(This and my next post comprise two stories I wrote while in a coffee shop, observing people around me, and waiting for inspiration. No real names are used.)
She walked in with her mother and they looked around the room for an empty table. She was about eight and still in her primary school uniform. She pointed to the stairs and they climbed to the top. They sat at one of the tables that overlook the customers eating their lunch below. She was clearly excited. This would be a special time with her mom.
A waitress followed them up the stairs and took their order: a milkshake for her and coffee for Mom. She looked around the walls fascinated by the pictures of Nguni cattle, while her mother sent an SMS on her cell phone. Mom put away her cell phone and said, “So, Hannah, what happened today.”
Hannah thought for a moment. “Mrs Lightgood was cross with Stephen,” she said.
“What did Stephen do?” asked her mom.
“He forgot his costume. Again!”
Hannah drew her chair closer to her mom.
“He had to stay inside when we went to break. And he had to tidy all the books during swimming.”
The waitress brought their order and there was silence for a while as Hannah sipped her milkshake and her mom stirred her coffee.
A man walked up the stairs and stopped at their table. He had been talking with other customers around the shop. He greeted Hannah’s mom like an old friend and soon they were chatting away.
Hannah finished her milkshake and looked at her mom. She glanced at the man and back to her mom.
“No, we moved,” her mom was saying. “We now live in Jack’s old house. You remember Jack?”
Hannah slipped off her chair and looked over the rail at the customers below. She slumped to the floor still scanning the shop and stealing a glance at her mom every now and again.
“We struggled to find a buyer at first. The garage was the problem.” The conversation went on.
Hannah got up and wandered over to the pictures on the wall. The Nguni cattle seemed just as bored as Hannah and she turned away. She sat on the top step, leaning against the rail.
“It was nice to see you again.”
The conversation ended and the man moved off to his office. Hannah’s mother got up from the table and walked to the stairs. She followed Hannah who walked down with heavy feet. Hannah waited by the front door while her mother paid for their order, before they walked off together.
I sat there wondering whether the mother realised what had just happened.