Tea and Sympathy
by Marie and B
Jack drove his car down the road from Coffs toward The Glen. He
wondered what kind of place it was going to be. Knowing it was a small
town didn't bother him. Jack Corbett was from a small town. It could
hardly be called a town where he was born; it was closer to a village. The
Glen was big enough that he was being assigned there as a solicitor to begin
prosecuting cases with court held three times a week.
He had a new assignment. New job, new town and new partner. And that new partner was the downside of this whole move. He'd met Sarah MacKenzie in the past. Met was about the nicest word he could use when he thought about Sarah MacKenzie. She was a real...well, she was the most ornery sheila he'd ever met.
Jack sighed. He was an easy going bloke. Surely they could start again and this time at least, learn to work together without problems. He pushed it out of his mind as he drove into The Glen. It looked like a bonzer place to him. Jack needed some tucker. He pulled up to the restaurant and parked. Once he had some vegemite he could meet Sarah this arvo with a smile on his face. He whistled as he walked toward the building.
Little did Jack know, Sarah MacKenzie had beaten him to it. She'd arrived about twenty minutes or so and thought it would be nice to have a cuppa and a sandwich before her meeting this afternoon. Dining alone would give her a chance to think, clear her head. It miffed her a bit that the US JAG office would choose this backwater little town to set up a satellite office but then again, an entity that paid six hundred bucks for a toilet seat didn't make much sense anyway.
Her new partner was part of an exchange program of sorts. They were working together to teach each other the ins and outs of the laws in their respective countries. How much different could things be in Australia then they were in the US?
Last time she crossed paths with this Aussie named Corbett, she took an instant dislike to him, outwardly. There was no time in her life for new relationships, platonic or otherwise and he was uber friendly by her reckoning. If she was lucky enough, this assignment would be over before long and she could get back to Virginia where she was content.
She ordered a ham and cheese sandwich and a glass of iced tea before settling back with a copy of Navy Times. Bliss.
Jack breezed in the place and stopped for a moment to let his eyes adjust to the interior darkness. It was a brilliant sunny day. He strode toward the bar. Might as well eat there.
"G'day, Mate." He greeted the bartender and put in an order for a samie and a pint. Jack was moving in today doing no real work. He might as well have a cold one.
Taking a sip he surveyed the restaurant. This was his kind of place. He froze when his eyes connected with Sarah MacKenzie. Bloody hell, she was here already. He put a broad smile on his face, nodded his head and tipped his glass in greeting.
Damn! There goes the neighborhood, she thought to herself but she managed to smile and give him the old chin wave regardless. Would it be impolite if she didn't ask him to join her? Of course it would but she figured they'd be spending enough time in each others company at work so she just buried her face in her read and pretended to be engrossed. Actually she was not even looking at the picture of the aircraft carrier on the page in front of her. She figured any minute now he'd saunter over and pull out the chair across from her without an invitation. Hearing the tell tale sign of the chair moving she lowered the magazine, every bit expecting to see Corbett's smart assed smile when she lowered the magazine. She jolted slightly when the man who stood across from her was a complete stranger.
"Ain't you a pretty Sheila? Not from around here are you, love?"
She turned quickly to look at Jack Corbett, almost as if to beg for his help. The move was instinctive. The last thing she wanted was some Jackaroo hitting on her, especially a strange one.
Giving the stranger the stink eye, she glanced at Jack one more time before she spoke. "Sorry, buddy. I'm not here looking for a date. I just want to eat my lunch and be on my way. Do you mind?"
"Heh, not too sociable either but I see you're a yank. Typical. I like a challenge."
The stranger sat down and Sarah stood up to change tables but he blocked her. "C'mon, love. I just want to have a little natter with you.
Jack inwardly sighed when she barely acknowledged his presence. She was going to be an iceberg to crack. He could take a hint and wouldn't saunter over until after he'd had some tucker. He'd have a better convo with the bartender. Hmm, suddenly Sarah was throwing doe eyed glances in his direction for help. He should let her work it out herself.
She was his partner; he couldn't do that. Jack was over at her table in a tic with a hand on the bloke's shoulder.
"Mate, maybe you should let the sheila alone? She doesn't seem like she wants a natter with you. Am I right, Miss?"
Sarah was a bit torn. Yes she kind of asked him for help with those glances but she knew she could handle herself too. What was that all about? The thoughts of a hidden crush brought a kind of disgusted look to her face. She quickly erased that expression and replaced it with one of concession.
"Yeah, 'mate'," she replied sarcastically. "I don't want to natter with anyone right now. Not him, not you or not anyone. I can handle this if you don't mind, counselor."
She no sooner got that out of her mouth when the intrusive bloke blind sided Jack with a left hook. Sarah stepped back, brushed herself off and shook her head. She picked up her book from the table then she stepped over Jack Corbett to find a quieter place near the back of the pub. He'd be alright, right? Letting out a sigh, she returned to his side just as the obnoxious cad grabbed Jack by the lapels to lift him up. Before her partner was upright, she popped the creep with a direct right hand. He dropped Jack as he fell back over a table, splayed.
"Corbett, don't start anything you can't finish!" she said as she reached to help him up.
Jack struggled to his feet and tried to steady himself. "I can finish plenty if you'd bloody well let me. And why did you give me the damsel in distress looks if you wanted to handle it yourself?"
It seemed Sarah MacKenzie hadn't changed. She was still a bitch. Sorry, Mum. Dripping sarcasm..."Listen, love, I'll leave you alone. The tucker and convo were better at the bar." Jack stalked off a little unsteadily without waiting for her answer. He didn't care what she had to say. The bloke had clipped his jaw hard enough that Jack felt like he was going to chunder.
As she watched him walk away her heart sank. Why was she so mean to him? He really was a nice guy even if he wasn't her type. Keeping him at arms length was nothing more than a defensive maneuver and if anyone knew about those things, it was Sarah.
"Hold on, Corbett," she said as she reached to place a hand on his shoulder. "Listen. I'm sorry, okay? I've got a lot on my mind right now and ...well...I'm just sorry. Can I buy you a beer to make up for it?" she asked as she looked into his eyes. Something there didn't look right. Was he hurt worse than she thought? The bloke on the floor was down for the count, that's for sure.
"Corbett, Jack are you okay?"
Everybody had a bad day. Jack nodded and attempted a smile, but instead he ended up sitting down on the bloody floor again. He struggled to his feet again feeling a bit sheepish.
"Sure, I'm okay. Mebbe I should just sit down for a bit. The bloke caught me off guard." Jack chided himself. He was a soldier and should have been more prepared. Being a solicitor shouldn't mean he was getting soft. He latched onto a chair and lowered his arse on it.
Sarah didn't take her eyes off of him as she fetched a couple of cold ones from the bar. It was the least she could do to make up for what happened to the poor guy. He wasn't all that bad, right. Maybe deep down she really felt he was right up her ally but her defensive fangs were out. There was no time or place for romance in her life.
She brought the brew back to where he sat, putting it down in front of him. "This might help you get your bearings."
Out of the corner of her eye she could see the asshole who started all of this being led toward the door by his mates. Good thing, that. She bet those pal's of his would be busting his chops for weeks seeing as how he got his clock cleaned by a sheila. Anyway, back to Jack.
"Hey, I know you're a little out of sorts but it might be a good idea to get some food in you before you have too many hops and barleys. I heard there was a place right at the boarding house we're staying at. They serve up a hell of a steak. I'll buy. You better take the nicey nice from me now. I don't plan on keeping this up."
"Tucker sounds like a bonzer idea, Sarah." Well it had before he got hit. He supposed it would again in a coupla tics.
Jack got to his feet and was a wee bit steadier now.
"C'mon, love. Let's hurry while you're still being sweet." Jack chuckled and gave her a wink.