Virginia looked again at her watch. It was the fourth time in three minutes. And he was eight minutes and thirty-three seconds late. More with each passing second. Mathematically proven.
"Damn him! Late again. For such a fast-moving guy, he's way too often way too late. Damn him!" she thought for the fourth time in three minutes. She swallowed half the cup of her coffee. It was the third she'd ordered in ten minutes.
"But I do like him… He's a bit like me". She swallowed the other half of her coffee in one gulp. "He's exactly like me" she concluded.
She reached for her handbag, not certain what she was looking for. She put it down again. "No cigarettes, no, they have an adverse effect on me, they make me more nervous. And no chewing-gum, no, just an excuse to grind my teeth… Damn him!". She looked around again, to the left and to the right.
She'd agreed with Gordon they'd meet here, not your lovers'-rendez-vous, rather a business meeting! Some things had better be gotten straight. But given the fleet and fickle nature of both of them, that would be a Herculean labour. She wondered if herself could get anything straight.
"Damn him!" said she again, this ejaculation being all she could resort to.
Then all of a sudden Gordon's wiry figure appeared at the corner. His falcon-fast gaze took the whole café in one sweeping movement. He saw Virginia, he brightened up and started waddling through the chairs and the tables to reach her. She was staring, almost hostilely. He was holding something, but it was almost invisible under his Doctor-Who-long scarf.
"Hi, darling, how are you, how was your day so far?" he greeted her, the words coming out machine-gun fast, his eyes almost scintillating. He sat opposite her and he put the object he was carrying under his chair. He reached out to caress her hair, but then he saw the anger in her eyes. He gulped, drew himself back, clasped his hands and shrank a bit.
On the other hand, he looks so vulnerable… And he's not a bad guy, not half bad… Virginia kept eyeing him, her eyes gradually softening.
And I don't really want to lay trust to the idle talk his colleagues have been spreading around. But… he's so… confused… and confusing! Here she almost smiled.
But what if he does get carried away? What if he's already gotten carried away? It's exactly what a man with his temperament might do, and not out of meanness. She frowned again.
Oh, Gordon, if you could show me a sign… Her frown dissolved.
"Virginia…" he began "I…"
"You what?" she almost snapped. And regretted it instantaneously. There, sometimes I'm worse than he is. I must let him pour his soul out.
"Virginia… I…" he repeated, but paused, not certain how to carry on. Perhaps…
..."love's nice, that works" he remembered him saying to the florist. But now it shouldn't be a ruse nor a temporary way out. The question is, Gordon, "do you love Virginia?". If you do, say it. And if you say it, mean it!
Gordon managed to keep his glance straight and his eyes focused. He really for the first time today looked at Virginia.
"Virginia… I love you!" he speaks out, looking at her directly, relieved, happy. Yes, flowers are faithful messengers, but eyes are instant ones. Yes, that's what he wanted to tell her… all along.
And… well, it works. Its effect is visible. Virginia's eyes are very soft now, her lips parted in tenderness, her whole body relaxed, accepting…
But that lasted only seconds. Virginia's eyes are steely again, her fingers clutching at a napkin, her whole bearing poised in defense and rejection.
"Then why are you doing this?" she demanded.
"Doing what?" was Gordon's reaction, not altogether fake.
"You know what!" Virginia raised her voice, but just as quickly lowered it, almost apologetically. "You know what… fooling around…"
Gordon had heard the accusation before, so he didn't react violently. He did look hurt, however. He reached his hand to touch Virginia's one.
"Virginia… my love"…
"… we've been through this before, haven't we? My one and only sin is that I can't seem to keep my big trap shut". Convinced he's on the right path, he was himself again, temperamental, unhemmed, talkative. "That Darren Johnston character, the most lame-minded person I've come across in my life, out of sheer envy because Sue Boyd wouldn't date him, and why, tell me, would she, him being the twit he is, persuaded Sue's friend Celia Horgan to tell Sharon…"
"STOP IT!". Virginia's shout attracted most of the patronage's attention. Gord stopped short, his finger in mid-air, looking the part of a politician admonishing his countrymen into steadfastness. But he couldn't long bear to watch Virginia's blazing eyes and flaring nostrils. He shrank, put his hand down, gulped, lowered his Adam's apple in submission and shut up.
It didn't take long for Virginia's eyes to return to their normal temperature. Her nostrils followed suit, their girth now halved. She almost felt desperate, to madly love this maniac, but to be unable to come to terms that their romance could only be described in terms ranging from looney to outright schizophrenic.
"Please, Gordon, stop it. Stop talking… Cool down, can't you… for our sake?"
"Can't I?" Gordon wondered. "Sure I can, that's why I'm here, because I can cool down and I can show her that I'm ready to own up for my mistakes. Yes, I'm even able of apologizing, if I did something wrong". He took the initiative again.
"Darling, I know I twatted up. I want to make it up to you".
Virginia was halfway to tears but answered calmly. "I know darling, I know you've twatted up… again… and I know you really want to make it up to me. But… can you? Are you able? Have you got the capacity for it?"
Gordon was almost indignant at Virginia's challenge. He made a hurt face.
"What do you mean by 'capacity'? Have I not proven myself… faithful? You know me" he carried on in an uncharacteristically calm way "I've done nothing wrong, in general I do nothing to hurt anyone. You're just imagining these things, because… I talk… perhaps… too much…"
Virginia took the chance of this serene moment, a rare one, knowing Gordon, to answer. "You talk too much with your female colleagues, that's true, and they fancy things, you don't, perhaps, mean. You make jokes one could misunderstand. And there are many things you yourself can't get… straight". She looked at him in loving sympathy. "It's the way you are, Gord, or rather the way you let yourself be and behave. But you sometimes… abandon yourself, you get carried away and… I don't understand you anymore. And I believe, you don't either".
Gordon had heard that speech before, because, it was all too true, he'd twatted up before. He knew his shortcomings, but he didn't consider them deadly sins. He wanted to make his stand, but in a loving way. He smiled at Virginia, who was smiling too, but bitterly.
"At any rate, I don't want you to think ill of me. I… present you with my apology… and with this… flower".
His hands trembling, his lips writhing, as with a tic, he managed to unwrap the cactus. He placed it nervously on the table, his cup of coffee almost capsizing in the attempt.
Virginia looked at it, her eyes widening, her smile vanishing. She tried to utter something, but a gasp was all that her mouth emitted.
"You… like it?" Gordon asked his agony culminating.
"A cactus" she almost cackled. "A cactus" she repeated in disbelief "and every bit looking like a…"
"Looking like a…?" Gordon repeated in wild anticipation, his mind feverish with prospects of a joyous reunion.
"YOU SCREWBALL!" Virginia roared. "You come to apologize, you are all graces and then you give me… this… prick of a flower?"
Gordon almost snapped to attention. "You pricked your finger? But… you didn't even touch it…"
"No!" Virginia kept shouting, all of the patrons now watching the scene. "I didn't prick my finger, you prick, it's your prick-looking cactus, your dick-looking fucking flower, your phalloform monstrosity you dare name a flower!" she blurted in one sulphuric exhalation.
'But… but…" he only managed to say, having had no time to account for Virginia's sudden rage.
"Exactly! You can shove it up your butt, you… you… madman! We two are through!". She stood up rocket-like, grabbed her bag and turned to leave. Gordon was staring at her speechless, his fingers describing strange patterns in the air.
"Oh, yes, I forgot". Virginia turned on her heel, approached Gordon and promptly bashed him in the eye. He fell into his easy-chair, his hands trying to gain support, to the effect of him overturning the table, along with the cups, the saucers and all items. Laughter broke out among the spectators. He looked around him helplessly and then again at Virginia's receding figure. He stood up again, massaging the hurt spot, made a move to follow her, but withdrew. He sat again, oblivious to the mounting laughter. He lowered his head.
Luce looks up from the order-sheet she's been writing. She almost lets out a cry. The guy from this morning, almost as nervous as before, but a tad less fidgety, not so fast-moving, his face adorned with a big blue eye and several contusions. She is about to say "hello" but he is faster.
"I'd like to see that strelitzia again". Or should I, in the end, offer her a rose? He looks around and behind him, but sees no obliging customer of whom to ask for a second opinion. He remembers having rejected the young brunette's advocation for lilies. Lilies? As in… Virgin Mary? Would that appease Virginia?
"You're sure it's a strelitzia you want?" Luce asks raising her eyebrows.
Gordon looks at her, looks around again helplessly.
"I don't know. I really don't know. I think I've ruined my last chance". He looks really pained now. "I think I've twatted up again". He exhales exasperatedly. "I think I've twatted up for good…"
Luce really feels for the poor guy. Lowers her glance in sympathy.
Her eyes catch a stick-on paper lying on her desk. On it there's a name and a phone number. She smiles to herself. She raises her eyes and looks at Gordon again.
"I can assure you" she tells him "that there will always be more chances. All you have to do is not let them slip by". She offers him a cheer-up smile. "Take it from me".
Gordon is still at a loss. She picks a red rose, a splendid-looking one, elaborately ties a ribbon and offers it him.
"You'll offer her this, dear Sir, the flower of love, of passion, of fidelity. It's my… professional opinion, from what I can see in you, that you are a loving, passionate, very passionate and, undoubtedly, faithful person…"
At the word 'faithful' Gordon winces. Luce notices that and raises a admonishing finger.
"When one finds true love, one is faithful. And one who is faithful, never…. twats up".
Hope rises in Gordon's eyes. He takes the proffered flower and fumbles for his wallet.
Luce holds him friendly by the shoulder and leads him towards the door. "On the house. Go!"
Gordon flashes her a thankful smile, turns around and speeds down the street.
Luce returns to her desk. She holds the stick-on paper. She looks at it for a long time. She turns her glance towards the container where an assortment of lilies are discreetly emitting aroma and streamers of delicate colours.
And a message that only Luce knew. But would anyone care to ask?