Jenny Palmer

Sweet Coffee

 

There was a dog guarding the door. It was a mongrel sort of thing. It looked harmless enough. Should she pat it and run the risk of having her hand snapped off? If only it would stand aside and let her in. For in was where she had to get. She must have her early morning coffee. She would be hopeless without it.

A man suddenly appeared at the door. The dog owner no doubt. He ushered the dog away so that she could get past it.

‘What a wonderful guard dog it makes,’ she said. It was always best to be complimentary with dog owners. She preferred cats herself. You didn’t have to do much with them, except feed them. And they would sleep on your feet at night. Keep your toes warm.

She ordered her usual. A cup of coffee, to start with. Then she would see. She might have a slice of toast with marmalade on it. They did that here. They did lots of things here. Marmalade. Marmite. Whatever you wanted all served immaculately with plastic gloves. She didn’t know why they had to be quite so meticulous about it all. It set your mind wandering, made you wonder about all sorts of ghastly diseases.

There were four tables in the place. Two of them were occupied. One was free. She could have sat on that table but the girl had smiled at her. It would be nice to have a bit of company. The girl was dressed in a woolly tartan coat and was wearing a hat and gloves.

‘Cold weather we’re having,’ she said, by way of an opening gambit. ‘I hope it isn’t going to snow.’ She found she was always cold these days, something to do with not having much flesh on her bones.

Snow isn’t expected,’ the girl said.

She could have sworn it was going to snow. It certainly felt cold enough.

The coffee needed sugar. There was a container full of condiments on the table. Which was salt and which was sugar? It was so easy to get them wrong. In the old days, she’d had perfect vision. She used to be able to spot the number of a bus from miles away.

The girl handed her a sachet. Fancy putting sugar in a sachet. It meant you got less and she would have to use at least four of them, to make the coffee palatable. The other two containers were salt and pepper. You had to check everything these days. Double check.

The trouble with this cold weather was it made your nose drip and she’d forgotten her tissues. She would have to use her gloves. It couldn’t be helped. The girl was staring at her now. Which would you prefer – a dripping nose or me using my gloves? she wanted to say. There’s no law against it, as far as I know. But it was no good antagonising people. It only made matters worse.

The girl was on her way to work. Friday was her favourite day because it was nearly the weekend. Funny. She could have sworn it was Sunday. When you were retired every day was Sunday. That was the glory of it.

The morning had been a rush. She’d hardly had time to get dressed. In the end she’d gone for the pink hat, to match the grey coat. And lipstick. You couldn’t go out without your lipstick. Some people were colour blind. They mixed orange with pink. She’d chosen a ruby lipstick to go with the pink hat. She’d learnt these fashion tips when she was on the stage.

The lipstick would remind her of Jim. Jim, her heartthrob, her lover, her husband, her deceased husband. She had been wearing ruby lipstick it when they first got together. She remembered it clear as day. It had been a Sunday like today. They’d both stayed on after the rehearsal and he’d asked her to go for a drink. He worked backstage. He’d admired her from afar but never had the nerve to ask her before. It had been Sunday too when Jim had proposed in that pub at the back of the Lyceum, the night before her debut. Sunday was her lucky day.

Was it the ruby lips he had fallen for, or her acting talent? She’d never been sure. She’d accepted of course. At the end of the season they’d got married and that had been it - the beginning of a happy marriage and the end of her acting career. After the children had left home she’d never returned to the stage. She’d lost the knack. And she couldn’t leave him by then. He’d needed round-the-clock care.

They’d had a good life. It was just a pity that Jim had passed away first, that was all. She missed him. She had to get out of the house. It was worst in the mornings.

This café was a godsend. It was very good for breakfast. And they didn’t mind how long you stayed there. There was another cafe for afternoon tea. It was further down the High Street. That one was altogether different. You had to be feeling pretty sound for that one. It really made you appreciate your stage training when you went in there. It was lively. You had to put on a good show.

The girl was saying goodbye. Why on earth was she going to work on a Sunday? Some people had strange habits. It was better not to interfere though.

‘Bye. See you next Sunday, dear,’ she called out.

 

About the Author

Jenny Palmer has self-published two memoirs and a family history book and is currently working on a collection of short stories.

Published 24 August 2016