I've always liked the beach better in autumn than summer. The cold never bothers me and I'd rather have solitude than crowds. I've been trying to find my way into more casual clothes, into a less formal version of myself, but I can't do without my coats. Some things just become part of you. It doesn't matter. It's the perfect season for a good coat.
The tide's high and the weather carries in winter. It's all grey, that way when the horizon vanishes and there's no clear division between water and sky. Two things merging, neither becoming the other, both shifting together into something else entirely.
I don't know if that's how I'd usually think of it, but the name of the coffee bar on the corner got into my head. It's called Alchemy and it has a good feeling about it, a sense of being slightly out of time, and I have a weakness for things that time doesn't have too tight a hold on.
I'd been getting my coffee to go - a double espresso in one hand and an americano in the other - and sitting on the harbour wall with it, sucking down caffeine, having my apparent midlife crisis faster and with more energy. But sometimes the drizzle and damp air drive even the most hardened souls and cynics indoors.
Another reason I like this place, as well as the name and the good coffee, is that no-one who works here looks at me like I'm a threat. I appreciate it, partly for its novelty and partly because it's good to be reminded there might actually be a place for everyone somewhere.
I take a seat at the bar and order a double shot. The guy making it gives me one of those looks, something like recognition. He's been working before when I've been in, but he's never served me. We've never spoken.
"This is totally going to sound like a line, but have I seen you somewhere before?"
It does sound like a line, but I don't mind. "I've been here before, so probably."
"I don't mean from here." He frowns like he's trying to focus. "I know I've seen you here, double-espresso-and-americano-to-go. I mean somewhere else. You look familiar."
"Apparently I have one of those faces." Truth is, no-one's ever said that to me, but I don't like people trying too hard to figure out where they know me from.
"If I saw faces like yours in here all the time, I'd be in a much better mood." He sets the double in front of me and his hands have a few scars on them like healed burns. Funny how there's no kind of work that doesn't end up leaving you with scars.
"That was a line."
"Yeah, OK, that time it kind of was. But I do recognise you. It'll come to me." He takes a pack of cigarettes out from under the counter, puts some cups away, then gives me the look again. "Something to do with cigarettes."
"Where I know you from." He pats his pockets and finds a lighter. "I'm going for a smoke. You want one? You've been staring at that pack pretty hard."
"No, thanks. I'll just watch from here with a pained expression of nostalgia and unfulfilled longing."
"When'd you quit?"
"Just over a year ago. Cold turkey." Not a happy memory. "Still miss it though."
"Want another shot before I head out?"
"It's alright, thanks. I'll wait till you get back."
People always say when you stop smoking you start hating the smell, but I haven't. I've become more sensitive to it though. Even with him standing outside in a damp mist, the smell of smoke still makes its way close enough for me to notice. It's still good, still tempting, still kind of attached to other things I keep telling myself I don't do anymore.
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Winter FollowsGeneral Fiction
One month, one city, five lives colliding with the forces of fate. A thrill-seeking tech genius with an appetite for dangerous extremes. A retired contract killer fighting to escape his past and himself. An underworld driver tempted deeper into a li...