‘Roses looking good today, eh?’ he said, traipsing a great pile of thick mud across her newly washed restaurant floor.
‘Morning Albert. Yes. Maybe today you could weed the..’
‘Saw your Cousin yesterday, tell you what, their new place is a bloody gold mine! They’re reapin’ it in. D’you know, she told me they were fully booked every night last week? Yeah! I know! Even had to hire extra waitresses!’
Anna held herself upright against the bar, watching the trail of mud solidify. More work. She wished he’d just go away. She rubbed at her scar.
‘Yeah’ he said, getting cosy ‘course, you wouldn’t know what with refusin’ to talk to them and all that, but you’ll need to watch out or they’ll be stealing your customers next. S’funny too, cos I remember I was the one wot told them all about your new decor, you know, and how you’ve been doing so well with it all, and d’you know, they’ve had their place done out just the same! I know! Still, must get on, don’t want to get in your way.’
Anna watched him leave and stood for a long moment, waiting for the burning rage to subside and then went to fetch her mop. As she cleaned his mess, she thought of all the hard work she and her team had had to put in to get this place going. She pictured her so-called family’s cold disinterest, refusal to reconcile. All these years, she thought, all these years of hard graft, of trying to do the right thing. How easy it seemed for her cousins and her Aunts to so openly steal away her business, no shame, no remorse. It was as if they could do what they pleased to her. And Anna supposed they could. For what could she do?
They’d always called her the witch. Ever since she was little. Her mother had tried to protect her but had died so young, Anna could barely remember her. Then having to live with her Aunts and cousins had been horrific and Anna had been glad to leave, go to college, train as a chef. She’d barely noticed her cousins had followed her into the trade. She’d been too busy putting a roof over her head and later trying to help other young waitresses, giving them jobs, sometimes even a room. Yes, she’d been rather busy this past twenty years, and now she saw that she’d thought she’d helped Albert too. But Albert was in fact a spy in the camp and not at all the benevolent soul she’d imagined. What a fool she’d been. Well no longer, she thought. She put down her mop. It was time, she decided, to go to war.