The Smell of Mandarins

She stirred her coffee slowly, thoughtfully, gently rubbing her brow with the other hand. Her book lay open in front of her, forgotten, while the weak Winter sun strove to make its presence known behind the thick fog that enveloped the cafe to which she’d retreated. The mist licked up the windows caressingly, beckoning to the cafe-dwellers to abandon comfort for cold and causing those forced outside to appear indistinct and melancholy.

She couldn’t tell what time it was, but she knew she’d been sitting a long time, roughly the length of 3 coffees, sifting through thoughts and decisions in a listless fashion. Her slack gaze was suddenly drawn to the fog which, seeming to sense an audience, pressed closer, more insistently upon the glass. Her breath caught, and the cold seeped through her, clutching her heart with fingers crooked with age and squeezing, spreading its sobering influence through her blood to every part of her body. It was pain, a physical ache accompanied by a low and distressed moaning in her ears. She gripped the edge of the table tightly, dizzy and confused as memories of feelings of anguish tore at her from all sides, bearing down upon her irresistibly.

There was nothing but the pain and the grey, heavy fog, inside and out, oppressing her thoughts and causing her body to cave in upon itself. Then, breaking through her struggle, the sweet scent of mandarins floated lazily past her nose. She wrenched her wild eyes from the window and breathed deeply and greedily, the warmth and noise of the busy cafe flooding her senses once more. The mist outside swirled maliciously, defeated.

Looking around she found the source of the scent at the bar a few feet away, being peeled in the hands of a scruffy-looking boy. Man, she thought to herself, which was more accurate; the man was young, maybe 23, but no longer a boy. His gray eyes were trained on the piece of fruit as though nothing in the world were more important than savouring it. Scattered about him on the bar and at his feet were an open book, a map, a crumpled jacket and a well-worn, lumpy rucksack.
As she watched, he put a mandarin segment to his lips, paused a moment, then ate it, closing his eyes in ecstasy and allowing his head to fall slightly to the side. She continued watching until he opened his eyes, smiling and taking another piece with relish.

He glanced up then and saw her attention, wrapt as it was on the sweet, Summertime fruit. Her coffee and the fog and her anxiety existed only in a dim corner of her memory as thoughts of twinkling blue waves, skin warmed by the sun and hair brushing bare shoulders chased each other through her mind. His smile broadened and he held out the half-finished mandarin.

Her smile answered his as she her pale fingers closed on the offered gift. It’s sweet perfume stirred around her as she raised a segment to her lips. It tasted full of life, full to the absolute brim with dreams and happiness. A drop of juice escaped from between her lips in her ravenous eating, deftly caught by her tongue. The smell was intoxicating, embellishing every bite with a sense of radiance and blissful freedom. In another moment, hands empty and hearts full, the fruit was gone.

Blinking in the light which had become suddenly soft and full, she turned to the window where a single ray of sun shone out of the gloom, strong and golden and hopeful.

“Want another?” he asked. She sighed a little in perfect happiness and nodded.

The Smell of Mandarins

VickyJaywalk

Joined May 2010

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It’s been a while.

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