Short Story: Blue Halcyon Days
A lighthearted 1000-word short story on finding love again later in life.
Standing under a shimmering lampshade, Greg wasn’t sure this was a good idea.
“It’s full of antioxidants and other vitamins. You know, all the good things that keep you looking young.”
The barista, who was no stranger to a wrinkle herself, squinted at the crow’s feet gently forming around Greg’s eyes. With a resigned sigh at her delightful lack of subtlety, Greg nodded.
“Ok. Sure. Sounds good. I’ll try one of your blue lattes.”
Straightening her back, the barista beamed at him.
“You won’t regret this!” she said with a flourish. “They taste absolutely divine.”
Greg pursed his lips as he waved his credit card in front of a tiny machine. What he had really wanted when he’d stepped into the coffee shop that morning was a double-hit of caffeine. A flat white. Strong. He’d even asked for it with a monotone voice, in a preconceived effort to keep his resolve. But it was no use when Patsy was working the till. With her grey-streaked hair loosely tied in rainbow silk, Greg’s usual defences strangely weakened at the sight of her. Just a little.
“Do you have the kids this weekend?” Patsy began making conversation as she unceremoniously cracked the lid off a milk bottle and sloshed the liquid into a jug.
“No, unfortunately,” replied Greg. “I’ll miss them.”
He ran his hand through what was left of his own hair, flashing a pale band of skin that had never quite tanned up to the rest of his hand.
“Ah well, it’s nice to have some time to yourself too.”
Patsy took out a tiny teaspoon and began measuring out blue powder into a takeaway cup. Despite her cautiousness, fine blue dust flew up into her face, colouring her nose. She rubbed her cheek instead.
“And what are you up to tomorrow?” Greg ventured. It had taken him fifteen years to learn his lesson. In the back of his mind he could still hear his ex-wife’s choked sobs accusing him of being eternally disinterested in anyone but himself.
“Anything nice?” he swallowed the lump that had suddenly formed in his throat.
“Yes!” Patsy flashed a smile at him. “A group of us are going to the Pride march in town. I’m going as support for one of my best friends. He said he was going to wear heaps of feathers, so I need to go find a pirate hat of fake parrot or something at lunch to match.”
The corner of Greg’s mouth lifted of its own accord.
“Sounds like fun,” he offered.
“Oh it will be! There will be dancing, South American food, live drumming. It’ll be a right party!”
Greg really smiled now. He glanced down at the navy suit he was wearing. It had faded somewhat but was still good enough to be in the high-rotation section of his closet. Not probably something you’d wear to a Pride march though he suspected.
A whirring sound from the coffee machine caught Greg’s attention, and he watched as Patsy cradled a jug of warm milk. She began humming to herself as she studied the bubbles swirling in the little sea of white. Greg remained silent as he stared at the slouching top of a blueberry muffin gracing the counter. Before long though, a spark of recognition pricked his mind.
“Is that Red Guitar?”
Patsy looked up and blinked at him.
“You like Aussie Crawl?” she asked incredulously.
“I was just going to ask you the same thing,” Greg smiled.
It was all the encouragement Patsy needed. In an instant, she lost all abandon and turned the volume up on her crooning. Grooving her head and grinning as she swirled the milk through the blue powder, she mixed the two textures with a delicate twist of her wrist. Greg stood there transfixed, as the combined pale blue liquid slowly rose to the brim.
“There!” said Patsy. “One blue latte!”
She presented it with a flourish on the bench that separated them. Greg gingerly grabbed a serviette and his experimental drink. Looking over at Patsy he couldn’t help himself.
“You have some blue on your nose,” he indicated with his pinkie.
Patsy rubbed her nose with the back of her hand, somehow missing the blue patch in its entirety.
“Uh, no,” murmured Greg. He reached over with his serviette and swiped the bridge of Patsy’s nose. He awkwardly drew back as she held his gaze. The faintest trace of a smile tugged on her glossy lips.
“Thank you,” she spoke softly.
“Thank you,” replied Greg, closely examining his coffee cup. Gathering his courage once more, he took a small sip and immediately grimaced at the sweet milkiness which bore absolutely no resemblance to robust arabica beans.
“What do you think! Isn’t it great?” asked Patsy.
Greg looked at her for a moment before answering.
“It’s not really my cup of tea to be honest, but,” he rushed on seeing the crestfallen look on her face, “I’m sure it’s really good for me.”
“Well, good on you for trying something new at this stage of your life,” Patsy shrugged.
Greg laughed wholeheartedly this time. A great belly laugh that rippled through him like he feared the blue latte soon would.
“You’re right Patsy,” he wiped a tear from his eye. “You know, maybe these are the halcyon days right now.”
A small smile drew across Patsy’s face. “Maybe,” she whispered.
Greg smiled as he turned and headed towards the door. Holding up his cup, he called out over his shoulder, “Not something I expected to like. But it’s really growing on me.”
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