Starbucks, City. 11.30am, be there.
Darius stood staring down at the note on the wooden dining table. They were intending to meet again, even after he had specifically forbidden her to meet him. He knew what he had to do. He didn't want her being hurt yet again, didn't want to watch her walk through each day forever enveloped in numbness, unable to eat. Last time it had taken all his effort to help her return to a relatively normal thinking mode. She hadn't wanted to return, in fact, she fought him every step of the way. What she really wanted, was to put an end to her misery. The black hole that had become her existence numbed her to life, as she had previously known it. She was in reality, a walking corpse, emotionless, brain dead.
He closed his eyes then and Sandra appeared in the mists before him. Her eyes were large though lifeless and her body sluggish. Her shining long mane of hair hung dull and lank from her head. She had drifted through each day and night for six weeks before anything of significance changed in her. He didn't really have any idea what had brought her around, it had been more of a gradual change. Perhaps the dog had helped, she walked with him each night. Though she did feel enough to complain that the dog wouldn't walk the pace she wanted to. Knowing her though, she would have been walking spurred on by a need to distance herself from her feelings.
Opening his eyes, he reread the note. It was written with ink, only an older person would bother with pen and ink. He knew the man was an intellectual. That's the only way she would have fallen again. Perhaps he, like her previous lover, had managed to find that deep hidden tenacious need she had for giving. The need that long ago she had drowned, just as her father had drowned his unwanted kittens.
The house was cold and silent. He realised the grandfather clock which stood in the hallway at the bottom of the stairs had stopped. The housekeeper had forgotten to adjust the weights again. He looked at his gold wristwatch. 10.45am. She'd be halfway there by now.
He left the house by the front door. When he had come home, he'd only intended on surprising her and joining her for a coffee and one of those delicious mixed chocolate muffins she used to enjoy making. It seemed her last lover had taken even the simple pleasure of cooking from her. Now, he growled under his breath and pushed the accelerator closer towards the floor. The dark green convertible shot forward switching from lane to lane with ease.
Darius pulled up around the corner from the café, climbed out and thumbed a few coins into the meter. He walked straight into the café, then looked around the room. It wasn't a large room, set on an awkward corner of the building, the tables and chairs spread throughout the shop, but it was packed with pre lunch diners. He saw her, sitting with her straight back to him. She picked up her cup and sipped it.
He indicated for a waitress to bring him a cappuccino and cake, moved to the only vacant table at the back of the room by a tall potted plant, then settled to wait. The waitress brought him his coffee, a slice of banana cake and ensured he could feast his eyes on a large amount of her cleavage. He looked, but didn't bother to touch or acknowledge his interest. His interest was five tables away, sipping her coffee.
Halfway through coffee, he arrived. Darius didn't know him. He looked carefully at the man's face as he greeted her. A slit-wound of pain slithered through his heart as he watched the man smile at Sandra. She shook his outstretched hand, offered her cheek for his kiss. Darius half rose from the chair then sank back into it as the older man moved around their table and sat down.
When he threw his car keys onto the small round table, Darius realised the man and Sandra had met before. He wondered how often they had met and had coffee.
Sandra moved in her seat, a frown marred her forehead. Never once did she smile. Never once did she laugh. Her shoulders drooped, her chin dipped a little, not noticeable to an acquaintance, but glaringly obvious to her husband. He watched as the man spoke, she shrank further back into the chair. Her feet clad in smart black court shoes slid in an almost lazy manner under the table. One foot, her right one, wrapped itself around the table leg. She had anchored herself to the spot.
The man drank the last of his coffee urging her, with a nod of his head, to do the same. Then he stood, held his arm out for her and waited. She drained her cup, putting it back on the saucer with a clang Darius could hear above the general noise in the cafe, turned and draped her red coat over her arm.
As they left the café, Darius followed. He watched them enter the seedy hotel. Paint peeled from the walls, upholstery moulted from the mustard velvet furniture. Through the foyer they walked. Her footsteps slowing, almost dragging along the linoleum floor. Her head bowed in subservience to the act she was about to commit. They rode the lift upwards in silence.