Coffee, Strudels and Angels.
Written by: thepapercult
It was daylight, but there was a figure in the corner.
It was daylight, but not quite, for the sun had barely lifted from the edge of the horizon.
The figure in the corner sat immobile in his chair, with his left leg crossed over his right. Occasionally he sniffed the air and smelled the well-known, buoyant sweet scent of candied fruits, which had drawn him and many others here.
He was small in build, but lean, thought Mrs Mackay the owner, and immediately wondered how she knew, with his body covered beneath all that suffocating fabric. She shuffled around in an endearing manner of a pleasant old lady, too old to run and jump, but too unyielding to give up and simply waiting for Death to take her. This man—youth, she corrected, he looked barely thirty—had been a silent stranger metres outside the café for an hour, leaning against the maple tree, head bowed, occasionally looking around. She had gone out of her shop and asked if he needed help, or whether he was waiting for something..
"Only for your café to open, ma'am." Then she had let him in, and he had been there ever since. He had such a wonderful smile, it reminded her of fresh marigolds. She thought she might have seen him before.
In a navy-blue overcoat, pants and shoes of similar, if not darker, hue, the man looked just like any other person that would have walked into the café , except that at seven in the morning, there were no other customers around. He had sapphire blue eyes and hair the colour of spun gold.
Only sometimes, when the sunlight fought its way in through the dusty windows, that his broad wings were outlined in faint yellow. Then as the sunlight moved on, so did they vanish like dull tracing paper.
A soft, resonant jingle from the door meant that the first, loyal customers of Mackay's Café were beginning to stream in. There was nothing like a fresh pot of coffee to start the day. The angel, watched them impassively as each took their favourite spots; cheery greetings rang out across the café.
After ten minutes, he signalled to a waitress and ordered a latte.
The smells of breakfast for many customers permeated the air from the kitchen at the back as Mrs Mackay and two waitresses distributed the plates stacked high with varied meals. He sipped the latte delicately, closed his eyes and wished he could lose himself in the atmosphere at least for the moment.
"Gabriel." He is momentarily startled by the voice, but he knew better than to be. Staring at brown-white froth that was his coffee, he sighed.
"Michael." He stood before Gabriel, and their eyes met: they were of the same hue. They would have been carbon copies, except for that the new arrival's hair was rather tousled.
"You looked like you just woke up, Michael." Gabriel smiled and stretched his legs, which had been crossed for prolonged durations. "Had an early morning?"
"I wouldn't be able to follow you otherwise." Michael grinned and carelessly brushed his hair back. He settled down on one chair around Gabriel's table, shifting his body until he was comfortable before taking a look around, seemingly for the first time. "Ah, nice place," he remarked, "A little homey and austere for my tastes, but then, it's just you." Then, in a smaller, whiny voice. "You're not very fond of sharing, aren't you?"
Gabriel frowned. "How did you find out about this?"
"I did." A dark-haired man, immaculately and formally dressed in what looked like attire for the working classes joined them at the table.
"Greetings, Raphael." Gabriel's brow furrowed. "Technically, I didn't tell anyone—"
"—except those in your sleep." Raphael finished. "I could hear your inane mumblings from where I live, and we aren't bunkmates." "Though I had no idea he would be here," he added quietly, eyeing Michael.
"Apparently someone isn't very good at keeping the secrets he's uncovered," Michael smirked, yawning slightly. "And we do get bored on guard duty. Lucky you; you get to go everywhere, messenger."
Gabriel opened his mouth to say something but fell silent as a waitress approached with two more cups of identical coffee and three chocolate muffins. Conversation lulled as the three of them busied themselves. Gabriel beamed at Charlene (it said so on her tag); she flushed and hurried back to the kitchen with the nervous smile of a fan who'd just shook hands with her idol.
"Do you come here everyday?" Raphael asked. "It's so peaceful here, unlike the riotous city. I understand why you visit so often."
"As long as time permits. I agree; time seems to flow at her own leisurely pace. And the people…" He gazed toward the general assembly; most of which were busy attending to their meals and chatting amicably to their neighbours. "They go about their lives, living day to day. More than one person revisit the café since their first stop in the morning. " Gabriel sipped his coffee.
"Most of the time, we are content to watch," Raphael murmured, following his gaze. Gabriel nodded in the affirmative.
"I might have underestimated the place. These are just splendid," Michael wolfed down the remnants of his muffin. "Don't mind me." He proceeded to eat Raphael's without his consent.
"You're enjoying yourself, for once," the offended angel said dubiously.
"Well I had the apple strudel once," Gabriel's voice went all dreamy. "Most delicious thing I ever had, though it was a little too sweet."
Michael muttered something inaudible.
The group was quiet as a jingle sounded. A girl, barely the age of eighteen, walked in with nervous eyes and a small hurried steps, unspotted by any of the patrons as she found an empty table and scuttled to the chair, except by the three angels.
"Yet another consequence of an open-minded society," Michael remarked, gesturing at her protruding stomach, a sure sign of pregnancy. The girl's eyes resembled those of a trapped kitten in a drain, afraid of her surroundings, yet twice of what lay outside. Her eyes shot nervously from one end of the café to another, as if expecting anything to happen very soon.
"She's afraid that anyone who knows her would come through the door any moment." Gabriel's voice was not that of an authoritative overseer, but that of a sympathetic onlooker as he fixed his gaze on her. "It's rude to point." He glared at Michael.
"Well my apologies, dear sir," Michael said caustically, then "What is wrong with you? You're acting like you're dying to go over and hug her. Well, squeeze the life out of her and the child, anyway. Don't tell me you've gone all soft on mortals."
Gabriel hissed with anger and for a moment Michael thought he would be spending a day with Raphael-the-medic, but not before Raphael-the-peacemaker intervened.
"There's no need to go to blows over this matter," Raphael said gently but firmly. "Someone ought to think before he speaks again, and I'm sure he didn't mean it the way you did." He patted Gabriel's shoulder.
"He'd better," Gabriel said under his breath, the embers of his rage dying, and took a long drink out of the coffee cup.
"But really, I wouldn't have minded even if you did. Hug her, I mean," Michael clarified hurriedly. "It looks like she really needs it. I wonder if she has any relatives, or at least, people who care."
Gabriel shrugged. "Probably, or not."
"It's sad," Raphael said, almost to himself.
The girl was now sitting alone, with a bowl of liquid the colour of bleached lemons. She dipped her spoon into it slowly, then ladling up a small amount, brought it to her lips. She closed her eyes briefly as the soup trickled down her throat. The faintest of smiles fluttered across her features, and then it was gone. She lowered the spoon in slow-motion, and when it was centimetres away from the tabletop, she stared at it for a long, long while, as if she has realised something profound and important that no one else would understand.
She shook her head, breaking the spell, and set it on the table. Instead of finishing the rest of her order, the forlorn girl in jeans and T-shirt stared out the window in front of her.
"What lovely hazel-brown eyes," Michael observed aloud, more of something to break the tension and silence than anything else. He received no response. "Earth to Gabriel." He waved a hand in front of the messenger.
"Huh? What—I'm sorry, just spacing out a little." Gabriel shook his head to clear out the thoughts.
"Hm." Michael was unconvinced. "Well there must be the other half of the equation, speaking of which, I wonder who her husband is."
"Strictly speaking, she would be underage to marry. Her boyfriend," Raphael paused, letting his tongue adjust to the word. He had only recently learned it from another passing angel, which he had spoken to during his duties, and had just recently deprived him of the earthly joy of a muffin. "He should be accompanying her. It's unsafe for a woman to roam the streets in this condition."
"He could have vanished, then. In fact, I think he really did," Gabriel stated simply.
"Poor thing," Michael said, this time without sarcasm. "Such was taboo in the days of the apostles. What has the world become?"
The girl's face resembled an ageing willow tree; already it had slight imperfections, imperfections so unforgivable to other girls her age. Her eye bags were prominent against her pale skin and whenever she shifted in her seat there was exhaustion apparent in the way she moved: languidly, seemingly intent to reserve her failing strength. She was a string stretched and ready to break.
"Poor thing." It was Raphael's turn.
"Strings weren't meant to be stretched," murmured Gabriel, draining the last of his coffee.
"At last, there goes the caffeine, the people's favourite wonderdrug." Michael emptied his cup; Raphael had already did so, minutes ago.
"Would love to have this again," Gabriel said, staring at the bottom of the cup, which had brown stains.
"Yeah, definitely. What a break. When we revisit, and that'll be…tomorrow?" Michael smiled.
"Nice place, this," said Raphael. "Thank you for inviting us, Gabriel."
"Well I didn't," he retorted, but a grin tugged at the corners of his lips.
"Shall we leave, gentlemen? My wings are stiff from the lack of use." Michael stood up and stretched. He sneezed. "Excuse me; must be the dust."
The two angels stood and the group walked toward the entrance, dragging their feet. Gabriel stopped abruptly and Michael narrowly avoided colliding headlong into his back.
"What in the world—" He screeched.
Gabriel turned, drinking in the busy scene, infused with bustle, and happiness. It was an odd combination, but somehow two impossible ideas seemed to match up perfectly.
The girl looked up at the entrance to the commotion. She stared at the three men who, oblivious to her, had been discussing her past, and her plight.
For a second her eyes met Gabriel's, and all she could think of was how brilliantly blue they were to her. Such pretty eyes.
The man with the beautiful eyes gave her an earnest smile. It reminded her of a summer here and gone. She wanted to return it, but when she came to her senses they had exited the café.
"Tell me what you did to the girl. Was it that telepathy thing? Just knew you had it in you." Michael shuffled alongside the other angels.
"No, it was not." Gabriel was irritated, but his mood was not ruined. "What telepathy? I've never heard of such a thing."
"Break it up, I'm not a mediator." Raphael stated sullenly.
The angels paused, simultaneously. The light caught their wings and the pinions were once again visible. Their earthly attire dissolved in the gust of wind as they, now clothed in robes of blinding white, with powerful wing beats took flight, vanishing into the clouds, and higher still.