Excuse Me Please

Danny had a lunch date with Sophie at the Botanical Garden’s new cafe. Ever since he’d met her at the seed fixture, he’d been feeling crazy. Her long arms and legs, black hair and big brown eyes, were all he thought about.

He got there early and found a table for two. He put a copy of the local free rag, The Answer, on his seat and went to the counter. The raw soup looked good, so did the organic sandwiches, but he’d wait to eat till she arrived. He got a fair trade coffee and returned to his table. Where was his table? It seemed to have disappeared. Then he spotted The Answer still sitting on his seat, and on the chair opposite was a woman in a blue-flowered dress, filing her nails.

“Excuse me,” said Danny. “This table is taken. I just went to get a coffee.”

She ignored him and continued filing her nails. He repeated, “Excuse me, this table is taken. I’m sitting here.”

“Go right ahead,” she said in a voice like gargling breadcrumbs. “Sit there. I’m sitting here.”

Danny had worked as a teacher, and was not easily riled. He said, “But I’m meeting someone. They’re coming along soon. I need a table for two.”

“Well no one’s here now. This seat was free.” The woman turned away from him as if that was the end of the conversation.

Now he got angry. “Look lady, I’ve got a lunch date. This table is taken already. Can’t you sit somewhere else?” She held her nails to the light to examine them, but said nothing.

He said, “Look, you don’t even have a drink. This isn’t a street shelter.” He felt mean as he said this, but was in no mood for retraction. Besides, she wasn’t homeless; she was wearing a nice blue dress, and applying coral nail polish. She was just being difficult.

They sat in stalemate – he sipping coffee, and she continuing to redden her fingertips, which looked like little bloody skewers. Eventually she said, “So where is this lunch date of yours? I presume it’s a woman. It doesn’t look like she’s coming.” Now Danny said nothing. “Anyway, why should groups be more important than single people? We can sit where we want, you know.”

Ahh, thought Danny, so that’s it. She saw a guy by himself and was hoping to hook up, and is now annoyed. He was sorry if she was lonely but that wasn’t his fault or business. “Look, we’re not a couple, we’re single people too, but if all goes well, we may become a couple. Why don’t you…”

Just then Sophie arrived. “So sorry I’m late,” she said, and smiled at the interloper. “I see you’ve brought a friend.”

“She’s no friend of mine,” said Danny. “She stole your seat. She won’t go.”

There was an awkward silence, and Sophie said, “Danny, why don’t you get me a coffee, and sorry, what’s your name? Alli? And get Alli one too. Well, don’t keep us ladies waiting. Off you go.”

Danny was dumbstruck. Both women stared at him. He had no choice but to go. What was this Sophie playing at? he wondered.

Sophie believed in the Law of Attraction. This woman is here for a reason, she thought. Let’s find out why.

During the course of the afternoon, Sophie and Danny discovered that Alli was never given seats as a child. Bags and coats appeared on them suddenly as she approached. Now she sought out seats and never gave them up willingly. People were like that; they were weak, distrustful characters. Her family were Luddites who had chosen not to have their children enhanced with microchips, the reason that Alli was unable to connect with anyone around her. Almost everybody was integrated by internal social media; she was always alone.

Danny and Sophie yearned to be different. This was their chance. Imagine telling their friends all about meeting Alli.

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