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Girl in the Window

It’s only eight-thirty and this morning can't get any worse. Stubbed my toe and spilt coffee on Mum's new settee. My train was cancelled; late for work.

“Bloody great. Why does this always happens to me?”

But as Nan says “every cloud has a silver lining” and the next train is in about an hour – just enough time to get that coffee I promised myself. I half plod half jog my way to that new café on the corner of Cliffburn Walk - it wouldn’t be my first choice, but it’s started to rain.

It’s one of these new-age type places, sittees with over-stressed upholstery to give the place a bohemian chic feel. The whole décor came across as tatty and second-hand - but that’s only my opinion.

Tripping over the doorstep I notice a sign on the inside window “Mind the step”, probably the most ineffective place to put a notice like that.

The smell of musk and cheap joss stick hits me like a lorry full of potpourri - more than likely on its way to Nan's. Navigating a passage through the beanie chairs and kids with stupid haircuts I finally get to the counter and order a latte - they don't sell “white ones”.

I take up two leather love seats by the window; I throw my jacket and briefcase on the settee opposite and guard the space, baring my teeth and grimacing like a scrap yard dog. I spread all six lanky foot of me out diagonally - it’s the only way I could go to be fair – I glare at passers-by over my soggy broadsheet.

I used to have a settee like this in my old flat. I shared it with my mate Mike - must have been about eleven or twelve years ago now. We found it in a skip. Hauled it up seven flights of stairs. On hot days it faintly smelt of cat piss, but we couldn't be arsed dragging it back down again; when we moved out we just left it there. Actually, this could be the same sofa. Probably what all the flaming incense sticks are for.

The rain is really hammering down, each drop hits the corrugated roof like shrapnel, but unfortunately, it isn’t quite drowning out the Mongolian throat singing. Mum's cat Herman made noises like that for a while. We had to put him down.

I look out the window at the overcast sky and see a girl dancing around puddles, trying to avoid each raindrop as if they are daggers falling from the sky. Her feet only kissed the ground for a moment, like a sparrow.

She enters that shop across the street with a hop, skip and a jump – I wouldn't have the energy for all that, a newspaper over the head and that’s it done. My latte finally arrives, the waitress paints on a smile; I give a half-hearted nod. Took her long enough, fifteen minutes – come on.

I open my paper and start to read an article about a recent bank robbery in the States, a female cashier had been taken hostage for the day. I notice something going on in the shop window across the street. It's that lass again. What the hell is she up to?

Taking my first sip of coffee; I scald my lips I’m watching the girl in the window again. She is an alluring mixture of Bette Davis and Lilly Munster – gorgeous eyes, little waist and a cracking arse.

My thoughts go back to the heist and the poor girl involved. I bet she gets counselling.

The window girl is wrestling with a mannequin; an arm drops off destroying an ill-fated vase. She looks at the mosaic of colour on the floor like a child would at their fallen ice cream, then still propping up the dummy she sweeps the broken bits out the window with one foot. I had to laugh – this should be staged as modern art. Title: Smashing the capitalist society.

I wonder what she would do in the cashiers’ situation. I know what I'd do if I were there - suddenly I'm James Bond. I’d walk into the shop with explosions either side of me. The cute window girl is tied up behind the desk. Her blue eyes still wide with fear, “Julian! Behind you!” she'd scream. Turning round I'd point my gun straight between the eyes of her assailant.

“Your card's been declined” I'd say smugly.

The gangster apprehended, I'd return to my Hitchcock Starlet. Clinging to my side she would say breathlessly “Oh Julian, thank you so much, I'd...”

“Shhhh, It's Julie, but you, sweetheart, can call me any time.”

Just as things are getting good, my mobile vibrates violently in my back pocket, I nearly slide off the seat - it’s a voicemail from Mum. She's found the sofa and she's not happy.

My fantasy shatters like the vase and Mum pushes it to one side with her big pink fluffy slipper.

I think I'll go round to Nan's for tea tonight.

As the rain continues a busker sets up his pitch under a tarpaulin. He starts playing Dream Baby on his guitar.

The window girl is gone. I feel as though there isn’t any more reason for me to stay here and I quickly drink my warm coffee and check the time on my old Rolex.

I tug on my jacket, grab my briefcase and head out the door. I stand in the alcove of the doorway, psyching myself up for the journey down to the station. The busker is still playing that Orbison number and suddenly there she is. The window girl. Walking straight toward me.

“Dream baby got me dreamin' sweet dreams the whole day through, dream baby got me dreamin' sweet dreams night time too”, warbles the busker.

She stumbles on the doorstep, in the same way, I did before.

“What a moronic place to put a sign!” She squeaks picking herself up from the wet dirty tiles.

“You alright?” I ask sheepishly.

“I'm fine, thanks.” she replies.

“I... I did that earlier. Fell, I mean. Nearly.” I watch a pearl of rain water slide down her ear and onto her cheek, like a dewdrop on a rose. She wipes it off with her sleeve and sniffs: “I'm Dinah, Dinah Silverman. I work just over there.”

“Julian. Cancelled train, late for work” I chuckle.

“So you’re in trouble then too?” giggles nervously. “I smashed an ugly vase. Getting the boss lady a drink to butter her up.” she places her hand in her pocket. “I've got detention, oh! I mean stock take. Saturday night. I'm free on Friday” She shuffles “I work just over there.” She points her slender finger that just juts out from under her oversized jumper.

I smile – it’s all I can think of doing - she smiles back through the awkward silence like she's done this before.

“Look. The rains stopped. Best get a move on!” she says biting her bottom lip.

“Yeah. It’s been really... great meeting you.” I walk backwards straight into a two-inch puddle. She laughs at me and I don't care.

“Bye Julie, I'll see you soon. Yeah?” Her eyes twinkle

“Yes. Soon. Buh-Bye.” I am waving goodbye like a child.

Eventually, I get to the station. I’ve missed my train. Sitting down on a freezing cold bench, I call my boss. “Morning. Steve, yeah I think I've caught that bug going round.” I rasp my voice beyond any recognition. “I'll try and get back in for tomorrow mate. Bye.”

“What to do now?” – I’ll go home, that’s what I’ll do.

As I walk to the bus stop I realise that I quite like lattes, tatty settees, Roy Orbison and Dinah Silverman, she's free on Friday.