mirror had been a gift from her Aunt Joan on her twenty
first birthday and, like her Aunt, was rather aged and
decrepit. Its French, you see - very
old! exclaimed Joan as the gilded mirror revealed
itself beneath mountains of tissue paper. And very
expensive mouthed her mother, glancing suspiciously
over her shoulder, so be careful, but from
the first moment Nicole had laid eyes on its three
faces, she had hated it - it was ugly, almost vulgar in
its ornate and blatant call for vanity. Why would anyone
need to see themselves from three different angles, all
at once ?, she thought, whilst thanking her Aunt
profusely for the honour of receiving such an heirloom.
However, as much as she disliked it, today she was
finding it decidedly hard to keep from gazing at herself
in it - from every angle. She didnt scrutinise any
particular feature - she just gazed into the glass,
letting her image flow over her, wondering how it was
that all the different bits made her look the way she
And what way was that exactly? Who knows she
cried, throwing her arms out in an attempt to dismiss her
new-found personal awe but clearing her dresser top
clumsily instead. The sensation of Deja vu struck her as
she bent resignedly to pick every thing up. How do
you expect to control your life if you cant even
control your own limbs? her mothers voice
echoed from countless other occasions Maybe I should blue
tack everything down .
She made her way to the kitchen she, still suffering with
self-fascination. Indeed the glass panel of the kitchen
door held her up a good five minutes as she repeatedly
cat-walked towards it, trying to pass judgement on the
images presented to her. Bloody Adolescent . She decided
to make breakfast;a pursuit more worthy than idle
adoration. Luckily the pan she used to heat the milk had
long since lost its reflective silver sheen. She began to
set a place for herself at the table but instead became
entirely adsorbed in the distortions which her spoon
provided. Big Nose, Little Nose, Fat lips, Skinny lips,
No chin, Witch-chin, Egg-head, No head, Sour smell,
Sizzling sound, Huh?
Realising what shed done, she ran to the cooker,
whimpering with frustration. IDIOT !!. She removed the
eruptive milk pan from the hob and surveyed the extent of
damage. There were still streams of curdled milk escaping
through cracks between the gas rings and hob-top and the
cooker was covered in a sticky film of separated milk,
her pan was burnt and smelly - completely ruined.
Bloody Hell, Nicole, she scolded herself
aloud as she tried to scour the pan out, soon giving up
the effort. Fuck it . She dumped it in the bin.
Shed tend to the cooker later. Yeah, sure.
She decided that shed treat herself to something
special for breakfast, she was sick of muesli and hot
milk, toast and marmalade, maybe shed try that
cafe, on the edge of Dillworth St. - what was it called ?
-. she passed by it every morning on her way to
Costume Continent, where she worked.
Shed always thought of people who went to that cafe
as terribly......well, leisured, but also very organised,
in a strange way, - that they managed to slot caffeine
sipping and croissant munching into their obviously busy
and hugely successful lives...... Well, the
clientele, as they were known in those chic
chrome and maplewood surroundings, certainly gave off
that impression - the rest of the working world had to
make do with take-away coffee and flashed past the window
enviously. Ive never looked organised or busy in my
life - chaotic and flustered were more her style,
shed never look like she belonged to a place like
that, but then again maybe it was only the calming
effects of the serene cafe that gave the
clientele the illusion of
perfection.....Id love to find out . Well, she
hadnt anything pressing to do that morning - it was
her day off, which perhaps explained her
absent-mindedness . She hadnt had a day off in
months. She didnt quite know why they had been
denied her . Mr. Leahy -Please, do call me James,
Daaahling- seemed never to have heard of the
concept bloody swindler and seemed to assume an air of
completely exclusive concentration funnily enough
whenever she attempted to approach him about it.
Yes, this bit of time off was long overdue. She had
intended to go shopping in a garden centre to replace the
terracotta pot shed broken in her mothers the
other day. Honestly Nicole, you havent an
ounce of grace in your body....why dont you look
where youre going, dear Gee, thats a
useful hint, Mum.....Ah feck it- less of the martyr act -
she knew that if she didnt go to the cafe today,
she never would.
Today is the day I become Clientele. she told
herself (using what she imagined to be her most
convincing Go-get-em accent). She was
trying to emulate the advice of the Simple Guide to
self-assertion manual which had absorbed her for
three wasteful hours lthe previous week. In trying to
pluck up the courage to buy it she had sensed the
suspicion of an over efficient rude, more like shop
tidier being directed towards her, He seemed to follow
her all over the shop and so eventually she had left it
behind her. Pa-the-tic She snatched her bag from the
kitchen counter and ignoring the fact that she had just
knocked the phone over in the process, waltzed
determinedly out the door.
However, as she approached the turn-off for Dillworth St.
she began to feel uneasy. Having examined her appearance
in the reflections of every shop window on the way, she
had come to the conclusion (about five shopfronts back ),
that she was somehow now different to how she had ever
looked before. She had then managed to convince herself
that her body and poise were flawed in every way humanly
possible. But surely if I am that ugly someone would have
let me know before now ...lessened the blow . She fled to
the next window (her breath-fog had obscured her view at
the last one) and here her paranoia was quelled. Maybe it
was the way the male window dresser winked at her as she
gazed at the window in bewilderment who knows? but she
knew it wasnt purely a physical thing that made her
look different, something wasnt quite right.......
she couldnt pinpoint what it might be, nor narrow
it down to any one physical feature. It seemed each
reflection provided her with an image that didnt
seem to fit in with how she had ever previously perceived
herself to be. Overwhelmed by a sudden sense of
expectancy she turned away from the window. A similarly
overwhelming sense of hunger also took hold, urging her
to restart her journey. Yet Again.
Cafe_....Cafe_...... What was its name?. As
she racked her brains.
She found the walk somewhat more trying than usual. Every
step was an effort. It was as though everyone else knew
where she was going and were occupied solely wioth
preventing her from getting there. Was it her imagination
or was she the only one headed in that particular
direction? Her anxiety grew with the effort of forward
motion. She bumped and stumbled against people with every
step she took, and with each collision she felt her
energy being sapped. People looked at her sharply each
time as she excused herself, why were they glaring? She
cowered beneath their gaze. It was as if they were using
these brief and abrupt forms of physical contact to drain
her will and prevent her from reaching her destination.
Images of a universal conspiracy against her flashed
across her mind, before reason managed to re-assert
itself within her thoughts.
Its eight-fifty in the morning, Nicole . She
laughed at herself as she recognised the tall buildings
all around her ; the same ones she walked past every
morning but she was not used to walking with such a
rushed and fierce looking crowd around her - seemingly
the area employed more people than she had ever
accredited. It occurred to her that she had her
bosses early-opening regime to thank for the less
strenuous exertions she made every other morning in her
efforts to get to work. Grateful ? To him?. Imagine,
bearing gratitude for someone who has been the bain of my
life, one of the main reasons for hating the job so much.
She tried not to smile as she compared the expressions of
those around her with what her own would be like on any
She was so absorbed in trying to convey her sympathy to
those swarming around her, without appearing
condescending oh of course that, before she noticed it,
she was upon the threshold of the cafe. Panic struck -
she couldnt do a volte-face now. That would simply
serve only to make her look foolish to the
clientele already inside, who seemed to her
to be mocking her indecision. She kept on walking. An
overwhelming sense of disappointment enveloped her.
Little coward . Ill never be clientele.
She was just wondering how she could go back without any
additional loss of face, when the valiant efforts of a
weary looking, yet cheerful man at a news-stand grabbed
her attention. She realised he would provide her with a
viable means of returning to the cafe, image unscathed.
Well Done . Thinking of all the other people she had seen
in the cafe with newspapers she joined the queue. This
way I wont be wasting time, probably how everyone
else in the cafe justifies their morning treat!. The
image of herself walking purposefully into that cafe,
The Times tucked comfortably under her arm,
came to her as a form of mental congratulations, causing
her to smirk indulgently. Mornin Luv,
whatll it be? The words seemed to echo in her
head, as if they had not been said to her for the first
time. Looking up she recognised the suspicion with which
the newsman ( having observed Nicole and her inane grin
for a few seconds now) regarded her. Aahm she
muttered, her eyes darting from bundle to bundle of
stacked newsprint. Concentrate. Her mind had turned blank
with the unexpected call for decision. None of the
newspaper titles seemed familiar to her, the letters were
blurred and any attempt to focus in on them made her feel
dizzy. She blinked purposefully and shook her head as if
to rid her mind of the demons of confusion. The Times,
Nicole, say it. Trying to refrain from embarrassing her
the man gently offered her some assistance, eager to
serve the other punters. The News-ah-the-World, is
it luv? Yes Yes she replied, rather
urgently, in the hope of conveying some form of sanity.
Thats the one she added cheerfully.
Good God! Thats Forty-five pence to you
luv....take care now, he added meaningfully, as she
placed the money firmly in his hand and turned unabashed
to face the inquiring faces of those behind her. Lost,
once again, in her own thoughts, she moved with light
steps towards the cafe and was already too far away to
hear the newsmans declaration of Not quite
the full shilling as he served the next punter.
Tucking the Paper under her arm, she grasped the metal
bar of the heavy cafe door and found herself pleasantly
bathed in sound. Clinking coffee cups, sizzling sausages
and the low hum from bread ovens. Matching these were the
rich aromas floating from the kitchens, they aroused her
hunger pangs even further, filling her nostrils and
making her taste buds tingle. But before she had even
begun to take in her physical surroundings, an eager
waiter made a hasty beeline towards her. Good
morning, would you like to eat here or take away?,
he was immaculate, reminding her of a doll she had had as
a child. The perfectly formed china face, with long
lashes painted onto its eggshell coloured cheeks, and a
beautifully fashioned velvet suit which comprised of not
only a trousers and jacket but also a tiny pair of
miniature shoes with real leather laces and embroidered
tips. However, it was not only what the doll had looked
like that reminded her of the waiter, but also the
mechanism of speech it had beneath its exquisite
clothing, activated by a touch of its belly button.
Eating alone or waiting for a friend?......
Smoking or non-smoking....... Window
seat or booth he rattled out impersonally, much as
the doll would ask How do you do? or
Would you like to play Such charisma they
share!. Alone, non-smoking and booth she
replied with a strength and decisiveness of voice hardly
recognisable as her own. The Doll, shoes squeaking and
bum wiggling, led her to her seat and before she had even
managed to glance at the menu he held out to her, he
seemed to de-materialise.
She didnt care, she wanted time to adjust herself -
the plush seat cushioning her back, the immaculate table
and various gleaming sauce and seasoning dispensers
seemed to cry out for a DO NOT TOUCH sign. I could get
used to this. The Doll ushered a cutesie young couple to
a nearby centre table, reminding her of the purpose of
her visit: breakfast.
The couple held hands under the table, occasionally
touching each others glowing facial features
lovingly. Public place - give it a rest . She imagined
the words they gently passed from lip to ear and felt
incomplete and empty. Hunger. Feeling intrusive she
sought solace in the sumptuous descriptions of Breakfast
Dishes. Chocolate Crepe with maple syrup and
strawberries Mmmmm............. Exotic
Fruit-basket with natural bio-lowfat yoghurt
(optional) Feeling full already?...............
Lightly crisped bacon, turnover eggs and a
selection of Herb sausages, served with sauté
potatoes Stodge. The selection was certainly varied
but the decision did not lead to her usual sense of
Would Madam like to order? the Doll appeared
from behind her, placing her complementary mineral water
on the table with a flourish of napkin, he smiled his
cracked little smile at her encouragingly. Id
like a few more moments to decide, if I could, thank
you she returned to her menu, as he forced a
certainly madam through his clenched teeth.
Im impressed - No clammy palms, No Ums or Aahs,
No...... Why was that man pointing at her? A boyish
looking blonde guy seemed to be in mid-explanation with
the Doll who was looking perturbed and uneasy. Eventually
he handed over a menu before speeding off towards the
swinging kitchen doors. Who was that man ? Did she know
him? She did vaguely recognise that sideways smirk. Stay
Away, Blondie Boy.. He was headed straight for her,
wearing an ominous look of recognition. Ah, Shit anyway.
She tried to convey her yearning for solitude and
remembering her paper, quickly opened it out, exposing
the bright News of the World title for all to
see. Oh! Great impression, very classy. Desperately she
mashed the front and back pages together and threw the
paper on the seat beside her. Nicole, Howre
things?.............mind if I join you? Great, he
knows me and .......who is he? He had well established
himself in the seat opposite before she told him to go
ahead and take a seat. Eh, Why?
Hows business these days, huh?
Er, Fine, fine..you know.... He must be one
of Leahys cronies. Great! Shop talk, just what
Im looking for!
Skiving off is it? Or do you always get to have
such a leisurely breakfast?
No, I.....was.....just....... Anger rising
Planning this evenings viewing! he
nodded at the paper beside her, opened at the TV page.
Actually its my day off thanks and Ive
been due it for like six weeks, so Its not as if
Whoa...Okay, Okay, no offence, I didnt mean
anything Not half, Smart arsed little Twit
Easily flustered arent we? Im quite
sure Costumes R us or what ever will do just
fine without you for one day....although they might miss
their mannequin! the side-ways smirk reappeared as
he sniggered silently.
Thats who he is, that smug little smirky guy
standing at the shop window last night!
Memories of that horrible occasion leaped up from deep
within her psyche where shed struggled to bury
them. Just as she had been cashing up at six
oclock, preparing for late night opening, Mr. Leahy
had walked in, to collect the cash, or so she had
With him came the most nightmarish of customers, a Play
Director called Lorenzo who, having misplaced his leading
lady insisted that Nicole try on every outfit he thought
might be remotely suitable.
Youre just exactly the right proportions,
Daaahling, just right for the role of
Clarrissa - a name he rolled off his
tongue with such Lusty Leer that Nicole began to feel
decidedly vulnerable. Standing in her various 18th
Century Bustiere gowns, which exposed rather alot of her
suddenly voluptuous cleavage, Lorenzo declared her
Magnificente or Exquisite but
always A little too staid, perhaps? or
a little too conservative?. Embarrassed and
exasperated, Nicole hadnt quite known what to do,
especially with James, Daaahling following
her every move.
What exactly is it that you are looking for
Mr....eh ....Lorenzo she had asked hopefully.
Let-ah me see he replied, continuing his
in-depth assessment of her proportions. Somezing
more-ah....how you say?...Ah! Flamboyant! Yes
Flamboyant he cried, eyeing the 17th Century
prostitute gowns behind her. It was then, as she turned (
to flee), that she had first set eyes upon the man who
now sat opposite her. He had worn the same smug grin then
as he did now and was obviously quite enjoying their
little fashion parade. Something about the way he had
looked at her had made her feel more self-conscious and
more aware of her state of undress in a way that even
Lorenzo ever could. He had seen her utter embarrassment
and realised her complete inability to do anything to
quell it. She had allowed herself to succumb to this
situation, she hadnt questioned it or tried to
guide its outcome. But wasnt that just always
what happened? Wasnt her life a series of these
situations, running into one another, day after day? The
actions and reactions of others monopolising every
situation. Fear of being inadequate always stopped her
from attempting to gain control. No wonder she had been
so obsessed with how she looked all morning! Having
observed her - for what...fifteen minutes?...half an
hour?- this man had seen a side of her that she herself
refused to acknowledge, shed always hidden it, Or
so I thought. So how then was it so obvious to
this.....this... stalker?. Was it that obvious to
everyone else? It suddenly dawned on her that that was
what she had spent the whole morning trying to discover.
Now hes playing with you Nicole, challenging you.
Enjoyed that little spectacle, didnt
Found it amusing, yeah? I suppose it brightened up
your day! she smiled sweetly. Dont give it
Ah, come off it, I mustve looked so stupid
that night, Lorenzo pushing every gown he could on me and
me just taking it.....putting them on
Lorenzo...that was the foreign looking bloke?
Uh-huh...the one making a complete and
Fool of you!
Revenge ! Revenge !
Still smiling, she summoned the Doll with a little wave.
Ready to Order, Madam?
Yes please, Madam would like to order one cunning,
obnoxious Git to be removed from her table
Im Sorry....? the Doll asked
Suddenly Speechless, Smirky?
This man is not your husband?
My Husband?.....my bloody husband.....he most
certainly is not !
Darling, dont make a scene now! hissed
Shut-up, you freak...did you follow me here or
something....plan all this?
Feeling exposed? Smirky, vulnerable?
This really is quite unusual, Madam, I....
Yes isnt it? - Most unusual - that when I ask
to sit alone, you allow some unidentified, obsessive
weirdo to join me at my table and even more unusual that,
although Ive asked you to remove him, hes
still sitting there!
But Madam, he said...
Yea, I know what he said. Her voice rose
considerably at this point, not in her usual hysterical
fashion, but with authority. Listen, Ill save
you the trouble
Picking up her bag she glanced at the dumb-struck
expression of the face opposite her.
Madam will not be eating with us?
Ignoring the Doll, Nicole turned to leave.
But Madam, your paper....
Give it to the stalker she called, much to
the shock and astonishment of the Clientele
all around her. Well, who cares about them
She swung open the exit door hearing the plaintive plea
of Smirky I only wanted to ask her out
Pa-the-tic she exclaimed to all who would
listen, but as she stepped onto the street she had a
different thought....He did you a favour. He did you a
Heading in the direction of the nearest garden centre,
she stopped first at the news-stand, bought The
Times and continued on her way.
Creative Writing index