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“Could you move, please? Your conversation is upsetting me.” She turned around again and spooned more salad roll into her mouth.
I laughed. A spoon?!
She looked at us like she was a crossing guard. And we were twelve. And we had stepped off the kerb before she’d stuck her STOP sign out for cars to stop.
Jarred shook his head and turned around to look at her. She had on the white shirt she wears every day and she flicked her bad dye-job hair. I’d never heard her voice before.
“Nobody’s making you eavesdrop, darling,” Jarred said.
She looked over at the woman behind the counter, the one with cross-eyes, and opened her mouth. But cross-eyes was busy.
“I was here first,” she said, turning towards us again. “I come here every day and I always sit at that table.” And she pointed to the table where we were sitting. “And I sit in that seat.” And she pointed to the seat where Jarred was sitting. But she didn’t point at Jarred, just the chair. “I was ordering my lunch at the counter, and you came in and sat down. Where I always sit.”
“You’re the one not happy with the musical chairs, sweetie,” Jarred said. “If you don’t like our conversation, leg it, love.”
She touched the cross resting on her shirt. “I am tired of your gutter talk,” she said, not looking us in the eyes. “I’m a Christian woman and I don’t have to listen to your disgusting conversation.”
Jarred raised his eyes. Like he was praying for relief. “You getting your jollies listening to us talk about what we do away from work?” he said.
“I come here for quiet,” she answered, standing up, “for sanctuary, and to listen to your talk of –”
But she stopped, and sat down again with her back to us.
I looked at Jarred and Jarred pretended to spoon food into his mouth and I sniggered. “Those Christians know how to roll out the welcome wagon,” he said.
She spooned more salad roll into her mouth and picked up her cup of tea and looked at the tablecloth pretending we weren’t there but we were there, right behind her. Disgusting her with our presence.
“Makes me want to come here every lunchtime now,” Jarred said. “Soak up the friendly atmosphere.”
Her chair scraped on the floor tiles but I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of knowing I was looking. So the next thing I saw was her white shirt behind Jarred, and him saying, “Eeeewww!” and I looked up just as she put the cup back down on the table. And Jarred’s head was dripping.
“It’s only lukewarm,” she said. “They never make it very hot here.”
Jarred sat there, grimacing, shoulders hunched over, not sure what she was going to do next.
She picked up her bag and her cardigan from the spare chair. “Some people need to learn some manners,” she said. And walked out the door.
published 8 February 2013
click below for more stories in this series:
• Earlier Again (#3)
• Even Earlier Still (#4)