Friendship Contemporary Fiction

Leela sat at the sidebar at the Lipton Tea Lounge cafe, grasping tightly onto her glitching phone with both hands. The air grew stale around her as she slapped her hand onto her forehead. Again! This was growing into a pattern of people sending fraud messages and links to Leela. It was hard already to meet people who were open to building a friendship with a quiet girl who’d been homeschooled all her life. Leela grabbed her worn-out faux leather bag and headed for the glass door to get to the Mobile repair shop before it closed for the day. 

Facing her phone Leela walked out of the cafe. 

Sean was recovering from a bad headache from the night of partying. A coffee should do it, he thought. Those nights should’ve been good, fun, an easy place to make solid friendships. Alas in the last couple of years this had not worked. It was a coping mechanism to start a more fresh life to forget the nerdy chocolate boy he once was. He was older now, wiser and hopefully better looking. He adjusted his hat as it fell over his eyes, trusting his senses to guide him. 

Sean took a step and heard a loud thud as his shoulder collided with someone else's.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Sean exclaimed, taking his black velvet Newsboy hat off his head.

Leela stood at the brick steps, her mouth wide open. The phone that was already glitching and now was sprawled across the floor. 

“Excuse you!” Leela shrieked.

“Woah there, I said I’m sorry.”

“I don’t need your sorry sir, look,” Leela cried, grabbing her now crashed phone with the Panda phone case scratched from the rough concrete floor. 

Her heart was beating violently in her chest, how was she going to pay for all this damage? Her bank account was truly going to have a moth family move in by the end of these recovery purchases. She shoved herself past the guy with his hair in a cropped cut probably the result of a bad haircut.

As the girl walked away an odd sensation took over Sean, nostalgia maybe? It was foolish to overthink about something so small, he had no energy for it anyway. Sean propped his Newsboy back onto his head and walked into the cafe. It was a beautiful place, dressed in vines and green plants, splashed with a feature pink tile wall contrasting the crisp white walls of this striking place. If it was up to Sean this is where he would spend most of his days but unfortunately if he didn’t make it to his meeting with his engineer colleagues he was sure going to be giving him a heck of a day. 

Amethyst polished the new pencil heels that had just come into stock at the Beauty Boutique by Leela. Leela was lost in her latest sketch, a design for the upcoming winter festivities. If she made enough money this season in her fashion line she could pay the constructors and engineers of her new boutique shop. Money was tight as it was but years of her and her employee Amethyst’s work was finally paying off. They’d even been able to hire a couple of other employees.

“Leela. LEELA!” a brittle voice called, snapping Leela out of her reverie.

“Geez Ame, what’s up?”

“The engineers from that company called to talk to you but you weren’t here, so I messaged one of their numbers to you,” she explained, pointing at the cracked phone. “Eeek what happened there?”

“Don’t ask. I got the phone working from Matt down the road but the screen was being charged too much.”

“Well then, I’ll let you get back to your daydream- I mean designing, she winked.

“Ha-ha,”Leela responded mockingly, holding a slight grin at the tip of her lips. 

Amethyst was a great employer, she was supportive, did what she was told and although they’d been working ever since the end of University. Leela had loved Amethysts company  but there was nothing more than a professional bond that tied them together. Ame had always tried to break that boundary but Leela couldn’t help but tighten up in response. It could’ve been from the protection or as Leela called it “babying” from her parents who were too protective to let Leela do anything without hounding her. Convincing them for university was like convincing a child to eat it’s vegetables. In the end Leela had broken that protective barrier and moved to Sydney into a tiny one bedroom flat. Finding people online was much easier, no one could judge her but like everything else there were frauds here as well, injuring Leela’s freedom world.

Leela grabbed her cutting crystal phone and added the engineers number into her contact list. 

Sean had just gotten off the phone with a lady who seemed like she'd been crying for a while. Leela Lupton was not available and Sean had no other job but to talk to her about the design of her boutique, so with all this time in his hand he decided to sketch out a general idea of what his employee wanted from her file.

“Hey bud, you left the bash early last night,” Arnold, Sean’s colleague and the main man when it came to parties. 

Arnold was a cool guy but never the one to take someone like Sean as his mate. He was too different, a ‘new species’. It didn’t matter that they hung out almost every night, to Arnold Sean was a guy he could drag anywhere with him and he would follow like a lost dog. 

“Yeah Arnold, I’ve got that boutique to work on, workload has risen,” lied Sean through gritted teeth. In all truth the night hadn’t felt right, he stuck out like a sore thumb when all he longed for was a place and person of belonging.

“Well mate, are you going to come with me to Anderson's party tonight? I heard they’ve got a live band coming.”

“I’m alright today, thanks,” Sean replied, nodding to Arnold as he made his way out of the little office.

As Sean got back to his outline his phone gave a shrill ding.

Leela was anxious as she messaged this engineer. This person held the basic key to her successful future. Her fingers felt clammy and her hands shook a lot. 

Leela: Good Afternoon, I’m Leela Lupton. I was told to message you, the engineer in charge of the boutique construction.

Sean: Nice to finally meet you Ms Lupton, I’m Sean Wood. 

Leela: It’s just Leela.

Sean: Okay ‘just Leela’

Leela: Ha-ha very funny.

Sean: That’s what they all tell me.

Leela smiled to herself, looking like a lunatic.

Leela: So to discuss the floorplan of the boutique now sir.

Leela spoke to Sean for a while, discussing the arrangements of the boutique. What they were expecting from the construction company. The time of the build and the price of any excess costs. Throughout the conversation Sean would add funny puns or jokes that made Leela giggle out loud. Amethyst would occasionally glance up at her or side glance towards Leela when she thought the coast was clear and the customers were few. 

Sean: I’ve got to go now but we should meet up for a face to face discussion. See ya.

With that the conversation was over and so was the boutique day. Amethyst fidgeted with her hand as Leela pulled down the shutters of the shop. In the last 7 years Leela had been very secretive, very closed off. Amethyst knew about Leela’s mechanisms to gain a social life in her private life but Amethyst held no such power to help her boss. Seeing her in a complete new zone today had surprised Amethyst. It was a part of Leela she had not seen, it was refreshing and renewing. 

Sean: Hey you awake?

Leela: Sean it’s 3 in the morning, of course I was not!

Sean: Ah well I apologise for awakening you so late in the night.

Leela: You're forgiven. So do you ever sleep?

Sean: Usually yes, but my mind has been scoring through your boutique and some of the bits and pieces left unspoken of.

Leela: Oh wow, personal and professional differences must really not be your thing?

Sean: HAHA, I’m stoked about working for someone who can be awake with me for my early morning thoughts.

Leela: Sir we met yesterday and that too through a screen, I must say your friends must be so through your with all of your morning mayhem. 

Sean gulped, looking at the text Leela had just sent. How was he to tell her that he wasn’t blessed with someone he could call a friend. 

 It had been a restless night, a lonely one at his apartment in the city. He had picked up his phone for some sort of comfort, he went through his contacts and saw the name of Leela. Sean knew it was unethical to text your client so late but if he were to be honest, he enjoyed Leela’s funny, quirky remarks so much that he couldn’t help but almost untie the knot of his loneliness to her.

Leela: Hello? Sean? Great you’re off dozing and now I won’t be able to sleep.

Sean: Don’t consider yourself so lucky, I’m still here. 

Leela: Good because at least I won’t need to lay awake by myself now. 

Sean: I don’t think you need me for that, you probably have so many friends to talk to all night Leela. 

Leela bit her lip as soon as she saw that text. Sean, cool Sean who had been the first person in a long time to be this friendly and comfortable with was talking to her about her friends. If she told him the reality of her life, would she lose this growing friendship. In the eyes to many this may be wrong but to find someone you could connect with in an instant should make things in some way alright, right? 

Leela: I’m so flattered you think people would spend so much of their time with me.

Sean: Ofcourse, you sound genuine, easy to talk to, fun to be around.

Leela: I guess that’s because you don’t know me so well. I’ve been this lonely little kid, sheltered from everything around me. I don’t mean to be so open but I guess you sound like someone I could talk to. I mean I know you’re not a therapist but you’re easier to talk to.

A huge grin spread across Sean’s face as he read the last part of her message. He had never felt this sense of relatability before, it was comforting, if she could be so open with him, so could he.

Sean: I understand. It’s the feeling of captivity, like the world is holding you in, not releasing you from this eternal misery. It’s like you’re not even human. You long for companionship but success is on the other side of the great big wall you're trapped behind.

Leela: You’re less of an engineer, more of a poet.

Sean: Thanks for noticing! ;)

Leela: So what else do you do besides making a fat paycheck? ;)

*Sean liked your message*

Leela could sense a different tone to Sean’s message, it was poetic but it was as if he truly understood the feelings of Leela, like he was grieving like herself. They continued their swift banter, talking about movies they enjoyed and even argued about things that one thought was overrated. They talked about their jobs and their passion for it, even though it challenged them. Leela still couldn’t remove the itching curiosity of Sean and his message. 

Leela: Sean, I know you may not be exceptionally comfortable with sharing this information but what  did your previous text mean?

Sean: I don’t understand what you’re talking about?

Leela: Your little poem. What was that supposed to mean?

Sean: It was a little piece of me, I guess school wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows like it was shown on screen. I was not the main character, I was more of that kid who wore glasses and was noticed by no one until needed. Funny how things have rarely changed.

Leela: It’s funny how we relate. I’ll take you up on that offer for coffee. 

Sean: Sure, do you want to meet up tomorrow, I’ll bring the current plans with me for the Boutique. 

Leela: By tomorrow you mean today? It’s 5 in the morning kind sir. How about we meet at Lipton’s Tea Lounge at 10 am. How does it sound?

Sean: Great! I love that place. See you soon. :)

Leela took extra care with her makeup in the morning, making sure that her eyeliner was flicked to a sharp feline edge and her eyebrows drawn to perfection. She wasn’t the dressy type but chose to dress herself in her cream coloured sweater dress which was part of a previous collection of Beauty Boutique. She slung her pearl trimmed bag over her shoulder and made for the door, making sure to take a quick glance at the mirror to adjust her fringe as she left her apartment. 

Sean wore his second best button up shirt which had tiny blue spots splattered across it, he had searched for his best button up shirt but found it dumped in the ‘Needs a Wash’ pile. He had done the hard work to style his cropped hair which he sincerely regretted getting and chose instead to wear hats over to disguise the hideous muck. He had well groomed himself and had all his accessories placed before him on his slick wooden dresser. He attempted to tie his tie although it looked a lot less like the man he watched on YouTube. He grabbed his files and headed out for a new possible friend.

Leela walked into Lipton's Tea Lounge, holding her injured phone in her hands, waiting to receive a text from Sean. There was still about half an hour left but curiosity and eagerness had led her to come here earlier. Unfortunately she now had a bit of time left, at least she got to pick the best seat before he arrived.

Sean walked into Lipton's Tea Lounge his phone in front of his face as he started to text her. 9:30 was maybe a bit too early for his entrance here to meet someone for a daily basis; he was in and out of this place by 9 am. It was never busy inside the cafe in the mornings, people preferred drive thru’s at this time. Without taking much care of his surroundings Sean felt a huge sharp pain in his chest as he bumped into a lady in a cream coloured sweater styled dress. 

“Oh no, my phone!” she shrieked, her head down as she clutched her panda covered phone to her chest.

“I am so sorry! It was my fault, I wasn’t watching and…” she lifted her head and it left them both stunned.

“You, again? What have my phone and I done to you, sir?” she questioned, wide eyed.

Sir? That word was rarely used to talk to strangers with. Where was this familiar from? Someone he knew said this word in a non-professional way. It definitely struck a chord.

“Are you Leela Lupton?” Sean asked.

“Yes, and you...You’re Sean!” Leela exclaimed, her shoulders in a shocked slant. 

“I can’t believe it, it’s you.”

“You can say that again,” Leela laughed, adjusting her attitude to the girl he had spoken to this morning.

“I’ve bought some papers and other documents with me.”

“Sean, let’s grab some coffee and a croissant first, in all the rush this morning, I didn’t eat.”

Sean’s stomach growled, the blood rushed to his cheeks but instead of all the snarky remarks he would usually gain, he instead got a whopping laugh from Leela.

“You sir owe me a new phone screen,” Leela smiled.

“You mademoiselle owe me breakfast,” Sean smiled back.

They walked over to the same table and giggled as they realised that they’d both targeted this table for each other, right at the back of the cafe. If you walk towards friendship, you’ll find it. Just keep your eyes open, orelse you’ll break someone’s phone screen.

January 07, 2021 12:00

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