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L is for...

by Abi Alexander 2 months ago in Relationships
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Chapter 2.

L is for...
Photo by Nipanan Lifestyle on Unsplash

A loud alarm roused Norah from her deep sleep. She fumbled in the half-dark of this still unfamiliar space for her bedside table to shut off the offensive sound. She had stayed up far too late sending flirty messages to a cute little pocket-rocket, whose intense love for Hello Kitty ensured that a couple of drinks and an awkward morning goodbye was all it would ever amount to. And that was how Norah liked it.

Fresh from her first shower in the new space, she groaned as she peered down into an empty tea tin. There was no-way she was going to tackle the rest of the unpacking without at least a litre of caffeine in her system. She grabbed her jacket and bag and headed out the door, pausing to dart back to the bed and put the diary in. Might as well have Margot’s company as she explored this new part of the city she thought.

She was always struck by the sheer number of coffee shops in the city, not counting the bog-standard soulless chain ones that you could find even in the middle of the desert nowadays. It was the independent stores that seemed to offer something a little bit different.

Looking for coffee for the soul? Well, the place on the corner seemed to have something for that. Looking to be turbo-boosted so you can fully immerse yourself in the Corporate world and jump rather than climb your way up the ladder? Well, there was also a place for that.

Norah rolled her eyes. All these coffee snobs were so far up their own asses these days. All she wanted was a wholesome place that served a quality chai with a decent range of plant-based milks because – duh.

She missed her old spot where she’d spent her Sunday mornings, always in the same chair, tucked into the corner, armed with the day’s crossword - one of the few connections to her childhood that she had kept. It had become an unspoken agreement with the barista who worked ther,e that this little Sunday morning haven would be saved for her.

Unfortunately, like the custody of a child, the Coffee Bean had fallen to Paige in the break-up, as had the flat, most of their mutual friends and what felt like all of Norah’s dignity.

After traversing several streets and cringing at the pretentiousness of the neighbourhood she now found herself in, she settled for a café she’d almost missed amongst all the hipster sandwich boards with their painful puns. Nestled in the centre of the street, it reminded her of the house from ‘Up’, out of place but standing firm.

The door-bell chimed lightly announcing her arrival. She returned the bright smile of the lady behind the counter and took a seat on a faded blue love-chair tucked into one of the many nooks. As soon as she was settled, Teresa, as the woman’s name tag denoted, stood in front of her with her notebook and pen to hand and a look of genuine care on her face as her soft voice asked:

“And what can I get you this morning my dear?”

“Oh hi! Good morning. Could I get a large chai latte with almond milk, please? Thank you so much.”

She found herself matching the woman’s beam, what an infectious smile she had.

“This place is wonderful” Norah added “I love the décor.”

“Why thank you sweetheart. It’s since better days that’s for sure. There’s much more competition around then there used to be but this place has been in my family in one or form or another since about the 1920s. It has worn many hats though, which I think explains some of the design.” She nodded to the bar that sat along side the left wall.

“We wanted to keep the history. It was a soda bar for awhile; then a chocolate shop but it’s been a coffee shop now for the best part of twenty years.”

Norah felt herself relax. A family run coffee shop? In this part of the city? Oh boy, had she lucked out. This was going to become a regular haunt. She could feel it.

As Teresa went to make her order, she fished into her bag and pulled out Margot’s diary.

As she began reading, it felt like Margot was there with her earnestly spilling her thoughts and feelings out on to the table to an eager listener; not just telling her story through a diary found by chance some one hundred years after the event. Not that she would ever admit it but reading these pages and learning this woman’s story, however different from her own, made her feel less alone. Even if hers was a self-imposed solitude, it still felt good to have the woman’s words close at hand to pull her from the unknown reality of her own life and back into the past.

12.3.26

I’ve been dreaming about the nurse.

Almost every night, she is there in one way or another. In some, it is perfectly innocent. We go about our day, performing some mundane tasks together. In others, absurd as it sounds, we are married. She is my husband and we raise Thomas and Elise together as I do with Ray now. In some of my dreams, the ones that leave me feeling the most heightened, she is doing all the things that I wish Ray would do to me on the nights we are intimate but am too ashamed to ask.

I know they are just dreams, but they feel so real and when I wake in the morning and feel Ray’s strong body next to mine rather than the soft, feminine body in my dreams, I’m sorry to say I’m disappointed.

And then I’m filled with shame. Not because she is a woman but because I am imagining those things with another person. More than that, I am enjoying them. Ray and I have never been passionate with each other. It isn’t how our marriage has worked and that has suited us both. We have the children and that works for us. There are times Ray will roll over to me in the night and I will perform my duties, but that is how it has always felt. A performance. Not forced or unwanted but not filled with the lust that I secretly crave. I am not able to tell Ray what I want and he does not seem to care and so I have always pushed my own desires below the surface, especially when the children came along. But now; these dreams. This woman. I feel they have been awakened and it is all I can do not to go back to the hospital and seek her out.

Teresa placed the steaming mug of tea on the table along with a plate of a generous slice of a home-made Victoria sponge cake. Norah forced herself to look up from the page and acknowledge the arrival of her order, although tearing her eyes from the page felt like trying to break a gravitational pull.

“Thought you might like to try a little home-made treat too. It’s on the house” she added hastily as Norah opened her mouth to speak.

“Oh my goodness, it looks delicious, but I absolutely will pay for it Mmmm” she broke off popping a bite of the cake into her mouth “especially when it tastes this damn good. What is in this? Magic?”

Teresa smiled and a light blush covered her ruddy cheeks.

“Why thank you. I’ll leave you to it but if you need anything else, you just give me a little shout. Ok?”

Norah nodded, smiling through another mouthful of cake; her heart warmed by this stranger’s kindness.

She waited until Teresa was back at her till before enthusiastically returning to the diary, cursing once again as crumbs wedged themselves into the middle of the spine.

15.2.26

I don’t know what possessed me to do it but yesterday morning when Thomas was off to school and Elise was with Ray’s parents for their weekly promenade out with the stroller, I headed to the hospital. I just needed to catch a glimpse. To see if what I was feeling was true or if my mind was playing tricks on me.

I waited in the entrance for long enough that one of the women at the Reception desk came over to me to ask if I was ok.

I was embarrassed by this woman’s kindly action, so I mumbled my excuses and entered the hospital and headed to the ward where Thomas had been treated. It was only as I got there I realised I didn’t know so much as her name and I wouldn’t be able to describe her face without flashbacks of the dreams of how she looked with her hair loose, lips swollen from kisses and a rosy glow to her cheeks which in turn would turn my own crimson, I had no doubt.

Feeling defeated and more than a little foolish, I turned to leave and a flurry of papers went up in the air as I connected with a passing shoulder.

“Oh I’m so sorry…’ I began rushed to help pick up the documents that had scattered over the floor.

My hands reached out to grab a note and landed on a soft hand. I glanced up to look at who it was attached to and my heart began thudding. It was her. Her eyes, somehow, even more piercing than they had been in my dreams.

She looked at me with momentary confusion; the cogs in her mind looking where to place me.

I flushed, feeling the heat reach my cheeks. I had spent a week thinking of little else but the woman in front of me and she didn’t remember me. Wel,l of course not, I chided myself. It hadn’t been anything other than a person, professionally trained to be caring doing exactly that. For the second time in five minutes. I felt foolish.

I pushed the papers I had gathered towards her and clumsily got to my feet.

“Wait!” Her hand closed lightly around my forearm. “Is everything alright?”

She said it with the same sense of genuine consideration that she had had by the bathroom sink and my heart thudded even harder.

“I’m… um…. I’m fine. My son was here last week with a broken arm and I think that he left his stuffed rabbit. He can’t sleep without it and we’ve looked everywhere else.”

Realisation dawned on her face and she took the smallest step closer to me.

“It was you. In the bathroom.”

Her eyes flickered across my face before returning to look into my own and the world around me dimmed.

I took a quick step back concerned what I might do if she came any closer. The movement seemed to break the spell and she abruptly let go of my arm and straightened herself.

“I’m sorry” she murmured again clearing her throat and speaking louder “Nothing has been added to our lost property box recently.”

She turned to go and I went cold. I didn’t want this to be the last time I saw her; for this to be our last interaction. My thoughts tumbled over themselves as I desperately tried to think of a reason to keep her in my sphere at least for a few moments longer.

“What’s your name?” I almost shouted in my haste.

She looked over her shoulder at me.

With a quizzical look in her eye she replied, “It’s Nancy. Are you sure you are ok?”

She came closer to me again, the concern evident in her face and in her voice.

Nancy. It fit her perfectly, in a way I couldn’t have described if I’d tried. The muscles in my face contracted as I tried to keep the longing at bay. My stomach was now crawling with what felt like the sticky feet of hundreds of bugs.

In that moment, the worry that filled me had nothing to do with Ray or the children at home. Instead, I thought, perhaps I’d misread her gestures; the looks she had given me. Perhaps they was nothing but kindness and I had contorted them, turning them into something that would disgust her. That I would disgust her.

But as she stepped closer, closer than I would have been comfortable with if it was anyone else, but, yet with her I felt it wasn’t quite close enough. I felt her hand touch my waist lightly. She skewed her body to hide the gesture from the rest of the ward and her eyes scanned mine.

“Would you like to get a drink after I finish my shift?”

“Y-yes”’ I stammered, not quite believing that this was happening.

Was this happening? Was this all part of some elaborate joke? Or was it just one of those dreams that felt so much like reality it was near impossible to tell it apart until I woke and the weight of your world came crashing down in mere seconds?

A bright smile illuminated her face.

“Great. I’ll meet you here at seven then. I know just the spot to take you to.”

She glanced over her shoulder at the Matron, who was still engrossed in her work.

“I’ve got to go now but I’ll see you later.”

Her handed lifted from my waist and I felt its absence like a sharp sting.

Left standing alone, my head was spinning. I closed my eyes to steady myself. As I left the ward I felt like I was walking on a cloud. There was a lightness in my body that I hadn’t felt in years.

As the sun hit my face, I came crashing back to the ground again. Hard. Seven o’clock? How would I possibly be able to get away at seven? Ray would be out this evening at his weekly billiards game and besides I had few friends. I never made spontaneous plans. Elise sometimes still woke in the evening and, since breaking his arm, Thomas had been my shadow. I was foolish to go there; to even think it was possible. But I needed to go. I felt the pull of it from deep within myself. What was I getting myself into?

Relationships

About the author

Abi Alexander

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insight

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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