The café was full when Louise arrived. She spied Mel and Alice in a corner booth and negotiated the narrow walkways to reach them. Mel saw her first and beamed, a huge happy smile, while getting up to hug her.
“How you doing, love? Oh shadows under your eyes, late night?” Mel’s cheeky grin reminded her of Adam and Louise just shook her head. Her friend’s face fell and she ushered her into the booth. Alice was totally oblivious.
“Hi Louise! I was telling Mel about my brother’s new girlfriend, she has a Dalmatian and a Staffordshire terrier and he’s offered to walk them; wonder how long it will take before she figures out he’s scared of dogs?” Her merry laughter rang out and several people turned to glare. Alice pulled a face and turned back to Louise.
“How’s your love life hon?” Mel kicked her under the table and changed the subject.
“So my mum was saying that my new job is likely to be the death of me.” She swooned, drama oozing out of every pore. “Because, you know, online news editor is such a dangerous job.” The other two women laughed. Mel was glad to see the smile on Louise’s face. Alice frowned and leaned over the table.
“Why did she say that, anyway?”
“Oh, my mother is convinced I should have become a teacher. Anything other than that has been a huge mistake, in her eyes.”
“Marrying Alfred was the biggest mistake I made, according to my mother,” Alice groaned. Louise thought about her own mother, who was constantly criticising what Louise did with her life.
“Maybe it’s hard for mothers not to see their children’s mistakes. I suppose they want the best for us, really. Mum harps on about me being a single mother, but I know she’s genuinely worried.” Louise sighed as she remembered last night’s bizarre date. Alice inched away from Mel.
“I’m sure you’ve got some funny stories by now, Louise, c’mon spill! Tell me before Mel’s death stares catch up to me.”
“Hey, I’m right here!” Mel glared harder at Alice but Louise shook her head at her best friend and gave her a lop-sided smile.
“Well, I didn’t tell you about the one who thought he was Bruce Willis in a past life, did I?” Alice shook her head and listened, disbelief glowing on her face as Louise filled her in. “And then there was the waiter who was flirting with me while I was on the date; that was a nice old fling but the second time I stayed over another woman turned up on his doorstep in the morning. Can you believe it but he’d arranged a morning date with her?”
“What did you do?” Alice sounded outraged. “Pour water on his head?” Mel laughed at the predictable nature of Alice’s comment.
“No, I just informed her that he was extraordinarily bad in bed, and she left rather quickly! I did meet one of his friends briefly though…” Her words trailed off and she wished she could retract that last sentence. Mel’s gaze was thoughtful and Alice almost jumped in her seat.
“Oh don’t tell us! You like this one?” At that moment Alice resembled a wolfhound puppy. Louise wondered how a thirty year old woman could be so—teenager. Rubbing her face, she nodded.
“He’s all wrong for me though, and I don’t want to talk about it.” Alice opened her mouth but Mel managed to stomp on her foot and she closed it again with an audible snap. “Mel, tell me how it is working for ONC?”
“There’s a bit of a turf war going on, at the moment. Online News Corp is trying to take over Political Expose but The People’s Voice is also putting in a bid. It’s a bit messy actually.”
“Ha messy, that’s us at the moment! Alfred wants to renovate the house but he gets as far as putting all his stuff in a big pile then loses his momentum. So frustrating, I can’t stand mess! Hey would you two be interested in a working bee?”
“Oh gee, I’m doing overtime at the moment at work.” Mel grimaced at Louise, who rolled her eyes.
“Sure I’ll bring Danny, he’d love to help.”
Alice raised her eyebrows at Mel, who lifted her hands in protest. “Sorry about that, but I’m flat out!” She gulped the rest of her coffee and stood up. “On that note, I should go, got a nasty deadline looming.” Louise shuffled out of the booth and turned for a quick hug. Mel then kissed her on the cheek and asked, “By the way, is it ok if I babysit Danny at Sally’s house next week?”
Louise shrugged. “Sure, Sally seems nice enough, and Danny will like having other kids to play with. You helping her out too?”
“Yeah she’s having some troubles again. Do you need her address?”
“Nah, I know where she lives, I’ve dropped some food at her house before.” Louise gave her friend a severe look. “Take care of yourself, Mel, don’t let work swamp your life, okay?”
“Yes, mum,” Mel grinned. “See you next week.” She blew a kiss to Alice and headed for the door. Louise watched her go and was startled to see a familiar face enter as Mel left. He caught sight of her and headed towards her, as she tried to think of a way to bolt gracefully. Alice was chattering on, oblivious, as Adam stopped by the end of the table.
“Hi, er, sorry to interrupt. You dropped this last night.” As Alice ground to a halt he proffered a tube of lip balm that must have fallen out of her bag at some point. Louise blushed and took it, mumbling her thanks. The silence stretched on for a bit, Alice gawking from one to the other. Finally he took the hint and excused himself, and Louise stared at the lip balm.
“So this is your bad date? That can’t be Bruce Willis guy?” Alice was incredulous. “He’s hot Louise!” Louise shifted, feeling uncomfortable.
“I can’t really explain it Alice. He’s just a bit… well, creepy.”
Alice shook her head in disbelief and picked up her things. “Well on that crazy note, I’m off. Sometimes I can’t help but think you self-sabotage, Louise. I’d give him another chance, unless you know, he did something totally unforgivable. Which I’m guessing he didn’t.” She leaned across the booth and kissed Louise on the cheek. “Bye beautiful.”
Louise turned the lip balm around in her fingers, gaze unfocused. When she finally focused on it, she noticed a phone number scribbled on the label. Looking up, she searched for Adam. He was gone. Feeling thoughtful, she returned the tube to her handbag and decided to give him another chance. He was, after all, pretty hot. “Bloody Alice.” She chuckled quietly and ordered another coffee.
This week’s prompt was a tricky one for me:
Step 1. Go to a busy locale—a cafe or coffee shop would be easiest. Sit down with a notebook, and make sure you look busy, so people don’t know you’re listening. Now write down random soundbites of conversations. Try to get at least 10 lines or snippets.
Step 2. Now use all ten in a cohesive scene of dialogue or as dialogue in a story
Step 3. Leave a list of the lines plucked from real life at the end of the story for people to see. My list is…
1. “ Sorry about that, but I’m flat out.”
2. “Hey I’m right here!”
3. “Maybe it’s hard for mothers not to see their children’s mistakes.”
4. “She has a Dalmatian and a Staffordshire terrier.”
5. “’Cause I’ve dropped some food at her house before.”
6. “There’s a bit of turf wars there.”
7. “That’s been us for a while.”
8. “See you next week.”
9. “Pour water over his head.”
10. “Don’t tell us!”
I did modify a couple to fit in with the story better, and I must say I found it hard to eavesdrop and pick up more than scattered words! It took me ages to get to ten. I really struggled this week. I found it hard to insert someone else’s words into my piece, without it just becoming a list of dialogue. I apologise at how bad it is! I thought I’d use it to drive the Louise and Adam storyline along, and to establish the characters of Louise and her female friends a bit more, but it was definitely an exercise in pushing through!