Noah checked his phone for the tenth time in as many minutes. Between that and rubbing the indentation left by his wedding ring, he was building up quite a collection of fidgety habits. He already felt conspicuous standing outside the café, but he didn’t want to miss Hannah. He had arrived early and hung around, picking the Drury café because of the location, familiarity, and relaxed friendly atmosphere. Best of all it was near a tube station which meant that if the date went well, they had an option to go on somewhere and if it didn’t’, well he could disappear underground to rethink the dating game.
He’d met Hannah in the office a few weeks ago and after a post-meeting coffee, had decided he would definitely like to get to know her better. She was attractive and slightly younger than Noah, which had been a good start, but her sense of humour and easy nature had made him feel more comfortable than he had in a long time. She reminded him of Kass but without all the drama and hard edges that had made that relationship an emotional roller coaster that ended with it flying off the rails.
Not having dated anyone for so long had made the invite a little messy but Hannah had laughed off the clumsiness and agreed to a Saturday meet-up. Turning from the window of the café, Noah spotted Hannah walking toward him and waived.
“Hi, thought you were standing me up!”, Noah smiled and winked conspiratorially.
“Tubes, not my favourite transport but line works on this that, and everything else just increased my loathing. It’s now reached a new high on my scale of s**t I don’t need in my life. Would have been quicker walking.”
Noah moved closer and hugged her, hoping to remove some of her stress.
“Thanks, that helps.” Hannah smiled at Noah sideways. “Can we get in for coffee, I could use it.”
“But of course.” Noah sweeps his hand toward the Café entrance.
Inside, it’s busy but not as rammed as midweek. It’s a favourite with workers in the area for ‘offsite’ meetings. The ones where you talk about the boss, but he can’t hear you. Imagine a bunch of vents letting off steam while drinking lattes and munching muffins and you get the picture.
They sit at a table in back, coats off and draped on chairbacks. Coffees steaming in front of them, clatter of cutlery, bubble of chatter and sunlight bouncing off glass – a modern Van Gogh enacted.
“So, tell me, what would you normally be doing on a Saturday afternoon?” Noah said.
“Hmm, tough one – catching up on work, thinking of reasons not to call my family and oh yeah my favourite – laundry.”
Noah listens and stirs his coffee, making foam circles on the top. “I can only apologise for dragging you away from all that. Must have been hard to decide to come out.”
“Fishing, this early?” Laughs Hannah. “You know I wanted to come, you asked enough of my friends at work about me. I wondered if I was being investigated at one point.”
Noah’s face glows a little. “Ouch, sorry – I wanted to do my homework, I am new to this and didn’t want to mess it up.”
“New, new? It’s just someone mentioned a marriage.”
“No messing around with you Hannah. I think that’s one of the things I like most about you.”
“You mean there are other things you like?”
“Now who’s fishing?”
“Touché – so…marriage. What’s the background, I mean, if you’re ok talking about it.”
“It’s OK, I don’t mind talking about it – cathartic really. I haven’t talked to many people about it.” Noah sits back, setting himself with a disguised deep breath. “I was married, for two years. It ended six months ago with mutual agreement that it was over. Year one, was fine – all new. Furnishing, painting - all the usual nesting couples go through. Year two, start of – things got a little, fractured. Cracks started appearing, niggles, mini fights – nothing serious but it should have been a warning sign.”
“Sounds a bit rough for both of you.”
“Yes, rough is about right – it was the right move though, to end it. Kass, that’s my ex, she opened up one drunken teary night and there was no going back after that.”
“How do you mean, opened up?”
Noah looked up at Hannah, how much should he say? In for a penny. He thought. “Kass had always been popular to put it mildly, but I was aware of that when we got together. I felt, what’s the word – lucky? Yes, lucky she had chosen me to settle down with.”
“Shopped around, and decided you were the best of the bunch?”
“Well, yes – you could put it that way. But what came out that night explained quite a lot.”
“You really don’t have to tell me this if you don’t feel up to it. I can be seriously nosey without even trying.”
“It’s fine, it needs to be said at some point and I feel like I can talk to you. The real tipping point came when she told me she preferred other women.”
“Yeah, not what I was expecting but it all kind of started to make sense. Things said, side glances, comments when we were alone at home. She told me that she had always known but had denied it because of her upbringing. Apparently, her parents were pretty strict and a bit religious – I never met them you see. She figured she could stick with men and, if it was a phase, a flight of fancy or some such – then she would move one.”
“But she didn’t, clearly”
“No, she hadn’t been seeing someone but she wanted to open up and clear the air before she moved on. She felt that I should know from her, rather than a friend or worse, a colleague.”
“Noah, I have to confess something as well.”
“Oh god, this isn’t going anyway near how I’d expected”
“I asked about you in the office as well, and…I think you were married to someone I know. Actually to my sister – Kassandra.”
Noah laughed nervously. “You’re not serious? I would have known; you don’t have the same surname and De Montfort is not that common a last name. At least not to me”
“It’s because I don’t use the full last name. I use my mother’s maiden name of Beaumont. You see Kass and I had a stormy relationship. We were really close when we were young, but when she hit her teens, it seemed like she was a completely different person. After talking to you, I think I can see why.”
“So, this meeting was to find out if I was married to your sister?”
“No, and Yes – In that order. I haven’t spoken to her for years and I really wanted to get back in touch. When I found out you had been married to Kassandra De Montfort, then I was pretty sure it had to be her.”
“That’s the yes bit…”
“What can I say, I like you and wanted to get to know you. The more I found out, and at the same time we worked together at the office, then the more complicated it got. I thought that this was going to be the best way to get closer to you but at the same time, it could mean I get closer to Kass.”
“You can imagine how this makes me feel. I mean, I’m not sure I would have said so much if I thought you knew Kass - let alone were her sister. Christ, I’ve made a right mess of this.”
“I disagree. You have helped me a great deal and, if anything, I feel a lot closer to you.”
“What will Kass think?” Noah looked over Hannah’s shoulder – the tube felt like an option right now.”
“If you want to leave and take some time to reflect, I won’t mind. But - I would like to spend more time with you, not to get more information on Kass. Simply to be with you.”
“I considered leaving but it feels like there’s something to stay for. Do you want Kass’s number?”
“Only if you feel ok about it. If she’d confided in me the way she did with you, then maybe we wouldn’t be estranged. Then again, I got to meet you, so maybe that’s how it should always have been.”
“Fate – not sure I believe in it but, I am glad I met you. Maybe I could let Kass know you asked about her and we can take it from there.”
“That would be really helpful. That way I get to build two relationships – who knows where they may both end up.”
“Coffees are cold. How about we get a drink instead – there’s a nice place round the corner.”
As they left the café, Hannah took Noah’s hand and they set of down Drury lane.”
“Rains really cleared the air.” Noah smiled as they walked past the entrance to the underground.
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Hey Michael, I enjoyed reading through your story, the only critique I have is to carry out the little details such as the fidgeting mentioned in the begining of the story. I really enjoyed the story and the emotional waves.
Nice touch - they were an early flag but could just as easily reoccur to refresh the reader’s memory. Thank you.