I pause in front of the cafe, it has been ten years and it still looks the same to me. I swear I can still see traces of blood on the pavement, dried cold blood. Hell, summer is fleeing and it is starting to get cold. The dark hand of winter is creeping in, stealing the brightness of the day. I have known darkness all my life and the gayness of summer or dampness of winter makes no difference to me. The only brightness I know is long gone and my life remains series of winter seasons. I have come to love these seasons with their dark mornings, moody afternoons and restless nights. The only downside to winter is that people drink more coffee and hang around coffee bars forever, zipping the warmth of the cafe with their liquid drink. I can stand coffee, l have a love and hate relationship with the caffeine mistress but people, not so much. I hate them, especially the goody-too shoes and silky ties and shiny suits in my cafe.
Today is cold. You see, I don’t feel cold or hot, I don’t feel any emotion. My clothes don’t conform to the weather. I have worn the same clothes for ten years now: A black H&C shirt that has lost it shine and now has a powdery look to it, a green pencil skirt that looks like it would rip at the slightest touch. Don’t even get me started on the flat black pair of shoes sitting like a piece of plastic beneath my feet. This look suit me, this life, it comforts me. So, how do I know today is cold? I tell the weather by the number of people in the cafe and the amount of clothing they pile on the coat hanger. Today, the cafe is filled with crying brats and smug happy faces and the hanger is spilling over with coats of many colours. None of the coatless moron is sitting on my spot yet but I know it is a matter of time, before some ignorant fool find its way. That’s no problem. I know how to get them off, no one can stand the fragrance of the one-year dirt I carry with me. The problem is the long line at the counter and as today is my darkest day of the year and I am not in the mood to speak to any breathing soul, I wait my turn and not barge into the front of the line.
I have never seen the girl at the till before. She is new, she must be, she looks out of place with her pink hair tucked behind her pixie ears. Her nose is decorated with holes that had probably been adorned with some cheap metal before she resumed work. Her mascara coated false eyelashes dances to music only they can hear. She is different from the priced perfect breed with their perfect nails, perfect hair and crisp uniform that normally grace the till. I don’t like her and from the way she is staring at me, I know the feeling is mutual. I give her my order and she buzzes off murmuring to herself, she seems to have lost the smile she had on while serving the young lad before me. I prefer her without the smile; she looked like a grinning rabbit. I can even say there is some uncanny beauty to her unsmiling face.
Two pounds fifty, she says, slamming the full cup of coffee on the counter.
I snare at her like a tiger guarding its prey. She steps back. She seem uncomfortable, I decide to use a form of payment that would force her to spend more time under my glaring eyes. Her discomfort sends a thrill down my spine. I reach in my Gucci bag to get my bankcard; the bag is the only thing on me that has stood the test of time, I guess there is a benefit to buying quality original overpriced things after all.
‘Two pounds fifty, please’. She pauses between the ‘price’ and the ‘please’. With her sand teeth forming a cage to all sympathy, I can feel the ‘please’ is just a formality and not a pleasant act of politeness. My searching hands meet emptiness, now I am uncomfortable, I can feel my hands shaking. Her eyebrows are rising in disdain at my jittery. Her nose is turning up to smell bullshit as I search. It is normally in my back pocket just beneath my green skirt but I can’t find it there. I remember, the last time I used it was in a charity shop on the street I slept last night but I can’t remember putting it back in my pocket. Maybe I had left it in the shop.
The crowd is getting impatient and my coffee is getting cold. I see the man behind me huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf in the piggy story I read as a child. A woman wearing a black gown two size smaller is playing a looking game with her wristwatch. A man shouts from the back of the line ‘just pay the dam money you filthy bitch.’ No one answers. I dig my hand into the front pocket of my green skirt, the pocket lining rips, coins bounces off the tile floor. I scramble on the floor scooping the scattered coins.
‘I’ll pay for the coffee.’ The man behind me offers.
‘No’ I scream. ‘You don’t understand.’ ‘He doesn’t understand, I murmur to myself furiously counting my recovered coins.
‘I have to pay or he won’t come’ I sniff, swipe the back of my hand across my running nose and rub it on my skirt. I count two pounds fifty from the coins I scooped from the floor and pick my coffee. I walk to my spot just as a ginger headman stands up. I sit and look through the glass onto the busy London Street.
The coffee is not completely cold but it is fast going from hot to warm. I turn on my phone and read the message. It is dated 10 years ago, ‘I’ll be the white shirt bloke with a red rose for my Rosa,’ I dial the number. The operator say ‘the number you have dialed does not exist.’ I slam the phone shut. I look through the glass doors; I see cars speeding pass cyclists on the Boris Barclays bikes. I see bus 42 drop Its scrambling passengers at the makeshift bus stop. I close my eyes and lean back into the sofa. I feel a weird kind of peace as I take a deep breath. This is a rare feeling for me, so I sink deeper into it. I enjoy it while it last because like all joyous feeling, this will not last. It did not, the noise of tire screeching outside filled the small cafe, breaking into my peaceful world like a thief. I sit straight and stare into emptiness as memories flood my brain and a scene starts to play before my eyes like an old horror movie played backwards in slow motion.
My mind goes back to the day I got the text message, when that same sound of screeching tires tore my world apart. I see him standing behind the glass doors in a white shirt holding a red rose. I smile, he smiles, and we both laugh. I wave to him to come in, he shakes his head in that funny way that swept me off my feet the first time I saw him on Skype. A blue Nissan sways off the road behind him. I watch him fly into the air, then hit the ground with a terrible thump. He rolls over twice before coming to a halt near the glass door like a rag doll. The car pulls back and disappears down the road like a mirage. I stand glued to the floor; my eyes are pinned to the horror scene playing before me. Something is holding me down, my legs feels like lead. A man jots pass me. A noise like a cry of a wounded hyena rents the air. I realize the noise is coming from my burning throat. My leg starts to respond and I rush to his side.
‘Will someone call an ambulance ‘ I scream, holding him close to my breast but I know it is pointless because I can’t feel a pulse. His blood is dripping over my green skirt, making a gorgeous bright red puddle around my knees. His eyes are open, staring into the sky, staring at me as if begging not to be forgotten. I feel for pulse again as l stare at the top of his skull sitting beside the red rose in the middle of the road. The red rose lies on the white road mark, still fresh without a scratch.
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