Tuesday, December 11

Weekend Edition

MISS TUULI ORDERED two cappuccinos and took a seat by the window where a mild blue light came in from the wintery morning outside. To appear busy she retrieved her phone and started to play with it, then, thinking it silly, put it back in her handbag and looked around at the other customers. She had thick brown hair that shone and she wore a long camel coat that she was not yet ready to remove.
The cappuccinos came. She signaled for the other to be placed on the opposite side of the table. With measured care she pulled a folded newspaper from her handbag and smoothed it out on the table before her, first checking for crumbs or spills. The date on the newspaper was four days ago, the weekend edition.
A man entered, looking around. He strode over. He had looks that might be handsome in a decade or two. He apologised for being so late – ‘Damn Circle line.’
‘I thought I’d walk from Canon Street.’
‘Weren’t you cold?’ he asked, hanging his cashmere coat on the back of his chair.
‘I walk fast enough to not get cold.’ Beneath the table were stunning black stilettos that Miss Tuuli thought made her look very good. ‘Anyway …’ she began to say and drifted off – ‘O, I ordered you a cappuccino!’
‘Thank-you.’
She waited until he had sat down and organised himself before she would start talking again. He sipped his drink, appearing not quite satisfied, and nervously gazed about. He saw Miss Tuuli’s stilettos poking out from under the table on the tips of her crossed legs. They were slim, shapely ankles.
‘How’ve you been?’
‘OK,’ she said – ‘I’m finally fitting in a new routine around all this work. I think that’s half the problem; I just need to find a routine, get into it, you know? But it’s good being busy. Time is moving quickly and so-on. I think that a busy mind is a satisfied mind, leaves me less time to dwell on certain things, and it’s all good work.’ Noticing that perhaps he had not wanted such a long answer, she paused, sipped her cappuccino, then waved her hand as if brushing away a fly – ‘You?’
‘Such a long week … Tired … But, never mind.’
‘Hmm, yeah … What do you think of the coffee?’
‘It’s all-right.’
It was her favourite place to buy coffee, which is why she had suggested it. She did not mind walking through the city to get to it; in fact, the cold and bright December day, the decorations that were beginning to appear around town, the thought of her favourite coffee, and her recent good news, made her spirits sing and she thought that she could walk for days on just fumes and glee.
‘Is that the one?’ he asked, putting down his cup, licking his lips and pointing to the paper.
A thrust of enthusiasm – ‘Yes! Yes! The weekend edition.’ She had been waiting to talk about this. ‘It’s on page twenty-five, third column.’
He flicked through to the page twenty-five and his eyes went to the third column.
She watched with poorly-concealed excitement. Her feet began to twitch, flicking back and forth, delicate splayed bones. She watched him reading it. She could not help from smiling, until she thought that that, too, was silly, and did her best to stop.
‘I finally got my voice through!’
He evidently had not finished reading.
‘They didn’t want to listen at first, but they did.’
While he read she glanced over a few lines, where she knew her favourite quotes were, and sipped her cappuccino. It was very good coffee; like silk; it warmed her guts.
Men in the café stole glances at Miss Tuuli but, as she was, she did not notice them; she only made sure that the newspaper was not getting soiled.
Her companion finished reading and, unprepared to give any sort of verdict straight away, sipped his coffee and adjusted his collar – because when the collar was just right it made his neck look slim and long. More waitresses made their way around with cups of coffee and the midday sandwiches.
‘Well,’ he sniffed – ‘you certainly got your voice through.’
Miss Tuuli was unsure whether or not this was a compliment. In an instant she imagined what her voice sounded like and whether it was a good thing, or maybe he was poking fun at how she wrote so differently to the way she spoke. Either way she was uncomfortable and wished she had not invited him to coffee but knew that it was essential because of who he was, even if all the people in the coffee shop did not know his face.
‘Do you think, in this instance, I highlighted the importance of fundraising for this cause?’ Ruffling fingers into the thick hair around the back of her ears she added – ‘I think I’ve done a lot for the community there … and I’d like to be recognised for it.’
He realised that he would have to, if he wanted to get anywhere with Miss Tuuli, praise her fundraising and the letter she had written to the paper. So he did, extensively, sometimes lying through his teeth while catching a look at her elegant ankles.
She finished her coffee. She knew that she wanted to be back outside in the street where it was cold and the light was blue when it was straining through the grey, and she did not want him to be there, but she wanted to take her newspaper and she wanted someone, anyone, to recognise her for what she had done. It was with the small leaves that had come from nowhere and were blown down the road she wished to be. She listened to him praising her and she only wanted to have ordered coffee alone so that she could reread page twenty-five, column three and not have to deal with all the other nonsense.

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