First Published in September 2010 in ‘Mosaic’ – an anthology by Bridge House Publishing.
Capuccino and cake, every Friday, after work, before shopping. She hovers between tables, looking for a seat. He says, “You’ll get fat if you eat that”. They are neighbours. Wave as you drive past neighbours, not stand at the fence and chat neighbours. He has an espresso.
She sits at his table. “My Friday night treat,” she says, “Cappuccino and cake”.
“Espresso,” he says, points at his coffee. “Mind if I smoke?” He takes out a tin of small, fine cigars.
“Shopping?” she asks.
“Toilet rolls,” he says, “we’ve run out”.
His son comes from nowhere. He gives him money for fast food. “A Friday ritual,” he says. They talk about suburban rituals, about shopping, about the neighbourhood. They talk through coffee and cake. They get more coffee, he has espresso, she has cappuccino. They do more talking. He realises it is nearly closing time, rushes off to buy toilet rolls. She shops.
They get home at the same time, exchange glances from their driveways, over the fence. He says, “Come in for ice-cream, have a drink. After you’ve unloaded the shopping”.
She unpacks the groceries, faster than usual. She changes out of her suit, frets about what to wear, puts on a gypsy print skirt. She goes next door for ice-cream, dallies for a moment, knocks on the door.
“A port?” he asks. She accepts. His son pours a port, in a tumbler, filled to the top, not the traditional half way. She stares at it, wonders how she will get through it. The ice-cream has melted, the chocolate just a swirl in the vanilla. They slurp it from soup spoons, joke about it. He smokes his baby cigars. She goes home late, walks out of his driveway, turns into her own.
Saturday night he calls on her, drives from his driveway to hers, knocks on her door. “Come to the pictures?” he asks. She invites him in, asks him to wait. She changes. He is surprised how quick she is. She is surprised he drove there.
He buys tickets to Casino. Robert De Niro. Sharon Stone. It is about to start. He buys them choc-tops. He has vanilla, she has blueberry. They have front row seats. The screen is large, too close, they lean backwards, their necks crick. The movie is violent. They don’t like it, she doesn’t tell him, and he doesn’t tell her.
Afterwards, they have supper, at Johnny Rockets. They eat hot apple pies, piled high with ice cream scoops, late at night. She drinks a blue heaven spider, he drinks espresso. They read the tabletop juke box, discover they like the same music. They feed in coins, listen to songs. The Green Door. Purple People Eater.
He drives her to her gate, walks her to the door. “I had a nice evening,” she says.
He asks her to the basketball, a Sunday round-robin tournament. He’s a referee. She doesn’t know basketball, accepts anyway. She sits on hard benches, he runs up and down the court. She shivers in the cold stadium; he wipes sweat from his brow. She meets his friends, basketball fanatics, like him. Referee, coach, score table, he does it all. He watches too, has a season ticket. He buys one for her.
Tuesday, after work, he comes for coffee. She is upset. There was a dead cat, in the yard when she got home. She has just buried it. She tries to make the drinks, her hands shake. He takes over, sits her down. Makes cappuccino for her, espresso for him. “There was a dead cat,” she says. She is glad he is there.
He sees theatre tickets, on her fridge door. Japanese Taiko Drumming. “I’m going with my girlfriend,” she says, “next Saturday”.
“I love drumming,” he says. He wonders if he might come too. She checks with her friend, changes the two tickets for three. They sit together, at the theatre, behind a column, move this way and that to see past. The big drum is wheeled in, a two meter diameter, he holds her hand. She gasps at the flashy solos, the choreography. He is impressed by the speed, the blurring of drum sticks. Her friend watches him, sizes him up.
They go to a restaurant, The Spaghetti Tree, after the show. They sit under tiffany lamp shades, surrounded by stained glass, ornate mirrors. He has steak, blue, two minute steak. She has tortellini carbonara. He holds her hand, caresses her cheek. Her friend watches, thinks he moves too quickly, otherwise reserves judgement.
They get home late. “Coffee?” she says, “my place, the espresso machine”. He likes espresso. They sit in her lounge, drink coffee. They talk about everything, talk about nothing, until the early hours of the morning. They are not tired, they feel young again.
Sunday afternoon, they go to the basketball. They have front row seats, by the aisle. They drink coffee, eat hot chips. She watches the crowd, he cheers, he catcalls. He explains the game, in detail. She takes it in, she likes the atmosphere. He likes the speed of the sport.
“Come for dinner tonight?” he says. He thinks she doesn’t eat properly, wants to feed her up. He cooks for her and his son. Lamb stew with dumplings, from a pressure cooker, fast tracked food. Followed by port, in tumblers, filled to the brim. Later, they go through his record collection, discover they have the same records. He still has a turntable. They play Elvis Presley, Heart Break Hotel, Blue Suede Shoes, long into the night.
He walks her home, in the early hours, kisses her at the front gate. They linger, he comes inside. They keep company, learn about each other, wordlessly. The sun comes up. He remembers, “The house is unlocked”. He rushes home, in the morning, in time to get ready for work.
Monday she stays over, at his place, after tea. Stays for breakfast. Coffee and toast. He reads the paper. She makes the bed. She walks home, in the morning light. The neighbours watch, atwitter with gossip, say they’re going together.
Tuesday he takes her to a restaurant. Books it himself, a first for her. He gives her a gift, earrings. Sapphire and gold. Another first.
More nights of keeping company. More breakfasts together. “We should visit my parents”, he says, “on the weekend.” It’s a long drive. They stock the car, drinks and snacks, flavoured milk, Mars Bars, Cherry Ripes. They leave after work. He drives, then she drives, he drives again. They play CD’s. Elvis Presley. Michael Crawford. She takes off her shoes, puts her feet on the dashboard. He serenades her, sings along with the Righteous Brothers. Unchained Melody.
They stop at McDonalds for tea. He has a Big Mac, she has a Filet-O-Fish. They both have fries, him large, her small. Fast food. They drive on, into the night. Tell tales of road trips, exchange stories, laugh at each other’s jokes.
They arrive at his parents, in the early hours. There is supper, cake and biscuits in abundance. Coffee. Chatter. He laughs. His mother gushes. He’s happy, she’s happy. They spend the weekend. They talk, they shop. She buys him a CD, her first gift to him. His parents tell tales, glimpses of his childhood.
After Sunday lunch, they drive home. He serenades her. Unchained Melody again. They play CD’s. Tom Jones. Neil Diamond.
Monday, he goes on a business trip, for nearly two weeks, overseas. It was planned, before them. She drives him to the airport, in his car. “Drive it while I’m gone,” he says. It is large, expensive. She locks it in her garage, only brings it out to go back to the airport.
He rings her, every morning, 5am her time, eleven days straight. He reverses the charges, she accepts them. They talk, until her sun comes up, his goes down. On the other side of the world, he goes to bed. She goes to work. The telephone company ring her. There’s an anomaly, excessive charging to her account, international calls. She laughs, says, “It’s OK, it’s my boyfriend’. The words roll over her tongue, surprise her, tantalise her.
Friday, she takes the day off. Drives to the airport, in his car. Waits for him, at Arrivals. She’s glad he’s back. He’s glad to be back.
Saturday morning, at his place, he says, “I’m doing our washing; shall I put yours with it?” She looks at him. “Sorry,” he says. “It’s too soon, I guess.” He smiles, cheeky. They eat breakfast. Talk about other things.
He reads the paper. She washes the dishes. “We should have a traditional wedding,” he says, out of the blue. She’s never been married, he has. He talks about guests, about the venue, about the ceremony.
“It’s only been four weeks,” she says. She walks away. He makes coffee. They sit at the kitchen table, look at each other.
“An outdoor ceremony,” he says.
“It’s customary to ask first,” she says.
“You should choose an engagement ring,” he says.
“With a bezel setting,” she replies.
Want to see more from Gayle:
Click here for Gayle’s Weekend Notes Articles
Click here for Remembering Nan (published by Human Writers)