‘Alright mate, tea, and a diet coke for the lady.’ The skinny youth in black gestured behind him. ‘The rest will sort themselves out.’
Yannis stared at the new arrivals 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 its concrete was familiar.
‘Good Halloween party was it?’
Yannis was a professional. He made sure his smile didn’t slip once as four people tried to wedge themselves in a toilet built for one.
‘Epic, never seen anything like it,’ said the youth.
‘They going be long in there?’
He followed the direction the burly proprietor was pointing in and laughed. ‘Oh no, they’ll have wrapped things up in no time.’
Yannis examined the spotty lad in front of him. He looked like he’d been in an accident of some sort decided the all hours caffe’s owner. There was enough eyeliner spread across his face he could cry tears of emulsion. His girlfriend was easier to look at, 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 brunette hair over one shoulder.
‘That’s the last time I’m taking you anywhere Futility. You’re always like this when we try and do something,’ said the lad.
‘I told you not to bother,’ Futility yawned covering her mouth with one black nailed hand. ‘There’s nothing worth going to see anymore except the ‘Wastes’. I only go along with it to watch what the human animal is capable of. Why we had to wait till the morning to leave I don’t know.’
Yannis coughed gently.
‘I expect you’ll be knackered then.’
‘Pardon?’ said the girl as she turned her sunglasses toward him. ‘What are you, my Dad?’
When she lowered her head Yannis saw pale grey eyes stare are at him.
‘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 that 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 again.
‘Back in a second.’
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 its 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 music 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.’
‘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 at his shoulder.
The other reason they 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 drifted 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 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 coffees, ‘you got the girl as well?’
‘She’s had way more than him. Thought she’d need it. They never even noticed the other in here.’
Yannis’ wife gestured at the figures slumped in the chairs of the cafe’s dimly lit booths.
‘Well most of them had eyes on stalks when they came in.’ Yannis did a quick headcount. They should have enough now. 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. The caffe 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 says stretching out an arm.
‘What with them 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.
‘Are you happy, my love?’ asks Yannis hoping that the answer will be yes, that it will always be yes.
Another record slips into place.
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 slit pupils 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 lost 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,’ says Yannis as he breathes in the scent of leather that surrounds her and realises she’s said the same thing.
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