“Thank feck it’s Friday”, Leo said to himself as he went into the broom cupboard-come staff room at Citizens of Coffee. It was time for his afternoon break and he was looking forward to sitting in peace for all of 15 minutes with an almond slice and a cappuccino made by his truly. Mehmet the boss had turned up an hour earlier on one of his surprise visits. Leo was glad to have the time away from him, even if it was spent sitting on a Thai triangle cushion in near darkness.
Leo had the weekend off. He was looking forward to hanging out with his “bredder” Marcelo – they were to kick off the weekend in style this evening with a few drinks in nearby Hoxton and maybe a club afterwards. Leo started to turn his attention to Lima as he took a bite from his almond slice. He wondered what she was doing this evening and hoped that he would bump into her later. He was planning on swinging by Brazilian Emporium sometime to ask for her number. He wanted to go yesterday but Graham made Leo work through his lunch break as his colleague Wendy had “pulled a sickie” and so they were short-staffed.
Leo started to create visions of Lima. He visualized her in a racer-back black bodycon dress down to her ankles – the silhouette showing off all her curves, wedge ankle boots in a purple suede, her bare arms baring silver cuffs on either side with dragon motifs, a slinky chain mail long rope necklace in silver and her wavy hair worn down and big. “My goddess,” he said to himself smiling in between taking swigs of his coffee.
Suddenly Mehmet walked. With him came the bright light from the corridor, shining in to the dark space. “Aha,” Mehmet said. “You are smiling,” he added. “You’re not gonna stop smiling today. I came to tell you that you have a surprise customer waiting for you to serve her when you are ready.”
“Wow” said Leo. It’s got to be Lima, he thought. Mehmet followed behind Leo saying as quietly as Mehmet possibly could, in other words not very discreetly: “She’s up for one tonight, Leo my son,” he said crudely. “I don’t want to spoil it for you but she’s not wearing much this afternoon.” Leo turned back to face Mehmet. He wanted to thump Mehmet. Nobody talked about his nearest and dearest like that. “What’s wrong son,” Mehmet said, noting Leo’s frostiness. “I was just making an observation,” Mehmet added. Leo refused to respond to Mehmet. He would deal with him later.
As Leo walked through to the counter, his faced dropped in disappointment. It wasn’t Lima. It was Nikki – a receptionist at a nearby digital agency. She had become one of the regulars at Citizens of Coffee, coming in to pick up the daily coffee rounds for the office. Coffee wasn’t the only thing she wanted to pick up from Citizens of Coffee. She’d have her latte with a whole lot of Leo, if she could. “Hey Leo,” she flirtatiously said. “I was asking for you. You’re the only one to froth the milk on my cappuccino just the way I like it.”
Leo squirmed. He found Nikki’s innuendos “cheap and nasty” quite frankly. Mehmet on the other hand was standing next to Leo gawping like a teenager. Nikki was an attention seeker. She was used to male attention. She wasn’t a natural beauty but she did herself up in a “plastic fantastic” manner as Leo put it. Her over-inflated 30GG chest made up most of her body weight. She was skinny with a boyish figure otherwise – washboard stomach and narrow legs. A blonde by birth, but she had her hair highlighted to make her hair platinum. She survived on a not so healthy diet of cigarettes, caffeine and Class As. Food, unless it was a five-types of lettuce kind of salad, rarely made it to her mouth.
There was something different about Nikki today. It wasn’t the fact that she wasn’t wearing much – that was normal. She had on a pair of black high-waisted shorts over flesh-colored tights, high heel court shoes in a camel color, and a tight white shirt with the top buttons undone to reveal her cleavage. Leo couldn’t see any workplace allowing her to wear her shirt like that no matter how “forward thinking” and “edgy” the company was. She most likely ripped the buttons off en route to Citizens of Coffee, Leo believed. She also had on a 3/4 length brown suede trench coat – it was loosely hanging off her shoulders to give a disheveled look, but to Nikki it was a “tres chic et sexy” look.
“I got it,” Leo said to himself. Nikki had had her lips done. They were looking extra pouty today. A Botox injection or two perhaps last night after work? He was transfixed by the pout – more to the point, the size in fact – her lips now came in second place to her boobs as carrying most body weight. Leo suddenly looked away. He didn’t want to give Nikki any impression that he “noticed” her. Nikki was the kind of girl who believed every man lusted after her. Leo was sure many did, but he was not one of them and was never going to be one of them. Aside from her looks, Leo just had nothing in common with her. And while Leo always gave time of day to every one of his customers, with Nikki he always felt an off feeling in his stomach. The same kind of sensation he experienced often around Graham and Mehmet.
“By the look on your face,” Nikki said, accentuating her already over-sized pout. “I can tell you are pleased to see me. I have that effect on people.”
“You’re mistaken,” Leo said, blurting the words out as honest as he was. Mehmet turned to Leo and hit his arm. “That’s not how to treat our customers,” he said. “Now what can I get you sexy senorita?” Mehmet asked, with a cheesy smirk on his face. Leo had to laugh. His boss was accusing him of being rude to a customer, yet he was now addressing her in a most un-PC fashion.
“I’ll have two flat whites and a cappuccino to take out,” she said. “But I want Leo to make the cappuccino thanks.” “Right you are, hot lips,” Mehmet replied. “Take a seat and I’ll bring them over to you.” Mehmet’s behavior was spiraling into down right cringey now, thought Leo. Had it been any other female, they may have felt awkward or been inclined to make a complaint even. But Nikki just pursed her lips at him and went and took a seat.
Leo turned to the machine and proceeded to make Nikki’s order. Mehmet slapped Leo on the arm. “What’s wrong with you?” he said. “You have some Page 3 contender in your face, knockers out for you and you can’t be nice,” Mehmet said. “You losing that Casanova touch?” “No,” said Leo. “She’s not my type, that’s all.” “Who is your type then?” Mehmet said. “That woman over there in a suit with her chest hidden?” Leo pulled a face and carried on making the drinks.
Leo finished the order as quick as he could. He didn’t want Nikki to hang out in the shop any longer. Mehmet took the coffees over to her in a take away cup tray. Leo made sure he had his back permanently to the wall and facing the coffee machine, deep in production of the other coffee orders which were now lining up. “Leo, Leo,” he could hear Nikki shout. He wanted to ignore her but didn’t want to cause any issues, so he turned round, gave a fake smile and waved his hand. “See you later Leo,” she said. Leo noticed that another button had “miraculously” popped open from her shirt, revealing a black satin bra and cleavage oozing out. Her bra looked ill-fitting, Leo thought, but no doubt it was all part of her look. She winked at Leo as she noticed his eyes glance at the most recent open button. She turned to walk out, teetering on her heels and feeling proud of herself that Leo had clocked her cleavage.
Leo was glad Nikki had left the building. The energy in the coffee shop started to feel better again, even if Mehmet was still lurking around and Graham was still being his usual miserable self. In the hours to the end of his shift, Leo buried his head into the coffee machine quite literally, avoiding any contact with his two bosses.
Leo was out of the door at 7pm on the dot. He was on his way to Hoxton Square to meet Marcelo. The walk to the square was a short but busy walk, full of Friday night punters spilling the streets. Leo had noticed a sound had been following him since leaving Citizens of Humanity. It was the same click clacking of heels. But there were loads of women in heels out tonight and it could have been any number of women that were walking in his vicinity.
He turned out of Coronet Street into Hoxton Square, when he heard his mobile ring. Leo took his phone out of his pocket to answer it. It was Marcelo. He found a wall to lean on as he took the call. Marcelo was still on the bus and was running late. He’d be 15 minutes at least, he told Leo. Leo said he’d sit in the park square and wait for Marcelo there.
Making his way into the park square, Leo noticed that clicking of heels sound again. “Whatever,” he said as he took a packet of cigarettes out of his pocket. He’d find the nearest vacant park bench, if he could, but the park was busy tonight. He stopped to light a cigarette. Ahead of him he could hear a woman talking nervously but her voiced slightly raised. “So that’s it,” she said. “You have nothing to say to me.”
Leo took a long hard drag on his cigarette as he realized the woman was in fact Lima. She was with a guy. Leo felt immobilized. He wasn’t sure whether to step forward or whether he could move even. Suddenly he heard: “Leo, Leo!” He looked ahead right at Lima, thinking it was her yelling his name. It wasn’t. Lima was staring right at Leo and Leo right back at her, when he felt a hand grab his arm. It was Nikki. “Leo, you walk too fast. I can’t keep up with you in these heels.”
“Nikki, what do you want?” he said perturbed. She walked over to him and whispered in his ear, “You, inside me,” she said. Leo pushed her aside. Leo was all over the place right now – he felt disgusted by Nikki, angry that she had followed him, uncomfortable at seeing Lima and with another guy, and even more uncomfortable that Lima had seen Nikki tug on his arm and whisper in his ear. What will Lima make of all of this?, Leo thought.
Lima’s face dropped as she noticed Leo, and the mystery blonde whispering in his ear. She was starting to well up with tears. She finally made the decision to end it with her boyfriend of two years, Rick, only to come face-to-face with the man she was truly in love with, in spite of having only met him the once and briefly at that. Now she felt really stupid as the man she felt an immense love for was with some “bimbo with poker straight hair”.
Leo didn’t want to make things look any more awkward than they were, so shrugged off Nikki as if she wasn’t even there and boldly walked up to Lima. “Hey Lima,” he said. “Hi,” she moodily replied back. “How are you?” Leo said, as he gave a long, cold stare directed at Rick. Who is this man? Leo wondered.
“Who’s he?” asked Rick, rather bluntly. “I’m Leo thanks,” he said. “Nice to meet you,” Leo said as he threw his cigarette on the ground, butting it out with his foot while putting his hand out to greet Rick. “I take it you’re Lima’s boyfriend?” Leo asked, fuming inside.
“Huh,” Rick replied. “Not anymore.”
Leo could hear his name being called again. Only it definitely wasn’t Lima. It was Nikki again. This time her coat was unbelted, revealing what little she had on underneath, for Hoxton and the world to see. Looking right at Lima she said: “Leo honey, aren’t you going to introduce us?”
Leo seething at this point turned round to Nikki and said: “Look you are a customer and I will treat you with the utmost respect, but right now you are infringing on my time and I don’t take lightly to that. So please make yourself scarce.”
Nikki wasn’t taking no for an answer. “So I’m ok for you to stare at when I walk in to your store and fantasize about,” she said. “But now you want to play games?”
“What kind of twisted twit are you?” Leo said angrily at this point.
Rick looked at Lima and said: “You know what I’ve had enough of dramas tonight. I’m going to call it a night. I don’t have anything more to say to you at this point, Lima.” He got up from the park bench and walked off. Lima said nothing, but she felt more annoyed by Leo and “his tart” right about now.
Nikki was looking Lima up and down. She felt more than threatened by Lima. So Nikki decided to do what she did best – stick her chest out, her minuscule butt out, stand like a duck and pout.
“Is this chick for real?” Lima said under her breath.
“Leo, mate. What’s going down?” Leo looked to his right, it was Marcelo walking up towards him. Boy was Leo glad to see Marcelo. “Hi, I’m Nikki,” Nikki said, introducing herself to Marcelo. “Leo’s friend.” “Me too,” said Marcelo, looking perplexed at the made-up blonde and the sulky yet rather sultry brunette sat on the park bench.
“You’re a customer at the store I work in,” Leo said to Nikki, trying really hard to make sure Lima was fully aware of the truth. “That’s it. You’re not a friend in the same way he is or she,” he said, looking towards Lima. Lima had risen from the park bench and was putting her backpack on. “Save it,” she said. “I’m leaving.”
“Wait,” Leo said. “Where are you going?”
“I’m not in the mood, Leo,” Lima said, her voice sounding vexed. “I need some time alone, right now.”
Lima walked off. As she walked towards the park exit, Lima could feel a tightening in her chest. Leo could do nothing other than follow her footsteps with his eyes. He could feel a sharp pain in his chest area. He didn’t feel too good inside nor was he particularly pleased about what was going on around him.
Nikki had rapidly garnered attention from a tall young man with chiselled features, and she was asking him for a cigarette. Marcelo tapped his friend on the shoulder and said: “Dude, that’s Lima?” “Uh huh,” Leo replied. “Get your ass together and go after her then,” Marcelo said. “You saw her Marcelo,” he said. “She’s pissed. ”
“She’s pissed because you brought Barbie with you,” Marcelo said. “Where did you pick that up from?”
“Don’t go there,” said Leo, raising his voice. “That tart followed me from work and now she’s up in my face like she’s something to me. It’s crazy.”
“Look Leo, don’t worry about Barbie,” Marcelo said. “She’s irrelevant. Go find Lima.”
Leo paused. He felt that immobilized feeling again. “I dunno,” he said. “I’ll give her time to cool off. Let’s go dude. I need a stiff drink.”
The pair walked out of the park square. Nikki was exchanging numbers with the guy she had just pinched a cigarette off. But her attention quickly turned to Leo and where he was going. “Leo wait,” she called out. She’d finished inputting the number in her mobile and hadn’t even said farewell to the guy, and was teetering in her heels to catch up with Leo.
Leo could hear her in the background. “Oh gosh,” he said to Marcelo. “What the hell am I going to do about that tart without a heart?” They both snickered and headed towards Electricity Showrooms to have that stiff drink or two or three. Tonight somehow felt like it was going to be a long one for Leo.
All characters and events in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Twins At Work are a writing duo. ‘Tarot Tales: The Mirror’ is their latest book.
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