“Grace love, can I borrow your Sweetex? I’ve only gone and left mine at home today and I can’t bear my tea without them.”

Grace bent slowly and brought her beige, faux leather handbag to the table and began to rummage through the numerous side pockets.

“I’m just the same Iris love. Can’t bear any other sweetener. Bob got me Hermesetas the other day and it bound me right up it did! And I tried that, that thing, you know, the sprinkly thing. Haven’t been allowed any in ages. The white stuff … “Flour?”

“Flour? Flour?? Why would I put flour in my tea Iris? I worry about you sometimes,” Grace sighed. Iris shrugged and returned to buttering her teacake. The two women sat silently.

“Sugar! That’s it, sugar. I tried some sugar but I was up all night with the runs. One extreme to another, me. Guess the doctor had a point after all but they don’t know everything do they? He was only about twelve.”

“Mine’s the same! I was there last week to get my bloods done and I said, are you sure you’re a doctor? Shouldn’t you be out playing with your friends? He said, “Madam, I’m 28.”

“You’re totally right Iris, totally right. Changing the subject, I was telling my Sandra this the other day, well you know Audrey and Ron down our road, well she’s got a huge leg ulcer that she’s been having treated and thankfully its now all but gone – but her left leg is now the size of my wrist and she keeps falling over because her legs are all wonky. Bless.”

“Bless,” the women said in unison. “’Not many currants in this teacake eh Grace,” Audrey’s ulcerated leg and the state of the NHS quickly forgotten.

*********

At times like this, I’m not quite sure why I married Chris, but it’s done now and I can’t afford for it to be un-done. Not yet anyway. But if I force myself to think about it, I think I married him because I was nineteen and extremely naive and when I said, “can’t we just wait a year to get married?” he said, “no, no we can’t, and if you don’t marry me now you can’t really love me at all,” and instead of replying, “you’re a moron, see ya,” I replied, “oh, OK then. Erm, I love you?” What an idiot. Me as well as him. Me more than him. I don’t think I’d like the old me very much if I met her now.

I wish this café was waitress service but then I do live in Chelmsford, not Chelsea, so I can’t expect much. I really want another coffee but it means queuing up and I don’t do queues. So I’ll just die of thirst and that’ll all be Chris’ fault too.
“Hello. Are you OK?” The waitress I noticed earlier seems to have taken pity on me.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” “Thanks,” I replied, as an afterthought and just as I thought she had turned back to wiping tables, she put her bottle of fluorescent pink table cleaner down and whispered in my ear.

“You’re a lucky woman you know.”

Had I heard her right? She’d already picked up her bottle of cleaner, hooked the nozzle into her apron pocket and glided efficiently onto the next table, sweeping the crumbs from the table into her hand. I tried to subtly get her attention by raising my eyebrows, knocking the salt and pepper pots together and then coughing loudly but she now seemed oblivious to me, politely attributing my nervous tics to Tourette’s syndrome no doubt.

Me? Lucky? She didn’t know the first thing about me.

*********

The waitress’ heart pounded as she moved from table to table. “Shitshitshit,” she muttered as she rubbed furiously at non-existent tea stains on the table. “What did I go and say that for?” Unaware of the bemused look that passed between two old ladies that sat nearby, she chastised herself for speaking to the woman like that. The number one golden rule that all waitresses were taught on their induction course, which pretty much consisted of being given a faded photocopied handout of ‘The Rules,’ was, “Never Talk To The Customers.” The notice was stuck on each wall in the small staff room and they were told the reasons were threefold:

BEWARE OF THE CUSTOMERS

1. “Waitresses Are Here To Clean Not Chat.”
2. “The Tables Won’t Clean Themselves.”
3. “Customers Are Weird.”

Someone had written “4. Obama for President!” but she wasn’t sure that was entirely related.

Should she go and talk to the woman again, explaining her outburst on an epileptic episode and hope she didn’t report her to Rita, Head Waitress? Before she had time to make a decision, however, a delivery man arrived, clipboard in hand, and no doubt it would be her that would have to deal with him, her colleagues too busy gossiping to be able to handle it.

As she approached the man to sign his delivery note, something didn’t feel quite right. This wasn’t the usual delivery man and the pink haired waitress had a premonition that today wasn’t going to end well.

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Published by Kate Sutton

Writer, Mother, Dater.