Teresa Sweeney is from Galway and holds a MA in Writing from NUIG. She has had work published in Eleven Magazine, Wordlegs, Boyne Berries, The Galway Review, Ropes, Outburst Magazine, and was a runner up in WOW! Awards 2011. Teresa was shortlisted in Over the Edge New Writer of the Year, 2014, and 2017. She was a featured emerging writer reading at Over the Edge in November 2014, and read at Cúirt Literary Festival in April 2015.
Teresa’s stories can be read on www.teresasweeney.com. She has recently published STARS IN THE GROUND, a collection of short stories available to download now on Amazon.
An Áit Eile is proud to present a sample of the new collection, entitled ‘Skinny Latte Bitch’ below. Check it out!
Skinny Latte Bitch
You know how it is when you know someone so well? You know their expressions, their habits. It is like you know what they’ll do next before they know it themselves.
That’s how it is with Frank. For example, I know that he will continuously stir his tea while adding milk. I know that he will blow on it twice before taking a sip.
I would have liked to sit with him, watch his eyes crinkle when he smiles at me. Frank has the sexiest smile.
But it is busy this morning. Too many stressed looking faces draped in dull dark suits. They shuffle along by the counter, staring at their smartphones, or talking loudly like lunatics. Barely a glance in my direction.
‘Good morning, what can I get you?’ I say over and over, a million times a day.
I recognise them as they come in the door, the customers. If they order in here more than once in the same month, I will remember them. It is a gift that I have.
This woman comes in every Monday to Thursday morning just after twenty past eight. She is probably my age, but she is a miserable looking cow. Her face is so white and her hair so black, and then she wears this bright red lipstick just to complete the look. She might have money, well actually she does have money, the labels spell that out, but she sure as shit has no style.
She doesn’t stay here for her ‘skinny latte’; she takes it away. A big paper cup to match her two-piece and leather briefcase. It is all about The Look. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she never even drank it.
She always smiles and says hello to Frank. I don’t know why. It bugs me. She doesn’t know him, and it isn’t like she stops up to try and talk to him. I think she is attempting (badly) to flirt with him. It pisses me right off. She kind of saunters by his table, trying to sway her narrow, bony hips. It doesn’t work. In fact it makes her look like she has a limp. Then she does this slow head turn thing, where she glances back over her shoulder at him. I swear I’ll swing for her one of these days.
I should say it to him. We would have a right laugh. But, to be honest, he probably doesn’t even notice her, he is only interested in me. And I am not about to point out to him that another woman is giving him attention. Even though her skeletal boy body would be completely unattractive to him, I’m not about to put thoughts into his head.
Anyway, today isn’t Monday to Thursday. It’s Friday. And it isn’t 08:20, it’s gone half past. But in walks the same skinny bitch I was just telling you about.
I mean, it doesn’t bother me who comes in or when. I serve anyone, whether they are pleasant or not, I will still make sure that they get the same standard of service as the person before them.
She isn’t staring at her smartphone today, or talking loudly into her earpiece like someone demented. She isn’t even wearing a suit. She is in jeans.
And she is looking, practically staring, right at Frank.
He hadn’t looked up when she came in the door, I would have noticed. He was engrossed in whatever paper he was reading. I prefer the broadsheets myself.
So anyway, she shuffles along by the counter, doing her limp/sway thing. She passes out all the pastries of course. In my opinion, she could have done with a few croissants. No harm at all. So she reaches the till and I say, ‘good morning, what can I get you?’
‘Latte please,’ she says.
I am taken aback by the ‘please’ bit, but I keep my composure.
‘Skinny or regular?’ I say.
‘Just a regular, thanks,’ she says.
I stare at her. I am shocked. And in my defence, she has been coming here on the same days, same times, with the same order for months, and never once has there been a please or thank you. And certainly never a latte with full fat milk.
‘Right. Regular latte so?’ I say.
I want her to know what she has just ordered. Sometimes people get distracted and make mistakes.
‘Yes please,’ she says.
Maybe when she takes off the suit it is like a persona peeling off. You know, like wearing a mask? Evolving into the character? Like that one from X-Men, who can be different people?
I turn to the coffee machine and start to make the latte. I steam the milk, and I keep thinking, she will not drink this.
I glance over my shoulder to see if she is giving me funny looks, or trying to call me.
I cannot believe what I see.
There she is, sitting down at Frank’s table, all smiles and teeth.
They are laughing. Her hand reaches across the table and pats his arm, his tanned muscular arm.
In my state of shock and confusion, I feel the jug of scalding hot milk drop from my hand and onto the floor.
I ignore the milk all over the place, ignore the customers waiting in the queue. There is no stopping me now.
‘What are you doing?’ I say to her.
‘Excuse me?’ she says.
She actually has the nerve to smile at me. I am going to slap the smug bitch across the face. I don’t blame Frank here. He has done nothing to encourage her. Not in all the months she was in here trying to wiggle her flat pancake arse.
‘What do you think you’re doing sitting there?’ I say.
I am trembling I am so mad. The bitch playing dumb.
‘I’m sorry, is there a problem?’ she says.
Frank sits there, saying nothing.
I pull back my arm and shove my fist forward with every bit of strength I’ve in me.
I feel the bones of her nose crunch and grind under my knuckles. She slams back in her chair, hitting the tiled floor hard on impact.
All of a sudden, Frank is on his feet. The customers around me move silently further and further away. Frank practically dives down onto the floor, cradling her in his arms. Rocking her and getting blood all over his nice white shirt.
She is roaring now. Screaming and crying as if she is half dead. Looking at me like a frightened deer. All that fragile woman shit won’t work with me, or Frank.
‘What is wrong with you? You psycho, what the fuck did you hit her for?’ Frank says.
I didn’t expect Frank to be impressed with me, even though I am only defending him, and myself. But I wasn’t expecting that outburst.
‘She shouldn’t have sat there,’ I say.
He is completely overreacting. He needs to calm down.
‘Will someone please call an ambulance, and the Gards,’ he says, looking around him at the customers who are starting to come back to life again.
‘I already did,’ says a voice near the door. They are slowly starting to move in on us, shuffling forward, their smartphones held out to watch us.
‘How could you do that to her? You are a fucking animal,’ says Frank.
There is no need for him to start insulting me. Maybe I went a bit far. But she really wound me up this time. I can only hold my patience for so long. And she is fine anyway. The blood isn’t flowing so fast now.
‘She is fine,’ I say.
She says something, but all I see is blood and spit dripping from her mouth.
Next thing is, I hear the sirens outside. The blue lights from the Garda car shining in through the glass door.
Before I get the chance to explain, again, to Frank, my hands are being pulled behind my back and handcuffs are clamped tight around them. I am being dragged to the door.
‘I did it for you Frank,’ I say, turning my head and shouting back to him.
‘Who the fuck is Frank?’ he says.