It’s not a date, that’s what I kept telling Lola all the way through school today whenever she brought up the subject. Honestly, it wasn’t a date; no one had used the D word as far as I know. Anyway, even if it was a date it wouldn’t mean anything. Not where K is involved.
“Where are we going?” I asked K politely as we walked side by side down the path. Like a lot of the paths in town it’s cracked and dirty, I have a bad history with paving slabs. When I was twelve years old I caught my shoe in a gap between two stones and whack I flew through the air to land face first on the floor. It really hurt; my face was a mess for a few weeks after that.
“You’ll see, have a little bit of faith.” K smiled. He’d been smiling a lot all day, maybe there’s something in the air because Lola spent a lot of the day grinning like a cheesier cat too. Reluctantly I realised I had begun to trust K a bit.
“We’re here.” K announced moments later when we stopped outside an old house. Odd, I thought why would a coffee shop be in the middle of a residential street? “I know that look, the truth is I usually spend my afternoons with my Grandma and I thought you might keep me company. There are only so many times you can listen to the same story about how Gladys keeps stealing the biscuits from the knitting club without going crazy.” K explained.
“Ok, this is different to what I expected but it’s not a bad surprise.” I admitted quiet relieved we wouldn’t be going to a shop in town where someone might recognise us.
“You haven’t met my Gran.” K chuckled as we went into the house. He led the way through the hallway lined with paintings, in one I recognised the old wooden bridge that used to stand near the first school; it’s been replaced now because the town drunk set it on fire one night. As we approached the end of the hallway the voice of K’s grandma reached us.
“Is that you dear?” she asked poking her head around the door frame. She had a kind face, round but free of wrinkles and greying hair cropped short to her shoulders. Her blue eyes sparkled with intelligence when her gaze fell on me, “And you’ve brought a friend, wonderful, come into the kitchen and have something to drink.” For obvious reasons the remark brought the image of a massive fat spider into my mind but I pushed it away, K’s grandma had no intention of eating us.
“Gran, this is Tabitha.” K said when we’d settled ourselves in the little kitchen, it was crowded with ornaments and knickknacks but it felt homely. “We go to school together.”
K’s grandma focused her attention on me “So, you’re the famous Tabitha I’ve heard so much about.” She said with a smile and a sideways glance at K, the kind of glance that indicates a private joke. The thought of K, even this new kinder K, talking about me made me feel nervous; I don’t imagine many people would be overjoyed by such a discovery.
“Yes Gran, this is Tabitha.” K repeated, his voice sounded light but I noticed his shoulders slump a little as he spoke, almost as if he were embarrassed.
“I thought you said she was tall.” K’s grandma exclaimed making no effort to lower her voice.
“Gran,” K sighed. “I didn’t bring Tabitha all the way to meet you just so you could tell her how short you think she is.”
“Sorry, dear.” She said then turned her head in my direction again. “Sorry Tabitha, I know I have a habit of talking about people as if they aren’t there when they are. Gladys is only too happy to tell me every time I see her. She steals biscuits, you know, at the knitting club when she thinks we aren’t watching or when everyone goes to the toilet or looks out the window and do you know the best part?” she asked speaking incredibly fast.
“No?” I asked bemused, my brain still trying to digest her last comment.
“She doesn’t even eat them!” K’s grandma cried throwing her hands up in the air. “She just stuffs them in her hand bag to take home; I don’t think she’s bought a single packet of biscuits in two years. Bernie went to her house for tea one day and she offered him the biscuits she’d pilfered the same morning.” She let out a laugh at that, as if it were the funniest thing imaginable.
“Would you like a coffee?” K asked half rising from his seat.
“That’s ok, I’ll get it.” K’s grandma said springing up. “You two can talk while I make them.” she scurried over to the cupboards and pulled out three mugs then went about preparing the coffee. She had nearly finished when the phone rang. “I’ll get it!” she exclaimed then rushed out of the room.
K looked at me across the table, his eyes twinkling with a mischievous air. “You’d rather be in a posh coffee shop right now, wouldn’t you?” he asked with a laugh.
I thought about my answer for a few seconds while K just watched me, smiling his crocked smile as always and I wished he’d stop so I could think. “Not at all,” I eventually said. “You’re grandma is lovely.”
“I worry about Granma.” K admitted quietly. “I know it wasn’t easy for her when my dad moved away...”
“Everyone worries about someone K, its normal, it makes you human.” I said with a small smile. “And you know your Gran has you and Bernie and even Gladys the biscuit thief to keep her company. It’s clear she loves you.”
“Yes, I guess you’re right.” K admitted with the ghost of his signature smile returning to his face. “I’m glad we became friends Tabitha.” The last remaining shred of doubt I had held onto until that point faded, dispersed by his honesty, I really did see another side to K.
“K...” I began, not sure what I really planned to say.
A frown creased his face, “You know, I wish you would call me by my real name.” He said interrupting me, despite the frown his voice held no anger only confusion.
“You’ll always be K to me.” I said with a shrug. He looked at me with his eyebrows raised, as if he didn’t understand why I’d made such a comment then burst into a giggling fit when I blushed. Despite the joke being on me I joined in, when K’s grandma came back into the room she complained about the noise which only made things worse. Everyone knows you laugh all the more when you’ve been told not to.