Piercing ~ 3

I’ve missed you, Paul says, boldly maintaining eye-contact with Emily. Do you want another coffee? Or something else, perhaps? he asks, finally dragging his gaze away, now attempting to get any server to notice him.

No. I’m fine, she says, looking down at her cold cappuccino, wishing it was still hot. I wasn’t expecting… that, she says quietly.

That I’d miss you? he says, bringing his full attention back to this woman he’s known five years, today.

Yes. Especially after last time. And – and what you said to me then. I may not remember many things, Paul, but I always remember your words, she says.

I regret that, Em. Really. You just caught me off-guard, he says, resting his hands, palm up on the table.

That’s not an apology, she says, pushing herself back in her seat, trying to get as much distance from him as she can. You’ve again made it seem as if it was my fault. You know it wasn’t. You’ve never apologised to me. I’ve always wondered if you know how.

He slumps back, bringing his pleading hands down to his lap.

A clattering of plates across the cafe turn their heads in that direction.

Why do you keep agreeing to meet up then? he asks, reluctant to look back at her.

She watches him across the table and considers. But like she knows why they always meet up in this cafe, she knows why she always agrees to meet up with him.

Because I miss you too, she says. Paul fails in hiding his smile and blushes. Leaning in, she encourages him to look up at her.

A server swings by their table, out of breath. Sorry to keep you waiting, he says holding a stack of dirty plates along one arm, and a damp table cloth in his other hand. Can I get you anything else? he asks, shifting his added ceramic weight between each foot. A moment later, he impatiently coughs, breaking their static silence.

I’d like another cappuccino, please, she says. And… a flat white? she asks Paul, knowing that’s his coffee of choice. He nods, smiling. And a flat white, she confirms to the server.

Piercing ~ 2

Emily slumps in the booth seat opposite Paul, taking off and throwing her jacket in the corner on her way down.  Exhaling, she finally makes eye contact with him.

Thanks for the cappuccino, she says.

Probably cold now, he replies, knowingly.

Rolling her eyes at his comment, she takes a sip, trying to mask her shock and dislike to the coffee’s cold temperature, behind the rim of the large cup it was served in.  Paul smiles wryly at her efforts.  He knows she doesn’t like cold coffee but is impressed – always impressed by her stubbornness and determination to never let anything get in her way from doing what she wants to do.  And he couldn’t – wouldn’t stop her.

It’s alright, she shrugs, licking her lips and placing the cup back on the table.  Looking around the cafe, at the wait staff manoeuvring through the occupied tables, balancing trays of cups and mugs of hot liquids, and plates full of greasy and cooked every which way all-day breakfasts, she smiles.  You always want to meet here, she says.

I think you know why, he says, having not taken his eyes off her since she arrived.

She turns to look at him.  She remembers.

 

Piercing ~ 1

Shifting – nervously – in the corner booth of the busy, seemingly stifling coffee shop he regularly visits, Paul every now and then places a hand on his flat white in front of him.

Splitting his gaze between the door and the cappuccino that’s quickly cooling next to his own cup, he again, squirms in his seat, clearing his throat.  He pulls at his collar, desperate for more air.

The door chimes and a rush of noise from the traffic outside enters, along with her.

Looking up, he sees Emily standing at the entrance scanning her surroundings.  He doesn’t move.  Doesn’t speak up.  Doesn’t gesture.  He just sits there, stubbornly waiting for her to notice him.  Beautiful, he whispers, knowing she can’t hear him.  Always beautiful, he whispers again, just before she finally clocks eyes on him.

She nods, acknowledging his presence, unsurprised he didn’t say a word to usher her in his direction sooner.  She tries to disguise her controlled breathing, with a smile she hopes says, everything’s alright.  Although, she worries he’ll see straight through it.  

Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit, she mutters to herself as she approaches him.

 

A New Friend (2nd Edition, 2020)

Sat alone at the bar, Susan catches a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror behind the well-lit bottles of liquor.  She quickly looks away, flushing in embarrassment with the fear of being caught doing so.  But with a nod and a deep breath, she dares to look again.  A sixty-five old with salt and pepper hair and wrinkles around pale blue eyes looks back.  She smiles.  It had been a while since she could look at herself in the mirror.  Not because she had done anything wrong, or because she felt guilty about something – no.  For forty years, she was taught – made to believe – she wasn’t worth looking at.  Her late husband was her teacher.

To an unknowing ear, the words he awarded her, could seem romantic, as if she should know she was good enough – perfect, perhaps.  Perfect to him.  But his tone was a signature to her.  Why do you need to look in a mirror?  She recognised it, every time.

She loved her husband.  He was good to her.  He always provided for her, their children, and home.  The children always had new clothes growing up and the latest hi-tech devices.  If anything was broken or damaged, it was replaced with something new – something better.  Money was no object for her husband – but he always knew how much everything cost.  And the value of those things.  Just not the value a kind word.  She cringed at her thoughts of ungratefulness.  Perhaps it shouldn’t really matter that he never complimented her.  Or said I love you.  She takes a mouthful from her tall drink, to refresh her mind.

Occasionally, she finds she misses him, but in the last two years since he’s been gone, she feels like she’s been able to breathe again.  Her shoulders feel lighter.  She now looks up and out, rather than at her feet.  Her eyes smile again.  She trusts herself.  She makes decisions with confidence – even in the smallest of things.  What clothes she wears.  What drink she orders.  What type of smile she presents people with when she meets them.  She’s herself again.

Taking another sip from her glass, looking over the rim and again into the mirror, she spots the person she’s been waiting for, walking towards her.  Not wanting her nerves to get the better of her, she concentrates – carefully – at placing her glass back on the bar and quietly clears her throat, before looking up to greet her new friend, Tom.

Moments before Susan clocked his presence, Tom stood at the door straightening out his already straightened-out shirt, and smoothing down his barely-there hair, then quickly made his way across the room to join her, with concern that he’s late.

He gently places his hand on her arm, which Susan finds both thrilling and oddly comforting.  Hello, I’m sorry, have you been waiting long? he asks, leaning in to kiss her cheek before sitting.

No, no, she replies, trying to not get flustered.  I left the house a little earlier than I needed to.  I’ll know next time.  She startles herself – surprised with how easy it was to say, next time, but worries it may seem presumptuous.  She smiles, regardless.

Tom noticed.  Since the first day he properly introduced himself at the widows and widowers support group they attended, he noticed everything about Susan.  The way she beamed when she spoke of her grown children.  The way she sincerely enquired about everyone else’s health, before lightly dismissing her own.  The way her eyes glistened and widened whenever he was telling her a funny tale.  The way she smiled and laughed like it had been a long time since she’d done either, and she was finally allowing herself to do both.  Tom didn’t think – didn’t plan – that he’d meet anyone again after his wife died, who he loved and adored dearly for forty-five years.  And he especially didn’t think – didn’t plan – to meet someone at a widows and widowers support group!  That is until he met Susan.  What can I get you to drink? he said, smiling at the thought of the next time he would get to spend with her.

As Susan politely asks for a gin and tonic, he watches her delicately tuck a fallen strand of her hair, back in to place.  You look lovely, tonight, he said.

Susan blushes.  Thank you, she said.  And after a pause, Tom ordered their drinks.

 

 

Piercing

The piercing of the path the bullet created, made it more obvious the last moments were real and nothing could stop the hole getting bigger.  It consumed him.  It consumed him to his last breath.  She took some, if only a little comfort, that he didn’t feel any pain in those final seconds.  He simply shut his eyes and drifted.  He looked peaceful.

Sit with me

I can’t hold your hand right now

and I want to, but I can’t give you a hug either

but trust I’ll ask, how are you?

I’ll ask it twice and always wait and listen to your reply

it’s ok if you can’t or don’t want to answer

but would it be ok if I just sit with you for a while?

because I’d like to

Rebel behaves

There’s this rebel inside with itchy feet, craving for a pub crawl with family and friends, and to travel a bit further than the next street over.

But this rebel isn’t really a rebel.

She has common sense, compassion, and understands the importance of behaving herself right now.

And she’s not an idiot.

She won’t ever be called an idiot.

So, she’ll continue drinking on her own at home – she wasn’t keen on sharing her beer with anyone beforehand, anyway.

And she’ll start planning on paper where she’s going to bugger off to next – ready for when the time is really right, and not a moment sooner.

This rebel behaves herself.

T-Shirt

He throws his t-shirt to her waiting to catch. Their eyes glisten for each other before she watches him walk away half-clothed.

She threads his warm cotton t-shirt softly through her hands, slowly rubbing the material between her fingers and thumbs.

Pulling it in closer to her chest, wrapping her arms securely around it, she can smell the flavours of him.  Inhaling chestnut, sweat, and fresh-cut grass, she breathes him in again, and again, exhaling with a satisfied sigh, every time.

Hearing the sound of running water, she deflates, dragging herself back.  Looking down at the t-shirt in her grip, she loosely rolls it up and puts it in the laundry basket.

In sickness and in health (2nd edition, 2020)

Sitting opposite each other at their dinner table, neither of them could find any more words.  Only the sound of the traffic on the busy road outside their home, hinted at time passing by.

Taking a breath, Nick pushes himself up from his chair, maintaining eye contact with the one woman he thought he could trust the most.

“Where are you going to go?” Amelia asks.

Nick carelessly tucks his chair back under the table, shoves his fists in his pockets, clears his throat, and stares down at Amelia.

“I actually think you should be the one to leave, but I’m not sure I could live in this house – what I thought was our home – anymore.  I can’t live in a place where I’m reminded of memories that should never have been made.  Congratulations, Amelia!  I look like an idiot.  You’ve made me look a complete fool.”  Shrugging his shoulders, he moves into the kitchen.

Left behind, Amelia looks at the barely touched dinners and listens to Nick, tidying up in the kitchen, out of habit.  This was the last meal she would have with her boyfriend.  She was devastated, but also relieved.  It worked.

Turning towards the collection of framed photos displayed on the sideboard, she wipes away a tear, choking back more as she glances over their happier times captured on camera.

Having been together for two years, she knew – very soon – he was going to propose.  She loves him with everything she has and feels sick for what she had to do.  But she had to.  She had to hurt him. She needed him to hate her.

Before three months ago, Amelia wouldn’t have dreamed of doing this.

Six to eight months, many doctors told her.  You should perhaps share this with your partner, Amelia.

She thought about it.  She just didn’t think it was fair.  She knew Nick would do anything and everything for her if she did.  He’d be there, through it all.  He’d probably rush her down the aisle, just because.  She couldn’t make him a widower in six to eight months.  She wouldn’t.  To her, it was kinder for him to hate her for a short time, rather than miss her for a lifetime.  So, she distanced herself from him, and let him believe she was being unfaithful, before falsely confessing she was.  Even though she has and would never look at another man, the way she looks at Nick.

And so, over this dinner, with both hands placed flat on the table to steady her nerves – to keep focus, she did it.  She broke his heart.

And he was right.  She fooled him.

Amelia notices Nick is now leaning in the kitchen doorway.  Before she can speak, he interrupts “I’ll pack a bag and leave tonight.”

“OK.”

Nick looks at his feet, shaking his head, “OK.”

He walks away and she listens to him climb the stairs to their bedroom.   She looks down at her hands, realising she’s been holding them – and holding them so tightly, they’ve turned deadly white.

“It’s better this way,” she says, releasing her grip.