A Posh Meal Out
A 10 minute coffee break tale just for you
Author Della Galton
Jack had waited so long for this moment, but once inside the restaurant, he began to wonder if he’s made a huge mistake …
“You can have anything you like,” Jack said, as he led us into the cool luxury of the restaurant where for a second we were dazzled by all the silver cutlery – holy camoly, was that stuff real? – and the white cloths on every table. Jack’s shoulders were shaking a bit, I saw. He wasn’t as cool about this as he was making out.
But then, I knew none of us were. On my left, Liam was chewing his nails. And I felt a bit sick. I didn’t think I was going to even eat much – which would save Jack a bit of money – that was something.
I knew why he wanted to do it. This was a matter of pride – his first wage packet, our first proper celebration. We never did stuff like this when we were at the home. Oh, we ate together, all right, but it was at long tables with crummy white regulation plates and usually you had to fight for stuff, even though it was supposed to be shared out equally. It was supposed to be fair.
But it never was. Everything’s supposed to be fair in kids’ homes, but it isn’t. It isn’t fair that you’re even there, is it, if you think about it? I didn’t think about it much at the time. It hurt to think. You just get on with it. You just get by.
Is that waiter bloke taking the Mickey?
But now Jack wants to celebrate and this is it. We’re going to have something other than chips – we’ve done that a few times since the home, sitting on the wall down the front, eating fat greasy chips from a wrapper. But today we’re having something posh. A posh meal out in a posh restaurant, that’s what Jack said.
“This way, sirs – madam!” Is the waiter bloke taking the Mickey?
I glare at him.
Jack tries a cocky smile, which goes wrong. He looks like he’s in pain.
The waiter bloke pulls out Jack’s chair. Liam gives him an odd look and pulls out his own. So do I.
The bloke takes a white cloth thing off the table and tries to put it in my lap. I nearly break the chair trying to push back to get away from him.
“It’s OK, Beth,” Jack says.
I feel hot and cold on my forehead. Hot and cold in my stomach.
I don’t think this was such a good idea.
This is a celebration
Then the bloke asks what we want to drink and we all say water, except Liam who says beer.
“I am old enough,” he says in a voice daring the bloke to argue. But he doesn’t argue, he writes it on a notepad and smiles and goes away. After a moment we start laughing. We all laugh. It’s nerves and it’s triumph – we ain’t the poor kids from the home no more.
We can eat what we like. We can order anything. Jack says we can. We made it, didn’t we? We stayed together. We’re a family. Even though we haven’t got a mum or dad, we’ve got each other.
“This is a celebration,” Jack says.
“Can we really order anything?” Liam’s eyes are round with wonder. He’s got a menu, but I know he can’t read it properly. He’ll have what I have. Under the table, I grip his hand. Squeeze once tight. Our signal for, ‘everything’s cool.’
Three of your finest pommie frights
“I’ll have that,” I say, pointing as the waiter comes back. “So will he.” It’s the cheapest thing on the menu and it’s not very cheap. We don’t want Jack to be ripped off, but we want him to be proud he can pay.
“We’ll all have it,” Jack says, screwing up his eyes, “Three of your finest pommie frights.” Jack doesn’t know what it is either. None of us do.
“Pommes frites it is,” the waiter says deadpan. “Oeufs to accompany maybe?”
“Do they do sausages?” Liam says in a stage whisper as the waiter walks away.
Can you do proper chips?
In the kitchen the waiter hands Chef the order, “It’s kids,” he says. “Can you do proper chips, eggs sunny side up and maybe stick a couple of sausages on?”
“Course, mate.” They exchange a conspiratorial smile. Robert, the waiter, knows how scary it is to be eating in a posh restaurant for the first time. And he recognises the kids from Cambridge House. He’s never been to Cambridge House, but there’s a certain look about kids that come from homes – instantly recognisable. He should know. He was in one for a while himself once.