Thursday 5 January 2023

The Street Café by Lynn Clement, café noir

My grandmother’s heels clickety-clacked on the cobbles as she walked past the terraced café each day for a week. That’s how long it took the waiter in the white apron to notice her. She sat at the tiled table, ordered du Vin et du café noir, and looked sophisticated. She told me that.

The waiter’s apron pocket jingled with centimes from satisfied customers. His burnt-umber eyes smiled into hers. She made the fare last for one hour. That weekend, they walked out together.

The morning after their wedding, my grandfather threw open the shutters. The smell of croissants and coffee drifted up from the street café. He brought my grandmother breakfast in bed. They stayed there all day, listening to the chatter and the clatter from the street below. Smelling the boulangerie, la fleur d’oranger, and la mer on the breeze. He told me that.

Years later, the wheels of a pushchair rattled over the cobbles and my grandfather would look up. He would get one of his waiters to serve, while he sat with his wife and child. They would drink café noir together. The child would have un jus. They were happy. They told me that.

My mother grew up in her father’s bistro, listening to the old men still talking about the war. They played chess and smelled of their rolled cheroots. She was twenty when my grandfather waved her off to England. The wheels of her suitcase clunked over the rounded stones. She came back for the smells of her father’s café and the look in his deep brown eyes. My mother told me that.

Soon after, a small pink scooter bobbled over the pavement; I would only stop when my grandfather called me for tisane. He sat with me on the terrace, in the warmth of the sun, and told me of the old days. He spoke about love, and I listened.

Now, my grandmother’s walking stick clickety-clacks on the stones. My mother gives her a fresh white handkerchief and she dabs her eyes. I slip my black-clad arm through hers. She speaks of a love that’s lost but will always be remembered.

About the author

Lynn Clement is a regular writer for CafeLit. Her first collection of short stories was published last year by Chapeltown Books. Lynn also has a story in Aftermath and a story in The Best of CafeLit 11 #amazonthecityofstories 

You can follow Lynn on (1) Lynn Clement | Basingstoke | Facebook 

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