Must Be The Place
This place seemed like magic. Andrew was writing and at the same time his morning Eggs Benedict exploded flavors on his tongue. He was a slim man, British, his blonde hair uncombed. The customers around him were well educated and civil as they chatted about various constructive topics. The young professionals at the table behind were talking about a TV pilot they were inspired to make. It interested Andrew further when one of the females with blonde hair and an in fashion fringe rambled on about the BBC like she knew all its important contacts. That was one of the things he liked about this place, the arty types it attracted. With his Macbook Air next to his breakfast ready to continue his new project, he fitted in.
The staff were mostly Italian. The main guy (whom probably was in charge of the place) stood tall above six five, dark haired and handsome. He always worked behind the counter, taking orders and mostly greeted customers with "alright mate" indicating the South London speech pattern had started to overtake his dialect, which is where the cafe was - Camberwell to be exact. The plucky women (probably his wife) was in charge of the till. She was short, big and bright sparkling brown eyes, a glistening smile. Being small and bubbly, she was the type to make up for her height with her personality.
The waiters were professional. Their shirts clean and aprons tied around their waists properly. They were young, no more than twenty five, probably the family siblings or Italian in ports. Their was one black guy, lanky and very well spoken. He didn't talk much, he just got on with his work, spoke when needed too, taking plates, resetting tables and taking out the rubbish. Andrew watched him with interest, the quiet types tended to interest him. He felt for the guy a little though because he saw the owners treated him like their fresh meat on minimum wage. Their black slave which was a cruel was to see it, but probably true.
It was 8.30am. The place was starting to get busy. One of the waiters, the young good looking Italian girl with glasses, picked up the empty plate off Andrew's table. He said "thank you" and commenced his work. He was writing a novel and was on the last chapters. He felt confident with its progress. However the thought of failure niggled at his brain because his agent told him this novel was his last shot. People had started to say he was leading into the category of has beens and Faber (his agent) were either going to pump him or dump after this novel. Andrew finished his black Americano and signalled for another.
During this busy period in the morning, a lot of the clientèle were regular faces, Andrew liked noticing this. He looked up from his Mac to the queue which went outside the door and saw the same office man with brown hair, headphones always in his ears, looking stressed and probably hating his life. The serious cyclist guy dressed in his bike gear. The two pretty office women nattering about their husbands. The nurses from the hospital a little further up the road near Denmark Hill station. And finally! The attractive red headed woman (definitely died to make it even redder) arrived at exactly 8.55am. Some would call it stalking Andrew thought, but he was a man of routine and noticing the woman arriving at exactly the same time everyday showed she was a routine person too. He liked that, and, he liked her.
Andrew finished a paragraph, smiling because the hero of the story heard the sound of love calling his name - it turned out to be the best spaghetti bolonese the hero ever had. Andrew looked up because half his mind was always on the red headed woman whenever she was in the cafe. She had her usual: skinny frappacino and croissant, on a trey, standing in a confident posture looking for a place to sit. Andrew's heart beated faster. He noticed all the tables were occupied, the woman realized this too and Andrew thought it could just be his lucky day. When she finally gave him eye contact and started walking to his table, bingo! It was his lucky day.
"Do you mind if I sit?" the woman said.
"No. Please" Andrew replied and gesture for her to sit.
She spoke with a raspy voice and polite. She had a grey suit on and heels. Whenever Andrew saw her she sometimes had a suit on, sometimes not. When she sat down she removed a document, Andrew kept his eyes on his laptop, however he sneaked a peak at the document and saw the logo "ITV" on it. "Ah" he thought, she was in the industry, she had the creative streak like him, and it pleased him to know his instinct was correct when he first saw her; a fisherman always spots another fisherman from a far.
The first thing you noticed about this woman was her hair, bright red and done in a beehive like Amy Winehouse. She had a mark free face, very white skin perhaps helped by make up, but close up she wore very little, a sexy mole on the top of her cheek. She got a call and removed her mobile; a Blackberry. Andrew liked that; when it came to phones she was with the times but not fully. She spoke well, pronouncing her Ts. It seemed she was speaking to a recruitment agent, and when the call was over and she looked at the document again seeming nervous, it made sense to Andrew she was preparing for a job interview.
"You will do fine" Andrew said.
He felt he had to say something because the opportunity of the woman sitting next to him may never come again. He knew he ran the risk of her thinking he was listening to her conversation without permission. But he agreed it was worth the risk. Plus, at thirty eight and having made fifteen million pounds 'personal wealth' off his book sales (royalties from his first three books, the rest were flops) he knew nothing worthwhile came to one without risks acted upon.
"Thanks" the woman replied.
The welcome tone to her voice didn't confirm any of Andrews doubts, in fact as the conversation continued, it seemed someone to talk too was just what the woman needed.
"I am really nervous. This is my second interview" she continued.
"With ITV" Andrew replied. "Woops" he thought. Maybe mentioning the company showed he was spying on her.
"Yes. I really want to get into the studio department. I am willing to start anywhere" she carried on unseemly and Andrew felt relieved.
Conversation was easy going, but Andrew didn't want to talk too much, in danger of revealing all his cards.
"I really need an opportunity. I have been looking for a job for six months" the woman said.
So Andrew thought it was OK to kind of reveal most his cards now because it she was. Eventually her coffee was almost finished and she packed away her document.
"Why do you think you haven't had any success?" Andrew said.
"It is a competitive industry. But I have a good degree. I just need that opening" she replied.
"I know how you feel. I am a writer and I haven't had much luck for a while either"
"Hm. Well it has been nice meeting you. Have a good day"
"You too. Have a good day"
And then the woman got up and left. Andrew felt good, like when the endorphins which makes a person fell alive after a run over took his brain. But he also kicked himself (as all men do) after failing to ask for the woman's number when they should have done. He didn't panic though because he thought it was likely he'd see her in the cafe again.
It was 4.30pm. The day at the cafe was coming to a close, there weren't many customers sat at the tables. Andrew was still working, also coming to a close with one of his chapters. He had another Americano next to him, the third for the day. He took a mini break from his screen and had a look around the cafe; the black waiter picked up his plate politely with a smile and walked away. The plate was cleared clean. Andrew ordered the Lasagna and it was a tasty delight.
He saved his document and closed the Macbook. The Italian owners were behind counter smiling and talking in Italian and then the man said "see you later mate" to the guests that were leaving. Andrew was up and down at this moment, the worry of failing his next book bothered him. The red headed lady had a hard time leaving his mind as well. He was being pulled this way and that and he felt the best thing for him to do was to go out that evening and not think about anything.
A few months later Andrew was invited to his agents office, two weeks after his latest book was released, which was never a good sign! When he sat in the office, he saw his agents black straight hair and camp hairstyle cover half of his face, this also wasn't a good sign because Andrew knew it meant he was in a bad mood. For a senior agent, Andrew felt he was relatively young, around the same as him - thirty eight. He was all British and spoke too fake, like he had an image too maintain. Anyway, Andrew sat on the chair, gripping its sides with his hands, his legs slightly shacking underneath.
"It is bad news Andrew. You know this was your last chance saloon. You know that don't you?" the agent said. Andrew hated how the prick spoke to him like he didn't know anything, even more so when he used chastising phrases like 'last chance saloon.'
"How bad?" Andrew replied. He already knew the answer to that question and didn't know why he asked.
"The sales aren't cutting it. I am afraid Faber has to let you go"
And that was it, after ten years, Andrew's career had come to an end. He shook the agents hand and the agent wished him well. He gave Andrew a double handed hand shake and there was an energy in his shake which showed there was some feeling of sincerity at least.
The following week Andrew was back at the cafe again. He was by the window; a place he liked but was occupied a lot. He was reading farewell emails from the staff and co authors at Faber wishing him well. It was 8.30am, the heat of the morning rush. The regular faces were different by this time. Andrew didn't know if that was because time had obviously passed or he was still dizzy from being unemployed. The arty types didn't change, there were a few bohemian youngsters in front of him having breakfast, confident and looked as though they lived near Champion Grove, went to the Camberwell College of Arts by day and worked at Dog Star in Brixton by night. The older ladies to his left were posh, clearly wealthy, the husbands out shooting and them catching up with their coffees, living somewhere close by.
Andrew's full English breakfast arrived, served by a new waiter, a plucky Italian lad with a spring in his step and his hair well gelled. Just the smell of the dish made Andrew's taste buds sing and when he took a bite into the hash brown, followed by the sausage, he said to himself that this place really was magic. To Andrew and being British, an English breakfast did what it said on the tin, but with this place, everything was that bit better. Love Walk was a worthy name for the place.
However when the breakfast was finished, Andrew felt lonely. He hated the feeling of being unemployed because he had nothing to do now, no plan for his day. He looked out of the window at the noises red double decker buses trying to avoid a group of wild black school children on the road. So Andrew decided to enjoy the money he made, take time off and give writing another go in the future. It was just before 9.00am and subconsciously his eyes were looking around... for the red headed woman. But he hadn't seen her since he spoke to her many months ago. He thought he lost his chance.
Then, out of the corner of his eye, at exactly 9.00am she appeared and walked into the cafe and he couldn't believe it. She was dressed down casual, in a parka jacket, skinny jeans and boots from Topman. She didn't look like she was going to work, it seemed she had no goal, or purpose even, like a soul floating through life waiting to end up a destination which said 'yes' to her. She got her coffee and a muffin this time. Andrew prayed inside for her to notice him and most of all sit at his table. To his surprise she waved to him. Andrew's soul opened its wings and flew into the sky. Then she sat at his table and said "hello" like they knew each other for years.