The Winner of the Jan writing competition Coffee. This is your chance to read the winning piece. Note: Comments have been disabled on winning entry pages.
The images that are currently presented with the work are for illustrative purposes only and will be replaced with artwork in the anthology.
About Emma Pearle
This section may or may not be filled in with a little information about Emma Perle by Emma Perle. These sections will also be in the anthology when it is published. With a deadline in December it may be a while before this part is updated.
A picture of Emma Pearle or an icon to represent her will also be published here. If she has her own website you will find a link to it here.
My hands reach round and clasp both sides of my cup. I am not cold but there is something about the restorative heat which transmits deeper than skin. A feeling of well-being filters through my body as the first sip of my americano sooths its way down. I exhale a comforting sigh and take a look at the transient world around me.
The atmosphere is productive. Coffee machines hiss and their steam rises, the bustle of baristas adds to the hive of activity. Customers line up in the queue or sit at tables in differing numbers of one or two or more. An archipelago of different people’s lives, excerpts of their day coming together under one roof.
I see a young woman sat on her own, casually dressed with a laptop, she’s possibly a student. A mother sits on another table, with one small child next to her on one side and a toddler strapped in a highchair on the other. Both children are halfway through eating shaped gingerbread, fingers and faces sticky but their pleasure is affording their mother a moment of quiet. There are two men in suits, like myself, hunched over expressos and in deep discussion. In another corner, two elderly women with frothy cappuccinos and cake, talk at each other with mouths full. Closer to me an older man sits on his own, walking stick leant against his thigh and broadsheet open.
I sigh contentedly enjoying my moment of peace but simultaneously experiencing a sense of detachment. Casting my eyes around it occurs to me, I’m being a voyeur of other people’s lives.
My job, in this foreign city, at times makes me feel lonely for simply being the outsider. I have to remind myself that millions of people are sitting, drinking coffee at this hour and the thought reignites my feeling of being connected, just by the simple act; the one thing I have in common with the world.
It is my daily ritual, a place to feel anchored when so much of my life feels unfamiliar and sometimes solitary. The lustre of being seconded abroad is fading after my initial honeymoon period of new work colleagues, being the novelty on the night out or, ‘Oh you must meet…he’s new in town.’
I miss my friends, their easy banter or comfortable silence, those closest who know my history, know me and not the façade I show to my new world.
It’s getting busy in here. Tables fill up, people brush pass the back of me, another chair’s leg tangles momentarily with mine. I think about leaving soon, I’m near the end of my drink but I am not ready quite yet. The sky outside has darkened and a soft autumnal drizzle has started to fall. I berate myself for forgetting to take an umbrella earlier.
The student with the laptop, whose cup must be long ago empty, looks up and nods as a couple of women ask if the spare two chairs at her table are free. A table to myself is a luxury on a time limit.
A whoosh of air as the door to outside opens again and a young woman walks in. She hovers momentarily and casts her eyes around the room before taking off her hat and putting it under her arm. Long dark curls drop around her shoulders which she runs a hand through before looking towards the coffee queue. She is stunning and the energy she creates from her confident entrance has people looking up from their cups. Aware of eyes on her, she becomes self-conscious and I see her cheeks blush a little.
I realise I am staring and look hurriedly down at my phone. Swiping up the screen while I wait for my page to load I take a swig of the last of my coffee. It has started to become a little tepid and I wince at the disappointing temperature. Immersing myself in social media, I flick through the lives of my friends back at home and what they have been busy with.
‘Is this seat taken?’ A female voice with a southern accent asks, and I look up.
For a moment my eyes fix on her hazel ones and for some reason my stomach flips. She has a smattering of freckles over her nose and her lips are smiling in friendly inquisition. There is a pregnant pause as she is waiting for an answer. I inwardly berate myself for being affected by her allure and momentarily mute.
‘Sorry yes of course,’ I reply hastily. ‘I mean it’s not taken. Err…you are welcome to sit here is what I mean.’ I’m a little flustered.
She smiles again. ‘Thanks,’ she says before putting down her cup and unfastening her coat. I notice a uniform before looking away.
I focus back to my cup, phone, trying to look occupied but becoming hyper aware of her every movement, it’s difficult not to in our close proximity. She lifts her coffee to take a sip. I hear the barely audible sound of her soft slurp and then a satisfied sigh. A brief glance tells me the uniform is medical but I don’t allow myself any more detail, as I don’t want to appear inappropriately interested.
I look at my watch, I need to leave soon as I have a meeting in twenty minutes and it will take me a few to walk back to my office and prepare. But I don’t want to leave, there is something about her which compels me to stay. It may be a mad impulse and I am blinded by her beauty or is fate playing a part?
She looks around the room and back to the table. I know her eyes are on me, I can feel them. I down the dregs of my coffee and as my cup lowers our gaze locks.
‘You’re accent is not local is it?’ she asks me.
In The Anthology
This will be one of the first short stories (if not the first) in the anthology. It will have an illustration that is coffee related, an about the author section and (if the author so wishes) an advertisement of books or works that they have published, where to find them online, and other great things.