I hadn’t spoken to Lil this week. I knew she was feisty but her performance last week was perturbing. Was it justified or was she a little too antagonised? I meant to read up online to see if sudden outbursts were a sign of ‘losing your marbles’, clinically speaking. Since I’d known her she’d had a few falls, been ill, and revealed an angry streak.
I walked to the café tired from a busy week in the day job and hoped for a pleasant and serene Breakfast Club. I pushed the door open and could see two figures at our table. One was Lil. She waved me over – lips pursed.
‘Morning Wayne, do you remember Bill?’
Bill… the name was familiar but I couldn’t recollect so I walked to Lil’s side of the table to get a facial view. He was a portly older gentleman, rather red in the face, and then I saw the overfull chequered waistcoat and it all became clear.
‘Yes of course. The Bingo Caller. How are you Bill?’ I reached across to shake his hand.
‘Good morning. You’re the journal writer? I remember you from the bingo too,’ Bill said.
I nodded and looked round for Armando who gave a quick shake of his head. After last week he wasn’t joining us in case there was further drama. He had to stay neutral and couldn’t afford to be seen to take sides. He couldn’t discriminate against customers. I was going to have to navigate these dangerous waters with intrepid resolve.
A fresh pot of tea arrived and I ordered porridge with blueberries.
‘So what brings you to the café this morning Bill?’ I asked.
‘I was worried –‘
‘What he means is that interfering dragon has been spreading rumours that I’m going bonkers, and have developed a form of Tourette’s. He’s been following me around since Age Club. It’s bloody annoying. I’m quite capable,’ said Lil.
‘Mrs Bellamy was worried and said you had a turn my dear, and I’ve never been one to refuse the chance to help a damsel in distress,’ answered Bill. He sounded earnest.
Breakfasts arrived and whatever was happening hadn’t stemmed Lil’s appetite. A Full English sat before her and she was momentarily distracted. Bill had the same, although I wasn’t sure there was any room in his waistcoat. The buttons strained as he anticipated the taste of sausage. I wanted to shout out ‘No stop, you’ll shoot us all when those buttons explode!’ as Bill dipped a mushroom into his egg and raised the fork to his expectant mouth.
Bill chomped and feeling revived from a mouthful of delicious breakfast turned to me and said as an aside ‘I’ve always wanted to look after this one, and a bird in the hand is worth two… you know what I mean.’ Bill winked at me and chuckled.
I looked down and stirred the blueberries into the porridge. I do love it when they meld with the oats and create a fruity breakfast – one of my five a day to boot.
‘Top up Lil?’ I asked.
‘Yes please Wayne. I don’t know why Armando hasn’t sat down with us. Armando, Armando, could you please get a fresh pot and come and join us. Bill can move over.’
‘And out,’ She added under her breath.
‘So what happens next?’ asked Bill with a mouthful of bacon, pieces of which projected in Lil’s direction.
‘Bill, you really don’t have to follow me around. I’m fine. Mavis is causing trouble as per normal. We had a small disagreement and she’s blown it out of all proportion.’
I decided not to contradict Lil outwardly as the argument had not been trivial and was quite the detonation. However, on the other hand I didn’t see that Lil needed a constant chaperone, even with his amorous intentions as a bonus.
‘I enjoy it Lil,’ Bill answered firmly and looked passionately at Lil.
‘I don’t and I don’t want you to do it,’ said Lil without a hint of amour in her demeanour.
‘Stop playing hard to get. We haven’t got that much time at our age.’
‘I’m not.’ Lil tutted.
Armando arrived with a fresh pot of tea and took a seat tentatively.
The front door of the café opened and we heard a familiar voice in a flurry.
‘Morning Lilian, morning Bill – fancy seeing you here too. This is becoming quite the gathering place of a Thursday morning. Good morning Wayne and Armando I hope you’re all well. Are you feeling better Lilian?’
Lil had a mouthful which was fortunate as Mavis was trying to elicit a reaction again, and Lil hadn’t managed to swallow. Her napkin slipped from her lap as she wriggled uncomfortably in her seat.
Mavis continued, ‘Anyway I haven’t got time for idle chit-chat today. I’m here for a coffee in a paper cup that I can drink on the run. The committees just don’t run without my input.’ And with that she headed to the counter.
‘Did you get your coffee situation sorted Armando?’ I asked hoping to steer Lil from any possible response.
‘Yeah, new supplier. We’ll see how goes. Lil is that new hat?’
Lil switched from a pout to a broad smile.
‘Yes it is Armando, how kind of you to notice. I’ve still got it.’ Lil answered loud enough for Mavis Bellamy to hear.
Bill was on his feet and walked around the table and bent, or lowered as far as his protruding belly would allow, and picked up Lil’s paper napkin from the floor beside her polka-dotted shopping trolley and offered it to Lil. A coy smile crept across her face and she accepted the fallen lap-protector gracefully from her new fully-grown defender.
Mavis’ eyes were on this development and she didn’t look happy at all. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Mavis hadn’t have been trying to make Lil sound off her rocker at their age club. She obviously hadn’t accounted for a grey knight in his shining armour to come to her rescue.
Mavis scurried from the café, coffee in hand wearing her second defeat in as many weeks. She’d added to Lil’s harem with the lovelorn Bill.
Lil raised her teacup from its mismatched saucer ‘Now that deserves a toast. Cheers everyone, good health!’
Lil was still smiling at Bill. Was she softening to his charms? I wanted to ask her what had happened to her constant tutting but didn’t want to spoil the moment.
‘I suppose if you’re going to follow me around, you’d better start making yourself useful. I need to get round the charity shops for a new oven cloth. Mine is threadbare and I keep on burning my fingers. You can guard the trolley while I’m inside,’ said Lil.
‘Your desire is my vocation princess,’ answered Bill.
Armando and I had somehow become involved in a soap opera of the pensioners of Crouch End. I loved it.