'Familiarity' by Joanne Selley
Crutches not quite mastered, he sits down heavily at the table and supports them on the back of the chair next to him. He looks around.
Saturday lunchtime and the restaurant buzzes. Queues of people waiting to place orders for over-priced prawn or coronation chicken baguettes, fish and chips, quiche and salads; the list is long.
His gaze locks onto a small, gray-haired woman walking towards him with a heavily laden tray. The sun streams through the roof lights above, glinting off his glasses, masking his eyes. A slight frown sits above overgrown salt and pepper brows.
Reaching the table the woman places the tray on the corner and off-loads two bowls of steaming hot leek and potato soup and two plates, each containing a substantial triangle of cheddar cheese and a hunk of bread. She distributes the various plates and bowls between them, sets the tray onto the empty seat beside her and sits down, smoothing her tweed skirt under her as she does so.
He reaches for his spoon and tastes the soup, blowing first to cool it. Happy, he takes the next spoonful and eats that too. She is preoccupied with opening a white sachet of salt, half of which she proceeds to sprinkle over her un-tasted soup. No words are exchanged. She looks up, leans across the table and sprinkles the remaining half across his soup, discards the empty packet, picks up her spoon and starts to eat, head bent to the task.
For the briefest of moments he pauses, spoon halfway to his mouth, face red and contorted in anger, before he smooths the lines and continues to eat in silence.
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