The Meeting

One of the simplest pleasures in life is to spend a quiet hour in a coffee shop. I tend to go to the one upstairs in that big department store and have a cappuccino and a Belgian bun. It never gets all that busy, so I usually get my favourite table near the back; that way I don’t miss anything. Drink, cake, magazine, sorted! Actually the magazine is only there as a prop. I’m much more interested in watching the other customers.

In my opinion, people tend to fall into four main categories: couples, families, singles and friends.

Take for instance, the noisy group over at the table in the corner – consisting of one harassed mum and two small children. She’s probably wondering why she didn’t put the kids into a play-scheme for the week. They were going to do so many interesting things together, but after two days she’s tearing her hair out.

‘Hmmm, yes dear!’ I chuckle quietly. ‘The dilemma facing many of today’s parents – either you choose the play-scheme which leads to feelings of guilt and poverty; or you choose the fun days out which lead to feelings of murder and violence. Never mind, dear, it gets better; they leave home eventually….’

I look up to see the beautiful young man who cleans the tables approaching.

‘May I take that?’ He says gesturing at my empty plate. Moving my half-finished drink off the tray I nod, and give him my most dazzling smile. He should be on a catwalk somewhere. Or better still, lying on a sofa covered in chocolate buttons ….

Oh here he comes… ‘Mr. Wonderful’.  Trousers defying gravity, and the baggiest t-shirt I’ve ever seen – what size is that? XXL? And you can stop looking so smug in your skinny jeans young lady. You’d be better off learning to walk in those heels, so you don’t need to cling on to his arm like an elderly relative! Don’t think you’re anything special. He was in here the other week with a different girl, and she had just the same expression cracking her make-up that you’re wearing now. I often wondered why he comes into this coffee shop – surely it’s not his kind of place? But then I saw him checking out chocolate button boy as well …

Aw, there’s Doris. Probably not her real name, it’s just what I call her. She’s a sweet old thing. Always sits at the same table, probably lives alone. I wouldn’t mind betting that asking for a beef hotpot and mash; and then being asked if she wants green beans or carrots with it is the only conversation she gets all week. Bet she saves her pension up especially. Bless…

‘Excuse me darling, could you help her with her tray?’ I call out to buttons and he looks round to see where I’m pointing. Taking her dinner he helps her to a table, even pulls out a chair so she can sit down.

‘Thank you dear.’

‘No trouble, let me know if you need anything else. Have you got your knife and fork?’

‘Such a kind boy’ she said smiling across at me. I nod in agreement. ‘You’re telling me!’

I was so busy checking to see if he remembered to bring her a pot of gravy, that I didn’t see library lady coming in. Well I’m pretty sure she must be a librarian, or a secretary … teacher? Late thirties, short hair, glasses – always neatly turned out.

When she’s not with her friend who wears the tweed jacket, she sits by herself and reads her book. Only today she doesn’t look herself at all. She normally gets herself comfy then makes her coffee last at least half an hour. But today she’s stirring her cup continually, and that’s the second time she’s checked her phone. I smile across at her, and am about to give her my usual ‘hello how are you?’ nod. But she doesn’t see me because her attention is focused on a young man who’s just walked up to the table. He greets her and sits down opposite.

Shame, I can’t see his face, but I’m certainly impressed by curly black hair just grazing his collar, and fine pair of shoulders under a dark green jumper. ‘Nice one’. I think to myself. ‘If that’s a toy-boy then good effort dear!’

Come to think of it, maybe he’s not a toy-boy. She still looks as tense as before. I’d certainly look a lot happier than that if I was at a table with him, sharing a sticky bun. Now if I just drop my spoon on the floor I can probably manoeuvre my chair round a bit closer so I can hear what they’re saying.

‘It’s entirely up to you Ben, whatever you want to do is fine with me.’

On second thoughts, hope he’s not a toy-boy, have some self-respect dear.

‘It’s just difficult. I’m just not sure what I want. I’m scared to mess things up.’ He has the most adorable soft Scottish accent.

‘It’s okay…’ She touches his hand slightly and nods her encouragement, they sit in silence for a few moments.

‘Anyway I think I’d better get going.’ He stands up; but he must have smiled at her, because she smiled back – and it was the first time I’d seen her relax since she’d sat down.

‘Could we do this again sometime?’ She asks tentatively.

‘I’d like that. Sarah’s dying to meet you. By the way …what should I call you?’

‘Don’t worry Ben, I don’t expect you to call me Mum. Just call me Laura … and see how we go?’ He nodded, then headed off towards the escalators; with her watching his every step.

She glanced up at me.

‘Ok?’ I mouthed across. Her answer was a smile and a relieved nod.

I looked back at my magazine and took a mouthful of cold coffee; some Z-lister thinking I’ve got nothing better to do than read about her boob job. Honestly, some people need to get a life.

6 thoughts on “The Meeting

  1. I really enjoy your humour! (”Never mind, dear, it gets better; they leave home eventually…)
    You depict your characters in a very ‘generous’ way, with an ironic but humane vision. We can physically see them, and you give us hints on their lives and psychology in a very condensed clever manner! I find this text excellent. Thanks for the read (I had read it first on the course and it had already stunned me!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, you’re really kind! I was worried it was getting a bit cynical and the narrator was turning into the little old lady with no life – without having realised! thanks again for your encouragement

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a nice selection of characters, I could picture them all. I assume that like me, you’re a people watcher. I have holidayed in Cardiff twice. Sitting in one of the arcades with a cup of coffee feels just like that.

    Liked by 1 person

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