The bell above the door rang as customers entered and exited the cafe. There was a blackboard hanging on the wall with details of that day's specials. Beyond the row of tables with crisp red-and-white-checked table cloths there was a brightly-lit cake display cabinet and a hatch through to the kitchen. The comforting hiss of the coffee machine combined with the soft orange glow of the table lamps to create a welcoming warmth. Outside the rain spattered against the windows as the grey sky descended into early night. A passerby, wrapped in a big winter jacket, kept his head down, trying to shield himself from the gusting wind and rain.
A solemn figure sat in the corner, watching the man through the window as he passed. From time to time, he glanced down at his watch. The rest of the time his eyes seemed to be fixed on the door. He wore a crumpled looking shirt and tie and a bunch of flowers rested on the table next to him. The beginning of tiny sweat beads glistened on his forehead. This seemed to always happen as he was awaiting another potential partner to be. As the door bell rang and a customer entered he turned round quickly, with a look of uncertainty on his face. However, the sight of just another customer entering seemed to ease his tension, at least for the time being. As the bell rang out again, he sat up sharply. His colour deepened as the figure turned to close the door.
The tall, blonde woman who had entered seemed to be completely comfortable and confident. As she glanced over to him, the friendly smile across her face seemed to settle the man's nerves and he smiled back. She took off her raincoat revealing a long black dress and hung the damp jacket on the coat stand next to the door. As she sat down opposite him she placed her mobile phone on the table, ran her fingers through her hair and smiled again.
"Sorry I'm late,” she said as she sat down on the chair.
“Hello.” The man shifted in his seat, unsure of what to say. He let the woman continue the conversation, only answering when spoken to.
“So where do you live?” she asked
"It's a big place - which part of Glasgow?"
"Eh... it's... Newton Mearns." His ears glowed a bright red with embarrassment and his eyes seemed to be on the ceiling rather than on her.
"You don't sound too sure." She laughed as she spoke. “Anyway, it's a nice place I hear.”
“Yes,” she repeated.
He could sense that the woman’s frustration seemed to be growing at his inability to make conversation. Still he held back. Too many times before he had led the conversation into areas that had proved disastrous: football, religion and politics. And then there was his sense of humour that other people either didn't get or were offended by. His opinion of old was that you should meet people traditionally while out for an evening. However, the dating site had been a new idea.
“So, do you fancy a coffee or something to eat.” She picked up a laminated menu from the table and stared at it. Only now did the man look at her while she was looking away.
"Fancy a coffee? You fo' coffee?"
"Pardon? What did you say there?"
“Eh, nothing ..I mean...no thanks.” He looked down at the table. Don't laugh, he thought to himself.
“I think I will order some cake.” The woman paused trying to hear what the man had said over the clatter of cups being collected by the waitress.
“Yes that sounds good, me too.”
The waitress came over and the couple ordered. The man, still nervous, didn’t seem sure if the dating site had been the right way to go. He tried to steady himself and ease his way back into the conversation.
“I had a meeting down in Ayrshire earlier today - had to drive through Ardrossan on the way back. God, that is a rough place. I couldn’t count how many shell suits and white tracksuits I saw as I drove through the place. It was like a scene from Return of the Living Ned.” The man laughed as he said this trying to prompt the woman into responding.
The woman paused and looked directly at him “How dare you speak about my home town like that! My parents were brought up there and so was I.”
The man gasped in awe at his clumsy error.
The entire café was now watching intently.
“You have got some cheek,” the woman continued, “Newton Mearns is no better that Ardrossan.”
The man sat silent, in shock, not knowing how to respond. He sensed the other customers looking and listening.
“I thought I would be meeting somebody decent with a bit of class, obviously I was wrong”
The man put his head down in realisation that he had failed in yet another date because of one of his jokes. The woman snatched her phone and stood up.
“Eh…. I brought these flowers for you.” He held out a bright red bunch of roses which seemed to go well with the colour of his face.
“Oh thanks very much.” She reached out and accepted the bouquet. “That was really nice of you.” She held the flowers up and then thrashed the man repeatedly over the head with them. “And that’s what I think of your flowers ….and you!”
Two teenage boys stopped and stared through the window as the woman stormed off, grabbing her coat. The ring of the doorbell now reminded him of the end of a boxing match. His face still red, he sat motionless, a solemn and solitary figure in the corner.