Thursday, 17 September 2015

Mermaids and Marigolds

Wednesday was the worst day. It should have heralded the middle of the week, a peak from which she could slide back down into the weekend and her longed for day of rest. Instead it had become this pinnacle of dread. The Nursery gave out at mid day and the well-shod of Finchley descended on her for lunch, their chocolate-smearing, nose-picking, sneeze-swiping, sugar-sprinkling children in tow. The 'Terribles' were not limited to the twos in her experience, the three, four and five year olds that visited her cafe seemed equally capable of rising to the label, as did some of the Mothers. How was it possible to get cappuccino foam on the lamp shades for goodness sake? And yet there it was, mocking her belief in the propriety of a certain class. But they were reliable customers at least. When many of the other traders on the road had gone under she still managed to keep going and she knew it was these regulars she had to thank. She tried to forget that they were the stone in her shoe and smoothed her pinny, ironed on her smile and braced for impact.
The day did not disappoint: two glasses of spilt juice, four returned (half eaten) shortbread squares with smarties missing ( after all that is what happened when the children ate them) -"Smile" and a near emergency when little Amelia had to be taken to the kitchen with her Mother to empty the tea pot of its scalding liquid before the child's finger could be removed from the spout. Then there was the arrival of the raucous Barnston twins who brought with them their Harmonica and a toy kettle drum and proceeded to 'entertain' their unduly appreciative captive audience. What were these Mothers thinking Sky wondered, other than perhaps "Make it stop!"
When she had opened the tea shop Sky had envisaged a quiet clinking of tea cups on saucers, a genteel kettle whistling in the background of an aromatically steaming kitchen, clouds of pink frosted cupcakes and hand piped delicacies. These wild wanderers swishing in and the constant competition between the smell of bleach, floor wax, coffee and gentleman's relish ( don't ask!) was somewhat at odds with her dream. Now by the end of each day she was desperate to escape the marigold handcuffs and slip into a world of her own creation. The church bells would chime their evensong melody and under their spell she would lock up one life and enter another, forget the marmalade stickiness on the backs of the chairs and suck instead the sweet nectar of life; stroke her cat from whiskery nose to the tip of its tail, run her hands through the bowl of frozen peas, sink into a sloe gin at sunset and wait for her haddock to poach. After dinner she would submerge her skin beneath bath water, rainbow-slicked with fragrant oil and let her cares melt away. She would remember the ripples on the lake surface that she had enjoyed in the weekend's sunshine and imagine her silken skin to be that of an iridescent mermaid with magical powers, one who has never heard of marigolds.

The copyright of this post belongs to Holly Khan

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