Omelette

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The café is quiet today. Just a little further along the road a sign says Road works starting 07/01/13 and lasting two weeks, so Josie thinks that must be why. Around the corner, across the busy main road, the hospital rises high over the other buildings. Josie, as she pushes open the café door, glances over her shoulder at the grey imposition and shudders.

"Hello," says the waitress. "The usual?"

Josie wavers; she's never had a usual before. She's never had a local pub where the staff pour her drink as soon as she walks through the door; never even committed to a regular newspaper, or a favourite Starbucks coffee. She feels bolstered, but at the same time it means she's been eating here too long as she bides her time between hospital visits.

"Yes. Please."

"Just plain?"

Josie looks up at the menu hanging above the counter. "Yes. Just plain. Thank you." She walks to the table in the corner, opposite the large window. Her table. She slips her bags from her shoulder and glances over the paintings on the wall, noting the tiny price tags attached to each one; noticing them for the first time, which means she mustn't be so distracted today.

"These are good. Whose are they?" she asks when the waitress brings the omelette, plain, salad garnish on the side, no chips.

"Mine," the waitress mumbles, blushing slightly.

"Do you sell many?"

She shakes her head. "No. But I don't mind. I'd miss them if they weren't here."

***

"Hello," says the waitress. "The usual?"

"Yes, please." She hesitates, wondering whether she should make conversation. She did yesterday, so is it expected today? Once there's a connection, are you compelled to continue it? To be truthful, Josie doesn't feel like talking; she wants to sink down into her own concerns. There's an awkward moment, both women equally unsure what to do next, then they both drift in their separate directions: Josie to her table, the waitress to the kitchen.

Josie sits on her hands, feeling the warmth of her thighs bring a tingle to her frozen skin; she's forgotten her gloves again, perhaps she should have them sewn inside her coat after all. That was Meg's suggestion, when she gave them to her for Christmas; Meg knows her too well. Josie sets her mobile on the table, so she can answer immediately if it rings. She sits on her hands and waits. The mobile doesn't ring or beep. Which is good; she doesn't want it to ring, or beep; that would only bring bad news.

"Here you are." The plate is presented – omelette, plain, salad garnish, no chips – an exact copy of yesterday's lunch, and the one before that, and the several before that.

"Thank you." She stares at the plate.

"Are you all right? Is the omelette okay?"

"I don't think I'm very hungry."

"Perhaps you've just had enough plain omelette?"

Josie looks surprised at the idea of another kind of omelette on her plate. She shakes her head. "I've been to visit a friend in hospital. She's getting worse, not better. I was supposed to be bringing her home today. But she's not well enough. I was supposed to..." She stares down at the mobile, frowns, reaches out for it, but changes her mind. "I don't want to go home without her. It's not what we planned."

"How long have you known your friend?"

"Forty-three years, give or take. We were at primary school together. We were supposed to grow old together."

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