Postscript to "Kew Gardens," by Jaden Cahoon
From the oval-shaped flower-bed there rose perhaps a hundred stalks
spreading into heart-shaped or tongue-shaped leaves halfway up
and unfurling at the tip red or blue, or yellow petals . . .
—Virginia Woolf, from "Kew Gardens"
Those petals would be ripped away by the wind landing at the doorstep of the shop as their fragrance wafted up to greet each new customer with one last kiss of freshness as they cross the threshold, only to be met with a solid wall of earthy tones that assault the nose to let you know if nothing else, this was a coffee house.
A man opened the door and held it for a woman as she walked by; she kicked up a flurry of petals as she crossed over to the counter.
“The normal spot is open Eleanor, after you order.”
She turned her head and gave a curt nod without breaking stride.
“Hubert? Caroline? Hurry up now, don’t fall behind your mother.”
The children arrived several seconds later, and after an order at the counter later, the family was in their booth.
Light jazz played from the radios tucked in the corners of the café. A wall of glass jars filled with spices and sweeteners stretched from floor to ceiling, behind the main counter and register, each one just begging to be added to your cup to grant that extra little kick. That’s how it worked here—as the barista always had to explain to new customers. You’d get a mug with your specialized spice blend sitting at the bottom, then a waitress would come and pour black coffee into your mug at your table. From there it was up to you to mix it up and add milk, cream, or sugar.
Eleanor produced a book from the depths of her jacket and began reading as they waited.
“What’s that you’re reading?” her daughter asked.
“That new Adam’s book?” Simon tried to answer.
“Twenty Years at Hull-House. It’s hardly new, been out for years.”
“Ahh, come on,” he plucked the book from her hands, folded down the corner of the open page, and the book disappeared into the folds of his blazer. “Why don’t we talk instead?”
“About what?” she glanced under the table. “About your new spats that have mud on them?”
“What else was I supposed to do? Eleanor? When he,” Simon pointed towards Hubert, “was already in the hydrangea patch.”
“And they looked so nice with your trousers . . . it’ll take a good washing to get them presentable again.”
“Regardless, it was a nice day out today, weather was fair.”
“Quite . . .”
Simon sighed. He fingered the brim of his derby hat; Eleanor’s own hat with its much wider brim rested on Caroline’s head. He looked to the breast pocket of his blazer where a red flower bud picked from the garden was placed by Caroline on their walk because, “It’s the one in Mama’s hat.” They hadn’t worn matching anything in quite some time.
He looked to her, to Eleanor, wistfully staring out the window toward the gardens.
“What is it today, Eleanor?”
“Hmm?” Her attention was elsewhere but snapped back to the moment.
He motioned toward her cup filled with various flavorings.
“Oh, cardamon, tea rose, and ginger. You?”
“Powdered marzipan, burnt sugar, cinnamon, and simple syrup.”
“I see where the children get their sweet tooth.”
“Hmpf,” he motioned the waitress over. “Seems that way.”
The waitress made her way over and, without hesitation, poured from her coffee pot into Eleanor and Simon’s waiting mugs, fresh aromas spiraled forth from the tops of the mugs.
“And something sweet for the kids when you get a chance, please.”
“Coming right up.”
The waitress set down the pot on the table—refills were also at your own discretion—and headed towards a display case.
Seeing her leave, the children jumped in their seats to try and peer more intently at the glass case they had been eyeing since they entered. They could see the sweet, bright, colorful baked goods and could hear the taste calling out to them. In their commotion, they almost spilled the pot left on their table.
“Honestly! You two . . . settle down or I’ll send those treats right back.”
“That excitement,” Simon said as he ruffled his son’s hair, “that, you get from your mother.”
The table shook and the coffee sloshed in its pot, almost as if someone was kicked under the table. Simon winced.
“Now they’re muddy and scuffed.”
“What was that?”
He hesitated to say something else. He picked up his mug, swirled around the now caramel-colored broth, and took in the aroma with a long sip. The coffee had almost completely absorbed the blend he had created, only the dregs remained in the bottom of his mug.
“Eleanor,” he reached out and rested his left hand on his wife’s while he began stirring up the dregs, which had quickly congealed into a crude mass in his mug, with a sterling-silver spoon. “For Lily, I may have the memory of the silver shoe buckle and the dragonfly . . . but we have this.” He raised his mug and took another swig. “And we also have them,” he motioned to the children, who were too busy glaring at the approaching waitress to notice their mention. Eleanor and Simon couldn’t help but share a smile.
“Which, to me, are a lot more substantial than a buckle and a bug.”
His hand rested on top of hers for a moment, then she shifted and let their palms rest in each other's.
“Seems you’re right about that, Simon,” she said through a smile and sip of coffee.
The waitress arrived once again with plates of cake as the wind picked up outside and howled fresh life from the gardens nearby.
The wind cried aloud and the petals of myriads of flowers flashed their colors into the air.
Jaden Cahoon is from Bear, Delaware and is a sophomore at Villanova University. He loves the process of storytelling; it is what draws him to creative writing. He plans to minor in Creative Writing alongside his major in Finance. He has been writing for a couple of years and feels rewarded to be accepted into Bridges.