I’d received another call from Lil on Wednesday evening. Fortunately she was feeling much better but wasn’t going to be able to make Breakfast Club once again.
‘Lil are you sure you wouldn’t rather switch to Mondays with the other OAPs?’ I joked.
‘I don’t think so Boulevardier. I can’t believe the charity meeting has changed to a Thursday morning. It’s only once a month and it’s more than my life’s worth to miss it. I can’t bear all those moaning old biddies.’
‘In that case, we’ll miss you, and I’ll call you later to fill you in,’ I said.
‘Oh, so you’ll still go ahead then?’ Lil sounded disappointed that Breakfast Club wasn’t cancelled without her presence.
‘Yes of course we will, but it won’t be the same without you.’ I tried to sound disappointed at her absence.
I was actually looking forward to some time with Armando. I’d been spending more time with him lately, vicariously through Breakfast Club but we were both so focused on Lil we rarely talking to, and about, each other.
I arrived at 10am to keep the traditions of the Breakfast Club upheld. Armando was behind the counter and as the café was almost empty he put down his tea-towel and came straight over. He was wearing his trademark cotton shirt, with several buttons undone, exposing a hairy chest, and long cargo shorts with white trainers. His hair was annoyingly messy and perfectly on style. I raised my hand to my own hair to check that the quiff was on point.
‘Lil won’t be joining us Armando.’
‘I know, she called,’ he responded.
A pot of Assam arrived with two cups and saucers and the waitress stood poised to take our food order.
‘I’ll have smoked salmon and scrambled egg please,’ I said.
‘Same,’ said Armando raising one eyebrow at the variation in my usual order. This was indeed a new day.
‘Café is a bit empty,’ Armando said.
‘Is it still going well? Do you still get a lot of passing trade?’
‘Some but could do with more, but is fine.’
‘Is life good Armando?’
‘S’ok I suppose…’ Armando didn’t sound convinced.
I poured a second cup of tea using the time to think how I could ask more.
‘What do you like to do outside work, aside from looking out for older ladies?’ I asked.
‘I used to spend time at home with my partner.’
Two plates arrived with steaming, yellow scrambled egg piled on wholemeal toast and peppered with pink.
‘Yes, he split with me six weeks ago. ‘Too much time at work’ he said.’ Armando sounded quite upset.
I realised that this has befallen him during our acquaintance and yet Armando hadn’t mentioned it. In fact we hadn’t noticed any change in his demeanour either. This was not typical of the continental type at all. I would have to tread softly.
‘I’m sorry to hear that Armando. I hope you’ve got lots of people around you to provide support, but if you ever need…‘
We were interrupted by a loud cooing from the door.
‘Armando, Wayne, how lovely to find you both here.’
It was Mavis Bellamy beaming at us as she made her way across the café and sat down next to Armando without being invited.
As she pulled off her black leather gloves and started unbuttoning her coat she asked ‘How are you both? Do you have a spare teacup? I’m gasping for a cuppa.’
‘Tea is stewed,’ Armando said as he signalled to the waitress for a fresh pot and clean cup. He might not be happy about the invasion but she was still a customer. He had to remain neutral.
‘Yes, fine Mavis. Are you not at the charity committee meeting?’ I asked.
‘Oh of course, that is on right now. I forgot. I sit on more senior committees.’ I’m not certain but I’m sure Mavis had an evil grin as she delivered this line.
I nodded and took after mouthful of buttery scrambled egg. This was awkward.
‘Ah, and of course Lilian is there. What a shame. I hadn’t thought of that. She’d normally be here with you.’ I could feel Mavis’ sinister grin spreading.
‘How fortunate that I was passing. What did I miss?’ Mavis was almost bouncing excitedly like a child at this point.
I poured a cup of fresh tea for Mavis. ‘Nothing, we were just catching up on our week and enjoying breakfast.’
My mind flashed to Lil. Goodness, what would she make of Mavis’ appearance, and not only that, an appearance at our table. This was not good.
Mavis raised the cup to her lips and I thought she was going to offer a toast. As she swallowed the liquid her smile disappeared and she pulled quite the grimace. She put her cup down and it clattered irritatingly on the saucer.
‘What is this? I thought it was tea,’ Mavis asked.
‘It is tea, Assam tea,’ said Armando.
‘It’s got a nasty taste to it.’ Mavis’ tone was staccato.
Yes indeed Mavis, this morning indeed had developed a horrid taste.