I uploaded a short story, Tuesday’s call, to ReadWave. Go have a look and let me know what you think.
[Edit – I can’t seem to find it on their site anymore. The story is below.]
‘Latte to take away?’ Jeff, that afternoon’s barista, asked, although it wasn’t really a question at this point.
The woman smiled and thanked him, while rummaging in her purse for change. It always took her long enough that the person behind her would start getting annoyed. The lack of a second barista meant that they had no choice but to wait, and as soon as the latte-woman started moving, the next person in line ordered irritably.
‘Small cappuccino for here,’ the man said. Rhea hadn’t seen him before, so she discretely peered at him while pretending to look at something on her smartphone.
Mid-twenties, wearing jeans and a t-shirt despite the cold, she thought. He could be recently unemployed, in which case he’ll sit down and browse through job listings, feeling better because he’s surrounded by other people, rather than lounging in his house. He could be a freelancer, working or waiting for a job. He might also be a writer looking for a change of pace. Maybe he’s waiting for someone else, and he’s in a rush to get that last table for two.
Speaking of waiting for someone… Rhea’s thoughts trailed off, as she adeptly flicked between various webpages she was supposedly reading.
She’s late. She’s never late. Sure, it’s only two minutes past the hour, but for Astrid, that’s more than a little unusual.
Rhea took a deep, calming breath. I’m just anxious today. I don’t always have something to talk about.
‘Can I have a choco-caramel ice swirl?’ she heard someone at the till say.
‘Medium or large?’
Still looking at her phone, Rhea tried to entertain herself by imagining the fake debate happening in the customer’s head. Eventually, he would go for the large – he didn’t say he wanted the smaller drink from the get-go. That was just the way things went.
‘Make it a large.’
Yep, just another fresh face trying out the ridiculous “drink of the month” in its large glory.
She knew that around ten in the morning, only half of the customers were regulars. She tried to enjoy the distraction, but the unfamiliarity of their voices and demeanours wasn’t pleasing to her.
Ten o-five, still no call. She was always done with her drink by five to ten, so she had nothing to occupy her other than her phone. She tried playing solitaire for about thirty seconds before quitting the game, putting on her headphones and listening to whatever was first on her playlist.
Her scrutiny of the next customer was soon interrupted.
‘It’s about time,’ Rhea said, not bothering to hide her annoyance, especially if it would cover her concern.
‘Oh, you know, I’m busy sometimes too. Nothing to worry about,’ she heard her sister’s casual reply.
‘I just get a bit bored when I don’t have coffee to drink. Anyway, how are things?’
‘Oh, more of the same, you know.’ Rhea imagined Astrid twirling her hair around her index finger, as she was wont to do. ‘I still haven’t gotten a promotion, even though Ben’s clearly been slacking off more than me. I mentioned it to dad and he spent ten minutes telling me how I deserve better than that, and he should go talk to my boss and tell him what’s what.’
‘That’s so typical of dad.’
‘Yeah, I’m glad mom wasn’t there to back him up. Other than that, no, not much going on. What about you, how’s your week been?’
‘Oh, nothing to report on this side of the country either…’ Rhea said, trying to sound as detached as her sister, but not doing a very good job. She was bursting to tell her the news.
‘Come on, spill it. You’re trailing off your sentences.’
‘Alright, alright,’ Rhea said, but still took her time. She wasn’t sure if it was to calm herself down or to build suspense. ‘Adrian just proposed to me,’ she said, elated, in little more than a whisper. She waited quietly, unsure if Astrid caught her words.
‘Oh my god, congratulations! Oh, Rhea, I’m so happy for you! I mean, I knew it had to be soon, but I thought maybe he would wait for your birthday.’
‘Yeah, I thought so too, but I’m glad he didn’t. It just made me so happy— ’
‘—You really should have told me earlier though. I’m your sister, don’t I deserve to find out sooner?’
‘He only told me yesterday,’ Rhea chuckled as she pictured Astrid’s faked annoyance.
‘What, on a Monday? That doesn’t sound romantic at all.’
‘And yet, somehow, it was. He found mom’s recipe for chicken with grapes, made a soufflé for dinner, bought some nice champagne and chocolates…’
‘Okay, don’t tell me you didn’t suspect something was going on. I couldn’t even get mom’s recipe until I told her I would stop visiting if she didn’t give it to me.’
Rhea’s parents could never tell when Astrid was lying, so they took her threat a bit too seriously. She smiled; that seemed like such a long time ago. ‘Adrian said he had something to tell me, but he “let slip” when calling his parents that he got a pay raise. It was a nice ruse, anyway. Well, not a ruse, he did get a pay raise, it just happened to be incredibly good timing.’
‘So, how did he actually propose? And what about the ring? I know wedding rings are the important ones, but engagement rings are more personal.’
‘It’s perfectly to my taste,’ Rhea said as she looked at it. Silvery, simple, inlaid with half a dozen small crystals.
‘Probably not to mine, then.’
‘I think you’ll appreciate it anyway. I’ll send you a photo later.’
‘You mean as soon as we’re done talking.’
‘Of course, of course.’
‘So, when are you going to have the wedding? And where?’
‘It’ll probably have to be around Easter next year. It’s a while away, but I’d rather make sure everything is ready than have to rush. As for the venue, well, we were thinking of having the ceremony at the church close to home, but I’m not sure where to go for the reception.’
‘What about that hotel close to the town centre? It’s got a nice hall you can book for things like these. What was it called… The—’
Rhea’s conversation was cut short as someone bumped into her, causing her to drop her phone. Her earphones popped off and fell, the cables curling up into a neat ellipse.
‘Oh, I’m so sorry,’ a woman said as she picked up the fallen phone. ‘I think your phone’s ok, it doesn’t look broken or anything.’
Rhea sat there for a few seconds, suddenly overwhelmed by the usual café noise and bustle she had tuned out. The shouting, the espresso machines, the children running, the door opening and closing, girls giggling, cups hitting saucers, spoons stirring—
She shook her head and quickly yanked her phone from the woman’s hand. ‘Yes, fine, but you interrupted my call.’
‘I said I was sorry,’ the woman said, a little upset at Rhea’s rudeness. ‘And anyway, I don’t think you were actually talking to anyone, so I didn’t interrupt you.’
‘What are you talking about?’ Rhea asked. ‘Didn’t you hear me talking? I don’t think I was being quiet, considering I was telling my sister that I just got engaged!’
The woman, not wanting to get into an argument, raised her hands in a pacifist gesture and started to walk away, deciding against getting a coffee. On her way out, Rhea heard her muttering to herself.
‘I could see your screen, you weren’t calling anyone.’