Sunday, 3 March 2013

The Lady in the Cafe

The half empty coffee cup sat in the middle of the table. It had sat there for over an hour. I hadn’t cleaned it away yet. I was waiting for the café to empty. It was already 4pm and most of the stragglers would be gone within the next few minutes.

Finally the last ones left. I had to start cleaning around the two old ladies that always came in on a Tuesday. They came in together and had afternoon tea every week. They always seemed to have so much to talk about. I never had anyone to talk to since Cathy had died. I had left the town where the accident occurred; I couldn’t cope with the looks. I had been driving and I had walked away. Cathy had survived for forty eight hours, looked like she was on the road to recovery where a blood clot suddenly reached her brain. Within minutes she had gone, from talking to dead. In the few hours we had spoken after the accident she said she knew it wasn’t my fault, she had seen the rabbit that I swerved to miss. If only I had seen the idiot without his lights on coming the other way I wouldn’t have tried to miss the rabbit. As soon as I saw him coming I swerved back, over corrected and went straight through barrier into the field beyond. Everyone else thought I had been drunk or high. Knowing Cathy forgave me was enough, but the rest of her family and the neighbours shunned me. I couldn’t face the stares and whispers behind my back all the time, so I took the life insurance and moved to the seaside to open the café Cathy and I had always dreamed of.

That had been two years ago and the café was doing well. Even in the winter it had a steady stream of the locals. Good pricing and home cooked food always brought them in. Cathy had always complemented me on my Victoria Sponge. I had students that helped in the summer but during the winter I could pretty much manage by myself.

I had first seen the woman three weeks ago. She had come in with one of the guys from the holiday park but she didn’t look the usual type. She was dressed in a grey business suit and looked very stern. Over the following few weeks she had come in most days and had relaxed her dress style. It turned out she had made her money working for the banks but had always wanted to run a little caravan park by the coast. I had learned all of this whilst attending to their table as the discussions for the sale of the caravan park had taken place.

 I couldn’t talk to her, she was amazing, so self-assured. Today was the day they should have signed the deal but something had happened. Something had gone wrong. She had got up in the middle of the meeting and stormed out. The caravan park owner had looked at me shocked and chased after her.

Now the café was closed, as I sat down at their table my foot kicked a canvas bag on the floor.  I slowly picked up the mug and held it between cupped hands. It was cold now. She was gone, would she ever be back? I turned the mug towards me; I could see the outline of her lipstick on the side.  I slowly lifted the mug and gently placed my lips to the place where hers had been. I could taste strawberries and feel the Vaseline. It was lip balm not lipstick. The seaside wind was obviously taking its toll on her beautiful skin. I tipped the mug and slowly savoured the cold coffee she had enjoyed previously. I closed my eyes and imagined her. This was the first time I had ever thought of another woman since Cathy died and now it was going to be too late, she had left. Just then I heard the knocking. It gradually got louder and louder.

I opened my eyes and realised with a mixture of horror and joy that it was her. She pointed at the locked door and signalled to be let in. Of course the bag on the floor she must have left it behind. I slowly put the mug down and blushing went over to the door. As I opened it she grabbed my cheeks and pulled me towards her kissing me full on the lips.

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