I sat in my pyjamas on the cream sofa with a nice cup of tea resting snuggly between my hands. It was six o'clock and I had to open the shop for eight. I closed my eyes and listened to silence, this time of the morning was always peaceful. He was still upstairs in our bed, fast asleep, how I wish I could join him; curl up in his arms and fall into a peaceful sleep. But the holiday was over and now it was back to the store. With the last of my savings, I had purchased a shop in town and decided to run a small coffee shop which also sold homemade cakes. It was a quiet and peaceful business but our cakes are always in demand.
I had named it The Coffee Pot, not the most inventive name but I liked the name, it seemed kind of homely to me. I had designed the sign myself; it showed a tea pot pouring out the coffee coloured lettering which joined together in soft loops while a small plate of cookies sat at the end, one with a bite taken out of it. The building itself was a cream colour which I had painted not long after buying it and every summer since then, I got out there with a tin of paint to freshen it up. It had a large kitchen which meant me and my girls didn't have to squeeze around each other when things got a little busy.
A counter stood as a barrier between the seating area and the kitchen. It had a large glass case where the first batch of cakes went; we normally topped it up in case the supply dipped too low. The last half of the counter was a sturdy oak which the till sat on, right next to the glass case. It was a clunky thing and the drawer was a little stiff sometimes. Hanging above the counter was our menu with our prices; it had grown to quite a reasonable size in the last the three years. As for the seating area, well it had a few small oak tables scattered around the room, with four comfortable brown armchairs for each table.
We had a small area outside which was cornered off from the main high street with small wrought iron fences. The tables outside were a nice pattern black which again seated four; I'd seen them in the local Tesco megastore and bought them although they were originally meant to go in someone's back garden, they suited nonetheless. I had to take the money out of my wedding fund but it was worth it in the end, I still hadn't put all the money back into the fund but I was getting there.
I also hung Jake's paintings of the town around the room; there was one of the florists which sat opposite The Coffee Pot and another of the small fountain outside the shopping centre which was just down the round and one of me sitting on one the tables in The Coffee Pot. No one seemed to realise it was me, but I knew because Jake had told me and the guy sitting next to me was him. He'd sent me them after I sent him a letter including pictures of where I lived now, when I first moved here.
We had just got in touch; we bumped into each other when I went back to London to collect what my Grandmother, Daniel's mother, had left me in her will. I went to grab a quick coffee to steady the nerves before I went to visit the solicitor and he was sitting there tapping away on his laptop. I tapped him on the shoulder and we sat and spoke. I knew it was him, as soon as I saw him. It was like I was tethered to him in some way, like I knew it would be him if I saw him because in a way we were connected by something I wasn't quite sure of.
We exchanged our emails and addresses even our phone numbers before I left to visit the solicitor. It made me smile even now because Jake had always joked that I was hooked on coffee, he said it was addiction but without that I probably wouldn't have seen him again. We exchanged a few letters, the odd email and even a phone call before he just stopped talking to me. I had the gnawing feeling that it was my fault he stopped talking to me.
I had gone back to London because my grandmother, Enid, who had always been a hard-nosed bint and believed the sun shone out of Daniel's backside had passed away from a heart attack and left me something from her estate. I was actually surprised when her solicitor had rung me up and explained this to me. I thought she'd have taken me out when I walked out on the family. Instead she had written me a letter explaining how sorry she was that we lost contact, blah blah blah emotional speech of you're my only grandchild, blah blah blah, I still love you, blah blah blah but you were still wrong on walking out on us. The brooch that my grandfather, her husband, Albert had given her on her birthday was now passed onto me. Albert had died peacefully in his sleep, three years before Enid passed. She had explained in her letter about the brooch and granddad Albert, whom I was always fond of and was sad learn about his death. She also went to mention about the family but I had stopped reading after she mentioned granddad Albert.
When the solicitor passed me the velvet box and an envelope, I was confused. I was never been in her good books, not since I was a child; so why bother giving me anything of worth if I was such a disappointment? I opened the box to an amber brooch; it was a small thing, shaped in flower a darker amber jewel for the medal and the petals were a lighter honey colour. It was the prettiest thing I think my grandmother had ever owned. I thanked the solicitor and left not long after that. When I got to the hotel room that night, I read the letter; I still haven't finished it though.
The key clicked in response, I turned the sign from 'closed' to 'open' before returning to my post from behind the counter. Before I even put on my apron, Edna a loyal customer of mine had arrived for her morning coffee with her little Yorkshire terrier Percy; I secured my light blue apron as she approached the counter, a smile fixed to my face. She always walked her dog around this time of the morning and stopped here on her way home to have refreshment from her excursion.
"Good morning!" I said cheerfully, she smiled in response. While Percy jumped up and down eagerly, his tail wagging ecstatically. "Good morning to you too, Percy." I added whilst learning over the counter to give him a smile. "The usual?" I asked, knowing the answer would be yes but it was always polite to ask, as I turned back to her. After a short exchange, Edna settled in the corner with her coffee, black and one sugar, and her tea cake while Percy had a bowl of water and a dog biscuit.
Not only was the Coffee Pot open to business, I applied for a special license which allowed canine companions to come in too. It allowed a lot more who were up early walking their dog to grab a caffeine fix before heading home. I had run this place for three years with Caitlin and Tia, the three musketeers who had been inseparable since college; they were the ones who whisked me away on this last minute holiday and were always more like family to me than friends.
I heard Tia come through the back entrance at nine, she was singing again; I listened to hear the chorus of When She Was Mine by Lawson. Tia was a long slender woman, taller than me by three inches, had mousy brown hair cut into a small bob. She had done a few catering sessions in the community centre and worked part-time in my kitchen baking cakes while continuing to get her degree in Art.
Caitlin would relieve me at one, she agreed last week to start and hour earlier so I could go to my doctor's appointment. She was smaller than me by two inches and had a curvy figure, with long brown hair that hung half way down her back. Caitlin also worked part-time while training to be a qualified therapist; she joked one day that baking had become her new hobby, which in a way it had as Caitlin always brought in new samples of recipes she was working on; some of which tasted delightful.
I'd relieve Sarah, another worker we had hired when we started staying open late, at five and then stay till closing time which was normally ten; we had a lot of students who liked to work late at night here and a small writer's group which normally met on a Thursday to discuss ideas and criticise fellow member's pieces. I didn't mind staying late because there was always a calm atmosphere, unless it was a Friday or Saturday night when people went out but we were never open late on those days now. After we started working long days and getting burnt out in the process, we put ads in the local paper and in the window to hire more staff. Sarah had now been working for us for a year and it was relief not just to me but to Tia and Caitlin as well, that we could finally get outside of the shop for a while.
The girls were funny and could always make me laugh, it was one of the reasons I worked with them because the day would fly by and before we'd know it, it would be time to lock up and go home. As of yet most of our staff were women, there were two boys though George and Thomas who did the deliveries at lunchtime to local offices. It made me smile at the thought that my little store was popular with the locals, because they wanted us to stay open later and deliver their orders so they didn't have to rush over during lunchtime; we always seemed to be packed out during lunchtime, so it saved them and us hassle if we could prepare the order before hand and then just deliver it.
Once we had recruited enough staff, my main role was to focus on the general running of the store. I did the paperwork, accounts, rotas etc. But as the boss, I had my finger in every pie; though not literally because I'm sure my customers would not appreciate that. I served, baked and delivered if we ever needed an extra pair of hands. Take today for example, now I was off my holiday, officially, Emma could take hers; which meant I would cover her shifts until she got back.
"Mornin'." Tia called from the kitchen. I replied and after a cup of coffee and a cake ourselves, we had settled into a quiet conversation about the holiday.
"Do you remember how we first met?" I said spontaneously. Tia gave me a quizzical look before giving me a small smile. I had clearly caught her off guard but there was something in the back of my head that just wanted to relive the past.
I stumbled into the classroom half-dazed; I couldn't believe he was gone, just like that. When Daniel said I'd never see Jake again, I didn't believe him, Jake had always been there and now he wasn't. It was the first term of college and I was on my own. I had decided to study English combined, Media and Art. David was not at all pleased to hear that his little girl wasn't going to be the barrister that he wanted her to be. I felt sure I could handle with Jake there by my side; he always supported me no matter what happened. But he just left without even saying goodbye.
"Hey, your bag's breaking." A girl called out from the corner she'd been sitting in; she was the only person in the room besides myself, but then it was five minutes before the lesson started so we were both early. I looked at my bag as if only noticing it was there and realised that my shoulder strap was hanging on by threads. "You want me to fix that?" I looked at her; she had a pale face and had long a short mousey haired bob. Why was she being so helpful? I guess since I had always relied on Jake so much, I hadn't allowed other people in. Maybe that didn't help, that I had no one now that Jake was gone.
"Um, yeah okay." I approached her, slowly; slightly nervous in case this was some kind of trick. She smiled reassuringly. "Thanks." I handed her my bag, carefully so as not to snap what little threads remained. I'd have to sew it when I get home because I was pretty sure she did not have a sewing kit in her bag. But to my surprise she pulled out a small travel-sized sewing kit, I guessed that it was one of those kits you found in a Christmas cracker but with her own additions to it. She began sewing the strap back to my bag; while I hovered around her uneasy.
After she handed my bag back to me, we began speaking and found that she had similar interests to me; she liked You Me At Six, Crunching on leaves in Autumn, Bike riding and she could play the guitar just like me. Jake had taught me to play guitar when I was fourteen, I had always wanted to but Daniel didn't want to pay for me to have lessons for something like that. Instead I was pushed into learning the piano while Jake learnt the guitar, we'd both learnt from a young age and our parents thought it would be a good way to keep us occupied. It did for an hour a week, plus the hours we spent practising and teaching each other; I taught Jake the piano and he taught me the guitar. It kept us busy but not for very long.
I found out her name was Tia and we realised we shared the same classes for nearly all of our lessons. She took English and Art with me but took Geography instead of Media. She told me her friend Caitlin, whom she'd know since middle school, took Media. After Miss Brooke had introduced us to the English course and told us what books to purchase, I had Media. But I had promised to meet her in library at break. But during the English lesson, when Miss Brooke left to help a supply teacher handle a difficult student, Tia sent a text to Caitlin asking her to look out for me in the Media lesson.
It was nice that someone other than Jake was looking out for me; it was oddly comforting but I still missed hearing Jake's laugh and his playful teasing. Where was he now? As I entered the Media block, I found a tall figure, with short brown hair, leaning against the wall with a small black backpack clutched in her hand. Tia had said Caitlin would be waiting outside the classroom for me.
"Are you Caitlin?" I asked nervously, I was worried in case Tia had tricked me and there was no Caitlin. But then why would she tell me to meet her in the library? Unless that was a lie as well. I would have to stop being like this, not everyone was against me. I needed to trust someone. But a little voice instead my head said that someone would always be Jake.
"Yeah, you're Ruth, right?"
"Yeah." We exchanged a smile before walking into the classroom. For the next hour, we talked about ourselves and shared a few jokes over Mr Murphy, who had lost his lesson plan and was the making the lesson up from bits he could remember. He relied mostly on his powerpoint to help him. I found out that Caitlin enjoyed McFly the same as I did, though they were my guilty pleasure.
At break we giggled over the silliest things while secretly taking bites of our lunches because we didn't want to be caught and thrown out by the librarian; and we didn't want to go in the loud crowded dining area, as it was pretty liking we wouldn't get a seat anyway. A little voice whispered slowly, Was Jake really that easy to forget? After all you've been through together. I shook my head and ignored it, after all if I really meant something to him then he would have said goodbye. I let myself go, fall into the conversation and get lost because I just wanted to forget about him.
Since then, we had been pretty much inseparable; we trusted each other like sisters, we even squabbled like them sometimes too. But there were some things I couldn't tell them, I could never bring myself to say anything about Jake nor could I mention much about home life. Except, silly little things like whether I had a brother or sister, what my parents did for a job, where I lived etc.
The rare occasion I was allowed them over, my parents behaved and it was the only time me and Daniel were civil without adding a few snide comments here and there. But then I guess my parents were always ones for appearance.
"It's not about who you are, it's about image and labels." Daniel would say. "You have to be what they're not; you have to show them you're more superior. Otherwise, you'll be eaten alive kid." He'd always say before we go out to one of his work's events. But since I was thirteen nothing had been the same between me and Daniel.
I turned on the radio we kept in the kitchen and tuned all the thoughts of Daniel, Jake and the rest of the past out of mind. The last thing I wanted to do was bawl in front of the customers about something that happened seven years ago. And that something that wanted me to talk about the past and relive the memories stopped because they realised just as I had done that he never said goodbye.