Geoff leant forward in his chair, coffee untouched. Sheila put spooned two sugars into her Cappuccino, stirred it slowly, tapped the spoon twice on the edge of the cup and placed it down on the saucer. Then she sat upright, inhaled sharply through her nostrils, clasped her hands on her lap and surveyed the clientele in the coffee shop. They usually went to Marco’s Coffee every Saturday morning, but Geoff had insisted they try somewhere else today, ‘just for a change’. Geoff elant over the rim of the table and traced his eyes across the lines etched into Sheila’s face. One for each year of marriage, he thought with a heavy blanket of guilt settling over him. He took a deep breath.
‘Sheila, there’s something I think we should talk about. I -‘
‘Look how young their staff are,’ she said, seeming not to notice Geoff’s words, ‘They look young enough to still be in school.’
‘Sheila, there’s something you should know. I -‘ Geoff tried again.
‘And half of them can hardly speak English.’
‘Sheila. I think it’s about time I told you that -‘
‘Oh for goodness sake,’ hissed Sheila, still scanning the staff members behind the counter, ‘Can’t we just have a quiet coffee without the need for forced conversation.’
‘I don’t think you understand Sheila. I-‘
She spun her head round to directly face Geoff.
‘I know what you’re going to say and I understand perfectly thank you. Let’s not speak of the matter.’
She sniffed sharply and returned her attention to the counter display. Geoff froze.
‘Look at the vast array of teas they have,’ she said, staring fixedly at the four columns of herbal and spiced teas, ‘People are never satisfied with the ordinary these days. To have so many extraneous flavours thrown in only complicates matters.’ She tutted loudly and added, ‘Completely unnecessary.’
Geoff noted that her narrowed eyes seemed to be fixed on one spot and that she was wringing her hands on her lap. He sat back in his seat. The sound of the coffee grinder reverberated inside his head. She was still staring at the same spot, her complexion turning sallow. He sat up and sipped his coffee, his gaze fixed on her.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Completely unnecessary.’