‘Alright mate? Tea, and a diet coke for the lady,’ said the skinny youth in black as he gestured behind him. ‘The rest will sort themselves out.’
Yannis stared at the new arrivals as the cafe door banged shut. The night was freezing, and the arcade had looked at its most unwelcoming when he’d come in for work, but at least its concrete was reassuringly normal.
‘Good gig was it?’ said Yannis examining the spotty lad in front of him. He looked like he’d been in an accident of some sort decided the all hours cafe’s owner. There was enough eyeliner spread across his face he could cry tears of emulsion. His girlfriend was easier to look at, even if she was white as a sheet, at least she was until she opened her mouth.
‘I thought, it was shit,’ said the girl. ‘I didn’t dance once. It’s all so pretentious these days.’ She flicked her long jet black hair over one shoulder.
‘That’s the last time I’m taking you anywhere Futility,’ said her boyfriend. ‘I thought it was epic, never seen anything like it. You’re always like this when we try and do something.’
‘I told you not to bother,’ Futility yawned covering her mouth with one lace gloved hand. ‘There’s nothing worth going to see anymore except the ‘Wastes’. I only go along with it to observe what the human animal is capable of. Why we had to wait till the morning to leave I don’t know.’
Yannis finished taking in the outlandish gear his latest customers were dressed in. He supposed he’d seen it all before. The clubs had just shut and the departing party heads liked to use his cafe as a place to hand out afterwards. He was also an old hand at his business. He made sure his smile didn’t slip once as three people tried to wedge themselves in a toilet built for one.
Yannis coughed gently.
‘They going to be long in there?’
The lad followed the direction the burly proprietor was pointing in and laughed.
‘Oh no, they’ll have wrapped things up in no time.’
He sniffed as Yannis put on his best smile.
‘I expect you’ll want to chill out then. A nice cup of coffee’ll soon sort you out.’
‘Pardon?’ said the girl as she turned her sunglasses toward him. ‘What are you, my Dad?’ I could do it again, no problem Gramps, even if the last band nearly sucked the life out of me. What were they called? The Leeches?’
‘I don’t remember, I was too busy trying to have a conversation with you,’ said her boyfriend.
‘What all that drunk crap was you having a conversation? I thought you were trying to tell me you loved me again and we should get married. You normally do after you’ve had a drink. Sometimes I don’t know why I hang out with you.’
The youth with the eyeliner laughed, ‘Because, you need someone to remind you you’re here.’
‘Fair point, if you didn’t, who would? Now, where’s my coke?’
The girl turned her shades in Yannis’ direction.
‘Back in a second,’ replied the cafe’s owner.
He shuffled to the serving hatch and called out the order. With a bit of luck, Sylv wouldn’t be long. Behind his back, the girl’s voice carried in that stage whisper the British loved.
‘I think I’m getting worse Ed. I hadn’t had a conversation with anyone in the real world for days before you came round. He could have been a Martian. I could barely understand a word, and there’s no bands playing in here.’
‘He’s got a Greek accent that’s all; been here for donkeys. You shouldn’t worry so much, he’s talking human.’
‘Could have fooled me.’
‘After what you’ve taken you wouldn’t know the difference right now anyway. Trust me; I’m better at this,’ said Ed.
‘Thanks for reminding me. What’s he doing here then?’
‘Living, same as the rest of us.’
Over at the counter Yannis smiled. They weren’t all bad then.
‘Can we stick the juke box on?’ said a kid who’d appeared behind him.
The real reason the night club crowd came to Yannis’ cafe stood in the corner looking like something from one of those old fairgrounds you still saw poster’s for in town.
‘Of course, but be careful with it, and keep the noise down. I don’t want another visit from the council.’
Yannis watched carefully as the poor dehydrated souls began to slurp at their drinks.
‘Relax; we won’t wake your neighbours,’ said the kid with a grin.
There was the rattle of coins being fed into the machine, and then the first notes drifted out filling the cafe with the comforting thud of music.
Yannis felt like all he’d done was blink before his customers were slumping in their chairs. He loved it when they got like that and the buzz of twenty thousand hormones finally shut up.
‘That was quick Sylv. How much did you put in?’
A small white haired woman wearing a smile appeared at the serving hatch.
‘Too much, I slipped and knocked the packet.’
He glanced at the tables, ‘you got the girl as well?’
‘She’s had way more than him. Thought she’d need it with the way she was carrying on. They never even noticed the others in here.’
Yannis’ wife gestured at the figures slumped in the cafe’s dimly lit booths.
‘Well most of them had eyes on stalks when they came in.’ Yannis did a quick headcount. ‘I doubt they’d have recognised their own mothers. Best close the shop while we deal with this. They’ll probably be used to the dose, strong, resilient hedonists like themselves ought to be. We’ll work quick. I wasn’t expecting another load to turn up.’
‘Must have been the last out,’ said Sylv.
‘I reckon they’re well under though for now. They can’t even twitch, look.’ Yannis jabbed a fork in one of the lad’s arm just to make sure.
‘Thank God for that,’ beamed his wife. ‘I was worried half of them wouldn’t drink any like last time.’
Sylv finally emerged from the kitchen and took in the view. These days she rarely made an appearance where people could see her. It saved on the explanations. Even in a busy place like the Crossroads you ended up repeating yourself as soon as they got a look at her eyes. She had pupils that could have been stolen from a cat.
Yannis swung into action. The cafe had seen them all at one point or another and if you were lucky, you could usually find something in its customer’s pockets worth stealing. You just had to be able to spot who’d been working the venue the night before.
‘Look at them, quiet as mice.’
Yannis glanced at his wife, for a moment he could almost see her picking her teeth.
‘Fancy a dance?’ he said stretching out an arm.
‘What with them watching?’
‘Why not? You aren’t going to seize up on me are you?’
‘The floor’s ours.’
Bass thumped as they glided round the room, hands dipping deep, lifting wallets, and emptying pockets. When they’d finished Yannis felt Sylv shuck deep under his arm as she looked up at him.
‘Are you happy, my love?’ asks Yannis hoping that the answer would be yes, that it would always be yes.
Another record slipped into place.
Yannis felt the weight of her, the curve of her that fitted so softly into his embrace, and just for a moment he caught something slide across her slit pupils like a second skin. He grinned, and kissed the face he’d met on a stile so long ago he forgets what country it was in. Only that it’s lost in the past along with all the others they’ve lived in.
But, he thinks to himself, her lips crush against his just as sweetly now as they did then.
‘I wish I could see with your eyes,’ says Yannis as he breathed in the scent of leather that surrounded her and realises she’s said the same thing.
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