The riverside café conversations buzzed around me, just like the blow-fly that swooped low over my latte. Peering through the glass frontage, I could see the customers who had chosen to sit outside for the chance of a cool breeze. Most were using their table napkins to shoo away the flies that came with the sticky summer heat.
My gaze returned with my thoughts back to the notepad in front of me. I impatiently had begun tapping the table with my pencil. It was then that I caught a whiff of the café owner’s musk and spice cologne. “Hello, Joe.”
“What’s up, Miss Jane?”
“I’m trying to write a letter to my sister. We had an argument and now she won’t talk to me about it.”
I quickened the beat of my pencil.
Joe nodded his head slowly. “I see.” He sat in the seat opposite and placed his empty drink tray on the table. “So, she did bad thing and you crazy mad at her, yes?”
I forced myself to stop the drumming. I loved the way Joe talked. Twenty years after arriving in his ‘new country' his thick Italian accent lingered. It was one of those things I liked about Joe; that and the way he made every customer his friend.
I took a slow deep breath. “Accepting a marriage proposal isn’t normally a bad thing, but for Beth it is.”
“Ah, I see. You are a zealous sister.”
“No,” I laughed, “and I think you mean ‘jealous’.” I placed the untouched latte onto Joe’s tray before I resumed tapping the notepad with more emphasis in the pulsating rhythm. “Beth is about to marry the wrong man”.
“And you know this to be true, yes?”
“I suppose so. I mean…I don’t know. You don’t understand. She’s marrying a diplomat.”
Joe took the pencil from my hand and looked thoughtfully at it before speaking again. “In my old country we say diplomat is good job. They are appointed by state for mediation and good relations. That is a good thing, yes?”
“I suppose it is, but it’s all that travelling. I’m worried about his commitment to Beth. Will he be loyal to her? Will she be left at home for weeks at a time? Will she be happy?”
“I think this is for them to re-zolve?” He paused again. “I know many diplomats who take wives with them—when it is safe.”
“Safe?” I stared out the window where couples laughed and chatted together.
Joe touched my hand taking back my full attention. He shooed away a young waitress like the fly that kept returning to my latte.
“Miss Jane,” he replied softly. “You need to write this letter to your sister. Sure, you tell her you worry about her future but if you do not tell her that you will be there for her, whatever she decide, you will be forever deranged from her, I think.”
I couldn’t help but smile. “You are a very caring man, Joe, and wise. The last thing I want is to be 'estranged' from Beth. We have always been close.”
We sat without speaking for a moment. I was calmer now but I was still concerned—not just for Beth’s plans for marriage but for our sibling relationship as well. My voice came out as a whisper: “I still don’t know what to write.”
Joe held up my pencil. “Write from your heart, and words, they will come.” He placed the pencil on the notepad.
“Will she even read my letter?”
“You will not know unless you write—and mail it.” He smiled and stood. “I better go see why my staff cannot work without me. I will send waitress with a fresh one of these too.” He picked up the tray with my cold latte. “On house,” he added with a wink.
His cologne drifted away with his departure.
I noticed the lone blow-fly take advantage of a customer leaving the café. It disappeared just like all my previous misplaced thoughts. I knew now what I had to write. I picked up my pencil and began to write the most important letter of my life.
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