I dragged my gaze away from the six people jammed together at a small table close to us. “Not really staring.” I said.
But, then I looked back again.
The young man who had just casually slung his arm over the back of the chair next to him, pulled away. His jaw clenched slightly, his lips tightened into a thin line.
I couldn’t say I blamed him for being irritated.
When his arm had rested on the chair, the girl occupying it had literally recoiled in horror. Although, for quite a while before that, she’d been leaning right into him, her eyes had been fixed on his face and a little glazed while he’d talked.
She’d kept touching her hair, and when she wasn’t doing that, her hand had frequently gone to rest on the table beside his cup. She hadn’t, I’d noticed, shied away when he’d picked up his drink twice and his hand had brushed hers. In fact, her hand had edged closer.
A low voice broke my train of thought.
“Observing.” I said.
I looked away and down at my own cup. I frowned as I stirred some sugar into my coffee. – I don’t like being interrupted.
Fussing with the empty sugar sachet, I tuned in to the song being crooned by the live singer at the cafe. – ‘Lady in Red’ by Chris DeBurgh.
The singer wasn’t completely butchering the song, but he was skimming over some of the lyrics. The keyboard player sort of banged on the instrument’s keys. He also glared at them.
Quite obviously didn’t think much of the song, I told myself.
The singer did a passable job with most songs he chose to sing. I idly wondered if he was secretly crushing on one of the cafe’s regulars. There was a woman I saw there often who wore red a lot. She was usually at a table in clear view of the musicians. Always alone.
He always sang this particular song when she was around.
I pondered the possibility of her being single, or recently jilted.
Or, having a thing for the singer.
I imagined a story set in an overly lit cafe, and playing out through a series of 80’s love songs.
‘Serenade.’ I thought, laughing to myself.
Then, I imagined the keyboardist killing the couple for the years of endless torture they put him through. – He’d go on to kill the cafe’s electrician also, I concluded. But, why he’d do that, I didn’t know.
It would require more thought.
“Are you here?”
My hand was nudged.
“Obviously, I am.”
I picked up my coffee and took a sip.
I looked towards the counter at the other end of the cafe where my kids were having their milkshakes at the beverage bar. It would be another twenty minutes at least before they were done slurping, and chatting to the servers.
I glanced back towards the table crammed with people. I couldn’t help but do that. There seemed to be a lot waiting to happen there.
The girl was leaning so far forward, her face was almost touching her plate. She looked about ready to bury herself in a half eaten Club Sandwich. – Safe choice, I decided.
Her hand on the table was still near the guy’s cup. Too close. She kept glancing at him.
The guy’s arm was back on the chair. This time just his elbow. But, he’d shifted the other way and was engaged in deep conversation with another girl on his left.
“What is it about that table?” My husband asked.
“You’re looking for something.”
“I am not.”
I didn’t respond. His eyes had been glued to the TV screen earlier, and I hadn’t bothered him with senseless interrogations.
Besides, It looked like a pretty serious talk going on at the other table. Guy and Girl Two. They looked detached from the rest of the group. Neither was smiling. – I started to look away. Except that…
Their eyes were dancing with mischief.
Or was it my imagination?
Not really, I decided, looking a little closer while trying to appear normal and not staring.
There was something going on there, I noticed. – Girl Two was obviously trying very hard not to laugh. The guy was obviously trying his best to make sure she laughed.
Girl One was no longer leaning into her sandwich that much. She was obviously pissed at the turn of events.
Seriously pissed, I thought, observing her flushed cheeks. I felt a bit of sympathy for her. She’d sort of ruined it with her ‘deer in headlights’ behaviour.
Guy and Girl Two made a cuter couple though, I thought, looking over at them. – More realistic.
Their eyes held longer, they were talking with a good deal of comfort, there was a certain something which kept passing between them. It could have been the inside joke they were sharing. – It could have been something more. I sensed hesitation, but I couldn’t see it. Yet, it was there, it had to be.
“Conflict.” I muttered. “Show me the conflict.”
My husband snickered. “What?”
“Did you say ‘Conflict?'”
“I said no such thing. Watch your game.”
He snorted into his coffee. “Liar.”
I ignored him. Such an annoying man.
Girl One cleared her throat and said something to the guy. He didn’t seem to hear her. She waited a few seconds and then said something again. Louder.
He answered, but didn’t turn around.
Girl Two’s eyes darted to Girl One.
Girl One looked furious.
‘Come on!’ I thought.
Girl Two looked back at the guy. He was still looking at her.
Girl One seemed to fade out of the picture.
Girl Two hesitated for a split second. Then glanced at his elbow resting on the chair, and looked away. She looked back at him.
He was still looking at her. She looked away again.
‘Excellent. Now give me resolution, darlings.’ I thought.
The cafe singer began crooning Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello.’
The guy looked down at his coffee cup. He stared at it for a long time.
I got tired of watching him watch his cup. – I remembered I wasn’t alone at my table and started to turn.
But, just then an elbow left the back of a chair.
My husband laughed.
“Aaand, she finds what she was looking for.”
I threw the empty sugar sachet at him.