Amalthea dried another glass from the crate and set it on the shelf. She repeated the action until the crate was empty without being disturbed by customers. When she looked up again she noticed a young man had entered the club and was strolling towards her. She smiled, recognising him from poetry nights. As always he arrived alone. This evening he carried a slender book. She tried to see the cover, but it was angled away from her.
‘Hi,’ she said as he sat on a stool.
He smiled warmly. He looked pretty, for a white boy. His skin seemed to have the soft glow of health that was rare in young men from this Scottish city. He reminded Amalthea of the father she hadn’t seen in over a decade, except this lad was even paler and his eyes resembled emeralds held in front of a flame.
Amalthea nodded. She had never known him to order alcohol and wondered why. Most of the patrons were ardent drinkers and this boy… man stood out for his lack of inebriation. Was he was still too young to drink or was he a recovering alcoholic? No, he wouldn’t go to a club if he had a drinking problem. It was more likely that he simply found other ways to relax – those words clutched in his hand or the ones in his head? He fascinated her, although she wasn’t sure why. Physically, sexually, he wasn’t her type at all, but there was something about his gentle calm that attracted her and what better time to strike up a conversation than a quiet night like this?
She switched on the coffee machine and poured in freshly ground beans.
‘Seems quiet,’ he said.
‘Very,’ she answered. ‘What brings you here tonight? I normally just see you on poetry nights.’
‘You notice?’ he asked and his eyes gleamed brighter.
She stepped back and swallowed. Not another one? This club was full of would-be creeps and admirers. It was often hard to tell the difference between the two from this side of the bar. She hastily backtracked. ‘Sure. I know all my regulars. Do you write poetry?’
‘I’m not sure it’s any good.’
‘Ahhh, you should perform a piece here one night. It’s a friendly crowd. They won’t bite.’
He laughed. ‘Yeah, maybe. It could be fun to perform for… everyone, I guess. Do you write?’
‘Prose,’ she answered. ‘Nothing published. What book is that?’
‘Not mine. I’ve not been published either. A bit of Plath.’ He flashed the cover at her.
‘You like Sylvia Plath?’
‘I guess I have a thing for desperate sorrow.’ His face flushed and he suddenly looked vulnerable.
She nodded, warming to him again. ‘There’s a lot of that in this town.’
‘I’m Daniel.’ He extended his exquisitely manicured right hand towards her.
Her hand met his half way across the bar. Her chewed fingernails, chipped purple polish and brown skin made an interesting contrast, worker versus what – public school boy, intellectual, rich kid? He seemed so different to her and yet the same. It confused her. It always did when she met people from such different backgrounds with a shared love of words. ‘Amalthea,’ she said. ‘Or Tay.’
‘Delighted to make your acquaintance, Amalthea. Do you work here every night?’
The machine’s noise altered as the dripping coffee filled a cream-coloured mug. She passed Daniel a black coffee with no sugar – his usual order.
‘Thank you.’ He nodded and took a sip. His face seemed to shine in near ecstatic bliss as he smiled approvingly. ‘And what do you do when you aren’t here?’
‘Sleep, write, oh and I’m studying English at the Uni.’
‘Busy…’ He looked pensive for a moment. Amalthea wondered what question remained not yet verbalised. He seemed to teeter on the edge of something. Whatever it was, he decided not to ask. Instead he stood up and picked up his mug. ‘Thank you, Taya,’ he said and walked to a leather chair below a green spotlight.
Lynsey bustled back through the door, dragging cold air and the stench of tobacco with her. ‘Did I miss anything?’
‘Not much. I put the glasses away and we have a new customer.’
Lynsey looked across at Daniel and exhaled. ‘Seen him before, a bit of an odd ball, quiet, always alone.’
Amalthea nodded. ‘Maybe that’s the way he likes it?’