François entered the café nonchalantly, hands in his pockets, a smile plastered across his handsome face.
The café was of a medium size. There was a bar, tables and chairs settled here and there, and a stage in the back of the café where young, talented artists performed every night, whether they were comedians, singers, musicians, poets... Monsieur Morel accepted everybody as long as they did something of quality.
“François! You’re late again!”called a male voice from behind the bar with a hearty laugh. Monsieur Morel was there, cleaning the counter with an old checkered cloth.
“Ah, I’m terribly sorry, Monsieur Morel!” François replied, running a hand through his hair with an apologetic smile.
Morel shook his head and grinned “It’s okay, François, I suppose that’s what it means to be a Phénomène.” He said as he finished cleaning the counter.
Monsieur Morel was a man in his mid-fifties. He had greyish hair and wrinkles around his eyes that were only really visible when he smiled.
“Now hurry up. Juliette and Sharon have been here for over an hour!”
“He took a few days off to go see his family in Reims.”
François nodded and took his hands out of his pockets “I’ll go then!” he said before he headed into the back of the café where the two girls were cleaning things up—Sharon was cleaning things up, should we say, while Juliette smoked a cigarette near the door that led to the small courtyard behind the café.
“Good morning, mesdemoiselles!” François said , entering theatrically into the café’s backroom.
Juliette waved at him as she finished her cigarette, puffing out the toxic smoke while Sharon let go of her mop and rushed over to give François a tight hug. The blond gave the short girl a pat on the back and a warm smile.
“Good day, François!” the short brunette finally said with her usual broken French. She was a young English girl who had crossed the Channel to learn the language. She was doing great so far, and François was very, very proud of her. He had taught nearly everything she needed to know, even if she made many mistakes.
Juliette was a tall, skinny peroxide blonde with wonderful tattoos up and down her arms. Roses with their thorns, forest nymphs, and a sparrow crowning each shoulder. On her back was a rather impressive stag that was facing whomever looked at it with its insistent gaze, seeming to be ready to jump out of the young lady’s body.
Juliette wore a sleeveless shirt whenever the weather got a little warmer than 15°C. She was just so proud of her tattoos and was always glad when children and adults stared at them in awe.
François was the one who did the designs for most of her tattoos, he was especially proud of the way he drew the stag, though he was really happy that Juliette had found a tattoo artist who was capable of copying his work.
Juliette crushed her cigarette outside under her Doc Martens, looking at her watch and grinned at François “The café just opened, let’s go.”
François only ever worked for half a day every day. When he’d be off shift, he would usually stroll through the streets of Paris, looking for another person to offer his services to.
The place he often stayed at was the park near the Sacré- Cœur which was buzzing with tourists and locals alike. He’d sit down and play chess with the old men who stayed there in the shade, holding onto their canes, then he’d go off to play football with the kids in the park, garnering a soft smile from the mothers who had decided to take their kids out for a walk in the sun.
François loved it when the weather was as wonderful as this. Spring was the season when girls would start wearing their wonderful floral skirts and dresses which would flow beautifully in the breeze. It was also the season when the boys would start wearing their shirts just with a few buttons open. Everything was wonderful.
The afternoon went smoothly, and soon enough, he decided to walk back to the café to stay a bit with his uncle.
Across the cobbled street, just in front of the café, was a small vintage record shop where François usually went.
He entered the shop, making the small bell go off with a soft ‘ding’.
Raphaël was there, as usual, with his constant scowl, frantically biting his lip and running a hand through his messy dark brown hair, wrinkling his rather large nose. François greeted him by pinching his hips from behind with a chuckle, making him jump in surprise.
Raphaël would frown and sigh before he noticed who it was who bothered him as he was putting an Eric Clapton record in its place on the shelf.
“François...” he said with a groan. “How many times—“
“... Did you tell me not to do that? Hm...” François replied thoughtfully “We’ve known each other for three years, I’ve been doing this for about two years and six months, so... Approximately—“
“I don’t care, François.” Raphaël retorted, rolling his dark green eyes at his friend.”
“Raph’, come on... Why are you always like this?”
“Well... You know.”
“I don’t know.”
Raphaël was about to reply to that, pointing a finger at François’ chest before he was interrupted by a client.
“Excuse me—Er, Monsieur?” called a small female voice tainted with a German accent.
There stood a short, pudgy young lady dressed in a black pleated skirt and a white shirt, black tights and shiny black kitten-heeled shoes. She pulled a bit on the purple bowtie around her neck and pushed up her oval glasses as Raphaël turned around to look at her.
“I was wondering how much this record cost.” She said, showing an old record of Mozart’s best pieces.
Raphaël tutted a bit at that and took the record from her, looked behind at the red sticker on it, then looked up at the list of coloured prices before he handed the record back to the chubby girl.
“Twenty-five.” Raphaël said grumpily. The girl looked away and nodded.
“May I pay?”
“Sure.” He said dully, walking over to the cash desk for her to pay.
When she was done, she looked back into the store. François stood there, looking at her, offering her a warm smile. She blushed and looked away, biting her pink, plump lower lip.
She left the store and walked down the street, holding the record.
In the store, Raphaël rolled his eyes and looked back to his friend.
“So I was saying—“
“What? No. François, listen to me, you—“
“I must go.”
“Go fuck yourself.”
François chuckled at that “You’re so kind, Raph’. No, really, I have to go.” He said, leaning over the cash desk to give his friend a kiss on each cheek. He then walked over to the door.
“To do what?!” called Raphaël with a frown.
“Phenomenal things!” François replied with a laugh.
And then he was gone.