“Those Brits are like totally weird,” a voice announced in an American accent.
With an annoyed sigh, I pushed past the tourists. It was my own fault I chose to work in a café in the centre of Bath’s inner city. One would think I had gotten used to the crowds of tourists by now.
The Americans stopped right in front of me, so I almost ran into them. I side-stepped them by walking on the road rather than the pavement they were blocking.
Now my eyes fell on what had caught their attention. It was a group of three women and a man dressed in Regency period clothing. One might have thought they had wandered straight out of a time machine, had it not been for their smartphones and the coffees-to-go in their hands.
The Americans discussed what this could possibly mean and why no one else thought it strange.
Apparently, someone had neglected to read up on the Jane Austen festival and its costume promenade, in their tourist guide. Someone would take pity on their confused expressions and explain to them soon enough. I had better hurry on, lest they choose to cross-examine me about our strange backwards culture.
“Hi, Tess,” my colleague greeted me. “Want to play a game?”
“Sure,” I agreed against my better judgement.
Dan always had the best ideas for games, of which I could never decide whether they were boarding on genius or madness. Either way, they passed the time and our boss was his grandmother, who would have forgiven her favourite grandson everything, as long as he didn’t steal the pies again.
“What are we playing?”
“The time travel bonus round of Confuse the Tourist.”
He stepped from behind the counter to reveal he wore a Regency riding habit and had, for the first time since I had known him, bothered to comb his unruly brown hair.
“I’m not sure I like where this is going,” I said, and, sure enough, he produced a Regency gown and a bonnet from behind the counter.
“Come on,” he said, giving me his best puppy-dog eyes. “I’m sure, you’ll look stunning in them.”
“Oh well,” I said and went to the loo to change into the dress.
The gown, although wide, was not as uncomfortable as I had feared. The bonnet though, was too much. It would be hard enough to manoeuvre my way around the café in this frilly monstrosity, without having my sight impaired by the edges of a bonnet.
“Brilliant,” Dan exclaimed as I re-emerged. “You look perfectly…Austen-esque.”
“Don’t tell me I have to pretend to be one of her characters,” I replied, smoothing my hands over the many skirts. “Because if I had to choose, you know it’s going to be Emma and it would be terribly unfortunate if I had to accidentally spill milk on someone, even if they claim to be the greatest Jane Austen fans after having seen the Pride and Prejudice film, although they never bothered to read that book, let alone find out she wrote any other books.”
“Calm your nerves, Miss Tessa,” Dan said dramatically. “If you were to swoon, seeing as I am a gentleman, I would have to catch you. However, that would wrinkle my beautiful breeches, and where would that leave us? They make my derriere look ever so handsome, do they not?”
“Shut up,” I chuckled and hit him with a tea towel. “Rather than holding yet another speech about how handsome you are, tell me how this game works.”