The best coffee and pastry shop in Adelaide. Mari’s café. Today, Mike was going to ask her out to dinner. Stefano’s, to be precise. A Michelin star restaurant. And dancing at the new club after dinner. They’d show the young folk real dancing, real passion in the steps and movements.
Today, the flirting stopped and the courting began. He didn’t count their youthful attempt at pairing up. Too long ago; they were both inexperienced and heading in different directions. That was then, and this was now. It was time to get serious.
Mike ran his hands down his smartest summer shirt, flattened the silk tie he’d bought in Singapore when on shore leave, and fluffed his white hair the way that first caught her attention. He checked his eyes, put a couple of bright-eye drops in, and checked for flaws, stains or missing buttons in the hall mirror.
That was the best it’d get. Old dogs came with a few interesting bits, and she’d never complained. He left his house and strode across the road and in through the café door, grinned at the tinkle of the little bells he’d put up for her, and headed toward his usual table.
The place felt different, wrong. His table sat in the wrong position, the paintings on the wall were Mediterranean, not Australian. Even the tableware was different. A young woman stood behind the counter. Not Mari. Must be new. Maybe the shop was getting too busy to manage as a one-woman show.
“Is the dreamboat in,” he caught the name on her badge, “Susan?”
She frowned and picked up a serviette rolled like a croissant. “Are you waiting for someone?”
“Mari,” Mike said. “The boss.” Maybe Susan didn’t know the first name of her new boss.
“Oh, she’s out the back showing the new owner the ropes.”
New owner? Bernie leapt for the kitchen door.
“You can’t go in there! Staff only.” Susan blocked his way. “Please be seated at a table.”
The front door chimed.
“You making trouble?” The ex-copper who brought in a new girl every other month fronted up to Mike. “Is he making trouble?” Bruiser loomed over Mike with his oversize height and invaded the space with his oversize girth. “I think you should leave.”
At least Mike kept himself trim. After twenty years in the navy, Mike knew how to take care of himself, and pushed past to knock on the door to the back. This twit didn’t know what he was messing with. “Back off, Bruiser. I’m here to talk to Mari, and it’s none of your business. Mari!”
Bruiser lowered his head into his neck and squared his shoulders. “You back off, stalker. She isn’t coming out. Not for you. Back away, or I’ll be forced to assist you off the premises.”
“Damn it, I’m not stalking her.” This idiot was looking for a good clocking.
The kitchen door swung wide. Mari stood with one hand on her hip and the other pointed at the main door. “Out, you two. The shop is under new management, and I’m not going to let either of you ruin her first day.” She swung her hip and stabbed at the door. “You’ve been asked to leave the premises, and you both understand the consequences of failing to comply to a legal request. Out! Now.”
Bruiser stormed out and left the door rattling in his wake.
“You’re leaving?” The words scalded Mike’s throat.
“I’m going on a over-fifties singles cruise. After waiting forever for you to make up your mind, I’ve decided to find someone who knows how to talk to a woman. You flirt and play games, never going beyond that mark in the sand. I deserve better.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Let me make it clear. I’d like to spend my retirement with someone. You know, a partner. Someone who thinks of others before themselves. Someone who wants to live a little, maybe travel. Someone who’s willing to tell me how they feel, communicate about more than food and coffee.” Mari picked up the cake knife. “Now out of here, before I lose my cool.” She waved the knife like an épée. “But know this. If you ever see me again, don’t cross the road to say hello. Don’t acknowledge that you know me. Don’t even think my name. Just keep walking and don’t look back. I certainly won’t.”
Will this be their end? Is it too late for a relationship to blossom? Or will Mike find a way to show Mari how he feels?
One response to “Pastry Days”
Reblogged this on Cage Dunn – Fibber, Fabricator, Teller-of-Tall-Tales and commented:
For Valentine’s Day
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