24- give us a mori girl inspired vignette! (a short, impressionistic scene that focus on one moment or gives a particular insight into a character, idea, or setting).
She liked watching people in the café. It was cozy there, old, worn-out corduroy sofas and deep velvet armchairs which made her feet dangle above the floor when she sat in there, an out-of-tune bar piano with paint that went shabby at the edges, black-and-white photographs of rural landscapes, probably in Ireland, and rooftop cityscapes, probably from Paris. It was a bit dark in the corner she had her favourite table at, but that was all right with her. The people she watched mostly sat in the front part of the café, two small steps down, on prettily bent wooden Caféhaus furniture from the roaring Twenties and a fragile threadbare Jacquard chaiselongue behind a low coffee table.
She slipped out of her heavy boots and curled up with her legs under her, pulling the wide grey jumper with the Aran cables that went for a dress when she wore leggings like today over her knees. The little, well-tuned chime at the door rang when it open and closed, and someone folded together a pretty, pagoda-shaped umbrella, took off a wet duffle coat and sat down on the chaiselongue.
Curiously, she went up, the perfect moment to get another hot chocolate. Back into her boots, although the staff probably wouldn’t have minded her walking around in her thickly knit socks instead. She was a regular.
When she stood at the counter, listening to the rain outside, the low chatter of the other patrons, the steam that rose when her cocoa got some extra foamed milk, she tried to catch a glimpse of the person on the chaiselongue without looking too obviously. That was the key, that no-one ever actually noticed her, even when she went right by them. It was hard to get a good look on the person there, somehow she blended into the scene with the old upholstery and the warm wooden flooring.
She started her way back to her armchair, her back to the chaiselongue, but somehow, maybe because the person was so hard to spot, she couldn’t resist to turn around, just for one tiny moment. Usually, people didn’t notice her.
This one did.
Blushing, she hurried back up the stairs and put down her tray a bit harder than necessary, shocked that someone had actually looked at her.
It must have been a coincidence. Her face hidden behind the giant cup of steaming hot cocoa she spied in the general direction of the chaiselongue again.
The person – the girl – that sat there didn’t look at her at all. Everything was all right.
She was reading instead, a small volume bound in lush green linen. She couldn’t decipher the title from her place. It didn’t matter, though, it never mattered.
The girl had nut-brown hair that fell in easy waves over her shoulders, and that looked ever so soft that she caught herself staring at it for far too long, wondering what it felt like to just brush over it with her fingertips.
She wondered why she hadn’t seen the girl at first. Her attire surely wasn’t what she saw on the streets every day. A flaxen dress, lengthened with broad, toothed lace, reached her ankles, barely showing her shining, flat mary janes. She was not sure how many layers the girl actually wore, only that all of them were light, nature-coloured with understated patterns, and that the one on top was a pretty goldenrod corduroy dress with a small all-over print, something floral, berries perhaps, judging by the warm colour, buttoned down in front. As the girl moved a little, she could see the sheen that let her know those were mother-of-pear buttons, going up to a loose, crocheted peter pan collar.
In spite of all those layers she still seemed somewhat lithe, like a fairy-turned-person, a character that belonged to a fairy tale, not in a city like this. And still, had she had seen her in the grey streets her appearance would have had made her smile in an instant.
She took in all the little details: The small sprig of alder for a barrette, the necklace made of a tiny round flask with what appeared to be a tuft of moss in it, the robin pin on her chest, the ancient-seeming clasp holding the collar together.
Back her eyes wandered, back to that soft, soft hair, like unspun, carded wool, like willow catkins. The cocoa in her hands she had covered with her jumper’s sleeves was getting below her favourite temperature unnoticed. She just looked at that girl, that otherworldly apparition, absently eating a bit of her pumpkin biscuit roll, reading her book, her pink lips moving sometimes when she whispered the lines to herself, unheard by the world around her.
Then, with a sudden definiteness, she took her cup of tea to her lips, those pink lips that had just mouthed unknown words, drank up, and while she emptied the cup, she rose her eyes and looked.
Straight at her.
She has beautiful eyes, and endless golden lashes,
she thought. She couldn’t help but stare, again.
The moment their eyes met lasted only for seconds, but it felt like a small eternity. Then the girl packed up, slowly. Took her coat. Put it on. Took her umbrella.
Her eyes widened when the girl reached out to open the door, and on the small coffee table still lay a small, green book. She rose, hurriedly, from her armchair, grabbing her jacket and bag with one hand and the small tray with the other in the process. In passing she put the tray back on the counter, smiling quickly at the waitress, fetching the book from the table. She went outside, greeted by the rain. Down the street she could see a figure with a long, light-coloured dress and a pagoda-shaped umbrella. She ran after her.
“Miss! Excuse me, Miss!”
The girl flinched, and turned. Looked at her.
A tram stopped in front of her.
“You forgot your book!”
She gathered her skirts, took a step and disappeared into the tram, the doors closed, the tram took off, and she watched it until it went around a corner.
She looked at the book. At the corner. At the book again.
Romanticism: Verses, in gold letters.
She took the book home.
She opened it as soon as she had reached her flat and thrown off her wet shoes and jacket, finding a pressed forget-me-not marking a page, Mondnacht. She read the poem over and over again, lying on her back on her bed, feet walking up and down the wall from time to time, rain pouring outside, at first just this, and later others, and she wondered what the girl had sounded like when she had read the poems to herself, and who she thought of when she read them, or if she thought of someone at all.
The old school photograph she found tucked in the back when she finally turned the last page came as a real surprise.