I come to a patisserie
which my aunt first took me to when I was a little girl. It's a sort of combination patisserie and a café. In the window you can see the beautiful
cakes for every occasion; weddings, birthdays, for when you just feel like spoil
ing yourself. I've seen it change over the years. I remember when they had a payphone in the corner, where now they have wi-fi
access for their customers. I like the way the traditional
and the modern
politely accept each other's presence but ignore
each other, both with their roles to play.
I sit there reading
. Every week when I come here, I bring a different book. I read a few chapters
and then start another one. I don't remember the last time I actually finished a book
. I just like being here, its part of my history – my heritage
even. My aunt's long since passed away but, I come here and it reminds me of her.
Today, however, was different
, I decided that today I was going to finish a book. I don't know why I decided on today. I just did
. I had been in the café for about three hours reading 'Canterbury Tales
'. Once I set my mind to something, I am determined to see it through.
It was pretty busy
this Wednesday, probably new people discovering the delights. Maybe, but I don't know
It was funny, I was finally getting into it, actually making progress, when all I could hear was "Pen, pen, does anyone have a pen?" A man with an accent was standing at the counter. Definitely wasn't from London. He looked like rice pudding, all creamy and white. Everyone ignored him. The girl at the counter looked exasperated. "Are you sure you don't know your pin? No one signs for things nowadays." she said.
"We sign for things where I'm from. I need this cake. It's for my daughter's birthday".
The counter girl looked at him blankly, cowlike in her zen emptyness.
He pulled out his cellphone and dialed.
I went back to reading my book, feeling my nose starting to drip. A cold coming on. My concentration was throughly scattered. I'd been trying to fight it for days. Rummaging through my bag for a tissue
, I wondered at why I carried so much rubbish
around with me. Like emotional baggage
I guess. Instead of a tissue, my fingers tickled a pen
– which was odd, as I never write anything down. I usually take a phone
picture of things I need to remember. Pens are so... last century
My attention for the book was now permanent
. I noticed that the man was still there on the phone. It sounded like he was having an argument, and I watched him getting a bit red in the face. I handed the girl my pen silently and went back to my table, unnoticed by the Cake man.
"A pen, Sir
" the counter girl said, bored.
"Could you sign now please?" She sounded exasperated
now. A subtle shift
I forced focus
on the book. The man likely signed for the cake and left. When I looked up, he was gone. Determined, I scoped in on the 'Tales', making a pilgrimage in my head.
A few weeks later, I was at my patisserie enjoying my cup of Orange Pekoe
(yes, how pedestrian) – and reading 'Much a do about nothing'. I had finished 'Canterbury Tales' earlier in the week and was hoping to plow through another classic. I was smiling to myself – I really did like reading. The Olde English
was soothing, yet challenging.
"I took your pen" he said.
I looked up – a bit confused. A man was standing there.
"A few weeks ago, I borrowed your pen. To sign for a cake."
Bewildered, I said, "Okay, Thanks." The expression on my face was surely one of knitted eyebrow confusion
"I've been trying to return
it for a few days now, but you weren't here"
Strangely amused, I felt that I should explain why. "I only come here on Wednesdays, it's not a problem
, I actually had forgotten all about it." A confession
"Well, you saved me. My wife was quite confused by my call."
"Okay, well, you got your cake
in the end, so that's what's important isn't it?"
He seemed to tumble the sentence over in his head like an ice cube
on his tongue and smiled a bit.
"Thank you again"
"You're welcome". What an odd
man, I thought.
Then he placed the pen on the table and left. I wondered where his accent was from – listening to him – I thought either Chicago
or some where in Canada
, but, they did sound so similar so I really couldn't put my finger on it.
Again, I went back to reading my book.
Soon, it was the beginning of autumn
. It's always been my favorite season of the year, the way the leaves turned from a deep green to a deep auburn and how they rustled under my feet in the park.
I had forgotten my book today, so I was sipping my tea, watching people passing. I was lost deep in a daydream
. The kind you can't quite remember when they are finished.
I was a bit dazed.
"Hello?" I said.
"Do you mind if I join you?"
"You may." It was the Cakeman
from a month ago. He seemed to be blushing – I wondered whether he was like that all of the time.
"I've been thinking," he said
"Yes" I smiled
"Why are you here only on Wednesdays?"
"Because, it's in the middle
of the week, and I have something to look forward to at the beginning
of the week and at the end
of the week, something to look back on. I know it sounds silly
"It's not silly at all. I think it's nice".
"You know I wonder about a lot of things"
"I think most people do"
"You're probably right"
"Where is your accent from?"
"Oh. I've never been there, but will do one day. Maybe."
"It's a beautiful
place, but then London has beauty in it too" I noticed something in his eyes when he said that, for a split second. Then, it passed.
He got up and said he had to leave. London
is filled with eccentric
characters, I thought. After he left, I wondered about what he said. Canada
. I thought about a girl I went to school with, from Manitoba
or someplace. She was lovely. I went back to people watching, trying to remember the vagaries of foreign geography
. It was calming, thinking of the big pink slab of the Commonwealth
on the maps at school. England
owns all that, I used to think.
Another Wednesday. I'm sitting reading Oscar Wilde
, "The Importance of Being Earnest
". It is all very English and set in the late Victorian
era – everyone seemed to be having a ball in these books. I had grown rather fond of them.
I saw Cake Man
enter the patisserie
. He went to the counter and ordered. I went back to my book, feigning disinterest.
"May I join you"?
It's definitely the Cake man
again. Before I could answer, he sat down. I was going to say "no" and shoo him away, thinking of how rude
I was being. To the book
"I love Wilde – very English
" he said earnestly.
"Frankly, I despise
him". I was trying to get rid of him.
"Then why are you reading him? You looked like you were enjoying your book."
"I just felt like it, that's all."
"Can I get you another tea
"Oh, I'm okay thanks."
"I'll get you another tea"
So he gets up and returns with a cup of tea.
"I got you an Darjeeling
– it looked like an Darjeeling
, what you're drinking there."
"It is, thank you" It actually wasn't
. This made me blush for some reason.
He was looking at me, then he smiled. His smile is infectious. I try desperately not to join him. Again, I'm feeling more flustered
I get up.
"I have to leave now, thank you for the tea"
He looks disappointed
and his smile diminishes. My head hurts. I leave him sitting there.
I decided that I'm changing my reading morning to Tuesday
s instead of Wednesdays.
So I'm sitting in my patisserie on a Tuesday, I notice a few regulars
but most of the faces are unfamiliar to me. I'm going to like Tuesdays, I think to myself. I'm still enjoying Wilde.
"I missed you on Wednesday"
The Cake man
was looking down on me.
"I come here on Tuesdays now" I say, perhaps with a bit too much edge
"Well, I missed you." He seems to be blushing
"Thanks." He confuses me. I feel myself getting hotter
"You remind me of a Coco de Mer
What? I think. What's he on about? Puzzled, I look at him attentively. He sits down.
"A Coco de Mer, from the Seychelles
. They take years and years to grow. Said to be the fruit of love
My eyes widen. For some reason, I am interested. I'm feeling flustered, drawn in.
"The name translates to 'Fruit of the Sea
"Oh" is all I can say.
"Your skin looks smooth like it, a deep brown
– almost flawless"
I'm trying to control the blood from rushing to my face. I'm hot. He's looking at me intensely, his cheeks are flushed. He holds my gaze.
"Coco" he says, "I like it that you read a book here every week."
I gulp, and whisper "Thank you
". I am quite lost, yet, somehow, very comfortable
I sit there sipping my tea, not entirely sure what happened. I'm feeling giddy
and the warm tea is bringing me back to normality. He's still looking at me. Sipping my tea.
"Can I tell you something Coco?"
I'm puzzled as to why he's calling me Coco
, and I know that's not my name. It is only then that I realize I have never told him my name. It's all so strange, yet, I am enjoying myself. He reads my expression and offers me an explanation.
"When I saw you, that day when I was getting my cake, I saw you silently glide up to the counter and give your pen to the girl as I was arguing on the phone with my wife. I thought of you as I had never thought of a woman
before. I watched you move back to your seat so gracefully
, and felt like I could watch you for hours.
I looked at him. He seemed so sincere
about what he was saying.
"You were the epitome of Coco de Mer
. Every myth
which surrounded its beauty
became apparent when I saw you. Your skin is almost the identical shade
. So silky
with a hint of caramel
. Each time I see you I find you more captivating
He spoke softly, a glint in his eye
. Like someone who had found treasure
The hairs on the back of my neck rose. His beautiful words washed over me. I was trying to remain neutral, untouched by what he was saying.
"Coco" he whispered
"Will you be my Coco de Mer?"
I was choked
. His index finger was stroking my hand as he said this. I could feel my body wanting him. I felt queasy and dizzy
. My cheeks were flushed. His finger against my hand complimented one another, almost blending into another shade of brown
. His gaze caught mine.
My lips parted. In a whisper I said "Yes