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The View from Cafe Russe

This is a character description that I had to do for english class…  the only problem is that it isn’t a character description – it’s a short story.  Hence, it’s not going to be handed in.

Angela Northing was born in 1923 to a non-assuming family.  She married a non-assuming husband and had four non-assuming children.  But, despite all odds, she quite failed to be a non-assuming person.

When she first walked into the Café Russe, near the bell tower and in view of the harbour, she ordered a coffee, sat down for a few minutes, then, throwing her scarf briskly over her shoulder, walked out again.  Her shoes made a clattering sound on the pavement as she strode away, the waiters watching with vague interest from the counter.

The next time that Angela Northing walked into the Café Russe, it was at very much a slower pace.  Like the winter sky outside, she looked tired and torn and worn.  In a tired voice, she communicated that she would like a strong coffee, very hot, if you please.  Without waiting for the fragrant mug to be produced, she sat herself at a table, sighing deeply as she offloaded the baggage of her handbag and umbrella.  She thanked the waiter graciously as he placed the drink on the table.  Her gold wedding band lay dull on her fourth finger as she sipped.  Though she was not normally a generous person, Angela Northing tipped the waiter before she left.

From that day she became a regular customer.  And after a while, the café staff became used to her melodramatic changes in personality.  One day, she rushed in with only a moment to spare.  Another day, she stayed for three hours, reading two whole books and smiling casually at the waiter, who asked on multiple occasions if she was waiting for somebody.

In the fifties, as the world became cold and apprehensive, the café changed its name.  Café Russe reminded the people too much of Russia (which was considered only cold and communist, not good for anything, really).  The Queen’s Café was deemed a more acceptable name, and so the change was instigated.  She stayed away for a few weeks, but then Angela Northing was back, tight-lipped and quietly spoken.  Some of the waiters wondered at her silence, but then they noticed the way she pulled distractedly at the gold band on her finger which came off loosely each time, as if it didn’t quite fit.

One day during autumn, she walked past the entrance as leaves swirled gaily around, crunching underfoot.  But she was not alone.  A man was there as well, standing very upright, his hand protectively around her wrist.  He motioned to the café, said a few words, a gesture, an offer.  But she ushered him away.  This was her café; it was not to be spoiled by his presence.

And in May the following year, as the frosty wind pulled at the tiny buds appearing on trees, the Russian man came.  He was frosty like the wind, smelt of cigarette smoke and always wore a scarf tucked up over his mouth.  He rarely spoke, and when he did the words were laced with a thick accent.  And people stared, oh, how they stared.  For he was Russian which, in that time, was synonymous with the devil.

The next morning, Angela waltzed into the café, precisely on time.  But her seat was occupied.  She walked delicately around the man, peering at him.  Then, as she stood at the counter chatting amicably, the waiter noticed the deft movement of her hands, slipping the gold band from her finger and dropping it into her pocket.  When her drink was ready, she sat down opposite the foreign man and simply smiled.

But she never married the Russian man.  She never divorced her husband.  Conformity, like a constant guiding hand, pushed her away from the foreign, alien nature of the Russian, like it did everyone else.  And quietly, in a non-assuming way, she lived the rest of her life looking through the painted glass of the Café Russe, at the life she could have had.

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About E.K.M.

Studying at university, passing the time until a publishing Talent Scout comes to pick me up and whisk me away to a world where I can be an author without having another source of income. If only.

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