she’s calmed down, so I took a walk.

My little sister Katie is taking care of the house, and James, our older brother, is dealing with dad’s affairs. I’m sort of a loose part just now. All 3 of us came home for the funeral but Katie and James are leaving tonight. Since I work from home I said I’d stay a little longer.

I breathe in the sea air and dig my fingers into the sand. The cold is starting to become painful in my fingers and toes but I don’t care. This is my last real chance to wallow.

My dad was a good guy but he was also quite distant. I guess it was just the generational gap — his parents were a bit more reserved, so showing emotion was difficult for him. As a result our family was a bit scarce on the expressing feelings front. I can count on one hand the number of times my dad said the words ‘I love you’ and I don’t need any hands to count the number of times he ever cried (well, in front of us anyway).

I’m just remembering the last time we were at the beach when I’m pulled out of my thoughts by a food truck engine pulling up at the railings by the road. Partlesy beach is tiny, and with the tide almost in I’m pretty close.

A guy around my age gets out of the van and locks up. He’s tall and well built. I can’t really see him — it’s only 5pm but it’s already getting darker — but I can see he has his hair scraped into a bun. I don’t recognise him, though.

When I realise I have to squint to see him in the fading light, I decide it’s time to go home. I pull my socks and shoes back on, though my feet are still damp, and leave the beach.

The atmosphere in the house is much better when I get back. Everyone is sat around the telly, and it looks quite cosy and normal, until you see dad’s empty spot on the couch. It’s always roasting in this house, as well, which makes my finger-tips tingle.

“Becs, you’re just in time for Top Gun. It’s movie night on channel four!” Mum calls out, beconing me to the couch.

“There’s a snack van at the beach,” I tell them, shucking off my jacket and shoes in the hall.

“In March?” James chuckles. He has a tub of Haagen-Dazs and a dessert spoon resting on the arm of his chair. I know that mum will have begged him to use a teaspoon and put the ice-cream in a bowl before eventually giving up and rolling her eyes at him.

“Yeah, it’s a dessert van. A young guy with long, dark hair locked it up, but it wasn’t open.”

“Oh, that must be Nick’s son, Ben,” mum chimes in.

“Do we know them?” Katie asks. Everyone knows everyone in Partlesy (I mean, our primary school only had 80 pupils). If someone in the family knows Ben, then we all will.

“You’ll have seen Nick around — he’s Pat and Alec’s son.” Mum says as I sit beside her on the couch. Pat and Alec run the local ice cream shop, which has a queue around the block from April to September but little else the rest of the year.

“You probably won’t know Ben, though,” mum carries on. “Nick and Ben’s mum — oh gosh, what was her name? Nasty woman, anyway. They were just out of high school when she got pregnant. They married within a few months and things were fine for a while. Apparently, she was unhappy, though. Well, she ran away with Ben when he was only three — didn’t leave a note or anything. Nick had to follow them to London and then stayed to be close to Ben. It was the scandal of the nineties here.”

“I thought the scandal of the nineties was when that petition got started to allow nudists on Partlesy beach?” James asks, using his spoon as a pointer.

“My word, you’re right,” mum looks thoughtfully into the distance, a small shudder going through her body at the thought.

“What are they doing opening a snack van in March?” Katie asks. She’s sitting on the floor at mum’s feet, while mum absently plays with her hair, like a little cat. I have a feeling that’s more for mum’s benefit than Katie’s, though.

“Oh, they’ve had it for a few years, actually. It sells Pat’s ice cream, and they travel around. I think they have a couple of them,” mum trails off when James shushes her. Top Gun has started and just like that, the subject is dropped.


“Ah, Becca, thank the Lord, I was just about to come and find you,” mum shuts the front door behind her. “You remember Amy, from next door? Well she’s got tonsilitis, the poor thing — she’s only six, as well.”

“Oh, right, that’s terrible,” I say. Honestly, I’m trying to catch up. I’ve only just woken up and come down for a cup of tea. It’s mid-May now and I gave up the lease on my flat in London last month. It turns out Bolu Escort I quite like living in Partlesy and my mum is always busy, so I’m mostly home alone. Mum convinced me she likes the company and frankly I could use the lower rent to help save up for a flat deposit.

“She needs something to help with the pain and she’s asked for some of Pat’s ice cream. I can’t go because I told Sheila that I’d help set up for the primary school’s car boot sale, and I’ve only got ten minutes to get there, now!”

Mum suddenly descends into a flurry of activity, grabbing bits and bobs from the kitchen and living room and piling them at the door. And I’m still trying to catch up.

“Wait, so what do you need from me?”

Mum tsks. “Just a wee tub of Pat’s ice cream. I think vanilla will do but I didn’t ask. I don’t think Amy will be fussy in any case, she can barely talk!”

“Okie doke. What time does Pat’s open?”

“Oh, they don’t open until twelve, so you’ll have to go to the snack van, love. It’s probably faster, anyway. The quicker the better, to be honest.”

“I don’t think anyone’s ever died from tonsilitis, mum,” I try to calm her a little, but then again what do I know? I’m not even certain I know what tonsilitis is.

I sit on the bottom stair and grab my walking shoes since they’re closest and go to tuck in my leggings, when mum stops me.

“You’re not going like that, surely?”

I look up at her perplexed. “It’s a two minute walk. What do you expect me to wear?”

Mum looks suddenly flustered and at once I’m suspicious. This is coming from a woman who dared me to wear my jammies into Tesco once. “Mum, what’s going on?”

“Nothing!” She exclaims, her voice going all shrill. “Nothing, it’s just-“

“Just what?”

“Ben’s working today and it would be nice if he didn’t have to see your scraggly leggings, is all.”

I stare at her, mouth open. “Mum, are you trying to set me up with Ben?”

“You’ve not had a boyfriend in years,” mum tells me as though I’m not aware. She’s never been pushy, so I’ll put this down to her being worried about me. I’d be worried, too, now that I think of it — I barely go out and, she’s right, I haven’t so much as spoken to a man in over a year.

Mum begins to rant a little about how I’m 28 and my biological clock is ticking, but more than that, she just wants to see me happy, but I tune it out a little bit. I’m considering things. I suppose Ben’s attractive. Well, from what I saw he was. I quite like long hair on a guy, and he was tall and well-built. I didn’t really see his face, though.

Would it hurt to go and put a little bit of make-up on? To change into some jeans and maybe brush my hair? Put on a bra? Even if I decide not to pursue anything, it couldn’t hurt. I can always get changed back into my leggings when I’m home.

“Alright,” I interrupt mum. “I’ll change,” I throw over my shoulder, climbing back up the stairs.

I don’t go overboard. I don’t want people to think that I’ve made any sort of an effort. I pull on my mum-jeans and a clean white shirt (the aim is always casual Princess Diana, and I think I pull that off pretty well). I brush my hair and pull the top half up into a hair tie, leaving the rest around my shoulders. Make-up would be a dead give-away though, so I mostly leave it, besides a quick swipe of a concealer I’ve had for too long and some mascara.

“Oh,” mum says as I come back downstairs. “Couldn’t you have put on a dress?”

“No,” I state, grabbing my keys and leaving.

The van is a five-minute walk from the house, but it’s Saturday and the weather is ok, so there are already a few people waiting out front. I join the queue, spotting Ben working at the counter.

He’s not working alone. There’s an older man beside him — I’m guessing that it’s Nick — and my eye is drawn to him. He looks to be in his mid-40’s, maybe 46, and his hair is just a little bit salt and pepper, but mostly light brown. He’s just as tall and well-built as his son, but a little more formidable.

I never thought I was into older men, but something’s happening between my legs which is making me question that.

“Hi, what can I get for you?” Nick asks in a lovely warm voice.

“Hey Nick, can I just get a small tub of vanilla, please?” I ask, pulling out my phone. I keep my card inside my phone case, along with a ten-pound note (my dad taught me to always have at least a little bit of cash on me).

“Do we know each other?” Nick asks, his eyebrows lifted.

I blush immediately. I can feel it on the tips of my ears. “No, sorry, I just know your parents from the shop, and I knew of you,” I stammer over my words a little, not making eye contact. “You might know my mum? Evelyn Hunter?”

“Ah sure, I know Evie,” Nick smiles (a real, genuine smile that makes my stomach flutter a bit) but then it’s gone. “Can you tell her how sorry I am about your dad? I haven’t seen her since…” he trails off.

“I will,” I smile back.

Ben hands me the ice-cream, completely detached from the conversation. Bolu Escort Bayan He’s a little bit sullen, to be honest. Not what I had imagined ten minutes ago when I was chucking on this outfit so frantically.

“So which of the kids are you, then?” Nick asks. “I met James briefly when he was a tot, but I don’t think I’ve met you or your sister.”

“I’m Rebecca,” I say, handing over the cash. “My younger sister is Katie, but her and James are back in Manchester.”

“Is that where you stay as well?”

“No, I was in London up until my dad passed, but I’ve moved back here for now. Keeping my mum company and that.”

Nick nods. “That’s good. Very thoughtful of you. Well, hey, maybe you could show Ben around some time. He’s not been here since-“

“Dad,” Ben stops him, quite sharply. “We talked about this.”

“Sorry, sorry, I know,” Nick shakes his head. “Ben gets embarrassed when I try and make friends for him,” he says to me, handing me back my change.

“My mum does the same,” I smile at Ben, but he doesn’t smile back. Very sullen, then. Not at all like his dad.

Nick is looking at Ben with a tinge of sadness. Or maybe disappointment. I wonder what I’ve walked into here.

“Anyhow, thank you for the ice-cream. I’ll see you around.”

“It was nice to meet you, Rebecca,” Nick smiles again, waving me off.

“You too!” I call, already a few paces away from the van. I need to get home now. I need to call Eilidh.


It’s quarter past eleven on a Saturday, which means that Eilidh will be leaving the gym. I call her as soon as I’ve dropped the ice cream off with Amy (who did actually look very ill — I’ve set a reminder on my phone to check in on her again later).

When Eilidh picks up we go through all the regular niceties and then I unload. I don’t know what’s come over me, but I have a full blown crush on an older guy and the only person who I can possibly tell is Eilidh.

She’s a year older than me and we met six years ago when we both worked in the same coffee shop. She was technically my manager, which was brilliant because it meant that I got to pick my days off each week. We talk every few months (nowhere near enough) and she always has some boy drama for us to gush over. I actually think that boy drama is the foundation of our whole friendship. God knows what we’ll do if one of us ends up in a healthy relationship.

I tell her about Nick — how he’s manly, but friendly, how he has a son, how he’s got a great smile, and I go into far too much detail about my bodily reactions when I spoke to him.

“What age is his son?” She asks. I can hear the traffic of London buzzing behind her voice. I’m not surprised that I don’t miss it — I think I’ve always known I was a countryside kind of girl at heart.

“I don’t know, to be honest. Maybe 25-ish?”

There’s silence on the other end for a second. “No, you dope, how old is his son?”

I cough a little. “Yeah, that’s the thing. The son is about 25. Nick is closer to 50.”

Another silence. I try to convince myself that Eilidh’s waiting for the ambulance sirens to pass before she speaks. “I’m sorry, Becca, I must have spaced out there for a second. You did not just tell me that you fancy a 50 year old man over his our-age son.”

I inwardly cringe. “I did, yes. But it’s fine! It’s just a crush. Not like anything can happen anyway,” I try to laugh a little.

Eilidh sighs. It’s a sigh that I’m used to. When it comes to men, I do dumb stuff pretty often. “Becca, it’s been a while since you’ve had sex and I get it, I really do! Your standards get lower, but-“

“No, but that’s where you’re wrong!” I stop her. “Nick is genuinely attractive. I didn’t have to lower anything.”

“Oh yeah, sorry, you just had to raise your age threshold by a couple of decades.”

I laugh despite myself. “Eilidh, it’s — well, it’s not serious. I don’t need you to talk me out of it or anything.” I thought it would go without saying, to be honest.

I can almost hear her thinking on the other end of the phone. “Becca, I’m sorry. If you say it’s nothing, then it’s nothing. It’s just that I know how you can get about crushes — you go all in pretty quickly and I just got worried. After your dad, you’re a bit vulnerable and I thought it might have already spiralled.”

I assume what she means is ‘there’s a good chance you’ve developed daddy issues’. I can’t be mad at Eilidh, though. She’s completely correct about my track record — I tend to crush hard and then get hurt (totally my own fault — I build people up in my head and then get disappointed when they don’t live up to my expectations). But I think Nick is different. He’s sort of untouchable, which means that I’ll never find out if he matches those expectations. So, it’ll be fine.

“Ugh, Becca, sorry, I’ve got to go. That junkie is standing outside my flat again pressing all the buzzers. But listen, just promise me you won’t do anything stupid.”

“Of course,” I promise her. “Nothing stupid.”

At half seven Escort Bolu I go to check on Amy again.

“She’s no better,” her mum Aileen tells me. Aileen is only a few years older than me but she and her partner Jen have three kids already. Mum was really excited when a lesbian couple moved in next door — ‘think of the diversity’ she had said. “We rang the doctor this morning and he sent a prescription to the pharmacy, but we can’t collect it until Monday, now.”

“That’s a shame,” I say. I can hear the new Disney movie Red playing from the living room. If it’s anything like when I was ill when I was little, Amy will have her duvet and pillow on the couch in the living room and everyone else will have to squash around her. “Is there anything I can do?”

“Actually, if you wouldn’t mind getting her a pack of ice-lollies or something, that’d be incredible. We’ve had our hands full here with the three of them today and Jen’s trying to get the youngest to sleep just now.”

“Of course,” I smile. I never have anything to do at the weekend, anyway. “Does Amy have a preference?”

“Oh no, she’s not fussy. She’ll eat anything from Pat and Alec’s. Let me just get you some money,” she mumbles, grabbing for her purse.

“It’s fine,” I smile, walking from the door. “I’ll just get it when I’m back. I think Pat’s shuts at 8, anyway.” It’s 7.40 now, so I’ll be lucky if I make it on time.

“Thank you, Becca! You’re a star!” Aileen calls after me.

I walk quickly to Pat’s. It’s still light outside, though it’s getting a bit chilly. I try my best to distract myself — why do I have butterflies? It’s Pat’s ice-cream shop, for Gods’ sake. I’ve been there a million times before. I really need to get a hold of myself.

The shop comes into view quickly. It’s sandwiched in between a terraced house and an old newsagents (which only opens on a Saturday and I really have to wonder how they manage to keep it open? Mum thinks that it’s a drug front, but in Partlesy? Really? Though, actually come to think of it, this would be the perfect place for it, wouldn’t it? No one would suspect a tiny newsagents in a seaside town. But I’ve met the owner and he just doesn’t seem like the type…).

I’m so distracted in my thoughts that I don’t even realise that I’ve opened the door to Pat’s until a warm voice greets me.

“Ice cream twice in one day?” Nick smiles as I close the shop door behind me. I hadn’t expected Nick to be here. I thought it would be Pat or Alec, or even Matthew (a local boy who helps out on Saturdays). He must have just been closing, as well — half of the lights are off, and it’s just behind the counter that’s still lit.

“I’m so sorry, I see you’re just shutting. It’s not for me, if it helps. It’s for Amy next door — she has tonsilitis.” I put on my most winning smile, in the hopes it will soften him up. I don’t know why I bother, I don’t expect him to send me out empty-handed.

“Jen and Aileen’s Amy?”

“That’s the one,” I nod.

“That’s a shame. Two minutes and I’ll get you some unfrozen lollies as well. Then they can put them in the freezer.”

“Thank you,” I call out, browsing the flavours as he goes through to the back. I pick out a couple of cola and strawberry ice lollies, hoping that Amy has the same favourites that I do, and place them on the front counter.

This place hasn’t changed since I can remember. The counter-top is a bright red, with scuffed silver trim. The shelves behind the counter have tubs of sweeties on them and behind them is a mirror with silver tassels hanging in front. It’s shabby, to say the least, but it’s also very comforting.

Nick comes back and adds the ice lollies I’ve chosen to the small box he’s produced. I notice then just how tired he looks.

“Everything ok?” I ask gently.

His eyes flicker up to mine. They’re a dark blue colour, just like the sea. “Just a lot on my plate at the moment, that’s all,” he brushes it off with a little shrug.

“If you need any help,” I begin to say, but then I don’t know how to end it. I suppose I could volunteer my weekends, but I do have a full-time job. And then I don’t know what it actually is that he needs help with. “Or even just someone to talk to?”

Nick smiles, a warm, kind smile, and scrubs his hands over his face, groaning a little bit. “You know, Becca,” he slips into using my nickname very easily, “I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

“Well why don’t you tell me what brought you back to Partlesy?” I suggest. My mum didn’t know (I asked her this afternoon after the car boot sale). Actually, mum was pretty rubbish for news, considering she seems to know everyone’s business.

“Family,” Nick states simply. “Mum and dad are getting too old to keep the shop running, so I came back five years ago to help.”

I nod. “Okay. And do you feel like that’s getting too much, or…?”

Nick laughs a little, looking down at the counter where his hands are resting. “Well, I suppose so. It turns out, Becca, that running an ice-cream shop at the seaside can pay the bills — but only if you’re lucky. Beyond that, it doesn’t bring in much, so they haven’t got savings. They need to retire soon, though. Working this much isn’t good for them. And hiring more staff just means more cost.” He shrugs in a sort of, what can you do way.

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