Kyle was walking down a street on his way to the supermarket when a notice in a bar window stopped him.
'Bar staff wanted'.
"I'm a qualified architect, can I really go working in a bar?" he thought. He imagined his mother's expression when he told her that her successful architect son was working in a bar. He shook his head. "No, I can't do it." He continued on to the supermarket. Once there, for the first time since he was at university, he found himself checking the prices of each item he put into his basket. He was now living off his savings, and that worried him. He picked up his favourite cheese, an expensive French brand, hesitated for a moment and put it back. Instead he put one of the supermarket's own brand cheeses in his basket.
"I can't be living like this," he thought. "This isn't what I studied or worked for." He walked to the beer section and was delighted to see that his favourite beer was on special offer. It wouldn't have mattered to him before. But it mattered now. He put a few cans in his basket and carried on walking around the store, checking labels and prices as he went.
He felt humiliated. He knew that millions of people in the country lived like he was living now, buying the cheapest brands they could, and struggling from month to month with little to no income. He looked at the mother with two toddlers in front of him at the checkout. Her basket was full of the cheapest items. He hadn't noticed those who lived like this before, and he felt respect for the woman as she rooted in her purse, searching for money, while her children ran off in different directions.
He paid, and was both pleased and alarmed to see that his bill was cheaper than it had ever been before. Pleased, because he was saving money. Alarmed, because he was in a position where he had to save money.
He walked out of the supermarket with his bag of groceries. He stopped again in front of the bar and stared at the notice. He took a deep breath and walked in.
The bar was dark inside, and there was a football match from the previous weekend playing on the wide screen TV. A few tables were occupied, mainly by tourists who spread maps across the tables, and people who had finished lunch and decided to stay for the rest of the afternoon. Their plates hadn't been cleaned away, but they didn't seem to mind. A low buzz of conversation mingled with the R&B track that was coming out of the speakers.
"What can I get you mate?" asked the barman, a twenty-something with arms covered in tattoos.
"Er, I came in to ask about the job advertised in your window," said Kyle.
"Oh right. Hang on a minute, I'll just go and get the manager."
The man disappeared and came back a few seconds later with a woman who looked around fifty. Her face was heavily made up, and her eyebrows were drawn on her face, giving her a look of permanent surprise. She smiled at Kyle.
"Interested in the job, love? Let's sit down over there and have a chat." She pointed to an empty table.
"So," she said when they were seated, "have you worked in a bar before?"
"Once, when I was at university. Just part time."
"You've been to university? So what do you want to work here for?"
Kyle watched her eyebrows lift in surprise, giving her the appearance of a clown.
"I lost my job, and I need to find one."
"Oh right. What did you do?"
"I am...was...an architect."
The woman's eyebrows lifted further up her forehead.
"We've never had an architect work here before." She turned to the tattooed man at the bar. "Hey, Ste, he's an architect! And he wants to work here!"
"Oh right," said Ste, trying to look interested. "Well, no harm in trying something different." He went back to watching the game on the TV.
The woman turned back to Kyle. "But I assume you'd leave as soon as you found another architect's job."
"That might be a while off," said Kyle, not wanting to elaborate. "Look, I really need a job. Would you consider me?"
The woman tilted her head to the side. "Can you work afternoons and evenings?"
"Yes, I can work any time."
"Saturday and Sunday nights?"
"When can you start?"
The woman looked relieved. "To be honest we are desperate for staff. I'm having to work the bar, and I have other stuff to do, like run the place. You can start tomorrow. Are you free now?"
She looked at Kyle's shopping bag. "You got anything in there that needs refrigerating?"
"Milk, and cheese."
She stood up. "Put them in the fridge in the kitchen. Ste will show you the ropes."
An hour later, Kyle walked out of the bar with a sense of relief, and a sense of failure. Relief that he had got a job and would have some money coming in, and failure because he was returning to a job he had done as an 18-year-old student, before he became a qualified professional. He let himself into his apartment and put the shopping away in his kitchen. He took out a can of beer and sat on his sofa in the living room.
"I can always move," he thought. "I could go back to Edinburgh. To London. It doesn't have to be like this. I can go online now, find a few places around the country, and probably have a new job and a new life by next week."
He picked up his phone, stared at it, and placed it back on the table. Something was stopping him from doing it. And he didn't know what.
His phone bleeped. He picked it up and groaned. "Ruby! Why don't you just leave me alone?"
'Kyle, we need to talk. Daddy will give you your job back. Why don't we meet on Friday night to talk about it?'
Kyle shook his head. "She just doesn't give up. Why is she still so keen, after what I did?"
He texted back. 'I'm busy Friday night.'
Another message came. 'Saturday?'
'What? You have a job? Where?'
Kyle ignored the last message and put his phone back on the table. He sighed. "If it weren't for Friday night, I'd probably leave town tomorrow," he thought. He was looking forward to seeing Jessica again. Although he had no intention of dating her, he was, after all, over commitment, he had been thinking about her since they first met. She had been easy to get along with, and was the type of person with whom he could become good friends. Did he want more? "I'd go to friends with benefits," he thought as he sipped his beer. "But no further. I learned my lesson with Ruby."
YOU ARE READING
Friends with BenefitsRomance
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