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Zafia

January 1, 2014

Happy New Year, folks!

I’ve been saving this one to post today.  ‘Zafia’ is a little story I have a particular fondness for, a story that will always remind me of the Cornish coach holiday I took with Stella in September.  It was a great holiday, especially so as we met a lovely couple whose company we enjoyed whilst exploring this most seductive and inspiring county.

My title character owes something to our charming waitress at the hotel but is not a portrait.  Nor, I hasten to add, is Daphne remotely like my wife!  The story is a piece of creative fiction but one that gives me a special feeling I wanted to start the New Year with… a warm and happy feeling.

My very best wishes to you all for 2014.     

 

ZAFIA

Paul Beech

 

She was sitting across the table, her back to the rain-spattered window, newspaper raised.  Two or three unfortunates, who’d entered the reference library seeking shelter, sat either side of her but in a different world.  It was a thin, Polish language newspaper, Dziennik Polski.   I had no clear view of her face but her dimpled cheek and auburn hair brought a single name to mind – Zafia.

    But how could this be?

 

Never have I known eyes so expressive, a smile so radiant, a voice so gently teasing.  Zafia was our waitress at the Cornish hotel where my wife and I spent a week in the autumn.

    One morning, the egg with my Traditional English Breakfast was over-done, bullet hard, just the way I like it.  I’d beamed my preference to her telepathically, I said.  Zafia’s hand flew to her mouth, her look of astonishment so complete it was comic.  Her colour rose as she failed to suppress a laugh.  I laughed too and all at the table joined in.  The dig in my ribs hurt.  “Act your age,” hissed Daphne, my wife.  “You’re old enough to be her dad!”

 

Cornwall, so rugged, colourful and poetic, was like nowhere we’d been before, and we loved it. 

    Zafia made our every meal special.  Maybe we made her every service special too.  We were amongst her last guests as she counted down the days to her own departure, her return to Kraków, her family, a new job in the media and her beloved myślinska sausages.  She confided to me that she always ate these sliced on rye bread.

    I felt bereft on the coach home.  Still do really, though I try to hide it from Daphne.  I picture Zafia in Kraków, wandering beside the Vistula River or through the Old Town.  Does she ever think back to that dining room with green cloths on white covering the tables, a wall-length window presenting an often misty view of the bay below?  Does she remember Table 22 and the way our eyes would sometimes meet?

 

Two of the beery-smelling men at her library table had fallen to telling lewd jokes, perhaps assuming she wouldn’t understand.  The third dozed over Debrett’s People of Today.   But the rain had ceased its drumming now and the mucky-minded ones hauled up their mate to drag him away.

    “Zafia,” I said at last, but there was no response.

    I tried again: “Zafia.”  And this time the newspaper came down. 

    “My name is Wanda,” she said.

    Wanda?  Her lipstick was startlingly red.  Otherwise she was so like Zafia, she had to be a sister.  Her eyes fizzed in amusement at my confusion.

    “You are from Kraków?”

    “Gdanśk,” she said.  Then, pointedly, with a little jerk towards the leaded pane behind her: “The sun, it shines…”

    Her Dziennik Polski firmly back in place, I read the headline without comprehension before following the unfortunates out of the library and down the steaming street.

 

-oOo-

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2014        

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