I know, I missed Monday, and Tuesday and now it’s Wednesday. I’m sorry, I’ll make it a longer story today by way of apology. The power is still a problem here, with outages almost every day. Plus I’m getting packed up to move to a new apartment and I’m travelling in a bit more than a week. So there’s been a lot of things going on, but here I am, and here is Cassie, about to take on her very first staff member.
On the day Saffron was due to begin her first shift I woke early. I hadn’t slept well, but couldn’t relax enough to try to get back to sleep. I decided instead to take the dogs out to the park for a longer walk than usual. Maybe walking would help me to de-stress. I wasn’t sure why I was so tense. I had decided to give Saffron the old coffee run since she already knew it, and it still made business sense to me that as the owner I should be the one to establish the new route.
Putting my worries aside I struggled to get leashes on two exuberant dogs for the short walk to the park. It was just after sunrise, with the early morning birdsong still floating above the trees. Briefly, I remembered a time when I routinely rose at this time due to stress and anxiety, and felt a wave of gratitude that those days were well past me. Here, in my present, BamBam was doing an excited dance on the spot, which made me smile.
“OK you two, let’s go get some exercise.” Scooping up a tennis ball from the bin beside the door we set off down the path. At that hour of the morning it was so still and quiet that it was easy to feel like the only person in the world. My mind drifted off into a fantasy about living in ancient times, when the human population was tiny and had not yet made an impact on the planet.
Once at the park I let the dogs off their leads and they raced to their favourite trees and shrubs for a scent investigation. I tossed the ball in my hand while I waited for them to come back, ready for play. My mind was still enjoying the ancient times fantasy, a bit of a sword and sandals thing happening inside my head. I was just constructing a Brad Pitt/Johnny Depp toga wearing sword flailing prospective companion to my maid when I saw a male figure coming towards me along the path.
My fantasy disappearing in a cloud of sand, I studied the figure. When I first started coming to this park I had been certain a jogger much like this one was a robber or rapist, but it had turned out to be no other than Matt. Squinting in the early morning light I tried to make out if it was him or someone else. There were quite a few local residents who used the park for their daily exercise.
A blur of red that rushed past him and straight to Pebbles and BamBam confirmed that it was indeed Matt, for who else owned an over-enthusiastic red setter in this neighbourhood? I began to walk towards him, and he sped up as he saw me. Soon he was puffing and blowing next to me. I studied his red and sweaty face.
“Why Officer Burnett, you seem to be a bit out of condition.”
“It’s the local mobile coffee van, it has the best doughnuts and you know how we policemen love our doughnuts.”
I snorted. “I will have to start making diet doughnuts just for you.”
Matt leered at me. “Oh yeah? You think I need to diet? I’ll have you know women have swooned over my abs before now. Want to see?”
He reached down to pull up his shirt and I grabbed his hand to stop him. “Ew, no! You’re all sweaty and gross! I’ll take your word for it.”
Matt shrugged. “It’s your loss. I’ll have to find a girl who appreciates my manly scent.”
Pushing down the stab of jealousy that I had no right to feel I threw the ball for the dogs, all of which had come lolloping over when Matt stopped beside me.
“You might want to improve your ‘manly scent’ with a shower first.” Not wanting to dwell on the thought of Matt in the shower I changed the subject. “In any case, I won’t be doing your run for much longer. I’ll be establishing a different run in the new van.”
“Oh you’ve got someone?”
I glanced at him. “I didn’t tell you? Saffron is going to be doing the run temporarily until I find someone permanent. She starts today.”
Grabbing the ball from the slobbery mouth of Barney, Matt threw it much farther than I could manage and we both watched the dogs race off after it, the little legs of Pebbles a blur as she tried her best to keep up with the two bigger dogs.
“I do remember now, yes. But I didn’t know she was starting already. So how long will you stay with her?”
“I think just the week, she already knows the run so it only needs a bit of fine tuning on the customer service and coffee preparation.”
“Hmmmm, and where is the new run going to take you?”
The flirty words were out before I could stop them. “Why, will you miss me? Don’t want another’s hands making your coffee?” Internally I berated myself, what are you doing?
“Well I’m sure Saffron will make a delicious cup of coffee, but she’s not you. I’ve got used to your style. We coffee drinkers are fussy you know.”
“So you’ll only miss the coffee?” Have you lost your mind? Stop flirting!
Matt stared at me for a long, long moment, but I refused to meet his eyes. I knew my face was flaming, I could feel the heat. As BamBam came careening back with the ball I busied myself enticing him to give it up, before throwing it as far as I could.
“You still haven’t told me where the new run will go.”
I felt an unreasonable, irrational burst of disappointment that Matt had ignored my clumsy flirting. Why did I feel it? Why did he ignore what I said? Why was I agonizing over this?
“I’m going to go over the other side of the river, to the northern suburbs. There are not many coffee shops there, and lots more businesses have opened up.”
“That sounds like a good idea, I’m sure you’ll do well there. Will you stay in that run or swap with Saffron once it’s established?”
“Well Saffron’s only temporary, and it will be easier for her to do the original run. Maybe the permanent staff member will be from the northern suburbs, in which case I’d swap. But not for now at any rate.”
“OK, well I’d better get moving. See you later this morning with Saffron.”
He whistled Barney back and they ran off, leaving me feeling frustrated at the conversation and unsure why I felt that way.
“So what’s wrong with you? Changed your mind about me working for you already?”
I stared at Saffron in surprise. “No, why would you say that?”
“Well you haven’t smiled once during this training session. Am I doing that badly, or are we late to leave on the run or what? You’re not yourself this morning.”
I blinked. “I haven’t smiled? Really? I’m fine, there’s nothing wrong and I’m just being my Monday self.”
“I call bullpoopy on that. Did something happen this morning? Did Nathan call or something?”
“No, nothing like that. Nothing happened. Well I ran into Matt this morning when I was exercising the dogs. He was excited to have you doing this run.”
Saffron put down the coffee she had just made and was taste testing. “Oh I see.”
“You see what?”
“You thought he’d be miserable that he won’t see you every day twice a day.”
“Of course not! He did say that he would miss the way I make his coffee.”
“But you wanted him to say he will miss you.”
I felt the truth of her words. “Yes, I think I did. But we don’t have that sort of a relationship.”
Picking up her coffee again Saffron studied me over the top of the mug, reminding me of Sue. “You don’t have that sort of relationship because you haven’t let it happen. Matt isn’t going to push it, you will have to be the one to take it to the next level. You know that already. He’s waiting for you to be ready. But Cassie, you can’t expect him to wait forever.”
Her words echoed in my mind, and Matt’s words about finding someone who would appreciate him rose up to taunt me. He didn’t mean it, he was only teasing me I was sure. But he was a very attractive man, and a wonderful person. He wouldn’t stay single for long. For the first time I wondered why he was single.
“Why do you suppose Matt is single?”
It was Saffron’s turn to blink. “You don’t know? The subject has never come up?”
“Well no, we don’t talk about personal things.”
“What, not even Nathan?”
“No, we’ve never discussed it, or anything personal. Not since it happened anyway.”
“Hmmmmm. You know Cassie, I’m not you or Matt and I’m no expert. But it seems to me that if you want to take your relationship with Matt further you have to add some depth. That means discussing things that are important to you, and discussing personal issues. And, given what happened with Nathan, I think you need to talk about that. It’s your elephant in the room. I don’t think you and Matt can progress until you have at least discussed Nathan.”
I stared at her, speechless. She was right of course. Like Sue, she usually was. Sue too had said something similar on a few occasions, but I had brushed it off. I didn’t want to relive the past, and especially with the man who had saved me.
“Well maybe. But I don’t want to talk about the past, it’s done and gone. We’ve got this far without personal issues messing things up.”
“That’s an interesting choice of words. You think personal issues will mess things up. I doubt that. Look, I know this isn’t the time, we have coffee and doughnuts to sell. But Cassie, it’s been a long time since you and I had a good heart to heart and I think we are overdue. How about we go out Saturday night? Ben is supposed to be home so he can babysit all the kids.”
I began clearing up the van workspace. “You’re right there, we need to get moving. And a night out sounds wonderful, we haven’t done it in ages. But Saffie, Ben hasn’t been home on the weekend for a while. Don’t you want to spend some time with him?”
Saffron banged the lid on the coffee grinder hard enough that I worried for its structural integrity. “Ben is a stranger to his own children. It’s about time he was a dad instead of a visitor. It will do him good to babysit, to stay at home for once while I go out. So, I’ll book us a table at the Riverside?”
I looked at her grim expression and thinned lips. A good heart to heart seemed to be long overdue, it was time I found out what was going on in the mind of my best friend, who was hurting in ways I hadn’t noticed. My problems suddenly seemed trite in comparison to what I was seeing on her face. But, as she said, this was not the time.
“Sounds fantastic, yes book a table! And now, let’s go and start your first day of work proper.”