Hand in Soft Hand: (Flash Fiction)

There’s an old man sitting in a café. His fedora is set low and he has a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth. He’s writing in a black notebook, his pen isn’t anything fancy, just something he must have caught for free somewhere.

A woman his age walks into the café. She is wearing a brown coat, semi-sensible shoes and her bag is as black as the night. Her hair is set in a bun, but as soon as she’s hung her coat up, she pulls a pin from the bun and her hair falls down in a beautiful grey waterfall. It frames her face nicely, and you can see the beauty she still possesses.

The old man doesn’t stand up, but he’s looking at her, a shy smile on his lips.

The woman walks over to the barista, orders two cups of coffee, black, and then she moves over to his table. Placing one of the cups in front of him, she then proceeds to sit down opposite him.

“So here you are,” she says and cocks her head.
He smiles and it is apparent that she knows that smile well. She looks down, holds her cup by the handle, holding her little finger out slightly. She sips the coffee, but it is warm, so she breathes in and puts the cup down.

The man takes his hat off and places it, to balance, on the knob of the chair he is sitting on, then he pulls his cigarette out of his mouth and puts it out in the ashtray. He places his sinew-showing hands on top of hers.

“You look well,” he says.

She just smiles, her eyes glancing at his hands, then at his face.

“You know I’ve missed you,” she says casually, staring down at his hand on hers again. “It sounds so silly, after all this time, but it’s true.”
“I’ve missed you too,” he says. “It never stopped aching.”

They are softly silent, listening to the sound of the barista who quietly hums a sad song. The old man smiles at the woman, but he doesn’t break the silence, neither of them does until the silence starts to become unnecessary.

“Do you think they’ll be alright?” she whispers.
“I don’t know,” he says.
“You’re still writing?” The woman asks, pointing towards the notebook on the table in front of him. He looks at it and for an instant he seems a bit surprised to see it there.
Then he smiles, “Always, never stop.”
She nods, “Good.”
“It’s been a long time,” he says.
“Feels like yesterday,” she suddenly grabs his hand. There are tears in her eyes. “I’m so sorry,” she says. “I was wrong. I was so wrong. You were one of the good ones.”
“A rough diamond, eh?” he says, pulling at her hand, pulling his chair to get closer to her, pulling her into his arms.
“You were right to doubt. I’m sorry too,” he says.
She leans up towards him, putting her hand on his back in an awkward motion as they sit there side by side, he pulling at her.
“Are we supposed to be so sorry at our age?” she asks, pulling back, sniffling slightly and then sipping her coffee, though still awkwardly holding her hand on his back.
“Suffering makes better poetry.”
She laughs and pulls him towards her.

They sit silently again, softly engulfed in the calm atmosphere, the barista still humming her soft melody.
“So what happens now?” she asks.
“We’ll live happily ever after,” he says.
“No matter what?”
“No matter what!”
She sips her coffee.
“The world is getting cold and hard,” she whispers.
“So we make it soft and warm, for as long as we can,” he says.
She smiles, puts her cup down and turns towards him. She cups his cheeks in her hands and pulls him to her, then she kisses him on the mouth, softly, intensely, putting years of longing into this moment.

After she’s let him go he pulls at his notebook, picks up his pen and writes down a few words. Then he puts the pen down again and sips his coffee.
“What was that?” she asks.
“I just want to remember,” he says.
“Remember what?”
“What it’s like to be warm and bright, it’s so easy to forget. Do you still paint?”
She smiles and finishes her coffee. “I’ll never stop,” she says. “Are you ready to go?”
“Let’s stay here a while longer,” he says.
And she leans back in the chair, her hand in his and they listen to the barista sing her soft song. And when she’s sung her melody and started again, they pack their things, he puts his hat on his head and they exit the little café hand in soft hand.

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