Welcome to my Free Short Story. I’ll be putting a new one up every month so be sure not to miss it.
Here’s the story for August 2020:
Re-Charging the Batteries.
Cathy couldn’t decide what to do next. She’d finished her final exams and now had to decide whether to stay on for a PhD or take up the offer of a teaching post in Cornwall.
She loved Cornwall. She’d enjoyed many childhood holidays there filled with endless days, sandy beaches, crabbing in rock pools, paddling in the sea while gulls screeched overhead in a cloudless summer sky, or at least that’s how she remembered it. Now she was hoping to re-charge her batteries and get over the recent break up with her cheating ex, Matt.
Cathy’s aunt had offered free bed and board at her B & B in a picturesque Cornish seaside resort in exchange for helping out at her cousin Rob’s IT Emporium.
It had been Rob who’d first inspired her passion for technology. His love of all things techy had been infectious and when other girls were salivating over lipstick colours and the latest hairstyles Cathy found a fascination for binary codes, algorithms and data protocols. Helping Rob out through the summer would be a dream come true and she’d be able to indulge her other passion – surfing, and not on the web either.
When she arrived in the holiday resort the weather was balmy and the narrow streets busy with tourists. The smell of pasties, chips and candy-floss filled the air. The first week was bliss. She wandered along streets lined with colour-washed cottages, ate ice-cream sitting on the harbour wall and, when the tide was right, caught a wave and surfed to shore.
She soon realised that Rob’s main trade came from repairing broken laptops or helping people understand the computers they’d bought elsewhere: people who apparently had no qualms about picking his brains to find the best buys. When they’d made up their minds which model they preferred they’d, buy it from the superstore in town at a discount or on the internet. She pointed this out to Rob but he laughed.
‘I know,’ he said, ‘But when it breaks down, they can’t turn it on or figure out how to work it they come to see me.’ It was clear Rob had a reputation as the most honest, reliable and trustworthy IT doctor in the county.
The second week Rob asked Cathy if she could watch the shop on her own for a few days as he’d been asked to give a series of talks at an Industry Seminar in London. Rob said the money would come in useful so of course Cathy agreed.
On Monday morning he was in the shop checking Cathy had everything she needed. ‘Honest Rob,’ she said. ‘I can manage.’
Just as he was leaving a man bounced into the shop. Bouncing in was the only way Cathy could describe it – like a bundle of energy looking for somewhere to discharge. ‘Gooday Rob,’ this vision with an Australian accent said.
‘Hi Scott,’ Rob replied. ‘I’m just off to London but Cathy here can sort you out – right Cathy?’
‘Okay mate,’ Scott said. ‘No worries.’
Cathy concluded this guy was so laid back it would take something like an earthquake to worry him, but she was minding the shop and determined to do her best for Rob.
‘Can I help you?’ she said after Rob had left.
Scott looked her over. Her pulses raced. With his blonde tousled hair, laughing eyes and surfer tan he could have been straight out of Poldark. She tried to control her beating heart but it seemed to have a mind of its own.
‘That depends,’ he said with a grin, ‘on what you have to offer.’
Saucy monkey, Cathy thought but wasn’t about to let his suggestive manner or the come-hither looks he was giving her put her off. ‘Was there anything you were especially looking for?’ she said as frostily as she could manage without laughing.
He glanced around and picked up a mid-priced tablet computer from the display.
‘Something like this perhaps,’ he said.
‘Oh.’ Cathy’s heart leapt. She was on home territory now. ‘A great choice,’ she said. ‘This model has a Jelly Bean operating system. So much more responsive that the older Ice Cream Sandwich. It has as many features as its more expensive rivals and twice the reliability. It has a mega-pixel camera, web-cam, e-reader, multi-touch high resolution, great Bit-rate and high volume data sharing protocols.’
She described every feature using as many technical terms as she could fit in. Most people’s eyes glazed over at this point, but he looked bemused.
‘Impressive,’ he said. He picked up another tablet. ‘What about this one?’
Again Cathy went through the tablet’s features focussing on its drawbacks as well as its good points. Over the course of an hour she went through the pros and cons of every computer in the shop, expounding their virtues and problems in great technical detail. His eyes never glazed over once. On the contrary he appeared to be just as fascinated with the merchandise as Cathy – although it could just have been Cathy who fascinated him.
As closing time approached, together with the perfect surfing tide, he said he’d have to think about it. Oh another one, Cathy thought. He’s picked my brains, now he’s off to buy what he wants somewhere cheaper. She wondered how Rob ever made ends meet with customers like him.
When he got to the door he turned and grinned. ‘I’ll be back,’ he said.
Yeah, you and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Cathy thought.
But he did come back. The next day he returned with a broken laptop. It had been quite a while since she’d seen such an old model but when he asked if she could repair it she said she loved a challenge and she’d have a go.
The next day he brought in a mobile phone. ‘I can’t seem to get connected,’ he said. ‘I wondered if you could help.’
She felt they had made some sort of connection but not the sort he was talking about. She checked the phone and had it working in a minute.
‘Fantastic,’ he said.
‘You didn’t have the Wi-Fi switched on,’ she said.
‘Not switched on?’ He grinned. ‘That’s not like me at all.’
The next day he brought in a tablet that just needed its battery charged. He’s certainly got a lot of equipment, Cathy thought, and not only in the IT department.
The day Rob was due back was especially hot and sultry. Scott brought her a cold drink. ‘Rob’s a lucky guy,’ he said. ‘You make a great couple.’
Cathy frowned. ‘Oh no,’ she said laughing. ‘You mean you thought…me and Rob? We’re not a couple. Rob’s my cousin not my boyfriend. I’m just helping out for the summer.’
‘Gee bonza, really?’ he said his eyes lighting up with interest.
A wide grin spread across his face. ‘In that case,’ he said. ‘We’re having a bonza-barbie on Polzeath beach tomorrow. There’ll be great food, music and dancing in the moonlight under the stars. How about it?’
Cathy hesitated. She was tempted, but her heart was still bruised from the break-up with Matt. She’d vowed off men for the summer and just because Scott was mad-sex-gorgeous didn’t mean she was ready to fall for him so easily.
Just then Rob walked in. He did a ‘high-five’ with Scott and followed with a hug. Cathy was reminded again of their closeness.
‘Great timing mate,’ Scott said. ‘I’ve just asked Cathy to come to the Polzeath barbie with me tomorrow but she’s reluctant. Tell her I don’t bite.’
Rob laughed. ‘He probably does, Cathy,’ he said. ‘But don’t worry, it’s seldom fatal.’
Their close friendship won her over and she agreed to go with Scott.
After Scott left Rob said, ‘You two hit it off then?’
Cathy grinned. ‘He’s been in everyday but he’s a real dork when it comes to technology. One day he brought a tablet in to have the battery put on charge. He knows nothing. Honestly, talk about a technophobe.’ She shook her head, bemused.
Rob’s eyes widened. ‘Technophobe?’ he said. ‘I hope not. He’s professor of IT at the International Summer School in Newquay.’ He chuckled. ‘He was testing you. He’d enjoy that.’
Cathy gasped. Cheek, she thought, but felt a stab of satisfaction at obviously having passed.
‘Actually he’s looking for a reasonably priced tablet he can recommend to the college to buy for the students,’ Rob said. ‘If they buy through me the sales will keep me going through this summer and the next.’
Cathy recalled the tablet Scott had been interested in.
Rob looked stricken. ‘Please tell me he found what he was looking for,’ he said.
Cathy chuckled. ‘Oh yes,’ she said. ‘No worries. I reckon he found exactly what he was looking for.’
If you enjoyed this story there are plenty more in my Short Story Collections here.