Chapter 9: Strength
Leo had had a whirlwind couple of days since Friday but he was regaining composure in spite of it being a Monday morning and having to start work at 7 am.
He’d spent Friday night unusually sober – he had one mojito with Marcelo at The Cassette Bar before calling it a night. He wasn’t feeling his cheeky chappy-self given what had happened with Lima earlier. Marcelo as always was up for “raving and misbehaving” but he understood what his pal was going through and didn’t want to push it, so decided on walking Leo to the station before heading on to his next gig. Marcelo finished off his night at a warehouse party in Peckham, put on by a few of his music promoter pals that he designed flyers for. Marcelo was hoping that maybe he’d “get lucky” with a chica that night. Not just any chica though, but a woman he had met through Brett, his club promoter friend. Cerise was Brett’s sister. Mixed race girl, with wild frizzy hair and green eyes. She was taller than Marcelo at 5’ 10” and a UK size 18 body that, according to Marcelo, was “smokin”. Cerise had been spotted by a model scout at one of Brett’s club nights and had started modelling plus size clothing for a few brands. She wasn’t really into modelling that much but she was very natural at it. To Cerise, she saw modelling as a way to put plus size women on the agenda and to change people’s perceptions. The reality being, the likes of Cerise’s Amazonian body shape was far more common.
Cerise’s heart and soul was in aromatherapy. She wanted to be an aromatherapist and was putting the money she made from her modelling gigs towards training. Cerise would make her own styling products for her “frizz-tastic” hair using shea butter and aromatherapy oils. She could never find products on the market that catered for her hair, so decided to try her hands at making her own instead. She’d given samples away to family and friends, and many of her mum’s friends came back to her asking for “large tubs purrrlease”. She started to produce products in larger batches and made herself a little business out of it. Marcelo felt inspired by Cerise’s entrepreneurial spirit and by Cerise full stop, everything about her in fact.
Marcelo had scored that night – well a quick snog and fumble behind the sound system when Brett wasn’t looking, and Cerise’s mobile number too. Brett knew Marcelo liked his sister and truth is, Brett was pleased of someone “worthy” enough for his little sister. Besides Cerise couldn’t stop talking about Marcelo since she first set eyes on him. “The geek chic Brazilian” she referred to him as, and “the funniest guy alive”. To Brett, Marcelo was one of the most “real” guys he’d known, and being in the business Brett was in, Brett found Marcelo to be a “sort”. Marcelo, on the other hand, had created a story in his head that Brett would not be so pleased of a romance between himself and Cerise. More like Marcelo had pre-conceived notions about Brett and dating his sister. He’d better get shot of those pre-conceived notions before his own little sister, Luna, would be old enough to date.
Marcelo had wanted to tell Leo all about Cerise that Friday evening over drinks. He even wanted Leo to join him at the warehouse party so he could introduce her to Leo, but things hadn’t quite panned out and Marcelo decided not to mention Cerise given Leo’s earlier tete-a-tete with Lima.
Marcelo was bouncing around the house on a high on Saturday morning, even if he had only slept two hours. Of course, his mama Claudia knew love was in the air for her own son too. There wasn’t much Marcelo could keep from his mum. Even if she didn’t probe him about things, he knew his mum knew pretty much everything. He had decided to tell his mum about Cerise, after all he hadn’t the chance to tell his best mate about her yet, and besides Marcelo’s mum was also like his confidante.
Claudia was glowing that whole day, like she knew more about the set up than Marcelo did. And quite frankly she did have a little more information on the Cerise and Marcelo love-fest than her own son had at that present moment. Marcelo was too busy riding on cloud nine to check in with his own inner being to know what was going on. Claudia knew, but she’d let her son’s own awareness come through for him when he was ready, or at least when he had settled from his emotional high that is. Her son and his best mate’s lives were almost as parallel as their own inner being’s and their other halves. That night she would be on the phone to Estrellar talking about fate, destiny and true love.
Leo had popped round on Saturday afternoon to watch The Ronin. It had just been released in the cinemas the day before and had already been uploaded to the StreamzItz website. Leo and Marcelo had stopped going to the movies when Leo’s mobile phone provider, G4, had stopped offering 2for1 cinema tickets on Tuesday nights. “Enuff of that cinema business bruv,” Marcelo said. “Let’s stream instead and get pizza delivered.” And that’s what they did since and that Saturday afternoon too.
Marcelo was clearly in a good mood, although he was yet to share with his best mate. Leo was there in moments. But an hour into the movie, Leo started to feel lighter and more balanced – not the agitated he had been when he first arrived. He put it down to Marcelo’s mama, The High Priestess herself, walking into the room with the pizza delivery and taking a pew next to Leo to watch the film with them. She knew what was up with Leo and offered him some mama loving. Leo was best pleased with the attention he was getting from the mama he had taken a shine to all those years ago. But something felt different – even his crush on Claudia wasn’t the same anymore. It had moved more towards a deep respect for Claudia. He always had respect for Claudia but this time it felt like his “schoolboy crush” was dissolving and given way to a respect and admiration towards Claudia. Everything had changed since Leo had met Lima, and it was about to change even more. And not just for him, it appeared. But also for the young man he had grown to love like a brother, Marcelo.
Leo tucked into his pepperoni and three-chilli pizza. He was halfway through a slice when he felt a complete sense of inner peace. He paused from eating and managed a massive smile. Leo had an amazing smile. Aside from having a baby face, he also had a large dimple on the left side of his face. He suddenly had this heart felt knowing that everything was going to work out just fine with Lima.
Claudia reached over towards Leo and couldn’t resist pressing her index finger into the pit of his dimple. “What’s got you smiling, honey?” she asked. Marcelo turned round to look at his friend, in a state of shock. “Bruv, that dude in the film’s just been killed by that hitman, and you got some smiling Bhudda get up going on. Care to share?” Marcelo said, before bursting out into loud laughter. Claudia joined her son as they slapped hands in the air.
“Honey, you had a puff of Marcelo’s joint while you went to the toilet earlier?” Claudia joked. Suddenly Marcelo stopped laughing. “Errr,” Marcelo said quietly. “I don’t have any weed.” Claudia turned round sternly looking at her son this time. “A bag fell out of your jeans pocket when I did your washing this afternoon.”
“Rah ok,” said Marcelo. “That was Brett’s. He told me to hold onto it for him…” Marcelo hadn’t finished his story when his mum interrupted. “Marcelo honey,” Claudia said. “You are not 15 anymore, you don’t have to cover up. I know you smoke weed but I trust you and I hope that is all that you are doing, ok?”
“Cool Mãe,” he said. “Ok I smoke a little weed here and there…” This time, Leo butted in to stop his mate going any further. Leo had become au fait at stopping his mate blurting out too much. “Give us another slice, please Marcelo,” Leo said, still smiling.
“Bruv,” said Marcelo, smiling back. “What you sayin? I want me some of that Zen-ness you got going on.”
“Hey,” Marcelo said. “Maybe Paul’s Pizza mixed some of their stash in the oregano.” “Hey Mãe,” Marcelo said, about to cross the line with his mum now she “officially” knew he smoked weed. “Maybe you gonna be trippin soon.”
Before Marcelo could start laughing, Claudia had already grabbed her sweatshirt that was resting on the side of the sofa and wacked her son with it on his leg. Marcelo retreated back into the armchair with both his hands in between his legs, like a five year old who’d just been told off. Leo decided to cut the atmosphere by replying to Marcelo’s earlier question. “I feel at peace finally today bruv. Can’t explain it but I’m good.”
Leo and Marcelo spent the rest of the weekend together. The next day they decided to hire bikes and go for a ride along the canal up towards Maida Vale. Leo had been feeling much more positive about his situation with Lima. He had been on a roll since yesterday afternoon, like he had been enlightened or sumtin. “Like a lightbulb moment,” Leo could best describe it as. As the boys rode down the canal from Camden to Maida Vale laughing and joking, parking up by a bench every now and then to swig some juice and have a few drags of a joint, it was very clear that both lads were very “loved up”, not with each other mind, although it wouldn’t be the first time the best mates had been taken for a couple. An old dear had even stopped to sit on a bench with them and she said “ahhhh the look of love on both of your faces”.
“Ehh,” replied Leo. Before the lady could say anything further, Marcelo had already hit Leo on the arm to gesture for them to leave. The boys stood up, mounted their bikes and set off when Leo said to Marcelo “what was that all about?”
“Dunno,” Marcelo replied. “A bit trippy though.”
“I think she thought we were lovers,” said Marcelo, getting ahead with himself again with his pre-conceived notions. Leo laughed and said “not the first time bruv, not the first time”. The little old dear could see the truth just as Marcelo and Leo’s inner beings were both emanating love.
As they rode back towards Kentish Town, Leo’s gut was telling him to visit Lima. Maybe he’ll pop by Brazilian Emporium in his break time on Monday, Leo thought.
It was coming up to 9am and Leo had finished serving the “Monday miseries” as he had named that morning’s city suits. It was also his new colleague’s first day since last week’s barista training with Graham. Leo was responsible for overseeing Tarik’s first day. Graham was on the cash desk while Tarik and Leo made the coffees.
“Hi, can I have a flat white to take away please?” Leo heard. Hang on a minute, Leo thought, I know that voice. Before he could turn round to confirm the voice, the person had already said “Hey Leo”. Lima, my baby girl, Leo wanted to scream. Leo felt his Christmases had come at once.
“Lima,” Leo said. “How you doin?”
Lima was looking super fly. She was wearing her hair down, luscious waves aplenty riding round her oval face. Her glasses were off – in fact they were resting on her vest top, one of the arms of her glasses carefully nestled in between her buxom breasts. She smelled beautiful too – like a mixed scent of rose, cedar wood and amber. Leo couldn’t contain his pleasure at the visit. Her big, beautiful eyes were all on Leo, fixed on him in fact. Leo couldn’t help notice her décolletage and nervously said “no glasses today”. She laughed. “No, I’ve got them right here for when I need them,” she said, tapping her chest.
Tarik handed over Lima’s flat white to Leo. Leo still had the cup in his hand when Lima said. “Actually Leo,” Lima said. “I wanted to apologise for Friday, and also…” Lima was nervous but she had been cut short by Graham. “Move it folks, we got people to serve,” he said, looking at Leo and Lima. Leo moved down towards the end of the counter. Lima followed him.
“Sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to get you into trouble.”
“It’s ok,” he said. “You were saying?”
Lima said, albeit nervously: “I wondered if we could go for a drink?”
“Sure,” Leo fired off, as quick as. “After work tonight, when do you finish?”
“Err,” Lima said. “I was thinking later this week.”
“Leo,” screamed Graham.
“I’ve got to go,” said Leo, handing the coffee cup to Lima. “I’ll pick you up after work. What time do you finish?”
“Six,” Lima said. “Ok I’ll see you then Leo.” She walked out of the coffee shop. Leo wanted to watch her every move but Graham was giving him the evil eye, as it were.
Leo headed towards Tarik. “Is that your missus, Leo?” said Tarik. “She’s a babe”. Leo wanted to grab Tarik by the neck. A bit of an over reaction perhaps, but Leo felt fiercely over protective of Lima. Nobody messes with ma baby girl, Leo thought. “Yep, she’s mine. So hands off little man,” Leo said, not meaning to be offensive but the words just rolled off the tip of his tongue.
Tarik was only 5’ 4”. He came from a family of short men. “Bit of a Bengali ting,” he would tell his pals. “Hey,” Tarik said disgruntled and looking miffed at Leo. “Short I maybe dude but I got big tings going on down there, you get me?” Tarik said, grabbing his crotch like a “bad bwoy”. Oh gosh, thought Leo, another inappropriate one comes to work at Citizens of Coffee. Leo started to wonder “what they were putting in the water”. Tarik would prove to be a bit of a playboy, as Leo would get to know him. Tarik was a bit of a metrosexual too – preened and primped, all 5’ 4” of him – “back, sack and crack wax and all that, bruv. The ladies love it”, he would soon tell Leo. He was a good looking lad but Leo felt he often over compensated for his height by trying too hard with everything else. Tarik was a good guy, Leo knew that intuitively, and he would take him under his wings at Citizens of Coffee. Tarik would quickly find a place among Leo’s “boys”. As popular as Leo was, he had very few friends – a handful of close friends – that was it and he was cool with it that way. So anyone who was part of Leo’s crew was clearly special.
Leo turned his attention to Lima while Tarik practiced his coffee making skills on another customer, under Leo’s watchful guidance. He was looking forward to tonight but he was going to have to “kill time” for three hours as he finished his shift at 3pm. Maybe he’d go and visit The Magician. After all he had promised Mr Parker that he would pop by his furniture store, and hadn’t done so yet. Maybe The Magician had some magic aftershave that Leo could spritz on to woo “da missus”. Mr Parker’s probably got himself some “Eau de True Gent or sumtin”, Leo said to himself. Perfect idea, Leo thought, he’d head to The Magician’s to hang out, pre date with Lima.
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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