The coffee shop nestled amongst the mountains trees was emitting an eerie silence. With half his body in the door, the young man called out again.
Again he received no reply. He looked once again to the car park, and the one car other than his own parked there. He had never remembered the place so empty. He had come as a child, winding through the mountains with his grandpa at the wheel. He was the only one brave enough to drive the road. His family only came every two years; the obligation to visit his mum's parents was never a forceful experience. They always stopped at this place when they went cherry picking, something they only did once during their time there. Though he couldn't have been there more than five times, he felt he remembered the place well, even if it wasn't the empty coffee shop he saw now. It had been awhile since he had last seen it.
He jumped at the sound, realising he had still been looking outside at the car. A woman stood in the building, a stark white apron covering her flowery dress.
She mustn't have much messy things to do he thought to himself, but didn't comment on it.
"Hi. Are you open?"
"Of course. Sorry I was out the back getting Humphrey's food ready. Really you'd think a goat would eat what he was given, but he just ain't that type of goat."
He remembered the goat tied out the front and how he didn't pay a speck of attention to his outstretched hand.
"Maybe he needs some discipline."
She chuckled. "Not him, he thinks he owns the place he does. Now what are you here for?" She spoke in a rough New Zealand accent.
"A drink please."
"Well sit down, what do you want?"
"Any soft drink will do." He chose a seat by the window, where he could look out over the small grassy area, and the trees that surrounded it.
"Is the path to the river still here?"
She looked at him from behind the counter.
"Aye. Gets a bit stragglier every year but it's still there." She pulled a bottle out of the fridge. "Drat, I forgot to turn the fridge on, I'll just pop out back a minute." She disappeared through a door next to the counter.
He leant back in his chair and looked around the small shop. A corner of it was dedicated to maps and brochures, but the rest of it was covered in modest round tables and chairs. Here and there on the walls, was what he thought was hand-drawn pictures, but they were small and he couldn't see close enough to tell.
"Here we are, a nice cold drink." She entered back through the door with a bottle and glass.
She stopped at his table. "Will you be walking down to the river today?"
"You should, it'll be nice down there today. It ain't rained for a while so it won't be rushing." Then she paused. "Where you from?"
"So you've been here before?"
He nodded as he sipped the cold drink. "When I was younger, always on the way to go cherry picking. It's a bit different now."
"People don't like to take the scenic route so much anymore, they ain't got the time, but it's a nice drive."
"It's a bit tough winding through the mountains."
She looked at him sharply.
"Mountain? Darl, this little thing is a hill."
He thought back to how he had winded up the roads, the steep cliff on one side and the rise on the other.
"Hills are bumps, this is big."
She laughed. "This is a bump, barely a ripple that's all."
He shook his head. "Hills you drive over, mountains you have to go every which way round and through."
She sighed at him, arms crossed across her chest. "Bloody Australians and their mountains."
He laughed as she turned and walked back to the counter, producing a rag and spray.
"So what you doing coming across this mountain then?" She said mountain as if she didn't believe in the word, and he smiled at that.
"I'm not too sure." And it was true, he wasn't too sure. He wasn't too sure why he had packed up and hopped the country either. He had been tired with life and his small apartment and big job.
"Why'd you come when you were younger?"
"My mum's from here." But she was gone now. His dad he barely spoke too; they both fell into shells at the death of the woman, and neither ever found a way to break it. His grandparents had died years before, and the small house he had stayed in as a child when he visited was now owned by his aunt. He wasn't sure if it was right for him to stay there, an empty house that had once held so many lives. But he had called her, and had sent him the key.
"Maybe you wanted to revisit the memories."
He had been searching. He had been to the local shops, to the beach with ripples to the woods where they bagged pine cones. He was searching for something that he didn't have at home, yet somehow thought he could find here, in the place he remembered from his childhood.
He looked at the young woman, as she smiled at him from behind the counter, waiting for his reply.
"I didn't want to be alone anymore." He had come from the city to this small town, so he didn't have to continue being alone.
"When I came here as a child, I knew I would only be here a month. I knew I wouldn't make friends to keep, or meet people that I'd remember. And at home I was so scared of people knowing me too much, in case they judged me for the rest of my life, that I didn't want to know people for more than a day. And here I knew that I could know people for only a day, so I let myself, and when I'd leave I'd go home with the memories of all the friends I'd made that I'd never see again, but that's what I liked." He realised the woman was staring at him, and closed his mouth quickly. He hadn't meant to spurt it all out like that, only realising his reasons for coming as he said it. He was searching for a friend.
"Well that just sounds dandy." She paused, then spoke again. "But if it's company you're wanting, you won't do good to be looking here, this place is empty."
She would be one of those friends, he thought, one of the ones that he had for a day and would say goodbye to forever. But he didn't want to leave just yet, he had plenty of time after all.
"I've got to finish my drink first."
He sat there sipping softly as she fed Humphrey outside. Every now and then, a waft of her one-sided conversation would come in and he'd smile at the thought of her talking to a goat.
He had been looking at one of the framed pictures on the walls. Finishing his drink, he got up to take a closer look.
"You like it?"
He had been staring at it, looking hard at the picture of the river.
"It's of here, I'm pretty sure, standing from the rock looking down. It looks like it wouldn't you say?"
"It is of here."
"I found this notepad once, some years ago now, with all these drawings." She gestured round the shop. "When my parents gave me control over the place I put them up, they're so nice. Add a nice homely touch to the place I think. Some poor lad though is probably wondering what happened to his pad."
"They forgot after a while."
She turned to look at him and he realised what he had had said, what he had implied.
"I lost my notepad but thought it was at the house and would just turn up. I didn't realise it was here."
"Just wait a sec." She almost skipped through the back door in enthusiasm. He walked around the shop, looking at the pictures. They were all of things here; the fern tree, the bed, the view from the walk up the hill. All things he remembered from when he was young and had once put to paper.
"Here." She skipped back in, pushing something into his hands.
A brown notepad, faded now, with a black pen stuck in the spiral.
"There's one empty page so I kept it, just in case the owner came to fill it."
He took it, and held the thin book in his hands. It was old, with dents and scars, but, he realised as he turned it in his hands, it had always been like that. He flipped it open, and she had been right, there was one blank page.
"I better fill it up." He wondered what he could draw that would complete the notepad he had lost. "Maybe I'll draw a view."
"I know where a good one is."
He followed her outside and past the goat that was still un-responding to his attention. Sitting against the side of the building was a wooden ladder.
"Up you go."
He looked at her. "Up that thing?"
"It'll hold. Look I'll go first." She scaled the ladder easily and he saw her disappear onto the roof.
Taking a break, he put on foot on the ladder, expecting it to break with every rung he passed. But then he was on the roof, which he found was flat, and precariously he made his way across to the middle.
"Look out there."
He did so, and saw across the trees that surrounded the coffee shop. Before them a valley lay, the peaks of mountains visible at their height. A scene that could only be described as green covered everything before them; a rugged carpet thrown across the mounts.
"Pretty sight aye, will you draw it?"
"The last picture will be of the most beautiful thing."
He turned to the final page of the notepad and pulled out the pen. Quickly he began to draw."
She was silent as he drew, and he thought about himself. About his friends, about what he had missed throughout his life because of his fear. And about what he had come here to find; a friend for a day like he used to do. But this time, he wanted more than that.
"That's a pretty picture," she said, breaking the silence as she leant over him.
"I said it would be the most beautiful."
She laughed, a large laugh that seemed to echo across the mountains.
"You know," she said, looking out across the view. "These are a bit more than hills, but only just mountains. I'll have to show you some definite mountains one day though."
He smiled, and didn't say anything. He just sat on the roof of the coffee shop and looked out over the mountains, and put aside the notepad and pen; with the final page filled with the picture of the one he wished to be his friend for more than a day. And as she chattered away about cherries and goats, he was sure she would be.