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Tom tried not to stare at the woman standing on the other side of the road. She'd been there for a while, looking left, then right, and then across the road at him, or perhaps at his shop. She'd folded her arms, and then unfolded them. Then folded them again. Willowy tall, and quite beautiful, he'd done a double take when he'd glimpsed her there, golden highlights glittering in the early morning sunlight, pink lips, and those long tanned legs. Hard to miss beneath the knee length floral skirt.
Tending to his window display, he'd been hanging strings of freshly made sausages on steel hooks, placing bacon in uniform rows, lining up plump chickens, arranging pork chops, and joints of beef, lamb and pork. A task he did every morning to tempt customers through his door. Although trade had been sparse in recent weeks. Today he deliberately took his time, enjoyed the sight of her, and his heart skipped a beat when she gave him the occasional glance, and he'd look away in haste. What was she doing there?
Busying himself with the counter, he heard the bell over the door jingle; he looked up, surprised to see her standing there. Her perfume wafting in on the breeze, jasmine and lavender and something else he didn't recognise, it was delightful.
'Hi,' she said, smiling at him.
'Good morning, what can I do for you?' He wiped his hands on his apron. Feeling ridiculous, like a schoolboy, caught doing something he shouldn't have been.
'Ania,' she stuck her hand out for him to shake, reaching across the counter, 'you need help, and I'd like to apply please.' Her fingers were cool in his hand, but her emerald eyes had a warmth that made his heart swell.
'Pleased to meet you, I'm Tom, but there must be some mistake, I'm not hiring.' He couldn't place her accent, perhaps Polish or Romanian he thought.
'Are you sure Tom?' She tilted her head to one side, 'I think perhaps you could increase your sales, if you utilised that corner over there,' she turned and gestured to the area. 'Easily, you could squeeze three maybe four tables into this alcove, and a posh coffee machine over here.' She pointed to the vacant space behind him.' 'Together, you and I, we could run a butchers shop and a posh deli serving good coffee, cake, and savoury eats. What do you say?'
Taken aback by her boldness, he searched for something to say in reply. True, business wasn't as good as it could be, since the cafe at the end of the street had closed down, there seemed to be less footfall. Things weren't exactly booming, and the rent had increased to make matters worse. Perhaps he should think about her idea.
'Come on Tom, I'm a hard worker, I have money to invest, the neccesary skills, and most of all, I have lots of passion and energy. We could perhaps have some tables and chairs outside on the pavement. What do you say? It will be good for you, yes? Are you willing to take a chance?'
Flabbergasted, and somewhat amused, he didn't know what to think. He'd never thought about a collaboration, let alone a business partner, someone to do that side of things. Maybe it could work. He imagined his customers sitting, sipping lattes or tea, eating cake. And he definitely liked the idea of passion.
'Tell you what Ania, I'll think about it, find out if its feasible, I'll need to make some calls, speak to the council before I can give you any decision. They'll be be able to tell me of any restrictions. How about you come back late afternoon, I close at 4.30pm, we can talk about it over a cup of tea?'
'Wonderful! I shall bring cake,' she clapped her hands together, 'you will see what a good baker I am, and we will make plans,' she smiled, and Tom thought, perhaps, just maybe it would be a wonderful idea.