I walked to the counter*. The activity in the shop surprised me. Why was the fryer on at this time? It was after one o’clock in the morning. Did the cook have insomnia*? And where was the cook? It was strange. I thought about leaving again. I had no right to be there. But the clouds of hot steam from the fryer smelt delicious. They smelt of hot, evaporated fat. I couldn’t see the contents of the fryer, but I could hear the bubbling oil in it. Pictures formed in my head: lots and lots of chips slowly turning brown. My stomach rumbled again. Behind the fryer, there was a door. It was open, but only a little. It was probably white, but the light from the fryer gave everything in the shop a warm, orange colour.
‘Hello?’ I said quietly – too quietly. The sound of the bubbling fat drowned my question.
‘Hello,’ I called again.
I thought I heard something, perhaps voices.
Suddenly, a head appeared. It looked in my direction and disappeared. A moment later, the door half-opened, and a tall, thin man slid out. He immediately pulled the door shut. He faced me; but behind his back, he held onto the door handle. I couldn’t see his face well – it was mostly in shadow – but he looked annoyed*.
‘Merry Christmas,’ I said. When he said nothing, I continued. ‘I am sorry, but the front door was open and…’
‘What do you want?’ he asked aggressively*.
I needed to call a garage or a repair service, and I needed to speak to Helen and reassure her. I ignored his aggressiveness. ‘My car stopped a few miles away. I think it ran out of petrol. I tried to call a garage from the phone across the street, but…’
‘What do you want?’ he asked again.
‘I’d like to use your phone. If you don’t mind.’ What was this guy’s problem? Asking to use his phone wasn’t such a big deal*, surely?
counter* – place in a shop where customers are served
insomnia* – the inability to sleep
annoyed* – angry, irritated
aggressively* – very forcefully, in a way that suggests someone is going to attack
a big deal* – an important thing