Text Box: Second Quarter 2017 — First Place

Another Coffee


Guy Russell


























And here we are again, Stella and I, in our usual coffee shop, the one we go to every fortnight at lunchtime for however long it is since my office moved to Clerkenwell –while the university, where she does something administrative, is just up the High Road – the coffee shop which once was a caff, Franky’s, and then a café, Franco’s, and then a chain, and then a bigger chain – itself the successor of suchlike places across the city, where over so many years I sat and listened to how marvellous Andrew was, then later how marvellous Giles was, then that other one, the designer, who I barely met and whose name I can’t remember now, and then Larry – who stayed marvellous, who had constantly been marvellous till about a year ago – oh, and the rest of her life, as far as back as when her mum was stupid, then out-of-touch, when her dad was a tyrant, then later how he was ill, and how she loved him, and how would her mum cope – oh, and the house, with Larry – with all those builder and decorator stories, the holiday stories – those wonderful hard-to-find pensions in Ajaccio and Tavira and Lemnos, and all the hilarious scrapes, and then the children stories – though Stella was always conscious, at least, that she shouldn’t overdo those – especially to someone like myself – and career gripe and career success stories, latterly, and creativity ones – she really wanted to start doing her photography again – “Yes,” I said, “you really should, you were so talented at it when we first met” – but that didn’t work, nor did the holistic centre in Pembrokeshire, nor did the weekly psychoanalyst – “It’s not me,” Stella began to tell me, as our coffee turned from plain white, to Cona, to cappuccino, to latte, to skinny decaf mochaccino grande – “it’s not me, it’s Larry, we’ve grown apart, it’s not his fault – though I do sometimes wonder if he’s having an affair” – but I’ve known Larry for twenty years – their eldest, Annabel, is fifteen now and I’m her non-religious godfather (she has a C of E one too, to be on the safe side) – I’ve known Larry for that long, and I’m not going to start taking sides against him now, even though I’ve known Stella for longer, and now there’s this younger man – ‘Roberto’ – he’s more affectionate than Larry, says Stella, drinking her goat’s-milk galăo with vanilla syrup – “Are you sure,” I say, “that you know what you’re doing?” – “There’s only one life,” says Stella, “and you have to follow where it leads,” sounding as if she’s been back in the holistic centre – and so I nod, as though I agree, as I’ve nodded to her for my whole adult life, and she has to get back for some meeting with the VC, and I have another fifteen minutes yet, or fifteen years, and I order another cup, and look through the window at the world as it goes past.

Second Place: Sky Lighter

Third Place: Sprezzura