What do you mean you haven’t read The Ohana, Part 1? Then dear reader, you need to go back. Go back. Go back.
Part 2 works as a standalone, but reading a book backwards is like eating a Jaffa Cake upside down.
There is a logic to the introduction of literary characters – at least to the chaos of an Author’s imagination…
THE OHANA CHAPTER TWO
I am half-way down my coffee, when she falls through the door of the café with three shopping bags, out of breath and laughing. Helen doesn’t announce herself quietly.
“M and Co had a sale on. Be rude not to have a look.” She plomps the bags on the table and knocks my coffee over. A flurry of cloths, waitresses and laughter ensues. “Shit I’m chaos.
I hug her, still laughing. I miss the joy of working with Helen.
“It’s been ages,” I tell her as she throws herself into a seat opposite.
“Long enough for me to have got rid of Paisley Poop.” She winks at me.
“You dumped him?” I look at her, incredulous. “I mean, about time. Selfish arse. Thick as two short ones and not nearly good enough for you. What happened?”
“The usual. Good shag, shit boyfriend. Spent his days muscling up his ego at the gym. His nights spending on my credit card.”
Helen takes a corner of scone and lathers some cream on top of jam.
“These are bloody good though.” She mumbles through her scone. “Men are fuckwits, but cake is always cake.”
“Maybe you need to prioritise different things,” I say, lathering up my own scone. “Libraries, art galleries, museums. Nice dinners. Expensive wine.”
“Champagne and Rembrandt? I’m a single mum from Glasgow who works all the hours she can muster as a nurse. Mr Moneybags of Museum Monserrat is hardly like to fall through the doors of Govan Health Centre.”
I stick a custard slice on her plate. Helen and I have a long-term love affair with cake. Friday was always cake day when we worked in the same building.
“You’re gorgeous Helen. Smart, sexy, beautiful, funny. Look at you. Flippin’ heck. You’re a ten. Poop was at best a minus two. You look in the wrong places.”
“Govan Swimming Pool?”
We both burst out laughing.
“Aye. Only if you want a tattoo’d skinny. No teeth, no money, no social skills, no aspiration. Someone who thinks Friday night is a six-pack of Tennent’s.” I pause. For cake and effect. “Rome, Venice, Naples, The Amalfi Coast. Hire a car. Girl’s Road Trip. Italian culture.”
“Rach, what ARE you talking about?”
I whip my phone out my bag and start flicking through pictures.
“This guy.” I pass my phone over to Helen. It’s got a picture of a grey-haired, bare-chested man holding a glass of red wine up to the camera.
“Who is he?” Helen squints at the phone. “Not my usual type. How old?”
It’s a million miles from her usual type.
“Antoni. 63. Italian. Retired doctor. I met him at a conference a couple of years back. We stay in touch. He’s interesting. Fun. Different.”
“Did you sleep with him?” Helen peers at me. Straight to the point.
I act shocked.
“Nooooo! There was a group of us. If I remember rightly, we got drunk, wandered the cobbled streets of Naples then played a board game before passing out.”
I pick up the cocktail menu.
Helen is still studying the photo.
“Where’s it taken? Looks lush.”
“Syracuse. He lives on a yacht and bobs about on the med for nine months of the year.”
I manage to attract the waitress who comes over on request.
“Two Brandy Alexanders please.” I smile at her, “we’re ditching the cars.”
If I can steer Helen away from her penchant for muscled carpet fitters cum ego-gym-bunnies, or gangsters, alcoholics and small-time drug barens, then my work is done.
“He’s obsessed with dating apps. 22 year olds with fake boobs and smiles. Complains they’re stupid, know nothing about the Italian Renaissance. They clog up the filter on his boat with mascara brushes. Gold digging airheads. My phrase, not his by the way.
“Did you just order me a Brandy Alexander?”
“Faster than the speed of light. I’m a Cocktail Ninja. We’ll get the cars tomorrow. Antoni the Hedonist would approve,” I wink at her. “Said his dream was to find a woman with big boobs to serve him naked on his boat.” I poke at her. “Your boobingtons are…..” I smack my fingers in an exaggerated Italian kiss against my mouth, “perfecto. Bella bella. Le Boobingtons Perfecto.”
And we have two Brandy Alexanders. Very nice.
I raise my glass to her in a toast.
“To boats, boobingtons and dominant men.”
“You’re mad, Rach. What do you mean dominant?”
“He’s interesting. Opinionated? Maverick? Political? Sort of Arsey? Likes Le Boobingtons Grande?”
“Rach, I’m 36, and a comfortable size 16. My boobingtons no longer remain upright when freed from their scaffolding. You said he liked 22 year old models. I ain’t one of them. I’ve gone all…. nursey.”
She jiggles the boobingtons and we both burst out laughing whilst chinking Brandy Alexander’s.
I snap a photo on my phone.
Helen pulls her top down to get a healthy spot of cleavage. We’re laughing so much, it makes the photos look either joyous or mad, probably a combination of the two.
RACHEL: 16:43: Hey Antoni! Lunching with a gorgeous single friend, Helen. Showing her your pic. She thinks you’re quite the dream. Been telling her about our exploits in Naples. She fancies a trip!
I show Helen after I’ve sent it.
“RACHEL! YOU’RE TERRIBLE!
“No! I’m good. Very good. You’re gorgeous and you need some fun. Someone with a bit of class.”
“Well, if he’s interested in an impoverished single mother and nurse from Glasgow, I could see my way to a weekend on the high seas in the med. Let’s see the photo again?”
He’s not bad. Definitely older than she’s used to, but not unattractive. Seductively Mediterranean. He’s got a boat for fuck’s sake. I’d been tempted a few times myself.
“If he’s ever interested in a non-22 year old, non-model-like, slightly overweight single mum, I’d definitely sleep with him.” She jiggles her bosom at me.
“Fuck it, Helen. Let’s get another cocktail in. It’s only money.”
The phone buzzes at almost exactly the same time as the waitress sets down the next two cocktails. I don’t know who jumps more, me or Helen.
ANTONI: 17:47 Tell your friend she is very beautiful. Helen was Zeus’ daughter, named shining light for her beauty. I see why.
We both stare at the phone on the table.
Helen breaks the spell.
“He’s good,” she pants between bouts of laughter, “I actually read that in macho broken English.”
“What do I say?” I look at her helplessly.
Helen is jiggling drunkenly.
ANTONI: 17:54: Pass my number on if she wants to say hello.
By this time, we are both talking with fake Italian accents.
“C’mon then, send me his number.” Helen drains her Bramble Gin Cocktail.
“Are you actually going to message him?”
“Be rude not to, wouldn’t it?
I point at the cocktail menu.
“Look, there’s one called The Godfather. Whisky and Amaretto.”
“I hope it’s nice. Maybe it’s the first of many.”
Helen sticks her phone in her bag for later.
The Ohana by Lauren Lloyd
Copyright © 2021 Lauren Lloyd
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof in any form. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored, in any form or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical without the express written permission of the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.