The grime on the work-tops of Café Mystique was sticking to your jumper sleeve and leaving a nasty grey stain that hooked onto the lint and the fabric. With a grimace, you whip it off fast, and shove it beneath the desk where Sam keeps his secret bottle of whiskey which isn’t very secret at all.
“What the hell is wrong with ya boy?” calls Sam gruffly from the kitchen, the sound of chopping knives and boiling saucepans increasing a second as he swings open the door. The un-mistakable stench of onions sticks to his sagging skin as he limps over.
“It’s flippin’ winter! What the hell are ya doin’ takin’ off your jumper? I’m freezin’ my flippin’ butt off!” He fakes a shiver, and tuts a little at you.
“Ya know what it is? You spend so much time on ya flippin’ phone that you don’t flippin’ care about the cold! Why, if you get ill I won’t be surprised, ya got it?” You nod, trying to push off the smile creeping onto your face. Sam loathes technology and the youth of today, mainly because it means people order takeaways and then don’t come to the café.
You have the regulars though. You love them, even though they can be pretty annoying. Take Miss Hetty for example.
By her demands, you have to call her MISS Hetty. One time, Sam called her Miss Petty and she threw a full blown tantrum right in the middle of the place. Yelling, screaming, kicking and lashing, turning a rather disturbing shade of red. It was one of the busy days, where it wasn’t just the good old regulars but some new people, who never came back. Sam always blames Miss Hetty for that, but personally, you think it was the deep-fried spider some people found in their salads.
There’s Dan, the terrible comedian from Seventh Road. He’s a builder searching for his chance in the comedy world, and failing quite miserably. Whenever he orders, it’s always somehow turns into this horrific joke. For instance, when he orders the chicken burger, this is the conversation:
“Hey Dan! What do you want today?”
“Regan, pal! Um, let’s go for a chicken burger shall we? Not counting the calories, gotta feed the monster.” Then points at his bulging stomach and laughs incredibly loudly.
“Hey, how did your chicken get here? Huh? Huh?”
“Well we order our needed amount of-”
“It didn’t have to cross a road did it? HA HA HA!” Dan’s laughter is possibly the loudest thing you’ve ever heard. One day, you want to get a decibel reader and see truly how loud his laugh is. It’s probably between a rocket taking off and Sam’s farts (according to Mini).
Mini is Sam’s wife who doesn’t work here, but people think she does. Whenever you clean down the tables, she’ll nab the cloth and start doing it for you. She’ll shove you out the way and do the washing up, or prep the carrots when you are. Everything you do, she seems to be able to do better.
There’s also Gareth. Gareth likes Mini, even though she and Sam are married. Whenever he talks to Mini, Sam swoops in and starts kissing her. It’s incredibly strange watching an elderly couple kissing.
Charley is Gareth’s grand-daughter, who seems to be dragged along by Gareth to the café near to every day. She’s really sweet, and your age, but it gets a bit distracting when she strides in wearing cropped blouses that show her belly button piercing and low-hanging tops. You can’t say she’s bad looking, because she really isn’t, but you would never date her or anything.
Then the final person is Aanon. His real name, you and Charley discovered, is Aaron but he never talks. When he orders, he slides you a small square of paper with writing on. He’s this peculiar, mysterious man that’s always here. You never seem him enter or exit, but when he’s sitting at one of the tables, you know he’s there. Like his abnormal aura alerts you that he’s waiting to slip you the paper.
“Yo, Regan boy!” yells Charley, and you whip round. She’s got her hair in this high ponytail, tied up with a luminous hairband. She’s wearing a cropped top, with shining silver and glaring bright yellow strips and some American flag themed shorts. Her shoes are white and red Converses, the laces a little grey.
“Green, hey?” you ask and she grins. You’re talking about her piercing, which is clearly showing. Now that it’s healed after a two month infection, she changes the colour every week. This time it’s a pretty nice green, sort of like an emerald decorated with gold.
“I asked Pa what he thinks, and he just nodded then shot out the door. I swear, I could come to here wearing nothing but my belly ring and he wouldn’t care.”
“I would rather you didn’t,” you tell her, to which she laughs.
“Shut up Regan boy. You’d love to see me naked. Besides, all Pa does is oogle at Mini.” Your cheeks flush scarlet when she says you’d love her to be like that. Charley always teases, and you always blush, but you never know why.
“Oogle,” you snort.
“That’s a weird word.”
“It’s just Google missing the G. The G being Gareth, gone to stare at Sam’s married wife.” You laugh and Dan shoots his head up. He’s searching for new material, but no one would understand this joke. Shaking your head a little, he dips back into his sausage and bacon slice.
“But seriously though. What does he find so good about a 52 year old married woman who seems to always be snogging her husband right in front of him?” You shrug, and stare at Gareth. He isn’t too bad, his skin isn’t that wrinkly like Sam’s, and he seems pretty healthy.
“Maybe he wants a challenge?” you suggest bluntly, trying to come up with an answer. It does seem a little creepy to be in love with another man’s wife. It’s good for business though, and for you and Charley’s friendship, but not so much for Mini.
“Yeah, get his boxing days back, sure.” Charley snorts.
Back when Gareth was young, before Charley was born, he used to be a champion at boxing. He fought in all sorts of championships and matches, winning nearly all of them. The boxing world went mad but then his daughter had a baby she couldn’t handle.
His daughter was Kirsty, Charley’s mum. The Dad ran off, not like yours did though. He didn’t want anything to do with this new baby, so he ditched Kirsty and hooked up with her best friend. She was left alone with nobody but her father, who quit boxing to look after the kid.
Shortly after, Kirsty died. The birth had given her some illness which was pretty bad. It was about five months into Charley’s life when she passed away. It’s sad, especially because Charley has no memories of her.
All Gareth has ever done is boxed, looked after Charley, and stared at Mini. He was a terrible father, muddling up her black current juice with his wine and letting her down the lot and feeding her solid food at far too young an age.
Though, you can’t blame him. He never really looked after Kirsty, his wife did, who passed away too. Parenting was brand new, and he wanted to keep Charley from all the newspapers wanting to look at the famous baby who snatched his boxing career away. It was hard, he got the women next door to fetch his shopping, and never left the house. Only three years later was Charley introduced to a glimpse of freedom, like waddling down the path of the flats before being swooped back inside.
It’s strange, to think he was so up-tight when Charley was younger. Now he lets her walk out the house with half her clothes lopped off at the bottom, or tight fitting jeans that makes her bum look bigger. Charley says that when he saw Mini, four years back, he was so in love with her he forgot about her fashion. All he does now is feed her, give her a place to sleep and something to drink, and that’s it. She can do what she wants, as long as she’s back by a certain time.
“He could if he wanted to,” you tell her, but she just shakes her head. The spark in her smile has dimmed and gone.
“Look at him Regan. He’s old and creepy. What kinda boxer is like that?” You don’t reply. A sad and angry light flickers in her eyes, like the end of a cigarette that hasn’t been put out.
“You don’t understand. Do you know what it feels like to take away someone’s fame, success and wins? No, course you don’t! If I hadn’t have been born, he’d probably be the best boxer in the world right now and not some lame grandfather.” Your eyebrows burrow into a frown, and you shake your head.
“You can’t avoid being born Charl.” She waves a lazy hand at you.
“Screw that. Regan boy, I smashed up his boxing dreams and chucked them in the bin of Never Coming Back. He was doing so well, and I came along and ended that all. I ended his career, I ended my parent’s relationship, and I ended my Mum’s life.” The last sentence shocks you a bit. She blames herself for her mother’s death?
“Jesus. What have I done?” Her eyes screw tight, and she tips her head back. You think she’s trying to avoid crying, but a little dribble of runny mascara drips down. Grabbing some useless napkins, you hand them to her. Tipping her head forward, she shakes her head.
“I’m fine Regan. Where the hell is my mirror?” She pats the pockets of her denim shorts, pulling out a slim black compact mirror, and holding it to her face.
“Oops,” she whispers at the sight of her mascara, and giggles nervously. The emotions in her voice are clear, but you don’t know what to do.
“Can we drop this subject now?” she asks, dabbing at her cheeks to try and remove the black smudge.
“One hundred percent,” you announce eagerly and she grins.
“Hello Charley dear,” says Mini, striding happily over to the table. Gareth’s eyes follow all the while.
“Getting a tad emosh are we now?” Charley and you cringe at this terrible use of abbreviated words.
“Please, Mrs D, don’t use current words to try and fit in,” Charley says in the nicest tone she can and you nod in agreement.
“Sorry dear, I wanted to try the ‘cool kid slang’. Your Pa says you can order something. What would you like?” Cringing again, Charley looks at Mini with a fake smile plastered on her face.
“Cloudy lemonade and Chef’s salad please,” she says sweetly. It’s funny watching Charley act so sweet and innocent when she has half her stomach on show and the smallest shorts.
“Certainly!” smiles Mini and whisks herself away, humming an old song from the eighties.
“Emosh?” Charley cries, her face breaking into a laugh.
“Cool kid slang?” you ask, laughing too. You keep laughing until Mini brings out Charley’s lemonade and salad tossed together rapidly.
“Speedy Mrs D. Thank you!” Mini sends a nod of the head towards Charley and disappears back into the kitchen, letting the door bang behind her.
You stay silent as Charley begins to eat her salad, spearing forkfuls of dressing-drenched lettuce and shoving them messily into her mouth.
As she eats, the door to the café swings open. It’s a girl, new, with an apron slung over her shoulder.
“Excuse me, is Sam Davies here?” Sam looks her way and grins.
“Ah, you must be Myra! Our new employee!”