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Welcome to SENTINEL LITERARY QUARTERLY

Vol.3. No. 2. January 2010

 


CONTRIBUTORS

FICTION

SECTIONS

Andrew Campbell-Kearsey
Claire Godden-Rowland
Dike Okoro
Dominic James
Emmanuel Sigauke
Mandy Pannett
Noel Williams
N Quentin Woolf
Olu Oguibe
Paul Jeffcutt
Sharma Taylor
Susanna Roxman
W Jack Savage

DILUTED CAPPUCCINO

By

Andrew Campbell-Kearsey

 

As I stir my coffee, I rehearse my lines. I'd asked for an extra shot. Maybe that will keep me more focused. The trouble is I have to sweeten it to cover the bitterness. I'll keep it factual. It's a public place; he can't cause a scene here. Can he? I'm fifteen minutes early. This gives me time to gather my thoughts. As I wrestle with the second sugar sachet, my eyes are drawn to the opening cafe door. His face is temporarily obscured by the huge bouquet. Oh damn, this isn't going to be easy.

"You look gorgeous. I love the fact that we both like to be early."

He is in full-frontal complimentary mode as he thrusts the floral tribute in my direction and tries to follow through with a kiss. I turn my head and offer my cheek to be pecked.

"That's a great colour on you."

Is he referring to my chewing-gum white tee-shirt, scuffed trainers or faded jeans?

"I love it when you have your hair tied back. It really shows off your features. I'm amazed you haven't been snatched up by a modelling agency."

"Look, we need to talk." My fingers fiddle with the elastic band in my hair and I avoid eye contact.

"I know. There's so much to discuss. I'll just get myself a coffee. Up for a refill?"

He doesn't wait for a reply.

While he is at the counter I close my eyes and remind myself what I have to do.

"You look like you were praying."

He laughs, then carries on. "Wasn't sure what you wanted to eat so I bought us a selection," as he places the laden tray down onto the table.

I now have two bladder-defying lattes in front of me with accompanying cakes and pastries. Fortunately, dieting is not my top priority. He is grinning at me in his most 'love me, love me' way. How had I found that endearing just a few weeks ago?

"Robert, I need to be honest with you…"

He does not allow me to finish.

"That's another wonderful thing about you, your honesty. That's why I love spending time with you. We connect, Rach."

Having my name shortened to rhyme with the eighth letter of the alphabet is just one notch below fingernails scratching a chalkboard. He pulls out a pile of glossy holiday brochures.

"I know you're busy at work. That's why you haven't been able to return my calls. I figured we could get away for a week or two, have some 'us' time."

I am not able to mask my horror at this suggestion. He looks as if I'd slapped him.

"Perhaps a mini-break. Your choice. I was thinking you'd like…"

"Robert, listen to me. You're a very sweet man. But there is no 'us', no 'we'. It just hasn't worked out."

He gazes at me as if I have just begun to talk in a foreign language. He shows no glimmer of recognition in the words I am saying. There is a long pause, while his brain registers what I've just said out loud. His lower lip begins to wobble. The humane part of me wants to reach across the table, but my rational self makes me sit on my hands even when his coffee becomes in danger of being diluted by his free flowing tears. I know it's sexist of me, but I can't help it. I can't bear to watch a man cry. I hand him a tissue from my handbag. I consider walking out; leaving him. But that strikes me as callous. Yes, I would be free but I would be haunted by the image of this broken man, whom I had caused such pain. It takes a few minutes for him to be able to speak.

"But I don't understand. Things are so good between us."

He fixes me with his puppy dog eyes.

"Robert we only met a few weeks ago through a dating site. We've been out for a drink. We saw a film together and we had lunch in a pub once."

He takes out a notebook from his inside jacket pocket and reads aloud from it, "You're forgetting our shopping trip on the fifteenth."

"But we just bumped into each other last Saturday in…"

It slowly dawned on me that this chance meeting was far from accidental.

"We just need to give it longer, get to know each other better. You're very stressed at work and…"

I interrupt him with what I should have said at the beginning.

"This is not what I want, Robert."

People from other tables look round. I am past caring about temporary embarrassment. I'm pleased with myself for saying this.

There is a pause. He can't look at me. At least, he's stopped sobbing. Robert looks up with a hopeful expression, "I think we should go for couples' counselling."

In a controlled voice that I dredge up from my recent assertiveness training course, I respond slowly, "We are not a couple, Robert. I'm sorry things have not worked out."

"It's me, isn't it Rach? I can change, just tell me. I'll do anything you say."

 

I know the game he's playing now. I'm meant to say that it's not him and

that it's my fault. I shall not apologise.

"I'm leaving now, Robert"

 

 

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JANUARY 2010 INDEX
COMPETITIONS
DRAMA
EDITOR'S NOTE
ESSAYS & REVIEWS
FICTION
INTERVIEWS
POETRY

 

JANUARY 2010 INDEX | COMPETITIONS | DRAMA | EDITOR'S NOTE | ESSAYS & REVIEWS | FICTION | INTERVIEWS | POETRY

 

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