Danielle’s heart stopped the moment He stepped through the doorway. Although He was the reason that she came to this particular cafï¿½ at this precise time, she wasn’t certain about her vague information.
Go to Isabella’s at quarter past four. He orders a cappuccino and a biscuit. He sits outside under the green umbrella at a wooden table and drinks his coffee, giving his biscuit to the birds.
Sure enough, Danielle’s man was given a polystyrene cup and white paper bag. She watched from her dark corner as He went outside. When she left, she noticed crumbs surrounding Him.
The next day, Danielle couldn’t curtail her thoughts. Whenever she looked at the clock she wondered what He was doing at that moment. At last, the bell rang and her body tensed in anticipation, but she had to wait until the end of roll call to grab her bag and make her way to Isabella’s.
Sitting at the same corner table, Danielle again ordered a cappuccino. Danielle hated coffee but it made her feel closer to Him. Today, she listened to His order at the counter.
“Cappuccino to go and one of those cornflake biscuits, thanks.”
Danielle smiled when the owner of the cafï¿½ laughed and took His money.
“David, mate, you’ve been coming here for months and its always the same thing…”
Danielle knew this was Him.
“…And you only have different biscuits because you take whatever’s there.”
David grinned and took his order.
“Well don’t expect me tomorrow Bruce, I’m going back to Melbourne.”
Danielle froze mid-pretend sip. Melbourne?
“Melbourne?” echoed Bruce aloud.
“Yeah, I have unfinished business there …” David looked away.
“Ah, I see.” Bruce shut the till, smiled and turned to the next customer. David walked out onto the terrace.
Inside, Danielle lost interest in her pretence. He was going away before she had a chance to talk to him. She picked up her coat and left, crossing the terrace just as He looked up and saw her walking away.
School came second to Danielle’s thoughts. However, this time her mind was firmly in the distant past on the day that had been the hardest of her life. Even thinking about it made her want to bawl into her notebooks. Mercifully, Danielle had on Thursdays she didn’t have to say much, just sit there and look busy, so no one noticed.
Neither Danielle nor David went to Isabella’s on Thursday. David didn’t want to go to Melbourne as he had only been in Adelaide for five months. However, since his mother died six weeks previously and he had been in Melbourne for the funeral, the pull became too strong. David knew that to start over again in Adelaide, he needed closure in Melbourne. A month sounded long, but there was a lot he had to do. Thankfully, he and Cassie didn’t have any children; apparently they made divorce harder. David left for Melbourne on Thursday at six-thirty pm.
After the weekend, Danielle returned to Isabella’s. She wasn’t sure whether to be upset that had was gone or relieved. Bruce noticed that she no longer sat in the corner with an untouched cappuccino; now Danielle sat outside on David’s table with hot chocolate and cake. She ate the icing but crumbled the cake for the birds. Bruce considered getting a new cook, but instead, befriended her. Soon a month was up.
Once, David wondered why some married couples had separate bank accounts. Wasn’t marriage for life? Now he wished he had their foresight. Neither he nor Cassie wanted to sell everything but they couldn’t do things fairly, too many emotions in the way. David was returning to Adelaide with money from the sale of his old life to purchase his new. His only concern was that his parents, his past, was buried in Melbourne.
An indiscernible smell wafted down the aisle and punched David fair in the nose. Old shoes? Rotten eggs? It was too early for David to recognise the stench.
“Would you like breakfast sir?”
David smiled wanly as the flight attendant plonked a tray in front of him. The smell became stronger when he lifted the foil: overcooked omelette.
Quarter to six he boarded the plane and now at seven-thirty it was too early for offal disguised as breakfast. David leant back in his chair and closed his eyes. He felt guilty about betraying his parents by leaving, by putting his childhood and young adult life in a neat box labelled “Melbourne” and moving on. But it was more; his motives for moving to Adelaide went against his parents’ wishes and it was only after they had both died that he could defy them. At 32, David was still a naughty little boy.
Danielle gazed at the attentive but blank faces in her chemistry class. Sometimes she wondered why she bothered. Most of these girls would go on to be nurses, secretaries or teachers. However it was a precious few who wanted more that made it all worthwhile. When Danielle was fifteen, she had been a precious one. She was to be a doctor in a time when girls were trained to be wives. Danielle was going somewhere until…
“Miss Everard, isn’t there a two minus charge on the oxygen molecule?”
Danielle shook herself from her reverie and looked at what she had written on the board.
“Ah, yes, thankyou Catherine.”
Catherine was a lucky one, going on to be what Danielle dreamed of. The siren went and the students began to pack up.
“Miss Everard, is there any homework?”
But Danielle had already left.
David decided to go to Isabella’s at four, as he wasn’t back working yet. Bruce was pleased to see him.
“David, I’m sorry but you can’t have your table today. Why not try the table with the red umbrella?”
David shrugged and sat down, glancing at the woman sitting at “his” table. She was slowly eating the icing from the top of her cake in between sips from her mug. He watched, captivated, as she picked at her cake and let bits fall from her fingers to the sparrows on the ground. He realised it, as his own cappuccino cooled beside him.
Danielle, not noticing her company, was fully engrossed in the sparrows that flitted and darted around her. She found peace beyond her forty-eight years, something she hadn’t felt for almost thirty-three years.
David felt his thirst be slaked as he watched her, after twenty years of drought. This woman surrounded by birds mitigated the dryness started when he was told he was adopted.
Bruce saw the young man approach the middle-aged woman and smiled. Knowing both sides, he had figured the whole story out long ago. With the strong sunlight slanting under the umbrella, Bruce could see that the resemblance between mother and son was uncanny.
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