The warm smell of fresh brownies drifted across the cafe, ducking under the tables, squeezing through chairs, urged on by the fans; it flew. A gooey batch, chocolate chips still soft, had appeared on the counter. So loudly rang the placing of the tray, that Matt’s eyes glanced over, his mouth already watering, and so the enticing aroma managed to make him half consider ordering two.
Over Matt’s head, a clock's hand ticked a steady background beat, drawing his attention. For all wandering eyes, it was ten to two; she was twenty minutes late. A huff of impatience escaped his cracked lips, his mind drifting back to the crowded room.
An elderly man sat slouched at the table across from him, his broadsheet newspaper out of place in a room full of faces glazed by the light of phone screens. Matt‘s hand instinctively touched his own in his pocket. If he got it out, his eyes would be glued hard to it, in case the light flashed. His mind knew it would vibrate, but the flash came first. It was an addiction he couldn’t fight. Not to the phone. To her.
His mind buzzed and beeped, unable to fight the itch of wonder…
”...where was she?”
The old man‘s mouth let go of a cough, accompanying the symphony of crinkling as he flipped a page. Matt’s eyes darted up, accidentally catching his gaze, the man smiled at him eagerly folding the paper away.
Matt’s mind shuddered, cursing itself as the man rose, heading towards him. As soon as the stranger came within ear shot, Matt called out trying to put him off.
“Sorry mate, i’m waiting for someone.”
The grin over the worn face widened.
“Someone who still ain’t here yet, ‘ow about a bit of company, to help with the waiting? Whatcha say?”
Put on the spot, Matt’s thoughts already ablaze, he found himself nodding before reason could interject. The flame in his mind was inundated with worries and the urge to call her now - to see where oh where she was. Matt didn’t have the patience for small talk, but it was too late; the elderly man was lowering himself into the chair opposite.
The chair eeking with the slow applying pressure of aching joints, a wry smile found itself on the old man’s lips. In the opposite side of tension: a forced smile began forming on Matt’s dry lips, his hand quivering but extending for an introduction...
"Matt..." He began
The old man smiled.
Heather glanced over at the clock at the far end of the cafe for the umpteenth time, as she struggled to contain her impatience. He was never late, never. Yet somehow, twenty minutes had gone and Matt was still a no show.
And why, oh why hadn't he called?
In her mind she started to worry about the possibility of him meeting up with an accident. But she shrugged away the thought almost immediately. No, Matt was just not the accident type.
The loud sound of a tray as it was placed on the counter momentarily stopped her train of thought. Heather turned her head in time to catch a glimpse of freshly baked chocolate cupcakes before they were taken away by a smiling customer.
She swallowed, perhaps she should eat. Matt may have kept her waiting, but she didn't have to stay hungry. She glanced again at the clock, and she let out a resigned sigh. She would give him a few extra minutes. She only needed to find something else to occupy her mind in the meantime.
Her eyes glanced around the faces in the almost crowded cafe. Everyone seemed busy, eyes glued to the newspapers and magazines in front of them. Except one. Odd she thought.
Heather watched curiously, as the old lady across from her held her phone close to her eyes, obviously struggling to see the contents on the screen. Then seemingly exhausted, she pulled her eyes away for a moment. Heather tried to do the same...
Too late, their eyes met momentarily and the old woman smiled.
Heather returned her smile, then made to signal the waiter. But she stopped halfway when the old lady stood, and started making her way to Heather's table.
"He's keeping you waiting?" The old woman asks, upon getting to the table.
Heather nodded, not knowing what else to do.
"Well, ‘ow about a bit of company from an old lady, to help with the waiting? Whatcha say?”
Heather smiled again, and nodded. Perhaps small talk was what she needed, to take her mind of the strange theories of why Matt was still a no show.
The old woman extended a wrinkled hand. Heather took it...
"I'm Heath..." She began, but the old woman raised a second wrinkled hand to stop her.
"No need for introductions.." she stated. "I'm Heather too. I'm you..."
Been off the grid recently due to the various activities surrounding the end of my service year. Finally all that is done now, and I can embrace the uncertainty of the future...
While I write...