Nan and Sally make a dramatic entrance.
The door open and Nan spread her arms displaying a previously unseen feather bower to its fullest extent. ‘I have arrived.’
Sally came in behind her wearing a pair of sunglasses big enough to qualify for a celebrity’s corner shop disguise.
Nan practically skipped to her table and struck a pose. ‘Waitress, bring me my coffee.’ She flopped down onto her chair dramatically.
Sally sat down with the elegance of a forties movie star.
‘Am Dram society holding auditions again?’ I asked.
‘The public are crying out for my art,’ Nan said.
‘They’ll be crying for something,’ I muttered and fired up the coffee machine.
It wasn’t our busiest day but we had a steady flow of people seeking hot drinks and food to fend off the dampness. They came in empty handed and discussed the plan of attack for their Halloween or early Christmas shopping, some were already hauling a treasure trove of bargains and looking fit to murder someone.
I hadn’t particularly thought about it before but I supposed it was slow, we managed with two people and some days still found ourselves sitting around reading and waiting for the next customers. We had regulars from before Mr and Mrs Levine retired but their numbers were declining. Ninety percent of the time I was the youngest person in the café, then other ten percent were Sunday’s when Jimmy’s niece, Mattie, helped out.
When I put the tray of tea things on the table in front of Nan she leaned in. ‘So… What happened to your forehead?’
I touched my hairline. ‘Banged it on the edge of the counter sorting out the cups.’
She shook her head and did a dramatic ‘typical’ sigh. I’d actually banged it on the shelf in Jimmy’s shower bending down to soap my legs but I wasn’t in the mood for sexy shower jokes.
As if she’d read my mind Nan leaned towards me and asked, ‘Anything interesting last night?’ She looked towards the kitchen where Jimmy was cooking something for the specials board.
I shrugged. ‘Dan fell asleep on the settee and it turns out he snores quite loud.’
‘No ideal, but everyone needs a flaw.’
‘There’s more to life than sex, you know,’ I said.
‘True, but we’re retired we’ve got fuck all to do but matchmake,’ Nan said. ‘It’s boring being old and broke.’
‘I’m still going to charge you for the tea, Nan.’
‘These youngsters don’t know how good they’ve got it,’ Sally muttered. ‘My vag is drier than the Sahara Desert.’
I froze, hands tight on the tray.
‘A man like Jimmy could fix that for you,’ Nan said, ‘Such a sexy sweetie, they call them a cinnamon roll now.’
‘I prefer tasty tush,’ Sally replied, fiddling with her necklace. ‘That man could cook my rolls any day.’
They knew, they had to know, they were doing it on purpose.
Sally tilted towards me and looked over her sunglasses at me. ‘Let me tell you something you won’t find on the interweb.’ She tapped the table with an acrylic nail. ‘A circumcised man is a bigger man.’
I stared. ‘That’s not how it works.’
‘And how do you know that, young lady?’ Nan shoved her face close to mine. ‘Have you looked?’
‘Maybe I have a basic grasp of biology.’ I lowered the tray I’d been holding like a shield. ‘That’ll still be two-fifty.’
Nan met my gaze. ‘We will break you.’
‘I work in the service industry,’ I whispered. ‘I am unbreakable.’ I straightened. ‘I’m thinking of starting a loyalty card system, if you fill one you get a free drink.’
They hunched over the table and conferred in hushed whispers for a moment.
Nan sat back. ‘We won’t be brought by stamps, unless…’ She raised her finger. ‘They’re phallic shaped.’
They folded their arms and muttered about how I was no fun like they were a couple of toddlers rather than old women.
I sighed. ‘Anything else?’
They leaned around me to peer towards the kitchen, adjusted their chairs for a better view, shared a look and nodded.
‘No, I’m alright, dear,’ Nan said without looking at me.
I turned to find Jimmy bending over, his rear framed by the kitchen hatch. The jeans he was wearing did grip his arse very nicely. I shook my head, they were getting to me, I might need my brain scrubbing out with soap.
I crouched down behind the counter to put the tray away and get out the café’s tablet. When I popped back up Rick was standing on the other side. We needed a bell for the doors.
‘I’ll have a coffee to take out, please,’ he said as there was nothing remotely uncomfortable about him being there.
‘A coffee?’ I tucked the tablet back under the counter and frowned at the till as if it was doing something funny.
‘You know what kind of coffee I drink.’
‘I suppose I do.’ Was I being petty? He seemed earnest but I didn’t want to fall for it, again. I realised I was still staring at the till and turned around to make a latte. I’d heard guys being told a latte wasn’t a ‘man’s drink’, nonsense but I doubted anyone was going to argue with the six foot four brick shithouse that was Rick Harrington.
‘I’ve got a new job round here and this is the only place I know that does decent coffee. I didn’t know you’d be on shift.’
‘I don’t do shifts. It’s all day everyday, except Fridays and Saturdays.’
‘Wow…’ he trailed off, nodding, as if something more wouldn’t form.
‘Nice to hear you have a steady job,’ I said, adding the milk to his latte. ‘You get fifty pence off if you bring a reusable cup.’
‘I’m surprised you don’t have ones with the café name on,’ he said. ‘That would be so you.’
I pushed the lid down so hard some of the coffee shot out the top. ‘What does that mean?’ I mopped up the mess with a cloth.
‘Just you were always so thorough.’ He shrugged his massive shoulders. ‘I didn’t realise how much you did until you weren’t there to do it anymore.’
‘Part of the problem.’ I put the latte in front of him. ‘Three quid.’ I nudged the tip bowl towards him.
He cleared his throat, gave me a fiver for the coffee then dropped the two pound change in the tip bowl.
‘Good tip,’ I said.
He glanced at something behind. ‘Sometimes you’ve got to appreciate the things people do for you.’ He saluted me with the coffee and left.
He might’ve sounded sweet if I hadn’t spent most of our relationship telling him that. Rick had deemed sex to be showing appreciation and young me had fallen for it. The sex had been amazing but in retrospect not worth it.
Jimmy came up behind me. ‘Is he bothering you? Me and my bothers could take care of it. We have cricket bats.’
I laughed and relaxed. ‘If it becomes a problem I’ll say, as long as you promise to keep the cricket bats at home.’
He grinned. ‘It’s really more of a paddle than a bat.’
‘Yeah…’ I glanced towards the doors Rick had left through. ‘You’d really need something bigger than that paddle.’
He chuckled and leaned in as if he was going to kiss my temple, then noticed Nan and Sally watching. He cleared his throat and went back to the kitchen.
Nan and Sally gave me double thumbs up again. I sighed and shook my head.
For more episodes of Take a Bite Cafe click here.