After 15 years

She picked a table at the far corner of the café. From there she had a full view of the entrance while hiding herself away under the dim light. She sat slightly hunched over the small square wooden table, one hand trapped between her knees, the other restlessly tapping the table with her bare fingers. They hurt a little from nail biting, and the pain actually helped her to ease some panic and anxiety.

The waiter approached with a warm smile. “What would you like today, Mia? Long black or chai?”

“Long black. Thanks, Joe. Uhm… maybe not now. I am still waiting for someone, a bit rude to order first, I suppose?”

“No worries, I’ll come back when you are ready.” He winked, giving his usual million-dollar grin. However, for once she didn’t watch him as he moved off.

“Aiyaya, sorry, sir. I didn’t see you there. My apologies.”

She followed Joe’s voice and saw him. Pins and needles were piling up on the top of her skull. Blood was rushing to her brain. She had to hold on to the edge of the table with both hands to steady herself.

“Mia, sorry I am a bit late, was stuck in a meeting and I left my phone somewhere.” He reached for a kiss but then realised she was still sitting down. He sat opposite her. His hand slid towards hers but she didn’t stop gripping the corner of the table.  She looked up and their eyes met. His were aqua blue when he was happy, slate when he was in deep thought. Now they were almost hazel under the warm café lighting.

He smiled, showing his front teeth; there was a gap between the middle two. She used to think it lightened up his serious demeanour. “Mia, are you there?” he teased.

“Hey, you! I’m…I am glad you agreed to meet. And you haven’t changed a bit.” She relaxed a little into her chair having finally greeted him. Her fingers tried to tug her lose curls behind her ears.

“Would you like a Mocha? They make it just right here. You will be surprised.”

“As long as you are having a long black to keep me company.”

“Sure. I will call Joe over.” She was about to get up.

He grabbed both her hands and held them up to his nose. He smelled the ginger and cinnamon on her bare fingers and started to laugh uncontrollably. He used to call her badly bitten nails the circumcised fingers. When she flavoured the meat in curry cooking, she would swear her head off because the stinging sensation on her broken skin was unbearable. And yet being Mia, she would not wear gloves.

She knew exactly what he was laughing about but couldn’t pull away from his firm grip. She bellowed a laugh instead.

The scene

The golf course had already filled up with carts and players before the sun heated up. Dawn was dragging her steps on the last leg of her daily brisk walk along the outskirts of the golf course. It was a humid Saturday morning, late Spring, and she was already drenched in big fat sweat stains. They felt like ill-formed targets for the self-hatred she’d always had towards her block of lard body. Lately though she’d been turning her anger into motivation to exercise; however she could do without the smell of pollens, especially from the scarlet bottlebrush. The sound of her labouring breaths drew the attention of other walkers on the path. Just before they could work out where the wheezing noise was coming from, they saw Dawn’s legs turning into jelly, then heard a loud thud…

 

Why didn’t I call

Arash is the son of Persian immigrants from Iran. He is a Mechanical Engineer from Sydney. Since the 2014 Martin Place terrorist attack, he has become the subject of high security alert during his work travels. His backyard backs on to the national park where the body was discovered.

“Detective, uhm… I didn’t want to be the one to report a body near the vicinity of my backyard. I checked to make sure she was dead. If she had any sign of life, I would have called an ambulance straight away. I thought someone else would find her and report to the police. I ah…look at me! I just didn’t want to be an Arab to report a murder. I am over being stopped and searched at the customs because of my appearance. I am an Australian you know. Anyway..maybe I just watched too many crime series. I am sorry. I should have called you guys. My God the poor woman.”

 

Widow

She walks straight into the industrial loft showroom, searching for the rustic vintage teak study desk. The dark shaded timber furniture on display blend in with the red and burgundy floor rugs. They float on the dark metallic painted floor. It makes her feel claustrophobic and reminds her of the wake room at the funeral. Halfway into the showroom, she spots her desk standing next to a red Victorian Tiffany-Style floor lamp.

She races towards it ignoring the other shoppers and the enticing aroma from the coffee cart two metres to her right. The long drape of her moss skirt brushes the heels of her bare feet. She leans on the short edge of the desk, closes her eyes and breathes in slowly, then out. She tries to block the chattering customers, the professional tone of the friendly salespeople and the whining of coffee grinder. She lays her slender tanned hands on the rough surface of the rustic teak. Her half-moon shaped fingers are tracing the grains in delicate circles. She smells the sandalwood incense and hears the trickles of the Feng Shui water fountain. Then the void hits her and brings a lump to her throat.