Down below us, the crowds flowed through the concourse of the Square
Once a week we sat beneath the glass roof in the farthest corner of La Croissant D’or, in our seat …the best in the house. We’d meet for breakfast, but when the lunchtime rush started we’d still be sitting there; Drinking endless cups of coffee. Chatting, catching up Looking down…Watching.
‘Observing’ we called it but that’s just a nice term for watching. Watching people, push trolleys, push buggies, push themselves. Up escalators, down travelators. Up and down and round and round they went. Some walked with purpose, knowing exactly where they were going. Some strolled while browsing in shop windows. Others sauntered while observing their surroundings; looking up; watching us watching them.
The running commentary carried on through the morning.
‘I like her coat. That would look lovely on you. I wonder where she bought it?
Oh Holy Lord, look at the state of your woman’s hair. Who let her out like that?
Speaking of hair, I really need a colour’ Annette flicks her hair back and takes out her compact to reapply her lip pencil…again. Joan just laughs. ‘Another colour? You must have a share in Clairol’. ‘Because I’m worth it’ she replies. Another flick of the hair and more laughter.
Christmastime we’d meet for shopping. Myself and Joan arrived first one Friday
‘Have you got your list?’
‘For your presents.’
‘I don’t need a list. I know what I’m buying.’
‘What are you buying?’
‘Shirt and jumper for Bren. Perfume for the girls. Aftershave for the lads. Dressing gown for mam. Books for the kids. Sorted.’
‘But I’m buying a dressing gown for mam.’
‘Since I wrote it on my list. Look…
‘That could be anything.’
‘I don’t know…Dolce and Gabana? Dating Game?
‘Why would I buy ma a dating game…she’s 85?’
‘What are you two arguing about?’ Annette arrived and dropped a pile of shopping bags beside her as she sat down.
‘Trish wants to buy ma a dressing gown for Christmas but I already have it on my list. Look …Mam: DG
‘That could be anything. Anyway, I already bought her a dressing gown so you’re both out of luck.’
‘What? You’ve been shopping already?’
‘Yeah, Well I knew once I met you two, we’d spend the morning here and I’d get nothing so I came up straight from the school and got it all done. Who’s for tea?’
Fridays were ours – No kids, no husbands, and no worries. We thought there were going to be endless Fridays, endless chat, endless catching up.
‘Are you lot still here?’ the girl behind the counter always said. ‘Isn’t it well for you’ ‘Ah yes’ I’d say. ‘Sure what else would we be doing of a Friday morning? There’s plenty of time for housework and shopping.’
‘Ah you’re right love, life is short. Enjoy it while you can.’ How right she was.
I never paid much attention to what she said. It was just chitchat. Things you say to people you meet. ‘Life is short. Enjoy it while you can.’
You say it without even thinking. You never think you’re going to lose the ones you love; Especially ones so young. There were no endless Friday chats, no endless catch-ups. Life has a way of catching up with you…and it did.
Today I walked alone through the concourse. I joined the throng of shoppers scurrying back and forth.
I could smell the freshly brewed coffee, heard a peal of laughter, and in my mind’s eye, saw the flick of blonde hair. I stopped walking and looked up.
There was somebody sitting in our seat. They were drinking coffee; chatting; catching up; looking down at me looking up.
Above the packed restaurant, through the glass roof I watched the clouds roll by and pictured my sisters, in the best seat in the house.