Author: G. Ough
With a handful of crap GCSE’s under her belt, Poppy’s resigned to her life in the small Cornish resort of Old Hampton. Her house mate, Rhea, seems to have it all together but for Poppy, life’s not quite what she wants it to be. Until Andrew Castleton enters her life. Tall, handsome and sexy as hell, could Andrew be the turning point in Poppy’s life? Or could it be surf instructor and tanned God Aussie Greg? Torn between rich and handsome Andrew or muscled and handsome Greg, Poppy stumbles upon a unique proposal. But the course of love never runs smooth in Old Hampton and even Rhea’s plans for global domination appear to be going awry. So what’s a girl to do? Find out in the funny debut novel from G. Ough
“Is there any chance we can book in today, Poppy?” The diminutive, red-faced man demanded. I took in his balding head, the angry set of his mouth, the bored looking, overdressed wife behind him and his glare which had been directed at my breasts.
Typical of the summer guests who booked into the Helmsman, this couple was middle-aged and miserable. They came to Old Hampton in droves to lie on the golden sands, go as red as boiled lobster, spend most of their holiday drunk, try out a swingers party or two and either go home better for it or separately.
“Yes, of course, sir,” I said in my most obsequious, subservient voice. “If you would be so kind as to write your name and address down here, I can find your booking,” I added, watching the sweat break out on his forehead and balding pate. He snatched the Bic from my hand and scribbled something barely legible on a piece of card. “Please feel free to relax in the hotel bar…” he cut me off with an angry grunt.
“Oh I see how it is, Poppy. You can’t find,” he twitched his fingers in air quotes, “our reservation but we can go and spend money in the bar.”
“Where I’ll arrange some complimentary refreshments,” I said, making him look and probably feel stupid. “Feel free to leave your luggage, it’ll be perfectly safe here.”
The pair strode off with the wife falling obediently into step behind her husband who stamped off like a toddler throwing a tantrum.
“No, thank you, sir,” I whispered as they disappeared through the lounge doors. Grabbing the phone I called the barman who I was disappointed to find wasn’t Aussie Greg.
“Awright Pops?” Jimbo Danes’ Cockney accent crashed into my ear. “Whachoo after?”
“Don’t call me Pops, Jimbo,” I said. “It makes me feel like I’m in an American sitcom. I’ve got a heads up for ya,” I warned him. “I’ve just sent you a pair of morky buggers for some freebies while I get Techno Alan to fix the PC again.”
“Cheers, dorlin,” Jimbo said.
I tapped a couple of keys on the old phone and called Techno Alan. He answered on the third ring.
“Miss Peters, I assume,” he said in his high-pitched, feminine voice. Alan was so familiar with the Helmsman’s number and who was on reception by now he knew it’d be me.
“Morning Alan, you’ll never guess what?” I said in a falsely chipper voice.
“Don’t tell me,” Alan said, playing along. “You won the lottery, bought the hotel and you’re going to knock the place down to make room for your new meditation centre?”
“Shockingly not,” I said. “Can you come and rescue me, Alan?” I whined. He laughed.
“You know I’m only sitting here waiting for your call, Poppy, gimme a sec and I’ll be round.” I hung up, thanking the Gods of PC World that Alan only lived about five minutes down the road.
As I was flicking through the frayed pages of an antique book, attempting to decipher the scrawled hieroglyphics misery-guts gave me in the vain hope someone actually wrote down the booking, I heard the falsely cheerful voice of Sheila Masters.
One half of the Laurel and Hardy duo that owned the Helmsman, Sheila was, unfortunately, Oliver. Short and round with a ruddy complexion and one of those bottoms that stuck out, almost at right angles, making it look like she was wearing Victorian skirts.
“Computer’s packed up, again,” I said to her uninterested face.
“Call Alan!” Sheila said as she whisked past the reception desk in a cloud of Avon Rose perfume.
Christ did she buy it in bulk?
“Already have!” I said in the same high-pitched voice Sheila used.
Wordlessly she closed the door, sealing herself in her little cocoon of Vogue and Cosmopolitan, Heat and Hello magazines. I felt a sigh explode from me and wondered why Sheila even bothered coming in when all she did was hide in the office all day. The other owner, Jonathan Green had only ever made one appearance during my whole tenure of five years.
True to his word Techno Alan – all six and a half feet of him – slunk through the front door. Wraith-thin with a pale complexion and protruding Adams Apple, I thought he’d probably been called beanpole or something like it at school, kids being as inventive as they are. Acne scars marred his cheeks and chin making his face look a lot like the surface of the moon. Square-framed glasses and wild eyes completed his look and he smiled nervously as he almost tiptoed across to where I waited.
“Morning Poppy, did you wind the mainspring?” Techno Alan asked, tittering at his standard joke. I must have heard it thirty, forty times and been unamused from the first but Alan still snickered every time.
“You know it, Alan,” I said distractedly still flicking through the guest book for misery-guts’ booking.
Techno Alan slipped behind the desk and tapped the keyboard a few times, reset the system and generally fiddled with stuff. Afterwards he dropped to his knees and dragged the sepia toned, dusty tower system from under my desk. I stepped back a few paces, seemingly to give him room to work but actually because now he was knelt down, Techno Alan was at groin level with me.
I sat on my little chair and carried on searching for misery-guts’ booking. Eventually I saw something that looked a bit like what he’d scribbled. I grabbed the phone immediately and with PC guts around my feet, called Clive the Gopher.
“Yo!” He answered his little phone. “You on board with the Clive-ster, whaddup home-girl?” I smiled in spite of the stupid, faux-American voice he put on.
“I’ve got some bags need taking to room two-oh-four, Clive-ster,”
“And what about their luggage?” He asked laughing like like a sea-lion mating. “Be down in two shakes,” he said. I waited for the obligatory addition. “And more than two shakes is a wa…” I hung up.
Clive the Gopher did anything and everything round here. All the shitty jobs no one else wanted to tackle as well as repairs, portering and rolling the stinky bins out when they were due to be emptied, but he was always happy and joking. Just turned twenty, he lived with his parents and hadn’t really shaken off his teenage years yet so this was where he was stuck until he matured a bit. I couldn’t talk, I’d been here five years and there wasn’t much hope of anything else.
I called Cockney Jimbo to tell him he could send the miserable couple back through whenever they were ready.
“She’s a goner this time,” Techno Alan said from my crotch. I looked down into his eyes as he shook his head. “It’s a new base unit or nothing unfortunately,” he actually looked sad that his techno-savantism or wizardry had failed and he had to admit defeat.
“I’m in awe you managed to keep it going this long,” I said, trying to make him feel a bit better as the lift doors opened and Clive the Gopher appeared.
He had on painting overalls, white dungarees splashed with every colour the Helmsman was coated with and a grey t-shirt underneath which might actually have read ’Pornstar in Training.’ Thank God the dungarees covered most of the words, Sheila would have gone mad if she caught sight of it. Clive made some hand-gestures at me which I thought were supposed to be gangsta and pointed to the only luggage in the foyer with a questioning eyebrow. I nodded as Techno Alan started harvesting bits of green board up into a bag like he was picking Minecraft lettuce. Clive roughly handled the miseries luggage into the lift, kicking one of the bags so hard I heard it smack off the back wall. The doors closed and he was gone.
“I can’t understand why you’ve never given Sheila a quote for a new system, Alan,” I said.
“I did, about six months ago, cheapest price I could do on a year old base unit and installation. She said it wasn’t cost effective.” I shook my head.
No but spending all day sat on your big ass reading about celebrities is?
“The stupid thing about it is, I’ve charged more in those six months, repairing this old thing, than the other one would have cost,” he shrugged. “But you can’t tell some people.”
“Are you going to tell Sheila we need a new one?” A wicked little grin spread across Techno Alan’s face and with his proximity to my privates, something odd shot up through my belly.
WTF? Techno Alan!
“My pleasure, Poppy,” he grunted, unfolding himself from the floor like a six foot pen knife. Knocking on the office door, Techno Alan let himself in and I prepared for the histrionic attack Sheila was about to throw.
A door opened to my left and the rotund, balding Mr Enthiss emerged still red faced, but with alcohol now, his wife in tow.
“Jimbo told us we could check in,” he said to me in a much nicer tone.
Thanks Jimbo, you always manage to diffuse the live ones.
“Certainly, sir,” I completed the registration and handed over the keys, telling them their luggage had already been taken up and how to get to their room. They both lumbered off towards the lift and disappeared into the upper levels of the Helmsman.
I spent the rest of the day fielding calls, trying to figure out who was supposed to be checking in to where and greeting guests. Techno Alan emerged from the office and gave me a thumbs up before grabbing the remains of the computer and telling me he’d try and dump the data from the hard drive but not to get my hopes up – whatever all that meant.
On time as usual, evening receptionist Lisa Clarke strode in, all model looks and perfect hair. Why she worked here was a mystery, apart from it giving her the opportunity to lounge around on the beach all day checking out the men who strutted about her in Speedo’s to display their wares.
“Hi Lisa,” I greeted her. “You’re in for some fun today, the PC’s gone,” Lisa made her way round the reception desk and gazed down at the gaping hole left by the computer’s absence, screwing up her face.
“You’ve had Techno Alan down there sniffing your frou-frou all day then?” She asked with a shudder. “He creeps me out.”
“Lisa!” I gasped but had to giggle at her turn of phrase. “He’s not that bad,” she grimaced and shivered again. “Taxi Dave outside?” I asked.
“Taxi Dave’s outside,” she confirmed.
Taxi Dave was like a big brother to me. A big, stocky, square-jawed rugby player of a man with short brown hair and green eyes. In a deal with the Helmsman, Taxi Dave had agreed to ferry some of the girls to and from work for free in exchange for us recommending him to guests. His big Mercedes was luxurious and comfy, like a living room on wheels.
“Hi Dave,” I dropped into the passenger seat, belting in.
“Poppy!” He said as if he hadn’t seen me for ages. He’d only dropped me off that morning. “Good day?” I grunted and regaled him with my day as we sailed through Old Hampton’s streets.
“What about you, Dave, anything exciting happen?” He laughed.
“What, driving round these harrowing streets?” His Welsh accent came through strongly as he talked. “No, nothing exciting. I had egg and cress salad for lunch, though.”
“Careful Dave, living on the edge like that,” I said as he pulled up outside my house. “See you,” I said. He winked at me.
“Bye, love,” Taxi Dave said before driving off.
Up the two steps and in through the front door. The scent of baking bread made my stomach growl. My house mate, Rhea, liked to bake and cook, so I counted myself lucky there was always a meal on the table – or near it at least.
“What you making?” I asked without saying anything else. We’d known each other since school so Rhea knew I needed feeding before I made any kind of sense.
“New lasagne recipe, babes and some French bread to mop up the juice.”
I started salivating like Pavlov’s German shepherds before I even got to the kitchen.
There she stood, petite and dark haired, which earned her the nickname Pixie at school. Rhea was in her element in the kitchen, the oven glowed and I could see the dish inside with short loaves underneath. Her plan was to buy her own restaurant so she was always coming up with some new version of classic dishes to serve there. Of course that meant she needed a taste tester which is where I came in. I was bravely resigned to the fact I would just have to take one for the team.
The downside of eating Rhea’s delights was that I had to do all the washing up while she relaxed with a glass of chilled wine behind me. I was up to my elbows in yellow Marigolds and soap suds as she interrogated me about the Techno Alan incident.
“What,” Rhea said in her deep, sexy voice. “He was down on his knees and all he did was grin and you…?”
“Yes,” I squeaked, so embarrassed I couldn’t turn round.
“Are you gonna…?”
“Hell no!” I shouted. “Techno Alan? He’s a nice enough guy but no thanks,” I finished the dishes and dumped my gloves, poured myself a glass of wine, watching the last few drips land in my glass like sad tears. “Where’s all that gone?” I cried holding up the bottle. Rhea shrugged innocently.
“Evaporated?” She asked flippantly. I pursed my lips. “Rob’s coming over later,” Rhea said. “Is that okay?” I fixed her with a look.
“You’ve already arranged it and now you’re asking?” She grinned at me impudently. “Yes. Yes, it’s fine with me for you to get it on while I remain celibate,” I threw my hand up in front of her as soon as I heard her take a deep breath. “And don’t start about Techno Alan.” Rhea laughed her filthy chuckle as I escaped to the shower.
“Hi, Poppy.” Rob greeted me later. “How’s things?”
“All right I suppose. You?” I was comfortable with Rob. He’d been with Rhea for what seemed like forever so answering the door in my pyjamas was no problem.
“Same old, same old, you know,” he said, following me in.
“Your woman’s ready and waiting in her room, you know the way.”
Rob grinned and made his way upstairs. I cranked the telly up to drown out the sound of their antics. A sad twinge of jealousy cut through me at the thought of what they shared. It wasn’t that I fancied Rob or wanted to keep Rhea for myself, I just wanted a bit of what they had. There had been a few hints they might be talking about getting a place together too and a finger of fright crept into my chest when I thought about having to either move out or find someone else to share with.
Ough spent decades cutting grass and cleaning toilets before deciding to follow his passion of writing fantasy. From there he discovered a passion and talent for writing chick lit and romantic comedy. He lives in Herne Bay, U.K. with his gorgeous wife and three incredible daughters. A Yorkshire Terrier with personality problems, a slightly soppy chocolate Labrador and four cats that think he’s about to attack them at any given moment. In addition to writing Ough likes woodturning on his Arundel lathe, playing video games with his youngest daughter and attempting to draw – badly!