October 27th, 2012

Glass pastry cases filled with flakey croissants and creamy tarts. Wooden tables and marble floors. Coffee served in porcelain bowls. The smell of fresh ground coffee beans wafting over sunhats and gossip.

Two identical little girls – Olsen twin lookalikes – one in stretchy leopard leggings, the other in bright green shorts, strawberry blond hair pressed together as they examined the pastries on display. 'That's the strawberry one,' says Ashley.

'What's that?' Mary-Kate stabs at the glass, smudging fingerprints over the case.

'Lemon Tart,' Ashley says.

'Is it nice?'

Ashley looks thoughtful – or as thoughtful as a little girl can look. She tilts her head and tugs on a strand of hair before delivering her judgment. 'Well, in the middle it's sticky,' she finally pronounces.

Mary-Kate wrinkles her nose, freckles dancing across her face in the sunlight. 'I think I'll have the long one,' she says with all the precision of an eight year old, and the waiter lingering behind the case looks relieved.

Two zombies walk in. But they are zombies – faces painted white, rings of black around their eyes, blood staining their skirts and skin. They smile as they walk past and bare their teeth, exposing sharp prosthetic fangs. It's a new breed of the freaky Halloween cast – the vambie. Or the zampire.

In the corner there is a table of four: a girl sitting on one side with her father, her boyfriend sitting opposite with her mother. She touches hands with the boy under the table occasionally. He is wearing a suit. He is the only one in the café wearing a suit. He knows this. He matches the girl's look of sympathy with one of equal distress.

A waitress walks by with two giant face-sized chocolate chip cookies on a plate. She brings it to a crowded table of six and sets it down. As she does, a man at the table leans back in his chair, makes a show of studying her and says, 'Has anyone told you that you look like Kate Middleton?' And she looks like she doesn't know what to do so she laughs – short, uncomfortable, awkward – and backs away hurriedly. The man's mate slaps him on the shoulder and says, 'Nice one, Nick.'

And now – here's a woman with no self-consciousness issues. Her outfit screams look at me with neon pink lipstick and zebra striped pants. Her coffee companion sits across sporting an eye-blinding neon yellow skirt. Apparently we have moved on from floral to neon in a week.

It's busy. It's Saturday. It's absurd that there's always a strange comfort to be said for sitting in a café packed full of people, even if you're alone.


A/N: I'm not entirely sure I'm happy with this. But oh well. Feedback/suggestions welcome! And if the zombie bit confused you: it was the zombie walk today in Sydney (i.e. the day where people dress up as zombies and walk in the park. Really.).