‘Alright, mate, tea, and a diet coke for the lady. The rest will sort themselves out.’
Yannis stared at the new arrivals for a moment as the caffe door banged shut. The morning was freezing, and the arcade had looked at its most unwelcoming when he’d come in for work. But at least the concrete was familiar; the faces in front of him were not.
‘Good Halloween party was it?’
Yannis was a professional. He made sure his smile didn’t slip.
‘Epic, never seen anything like it.’
The nearest youth looked like he’d had an accident of some sort. There was enough eyeliner spread across his face he should have been crying tears of emulsion. His girlfriend was easier to look at, at least she was until she opened her mouth.
‘I thought, it was shit. I didn’t dance once.’ The girl sounded like the English teacher he’d had back in the old country decided Yannis.
‘That’s the last time I’m taking you anywhere Futility. You’re always like this when we try and do something.’
‘I told you don’t bother. There’s nothing worth going to see except the ‘Wastes’. I only go along with it to watch what the human animal is capable of, otherwise I’d forget what I am.’
Yannis coughed gently.
‘I expect you’ll be knackered then.’
The girl turned the scowl hidden behind her sunglasses toward him.
‘What are you, my Dad?’
When she lowered her head Yannis saw her eyes; they looked like they could eat the smile right off his face they were that pale.
‘I could do it again, no problem Gramps, even if the last band nearly sucked the life our of me. What were they called? The Leeches?’
‘I don’t remember? I was too busy trying to have a conversation with you.’
‘What all that drunk crap was you having a conversation? I thought you were trying to tell me you loved me again. 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 that coke?’
The girl turned her shades in Yannis’ direction again.
‘Back in a second.’
He shuffled to the serving hatch and shouted out the order. With a bit of luck, Sylvy 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. He could have been a Martian. I could barely understand a word, and there’s no music.’
‘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.’
‘You wouldn’t know the difference right now. Trust me; I’m better at this.’
‘Thanks for reminding me. What’s he doing here then?’
‘Living, same as the rest of us.’
Yannis smiled, they weren’t all bad then.
‘Can we stick the juke box on?’
The reason the kids came to Yannis’ tiny 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.’
‘Relax; we won’t wake a soul.’
There was the rattle of coins being fed into the machine and then the first notes were drifting out.
Yannis felt like all he’d done was blink before the kids 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 Sylvy. How much did you put in?’
His wife appeared at the serving hatch.
‘Too much, I slipped and knocked the packet.’
He glanced at the coffees, ‘you got the girl as well?’
‘She’s had way more than him. I recognise the type. Never even noticed the rest.’
She gestured at the caffe’s dimmest corners were figures were just visible slumped in their chairs.
The pair had eyes on stalks even if they weren’t moving. He hoped they’d be used to the dose, strong, resilient hedonists like themselves ought to be.
‘I reckon they’re well under. They can’t even twitch, look.’
He jabbed a fork in one of the lad’s arms.
‘Thank God for that,’ said Sylvy, ‘I was worried half of them wouldn’t drink any like last time.’
She emerged from the kitchen and took in the view. The Crossroads had seen them all at one point or another. 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 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?’
‘What with these lot watching?’
‘Why not? You aren’t going to seize up on me again are you?’
‘The floor’s ours.’
Bass thumps as they glide round the room, hands dipping deep, lifting wallets, and emptying pockets. When they finish Yannis feels Sylv shuck deep under his arm as she looks up at him and says, ‘Are you happy, my love?’
Another record slips into place, and the room starts to fade.
Yannis feels the weight of her, the curve of her that fits so sweetly into his embrace, and just for a moment he catches something slide across her eyes like a second skin. He grins, and kisses the face he met on a stile so long ago he forgets what country it was in. Only that it’s buried in the past along with all the others they’ve lived in. Her lips crush against his as sweetly now as they did then.
‘I wish I could see with your eyes.’
As he breaths in the scent of scales and leather that surrounds her he realises she’s said the same thing.
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