Mum, I’ve got something to tell you. Chelsee wipes the wetness round the countertop. The cloth refuses more moisture, leaving a damp rash behind. Chelsee looks up furtively. The café is empty but for the newcomer. Staying, she is; so the rumours go. Why do people sit in the same seats? Habit, Chelsee guesses.
Mum, can you keep a secret from Dad? Only I’ve got something to tell you.
The dishwasher beeps. Chelsee opens it to a dragon’s breath. The crocks are still hot but she stacks them up, the clatter ripping her eardrums. Mum… listen a minute… Mum, I won’t be able to… Mum, I’ve got a problem.
She ought to tidy the tables before more people come in, change a few grubby tablecloths for clean ones, but she needs to rest. She makes a half-hearted circuit round the tables, then sits at one of them with a sigh.
The newcomer smiles at her. Louise, someone said her name was. “Quiet today, Chelsee.”
“Yes.” Chelsee rummages around for something else, something sensible to add. Mum, I have a problem. “Yes, quiet. Often is, this time of year… been lucky with the weather, like. Not much rain. Cold though.”
Chelsee’s mum comes into the café from out the back. Chelsee stands guiltily.
“Hello Carol,” says Louise. “I was just saying to Chelsee here what a blessing the weather has been.” She gives a conspiratorial smile to Chelsee.
Now, thinks Chelsee: “Mum, I’ve…”
The café door is flung open and in walks Ger, with the scent of seawater and winter air pursuing him. He’s wound up like a kid on Christmas Eve. His excitement crackles over them like static.
“Mum,” he says too loudly, “I’ve something to tell you…”