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The man behind the bar couldn’t have been more than sixteen. He was lean. Boney. His shoulder blades seemed to push through his shirt like a hanger left behind; he was not yet comfortable with the limbs that had grown fast out of his clothes, leaving him awkward and not yet easy in his changed body. The girl ordered from him and he stuttered slightly through the motions of teas and coffees and pastries before taking her money and then hovering over the till and stuttering again. She smiled at him, encouraging she hoped, and then walked over to a table where a man was waiting for her.

The man was her father: Thanks kiddo, he said.

S’alright. She arranged the table and sat. I’m starving.

The man leant back with his arms folded across his belly as the girl ate. Her head down. No air. He peered at her and smiled: You don’t do well when you’re hungry, do you? She shook her head. No. Not really. I’m OK now. I haven’t eaten for ages. Sorry.

He shook his head. No need. What’s been going on?

She shrugged. Nothing.

Ah. Nothing.

Well. Stuff, nothing. Some stuff. You know.

He laughed softly. Yes.

Do you mind if I go for  cigarette?

No, go ahead.

She left him and  he removed a red pen and small green book from the inside of his jacket. Opening the book, he readied himself to write, paused, pen over paper, looking up at nothing, it seemed. Then he began to sketch quickly, a diagram of some sort: some letters and some numbers. The girl returned.

She sat down heavily, paused and then said: I’ve fucked up, Dad.


I mean I’ve really fucked up. The last word was choked and she bowed her head.

Her father leant over and held her forearm. You’ll be ok, Kid. It’s a job, that’s all.

It’s not that. That’s just part of it. Just like a symptom of my fucked up life.

Her father sat back. You’ll get nowhere like this. Nowhere. You have to start thinking about things differently. But as he said it she seemed to shrink into herself. Tears began to shake her frame. And she couldn’t really hide them and hurt more for trying to. Annie, come on, you have to pull yourself together.

But I’ve screwed everything up. I’ve lost my job, I’ve fucked up my relationship, I don’t know what I want to do.

Her father sighed and she continued. I know. I know I’m being an arsehole and I should be ok but I’m scared. The words were falling from her now: I’m scared of what’s next or what isn’t; I’m scared of not getting anywhere, of what I’ve lost…

What happening with Rob?

I fucked it.

Stop cursing.

Sorry, she said. I fucked it, she mouthed.

Ok. Ok. Relax. Breathe.

I am breathing.

I mean calm down.

She took a breath.

Annie, I know it’s hard. I know you are just trying to get through. In a way, do you think this job thing might be  good thing? You need to move on.

She shrugged. Maybe. Yes. Probably. Yes.

I mean, you need a challenge.

He leant in towards her and placed his hand over her’s. And his hands were huge compared to her’s; she seemed, suddenly, very small.

Annie, the future isn’t all frightening. You need to, he hesitated, find the courage to turn the page.

Having said it he felt more confident with the notion and straightened: Yes. You need to have the confidence to turn the page. You don’t know what is ahead but there are good things; things you don’t know about yet.

I know. I think I know. I don’t know that. She wiped her face with the heel of her hand.

There are. You need to move on, Annie. Put your shoulders back.

For a minute she looked at him. She had, he saw, been crying for a long time. She was tired with it. His daughter, who he had seen grow and thrive and fall down and get up again. And her smiled at her: you’re going to be OK. You’re strong. Stronger than you think.

She squeezed a smile. I hope so. She said. Because I feel really fucked.

He tilted her head at the curse. And she spluttered a laugh. I’m sorry! He grinned at her. S’OK.

They sat for a while in silence. She pushed pastry crumbs from one side of her plate to the other. She looked up at him. What about you? You’re retiring. Turning the page?

He smiled. Yes, turning the page. I’m frightened too, he said.

She looked at him. But you’re amazing. You’re going to have an amazing time. Travel, new job, your workshop.

He folded his arms back across his belly. Yes. He said. Yes. But it’s still about having some courage. I’ll miss work. I like it, I like the teaching and the pressure and thinking things through. He paused and placed a hand over his green notebook. He looked at his daughter: you’ll never stop having to do this. But you’ll keep going and there will be wonderful things.

She shook her head. Too many words. Too much to think about. Shall we go for a walk?

Yes. He said. They gathered their belongings and the boy walked over to their table before they left to remove the crumbs and cups and plates.

The table lay empty as they walked into the street. She put her arm through his as they turned away.


Written by elikafm

March 1, 2010 at 11:58 pm

One Response

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  1. *sniffsniff*


    March 3, 2010 at 4:36 pm

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