It is 14th July 2009. Romana Blaze perches daintily on a three-legged stool in front of a large sash window at the Rogues Café, a fashionable meeting point for those in the know. Her right index finger strokes a sleek touch screen phone, while her falsely lashed eyes scan it for fellow tweeters.
Three other people sit at a square stripped pine table two feet away from Romana, the surface is grooved with initials, hearts and observations about the staff. Two are male, one with a bushy bohemian style beard shrouding his weak chin, the other sporting auburn ringlets and Lennon type round spectacles. The disinterested female in their company throws sideways glances at Romana. She is bored senseless by a geeky conversation the two men are having about comic book heroes and far more interested in Romana’s glamorous Seven jeans, the long white silk top falling sexily off one shoulder and the red soles of her obviously outrageously expensive Laboutin sandals.
Never has Abby seen such a creature at this café before. Sure, there are always plenty of pretty young girls, shapely in their floral tops and slouchy jeans but they are mainly students, not moneyed or with style like the young woman by the sash window, which by the way has been left half open, the sill loaded with dying plants and strategically placed dusty tomes with peeling jacket covers. Leaning back in her chair Abby puffs out her cheeks like a blowfish and exhales air in a whoosh of ennui. Her companions ignore her but Romana flicks a glance her way and Abby takes the opportunity to roll her eyes back indicating her weariness with the men.
Romana raises a corner of her mouth, a half hearted empathy smile. Her interest is elsewhere.
Half past eleven and no one has arrived. ‘Where are you @libertyswan, @milestonemilly, @joehammer? I am here and waiting. She sends the tweet.
The barista surveys the room from behind a curved counter topped with glass jars full of biscuits, condiment dispensers and a leaflet container. Behind him an ultra modern coffee machine hisses like an angry cat. “Any of you folks need a top up?” It is obvious he isn’t impressed with the lack of custom today. He looks pointedly at Romana “what about you darling? Time for another?” The word ‘darling’ doesn’t sound quite right coming from a way too skinny boy, jeans slipping down his behind and acne on his chin. Wiping a badly cut floppy fringe from out of his eyes he sweeps a damp cloth along the counter a little too energetically, a china mug crashes to the dusty floorboards spilling coins like a fruit machine.
Romana barely looks up from her phone as Abby jumps to help him rescue coins from each far-flung corner. The beard and ringlet pair make a half-hearted attempt to help but after picking up a few coins soon bury their heads in Comic Hero magazine once again. No one notices a young female sporting spiky hair peering through the café window. On her left shoulder is an oversize canvas bag emblazoned with the caption ‘Go Green’, in her right hand is a roll up cigarette. The tips of her hair are shaded pink. On the back of the hand holding the roll up is a swallow tattoo, inked at the base of her thumb. She is hesitating; she shuffles in her flip-flops a moment before making up her mind to enter. The roll up gets discarded in the gutter.
The last of the coins are being scooped up, by now Romana is watching, glistening black hair flops about her high cheekbones as she leans forward to watch Abby attempt to release a pound coin from between two floorboards, Barista boy squatting beside her, suggesting they might use butter to ease it out.
Romana doesn’t notice the girl with spiky hair until she arrives right next to her. “Hello, er sorry I am a bit late,” squeaks the girl “you are OnFire aren’t you?”
Abby jerks her head up and away from the coin, intrigued by the comment. She could see the mystery lady was hot, but on fire? “Oh yuh!”
Romana throatily acknowledges the girl “and you are?”
“LibertySwan, well my real name is Linette.” Linette’s hand limply offers itself in Romana’s direction. Romana studies the hand, briefly touches it and decides not to comment on the swallow tattoo. A swallow tattoo but used Swan in her profile name. Romana guesses LibertySwallow might sound like a porn star, which is obviously at odds with the figure before her.
Abby leaves the struggle with the coin to Barista boy who squats over it showing far too much of his checked boxer shorts and the crack of his scrawny backside. Returning to her seat she is happy to be in prime position to observe the first meeting of Romana and Linette, a most unlikely pair.
Not really knowing what to say next Linette looks toward the café door hoping to see someone else arrive but the doorway gapes emptily back at her. “Well are the others coming, d’you know? Traffic is terrible.” Totally awestruck by Romana’s real life presence she hardly dares to look at her. “Weird isn’t it seeing each other for real?” She dumps her bag by Romana’s stool and wonders whether to interrupt Barista boy who by now is digging out the coin with a knife, paying no attention to the damage he is wreaking on the floorboards, to ask for a green tea.
Romana gazes at the doorway too. Somehow she looks less keen to see the next arrival. Perhaps because she appears to be so disappointed with this one. Abby can almost see her thinking, what a lousy idea this was. “Well, are you going to get a drink or something then?” Her tone is curt, impatiently rude to a stranger.
Linette shrugs, her brow furrows “well he seems a bit taken up with whatever it is he’s doing,” she gestures at Barista boy. Romana tuts, slips off her stool and glides over to the counter “Excuse me, whatsyourname, my friend here needs a drink.” She turns to Linette “it’s almost lunchtime, want a glass of wine?” Linette nods.
Barista boy stumbles toward the counter, having been virtually upside down these last few moments he is experiencing a sudden rush of blood to the head. It makes the rest of his face as red as his spots. “Two wines? White or red then?” He smiles showing teeth far too yellow for such a youthful face.
“White.” Romana doesn’t bother to ask Linette her preference; she has a feeling this girl will be indecisive, about everything. She doesn’t have the patience to watch Linette’s expression twist with confusion.
“Actually I would prefer…no white’s ok.” Linette wants to assert herself but feels a little scared of Romana. She was attracted to Romana’s tweets because they were wry, sarcastic observations of the men in her life. Romana is a sharp operator, a temptress who then pours acid on any attempts at seduction. Well her tweeting persona suggests that anyway. Her profile description includes the word ‘ballbreaker’ and Linette reckons this wiry woman with glossy hair, immaculate make-up and apparently perfect breasts could do just that.
Linette feels worried for JoeHammer who she has met briefly before at a village fete. He’s an open soul kind of a guy who loves gentle pursuits like bird watching and astronomy. Linette can’t imagine in a million years how Joe and Romana ended up in the same timeline, let alone agreed to tweet up. Then again, the same could be said of LibertySwan and OnFire. Accepting the wine from Romana, Linette looks up to see an elderly woman wearing a long beige dress enter the café. This surely can’t be MilestoneMilly? Linette rapidly takes a swig from the enormous glass she has been presented with. Perhaps if she gets inebriated ultra quick the next hour or so might be so much more bearable.
The lady in the beige dress is indeed MilestoneMilly, on closer inspection she doesn’t appear to be as old as first thought, her skin is quite smooth below the deep lines around her eyes. Unlike Linette she exudes confidence. MilestoneMilly moves towards them, tall with slightly bent shoulders, softly bobbed hair and a large circular pendant swinging across her chest. As she reaches Romana she throws out ringed fingers in a theatrical swoop “oh adorable Romana, gorgeous as ever my dear, give me a kiss!”
Abby and Linette watch open-mouthed as MilestoneMilly proffers a powdered cheek to the pouting Romana who obediently leans forward to gently place the kiss that has been ordered so determinedly. Even the beard and ringlets tear themselves away from their magazine to watch.
MilestoneMilly twists her head to survey Linette: hooded eyes travel across the ribbed tank top, rolled up sleeves and flared cream jeans with undisguised fascination then rest at the top of Linette’s spiky hair. “Well I suppose without the pink bits you could be a little swan, yes a little swan who has just dipped her head in the water to look for a tasty minnow! How sweet.” MilestoneMilly holds out her hand “call me Millicent, I only use Milly for Twitter because it’s shorter.
Linette breathes a sigh of relief; Millicent seems so much kinder and more responsive than Romana. “Have some wine, I’ll get it.” Millicent nods approvingly “that’s my girl, make mine red though, white far too acid for my poor tummy these days.” She turns back to Romana “now what have you been up to my lovely girl?”
Barista boy grins at Linette as he dispenses blood colour wine from a carafe near the till, “you lot part of some little club then?” He grins knowingly. “Well I suppose it’s a good way to get to know people. I’m on Facebook y’know, got nearly three hundred friends now. Don’t know any of them.” With a chuckle he hands over the wine glass and turns his attention to a man standing behind Linette “yes mate, what can I get you?”
Linette recognises JoeHammer’s voice, “oh he’ll have a beer, one of those lagers in a bottle.” She turns to Joe with a delighted grin “thank God you’re here!” She lowers her voice “we’ve picked up some right ones.”
Copyright 2012 © Petra Kidd