This week we’re pleased to present this prize-winning short story by our own Darlene Foster, author of the very successful Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask. Darlene has a few readings coming up, so if you’re in the Lower Mainland, we hope you can come out and support her. As you’ll read below, Darlene has a knack for picking up on mundane, every-day happenings and injecting an interesting “what-if” into it. Have a great weekend…
THE COST OF A CUP OF COFFEE
Rob was reading the paper, a grande latte steaming beside him. “Hi there bud. What’ll you have? I’m buying today”.
Greg suddenly found the desire for a coffee overwhelming.
“In that case I’ll have one of those.” He nodded at the latte.
“Got it!” said Rob and placed the order.
Greg glanced through the paper. He spotted his horoscope. You will meet an old acquaintance. Choose your words and actions carefully or you will be misunderstood. It could prove expensive if you stay too long in one place.
“What you reading,” Rob said handing Greg his coffee.
“My horoscope. Turns out I was destined to meet you today.”
“You don’t believe that stuff do you?”
“Nah, just read it for fun.” The hot milky liquid drifted down his throat with ease.
They were discussing the rising price of gas when Greg stopped talking in the middle of a sentence.
“What is it?” asked Rob.
“I think I know that girl.”
“The thin blonde, with the baby?”
“Ya, she looks like someone I dated once.”
“How well did you know her? How long ago? Should we be sneaking out the back door?”
“Nah, she won’t remember me. We only dated for a week about a year and a half ago. My hair was long then.”
The young woman placed her order. Her large green eyes met Greg’s and lit up. She recognized him, in spite of the shorter hair. Greg looked away. He did not want this to happen.
“I can’t believe it. How long has it been?” She plunked the baby, in the car seat, on the empty chair beside Greg. “I’m Haley and this is Jonathon. He’s six weeks old today.”
“Are you still working at the same place?” she asked Greg, not giving Rob a chance to introduce himself.
“No, I’m taking some time off. I might try doing something different.”
“Same here. I took a break from hairdressing when I had the baby and I’m not sure if I want to go back.”
Greg noted her messy hair, six different shades of blonde with bits of pink here and there. It stuck out at funny angles and looked like a child had tried to cut it. It occurred to him that she might have wanted it that way. She was always weird.
“One tall low fat cappuccino.” announced the barista.
“That’s me. Can you keep an eye on the baby?”
Rob leaned over and looked at Jonathan.
“Are you sure you haven’t seen her for a year and a half? He looks a bit like you.”
“That’s not funny,” growled Greg. “Shh. Here she comes.”
“I still can’t believe bumping into you like this. Could you take off that blanket and loosen his hoody; he might get too hot.”
Greg removed the blanket from the baby as careful as if there was a time bomb inside. He unzipped the mini hoody and discovered a cute baby inside. Greg tickled him under his chin and Jonathon smiled revealing a dimple similar to his own. He smiled back.
“Do you want to hold him?”
Greg was confused. If he said no, she might be insulted. If he said yes, would he be possibly committing to something?
“Just release the belt and take him out of the car seat.”
Before he knew it, Greg was holding the baby on his lap.
“Put the blanket on your lap in case he spits up or something.”
Greg didn’t want to think what the “or something” could be.
“He likes to play with this.” Haley reached into an oversized bag and pulled out a rubber duck toy. “I think you had one of these in your bathroom, didn’t you?”
Greg felt the blood rush to his face recalling the only memento he kept from his childhood. He amused the baby with the toy and had a nagging feeling he was being tested for potential fatherhood.
Haley left for washroom.
“Oh boy, Greg, this doesn’t look good. There you are, holding a baby that looks like you, and his mommy just left. You better check your bank account, this might cost you.” Rob chuckled.
“You’re enjoying this aren’t you?”
“Better you than me buddy. Besides, you are more equipped for a baby. Don’t you have a rubber ducky in your bathroom?” Greg made a mental note to throw that duck out when he got home.
Haley breezed back and sat down like an old friend. “Oh, Greg, could you reach into my bag and take out the baby bottle. Thank you. Now just unscrew the top, turn the nipple around and push it through. That’s right, you’ve got it. Now give it to the baby.”
Greg handed the bottle to the little fellow but he just looked at it and waved his hands around. “Umm, he won’t take it”.
“Of course not, silly, he’s only six weeks old. You have to hold it and feed him.”
Greg felt a panic attack coming, “I – I think you should be doing this.” He handed the baby, blanket and bottle over to Haley taking great care not to drop anything.
When Jonathan was finished his drink and the adults drained the last of their coffee, Haley bundled up her baby and said good-bye.
“Hope to see you around, Greg.”
“Bye,” mumbled Greg.
“Whew, that was close,” said Rob as they left the coffee shop. “I was sure that was going to cost you. Hey, what’s that on your wind screen?”
Greg took the piece of paper from under the windshield wiper and frowned, “It’s a parking ticket for thirty bucks!”
Rob laughed, “The way I figure it, you got away pretty cheap today buddy!”
Greg grinned. “You are so right. In fact, I will be happy to pay this ticket.”