excerpt – Keeping up with yesterday

Anna sat with her back to the red washed brick wall. Her legs were tucked underneath her chair, hooked around the side as she leaned on the table. She pretended to read the book that she had brought with her, but she stared discreetly over the top of the pages at the man sitting on the opposite side of the café. Anna was certain that she knew him, though she could not place how or where they had met. He sat alone, with his back half turned to her, drinking black coffee and occasionally looking at his watch. Anna took out her notebook and scribbled down a few words to remind her of what he looked like. She knew that she would remember eventually, especially if she had some notes to go by. His voice startled her.

“May I sit?” he asked. Anna gaped. She paused for what felt like an hour and then smiled, closed her books and put them back into her leather bag all in one smooth fluid motion. She nodded.
“Yes, of course. Please sit.” She said. The man sat down easily and extended his hand to her.

“And you are?” he asked. There was an edge to his politeness that Anna was not prepared for. Anna didn’t hesitate, taking his hand and shaking it firmly. Her strong handshake made the man raise his eyebrow slightly.
“Anna Crisp” she said. The man frowned and then smiled again. There was an awkward silence. The man had not let go of her hand. When he did not offer up his own name, Anna leaned forward and said firmly.
“I am going to need that back.” She said. The man looked at her confused.
“My hand.” Anna nodded to their extended handshake.

“Oh, sorry, I… “ the man sputtered. Anna sat back in her chair, and looked around for a waiter, then turned back to the man. Anna noticed the tailoring was impeccable on the midnight blue suit he was wearing. The cuffs of his shirt were sharply pressed and not frayed. The fabric hugged his frame perfectly.
“You are?” Anna asked. She didn’t like having to ask. If a strange man approaches a woman at a café, she thought, it was only polite to at least give his name after sitting down. She folded her hands on her lap and waited. The man blushed.
“Once again, I am sorry. I should have introduced myself first. My name is Michael. Michael Arvo.” He said.

“It is nice to meet you Michael. What brings you here to Port?” Anna asked. The waiter appeared in the doorway of the café and Anna waved him over.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I am going to order some food. Would you like anything?” Anna said. Michael hesitated and then nodded. They both ordered some lunch and when the waiter left, Michael leaned forward.
“I am here to meet someone.” He said. The words hung between them. Anna nodded. She was still trying to place his name and face.

“Who are you here to meet?” she asked. Michael shifted in his chair. He turned himself slight to be able to see the entrance of the café.

“It is doesn’t matter now. I don’t think that they are coming. I am only here for the afternoon and then I will have to drive back again to the city.” He continued before Anna could interject. “I noticed that you were watching me. You have a familiar face.” This time Anna blushed.
“You have keen eyes. I was trying not to be obvious. You are familiar to me too though I cannot for the life of me place where we have met before.” She said. Anna was relieved when the waiter brought their food.
“I travel a lot.” Michael said, picking up a fork and testing the pasta he had ordered. Anna nodded.

“I see” she said. “I rarely travel. My work does not require it. I spend most of my time in this area… “

“Perhaps we met at a party or someone’s house?” Michael asked. He offered the basket of fresh bread to Anna before setting it down between them. Anna began to eat the grilled trout and roasted asparagus. She shook her head.
“No I don’t think so.” She said. Michael shrugged. He looked at his watch again.

“I supposed it doesn’t matter. It is hard to keep up with yesterday.” He said with a wry smile. Anna paused and then agreed.

“Yes, it certainly is.” She said. “Tell me about your travels. I would love to hear about them.”

Michael began to tell her about the places he had gone to recently, in between mouthfuls of penne and shrimp. Anna listened, intrigued. They sat together as though they had known each other for years, yet only had just met. Anna hoped that the person that Michael was meant to meet, never showed up. No sooner had she thought it, a man dressed in a dark suit, arrived at the gate of the café patio. Michael was retelling a story of his last trip to Tuscany. The man saw Michael first and walked over.
“That is my brother, always boasting to beautiful woman about his glamorous life.” The man said clasping Michael’s shoulder tightly. Michael jumped, startled by the sudden arrival of his brother but recovered quickly.
“I am sorry that I was late Michael, but I see that you found a way to occupy yourself.” The man said to Michael looking down at Anna. Anna bristled. She immediately did not like him. Michael motioned for his brother to sit as he introduced him to Anna.
“Anna Crisp, Tristan Arvo” he said. Tristan reached across the table and shook Anna’s hand. He barely looked at her. Tristan turned to his brother and spoke quickly.
“We need to go. They are waiting for us.” He said. Michael nodded.

“ I know that they are waiting. If you weren’t two hours late, then they wouldn’t be waiting would they?” Michael said. He did not feign a smile for anyone’s sake. “I will take care of the bill first.” He said getting up before anyone could protest. When Michael disappeared into the café, Tristan turned to Anna.
“ How do you know Micheal?” he asked directly. Tristan’s bluntness rubbed at Anna like a rasp.

“I don’t in fact. We just met today.” She said. Tristan looked at her closely. Anna did not move.

“I find that unlikely.” Tristan said. Anna blushed.

“Unlikely that your brother would meet someone for the first time?” Anna asked. She played with the beads around her neck. She didn’t explain to Tristan that both she and Michael felt that they had met before though neither could say where. Tristan eyed her, making Anna feel uncomfortable. Michael arrived back at the table.
“Let’s go.” He said abruptly to Tristan. Michael reached out his hand to Anna again.
“It was nice to meet you Anna. Thank you for keeping me company while I was waiting.” He said with a smile. Anna nodded.
“You’re welcome.” She said. The brothers stood side by side. Anna could see the family similarities playing across their features. There were sharp contrasts, like Tristan’s muddy blond hair that curled like a knotted mess on his head and Michael’s black short cropped hair. Their eyes were the same, clear blue and rimmed with black. Their mouths were similar also.
“Thank you for having lunch with me.” Anna said. She caught herself just in time before saying that she hoped to see him again. She did want to see him, but instinctively, she knew that it was better that Tristan didn’t know. Anna wasn’t so stupid to miss the dangerous edge that played between the two brothers. If she ran into Michael on his own again, she wouldn’t be disappointed. They had a pleasant time together.
Michael nodded then turned away. Anna watched the brothers leave. She was surprised to find Michael’s business card tucked into her handbag when she got up to return to her office.


6 thoughts on “excerpt – Keeping up with yesterday

  1. Leigh-Anne, I really like how your words… and the story they tell… paint such vivid pictures in one’s mind. I feel as if I know Anna and Michael quite well!


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