A group of people wait at the counter. At the front, a couple of girls (that are a couple) with their kids enquire about the loaves of bread on the shelf on the wall. Behind them is an old lady in a yellow top and green slacks, her low-heel shoes all her feet can stand these days.
Everyone has a story to tell.
The couple and their childrenÂ depart with a loaf of bread and in the sudden quiet, the sound of the music from the old speakers can now be heard. The old lady steps forward to ask about the coffee scroll in the window, the one that her doctor has forbade her to eat because of the coffee and the sugar.
Her heart is pounding; she knows he will tell her off.
Once upon a time, she was allowed to live on her own terms, but these days all she gets are restrictions: it’s hard to get onto trams, it’s hard to walk, she must not drink coffee or eat sugar, smoking is anathema; so too, it seems to her, is living. For there is a difference, she is sure, between what she has now and what she once had, and it’s not just the passing of the years. ‘Avoid’ is the word most used in her presence; she knows, she’s counted. Avoid this food, avoid that situation, avoid the cold, avoid the heat… she didn’t realise when it first happened, but whenever she hears the word ‘Avoid’ she automatically appends the word ‘life’.
Outside the sun shines throgh a brief break in the cloud, and everything is bathed in a summery light. The clouds open up and release rain, drenching everything in a brief unexpected shower.
But this, like the sunlight, passes and everything becomes grey again; grey, cold but hopeful.
The old lady once hoped, but it has been a long time. She hoped for love. She hoped for children. She hoped for a life of fulfilment. Some of these she got, but briefly – a lover who came and went, children who came into her life but left just as quickly. She believed herself cursed and the doctors decided to help her with electricity and straps.
Perhaps it is the hope of spring hanging in the air that has inspired her today. Perhaps the sight of more brilliant sunshine through the clouds. Perhaps it is just her time.
With shaking voice she asks for the forbidden fruit: a coffee scroll and a long black. With unexpectedly still hands she gives the girl behind the counter her money and with a heart full of astonishment, accepts the gifts she receives, then walks outside to sit in the sun.
She smiles contentedly as she takes the first bite of the pastry. She feels relief as she sips from the steaming cup.
And slowly, but surely, she feels like she is glowing, the feeling of this tiny beginning of freedom overwhelming her – and perhaps in another realm, a faraway place, her spiritual twin unfolds her wings and becomes airborne in that beam of light.
She flies to freedom at last.