I hope you all had memorable family celebrations yesterday. Merry Christmas and happy Boxing day to those who celebrate it!
This week, we’re moving on to ‘B’ names. I closed my eyes, jabbed at the first ‘B’ page in my naming book, and voila, I have a new character name to inspire my short story.
The name I randomly selected is… Ballard.
Ballard is an Old English surname meaning ‘bald’. This exercise might prove interesting…
“I didn’t pay attention to his name? I think it started with ‘B’.”
“I can think of a ‘B’ name to fit him. He was an ignorant piece of work,” I say. Leon agrees, but he doesn’t seem as rattled by the encounter. “You think he’s right, don’t you?”
Leon stops wiping the counter. “Don’t put words in my mouth, but when I tasted the coffee it was stone cold.”
“Of course, it was cold. He let it sit at the table for an hour without looking to drink it. I would have given him a fresh one if he hadn’t been so rude about it.”
Leon shrugs. “What does it matter? I refunded him for the coffee and now we can move on with our lives.”
I stack the chairs on top of the tables and start mopping underneath. When I see the scarf on the floor at table 12 an involuntary groans escapes me. I hold it up to Leon, and he just laughs before disappearing into the kitchen. It’s the coffee guy’s scarf. Let’s hope he doesn’t realise it’s missing for the next fifteen minutes and he can collect it tomorrow morning when Sarah is on shift.
There is a rap on the door. I straighten out, smooth my skirt down, take a deep breath though my nose, and turn to face the knocker. Yep, it’s him. He doesn’t look happy. It has started to hail, and he has pulled his jacket collar up around his ears.
I saunter over to the door, not rushing in the slightest. I take my time unlocking the two locks, and before he can say anything, I shove his scarf into his hands.
I close the door and pull down the blind on him. I’m not making small talk with someone who said I was incompetent at my job, and asked how I got by in day to day life if I find making coffee a difficult task.
There is another knock, but I ignore it. I’m technically off duty now, so any complaints about poor customer service can be shoved straight back up his ass.
He knocks again. I release the blind, glaring at him through the glass.
“Open up,” he asks. I shake my head. “I have something for you.”
“I don’t want anything from you, thank you.” I continue to mop.
He rubs a hand over his skinhead.”That’s fair enough.”
He places something by the door and walks away. A carrier bag tied in a knot to keep out the rain, rustles in the wind. There is bread and milk inside. I had told Leon earlier that I had ran out of bread and milk, and that the corner shop would be closed before we finished our shift. It was just a passing comment, but coffee guy must have heard.
I race down the street and round the corner as he unlocks his car.
“Hey, wait,” I call after him. He stops, tucking both hands into his pockets. “Why did you do this?”
I slip on the frozen hail stones and he grabs me, effortlessly lifting me back to my feet. “I was an asshole to you, so I wanted to apologise.”
“Yeah, you were,” I say, crossing my arms over my chest. He looks to his feet and for some reason I can’t stay mad at him. “But thank you for this.” I lift the bag slightly.
He waves my thanks away. “I shouldn’t have spoken to you like that. I’ve a lot going on right now and I took it out on you.”
His blue eyes sparkle in the street lights, and an unfamiliar feeling washes over me. He could be about ten years older than me, but he is an attractive man. He looks sad though; the way his shoulders sag, the way his lips turn down at the corners.
“Apology accepted,” I say, offering him a smile. I turn on my heels to leave. “If you come in tomorrow night, I’ll sort you a steaming hot latte, okay?”
“I might take you up on that. What’s your name?”
“I’m Freya North,” I say, holding out my hand.
He shakes it gently. “Henry Ballard.”
Saturday nights are always the worst when it comes to drunks. They order everything, eat messily, and always try to grab at my ass. The good thing about the drunks is that they tip well. Sometimes by accident, but I wont split hairs.
I massage out the knots in my calf muscles, and tuck my pen into my hair. Someone has just sat at table 12, and I make my way over. It’s Henry Ballard. He is suited and booted, and looking drained.
“Hello again. Steaming hot latte?” I ask. He half smiles and nods. I lean down a little. “Are you okay?”
“Much better now that I’ve seen you,” he replies. “Actually, I don’t really fancy a coffee. Is it okay if I just sit for a while?”
“My boss is on shift tonight and she can be a proper ball breaker. I’ll bring you a coffee just to keep her off your case. You don’t have to drink it, but don’t complain in an hour when it’s stone cold.” I say, winking.
Two hours later, Henry is sat with his second cup of cold coffee. I bring him another and take the cold one. “Please try and drink it,” I whisper. There is something wrong. I’ve never seen someone so withdrawn and vacant. His eyes meet mine and that same feeling as last night washes over me. “We’re closed now. My boss has already left, but if you’d like to stay and keep me company while I shut down-“
He gets to his feet. “No, I don’t mean to take up your time.”
I place a hand on his arm. “I wouldn’t have offered if I didn’t mean it. Anyway, I get a little freaked out when I’m here alone.”
He looks around, snapping out of his daze. “Can I help?”
We work quickly. Henry stacks the chairs and I mop underneath. He remains silent and the weight of it presses down on me.
“Please tell me what is wrong,” I finally blurt. Henry shifts uncomfortably. I make my way around the table until we’re face to face. “I know we’re technically strangers, but a problem shared and all that.”
“I buried my brother today.” I wasn’t expecting that. His eyes tear, and he coughs away the emotion. I don’t think, I just hold him. He sags into me and I squeeze tighter. “He was all I had. I’m not sure how to deal with this. That’s why I think I came here tonight. You distract me.”
“I lost my brother last year,” I admit. “He was killed by a drunk driver. Being told that it will get easier is the most cliche thing you’ll hear, and right now you can’t see light at the end of the tunnel, but you will, Henry. I promise you will.” I pull back slightly, so he can see my eyes. “I promise that you will eventually see the light come back in the littlest of things.”
He nods, unable to speak. I know his pain; I know the raw, agonising, bottomless pit of emotion he is experiencing. His finger brushes down my cheek, resting at my chin. I strain onto my tiptoes and kiss his forehead.
He pulls me closer again. “You’re the only light I see.”