Lucy looked up. "Sorry, what did you say?" she said. The elderly gentleman smiled and repeated himself. "I asked if you minded if I shared your table and took the weight off my old bones." "Oh!" she said, "uh, sure, go ahead." She returned to the book she was reading, absently stirring her hot chocolate and barely noticing when the man sat down opposite her with his coffee.
Mark looked out the window and took a few sips of his takeaway coffee, waiting until he judged enough time had passed that Lucy would be used to him sitting there. Then he put his cup down, leaned forward, and interrupted her. "Excuse me, miss. I wonder if I might ask what you are reading?" She looked up. "Huh? Oh, right, what I'm reading. I'm reading The Silver Chair. It's a Narnia book." "Oh yes, I remember that one. With Puddleglum, right?" "Yes, that's the one." "Good choice." She smiled at him briefly, and he stopped there for a moment and took another sip of coffee, taking care to continue just before she got fully drawn into the book again.
"I remember the first time I read the Narnia series. I was in highschool and my friend, Lucy, introduced me to them. I just about inhaled them, I'm sure it took no longer than a couple of weeks to read them all. I liked The Horse and His Boy best, with the way it stood alone but also tied in at the end." He noted her strange look, and asked, "What?" "Oh, it's just my name is Lucy." "Oh! What a coincidence!" He extended his hand across the table. "Pleased to meet you, Lucy. My name is Mark." "Mark? Huh, I have a friend called Mark, too. Funny, I just introduced him to Narnia a couple of days ago. He's already finished the first book." She laughed, and so did he. "Good taste all around then, yes?" "Yeah, I guess so." Mark smiled at her. "Lucy, I was wondering if you might do an old man a favour?" She looked at him and shrugged non-committedly. "I was thinking about a slice of cake and a sit down when I got my coffee, but decided on takeaway in the end. Now I'm regretting my decision, since I'm sitting anyway but I have no cake. I don't want to stand up on these old bones again yet. Would you mind buying it for me instead, if I also pay for a slice for you?" He saw her think about it, and then she shrugged again. "Ok," she said, "What do you want?" "Oh, I think that cheesecake there looks quite good. Thank you very much." He passed over the money and she went over to the counter to order. Good. This was going well.
Lucy ordered the cakes and glanced over at the man while the cashier got the change. She'd been a bit irritated when he kept interrupting her, but he'd been quite polite and old people were oblivious like that sometimes. He seemed nice enough, kind of familiar somehow. She was safe enough in this public place, plus he liked Narnia and now she was getting free cake. She shrugged and turned back to collect the change and the table number. She guessed she could talk to him for a while, for at least as long as it took to eat the cake. Old people got lonely sometimes, it could be her good deed for the day.
Two hours later, the table was cluttered with empty cups & plates, and Mark was finishing his third coffee. Lucy's third drink was barely touched, she had been much too caught up in the stories Mark was telling. Lucy cracked up at the last thing Mark said, and Mark had a twinkle in his eye and a cheeky grin on his face. "Did you really do that?" Lucy asked. "Sure did," said Mark, "and then I went back and did it again!" Lucy cracked up again. Mark was great, she couldn't believe all the things he'd been telling her about his life in the last couple of hours. Wild things, interesting and varied things, anecdotes and experiences galore. She was actually disappointed when Mark looked at his watch and told her he had enjoyed their chat but he needed to head off now. "Oh!, but do you really have to go?" she exclaimed. "Afraid so, Lucy. I have someone waiting for me, and I can't be late." He saw her face fall, and added, "But it's been delightful talking to you, thank you for indulging an old man." "Oh, not at all!" she said, "You've been so interesting to listen to. You can interrupt me reading anytime you see me here." "I'm sure you're too kind. Say hi to your friend Mark for me, he sounds like he just needs some encouragement and he could do really well for himself. You're a good friend to him, Lucy, and I'm sure he appreciates it." Mark eased himself up from the table. "Who knows," he continued, "his life ahead may be filled with interesting things, and one day he'll sit himself down at a coffee shop and tell an interested young lady all about it." Lucy laughed again. "Well, Mark, it's been great! Thanks for sitting down at my table. I can't wait to tell some of those stories to my friend." Mark smiled at her, gave a little wave, and headed out the door. Lucy sat back, stirring her hot chocolate, her mind still whirling with the amazing stories. She was going to see her friend Mark in another hour, and she wanted to make sure she had some of the stories straight so she could do them justice when she told them to him. She took a sip of her drink. Strange, now she had time to think again, but the old man really did seem very familiar. Something about the eyes maybe.
Mark stood outside the coffee shop, looking in the window at Lucy. He smiled with bittersweet feelings. He had missed her deeply. Talking to her today was like the last 50 years had just disappeared and he was a teenager again. He sighed, and headed into the nearby alley. Time to be heading back to his own time again. He remembered the day Lucy had told him about this crazy interesting old man, and how that had inspired him to get himself together and go live his life to the full, so he trusted that it would happen again the same way. He sighed, pressed a button, and the alley was empty again.