My Time is too Precious to Waste AsleepI walk with determined strides, my hands tucked deep into my coat pocket and my chin wedged under the collar.

The wind whips at my hair, but I relish the wildness; it matches my mood and the churning waves crashing onto the pebbles beside me. Dog walkers have let their pets run free. A grey spaniel darts between the rows of beach huts sniffing excitedly at the scent of a fox, a terrier chases a tumbling leaf, and a man hurls a tennis ball for a golden labrador.

My mind is whirling, and my cheeks stream with wind-whipped tears. Sophie came over for dinner last night, and she and Cassie polished off two bottles of red wine. Then this morning, Cassie announced that she was fed up with the cafe. I asked her to come for a walk, but she groaned and rolled over, determined to sleep until midday.

I walk past Tankerton Slopes, the Sailing Club and pause at the edge of the designated nature area where a flock of geese fly in dart-like formation, skimming the water before landing at the breakwater, squawking and fluttering as they settle.

My time is too precious to waste asleep. There’s too much to do. I sigh heavily and, with determined strides, retrace my steps back to the town where the shops are coming to life—a man from the deli waves, the postman smile and the butcher whistles in the doorway.

The door to the cafe sticks, so I lean against it and shove it with my shoulder, making a mental note to add it to my list of jobs. The room is long, and I look at it critically as a customer would do imagining what they would see. Three orange lights hanging from the ceiling are already festooned with drooping cobwebs. The floor is littered with discarded packaging, and five grey wooden tables of varying sizes have been pushed against the wall leaving a middle aisle leading to a wooden counter at the far end. Against that wall is the coffee machine, and I know that behind that wall, in the small kitchen, the microwave is splashed with remnants of tinned tomato, and crumbs spill from the toaster onto the tiled floor.

I throw my coat onto a peg and begin cleaning, taking a broom to the cobwebs, wiping counters and sweeping the mess.

After a few hours, I pause to make coffee and unpack boxes of china and cutlery. I wipe down the coffee machine and organise cups, mugs, glasses and saucers. I throw empty boxes to one side and unpack the cash register that has lain for two weeks in its box.

It is after one o’clock when Cassie appears, her eyes red with sleep and her hair tousled.

‘I told you I would unpack everything this week,’ she moans, perching against a table and watching me.

‘We could open this week,’ I say with cheerful optimism.

‘I can’t manage on my own. Toast?’ Cassie heads to the kitchen and pushes bread into the toaster. Crumbs scatter to the floor. She flicks the kettle to boil. ‘Coffee?’

‘Why can’t we open this week?” I insist as we sit in the cafe finishing our coffee.

‘Don’t pressure me, Molly. Why do you have to do that? Every time you come down here you complain that I’m not doing anything.’

‘I haven’t complained.’

‘You have by inference. You always want to make me feel bad.’

‘I want to help.’

‘It’s my cafe. I’ll do things when I am ready. I want to lay out the cups and stack the plates.’ She points using her mug. ‘But you come in and take over.’

‘Cassie cobwebs were hanging from the lights. The place was a mess-’

‘Here you go again….’

‘I thought you wanted my help.’

‘Not like this.’

‘Then what do you want me to do? Each day the cafe is closed, we aren’t earning any money, and there are bills to pay.’

‘Oh, here we go; it’s all back to money.’ She stands up and pushes angrily against the table.

‘It’s not all about money. It’s about business. It’s what you wanted.’

‘So you keep telling me.’

‘No! You told me! How often did I hear that you were fed up with auditioning and wanted a cafe near the sea? How many weekends did we go scouring the country for the ideal spot? How long did you spend each night persuading me to leave London? You told me this was a dream and that this would make you happy.’ I stand up and face her and add softly. ‘You wanted this, and I agreed to finance it. But I can’t live like this. It’s been nearly four months, Cassie, and you are still not open. It’s been painted and decorated, you’ve ordered all the stock, and everything is here.’ I cast my arms wide. ‘What more do you need?’

‘I can’t run this place on my own.’

‘You’ve been interviewing for weeks.’

‘Everyone has let me down. Even Liz went to the pub-’

‘There must be loads of people looking for work.’

‘Well, Sophie did mention a guy she knew – maybe I’ll pop around and see her.’

‘Can’t you just phone? Then you can help me put things where you want them.’

‘I can do that next week when you are at work.’

‘You could open on Wednesday. What else do you need? Come on, let’s make a list together.’

‘Stop pushing me, Molly. Why can’t you just let me do things at my own pace?’

‘I just want to help.’

‘Then do it yourself. I can’t put up with this all day. I’m going to see Sophie.’ She heads for the stairs at the back of the cafe that leads to our flat.

‘Cassie! Please stay, and let’s do this together. I only want to help you.’

‘You don’t. You take over, and you have no regard for me at all. You don’t know how hard this has all been and how much energy I’ve put into this. It’s quite stressful, and you swan around down here when you come home and make out I have done nothing all week. I need some air. I’m going out.’

‘Cassie-’ I plead.

But she is gone.