Waldmeer Corner Store and Cafe
Maria’s progress was rapid and unhampered. Everyone in Waldmeer and the surrounding towns knew of the accident and the girl’s unexpected recovery. She was soon well enough to do short shifts in the cafe her mother managed, Waldmeer Corner Store and Cafe. It was generally agreed that it would be best for her to do her remaining year of schooling from home. The town folk did not speak of the accident to Maria, herself, in case it drew attention to something which might pull her backwards. Instead, they spoke in hushed tones to Maria’s mother. They need not have worried. It was only going in one direction.
Farkas was one of the morning coffee visitors to the cafe. He always got takeaway as he didn’t want to be bothered with other people’s annoying civilities. He could barely remember Maria before the accident but even he was curious about the girl’s miraculous recovery. He looked at her closely to see if she really was okay. He was a little embarrassed to find that there was something interesting about the girl. Over the coming year, Farkas gradually started having his coffee at the cafe tables. He would read the paper and, sometimes, talk briefly with Maria’s mother who was not that much older than him. Maria would smile at him when she cleared his table, although, she was a bit nervous of the man who lived on the hill. No one in the village seemed to know anything about him; where he came from, how long he was there for, or even what work he did. Farkas certainly wasn’t telling anyone anything.
Occasionally, one of the hipster hill-dwellers would ask Maria directly if she could remember anything from when she was unconscious. Curious to know the answer but too conservative to ask, other people would stop talking and listen for the answer. Maria didn’t want to disappoint anyone but she could remember nothing at all.
“Happy birthday, Maria,” Farkas heard one of the cafe regulars say one morning.
“Is it your birthday? How old are you?” he asked when she brought his coffee over. The question sounded more important than he intended.
“Eighteen.” Something about that made Farkas happier than he felt it should have.
Maria was changing. Her parents noticed it and felt it must be as a result of the accident. They didn’t question her about it as they were grateful to have her with them in any form. Farkas noticed it too. She was beginning to look older. Perhaps, it was the normal change from girl to woman but it seemed more than that. Her eyes looked like they were searching for something. Previously, Maria never had that look on her face. It was not the normal restlessness of young adulthood which pushes the person from the safety of home out into the adventure of the world. If it was that, Maria would have been outgrowing the cafe and dreaming of the city. In fact, she was content in her work in Waldmeer Corner Store and Cafe. It was a different kind of restlessness. It was the restlessness which comes from inside when one can’t quite remember what one is supposed to do.
Farkas noticed that he was not the only person to have a growing interest in Maria. Charlie lived in the back hills of Waldmeer. More than ten years older than Maria and ten years younger than Farkas, her real name was Charmaine but no one called her that. She had very short, almost shaved, dark hair and large, dark eyes that were as intense as Farkas’s. She didn’t carry the angry or passive-aggressive demeanour that many gay women seem to have. She wasn’t masculine and nor was she feminine. She was androgynous and totally owning it. This woman knew what she was doing. She was an up and coming artist who already had works in some of the cities’ galleries. She was unpretentious and treated everyone the same, except for people who annoyed her. She seemed to sense something unusual in Maria, and Farkas could see that Charlie was nurturing it and her. This troubled him as he could not tell what Charlie wanted with Maria.
Farkas knew how to deal with men. You make them feel nervous to challenge you and then they will respect your territory. Women? You flirt with them just enough for them to think you may have an interest in them and then you leave them wanting more. What do you do with someone who thinks differently, who comes at things from a different angle and won’t engage in the conflict? Maria really liked Charlie. She felt that Charlie may have answers to questions that she couldn’t even form properly yet.
To add to Farkas’s perceived problem, Charlie often came into the cafe with one of her long-term friends, Gabriel. Gabriel was also an artist. He lived in the city and used Charlie’s house for sculpting at various times of the year. Charlie and Gabriel were well known and respected in Waldmeer which was no small achievement given the usual traditional nature of most small country towns. It was common knowledge that Gabriel had had both male and female partners in the past. Unlike Charlie, he was not androgynous. He was very much a man. Both Charlie and Gabriel had an emotional freedom and life courage which Maria was drawn to. In turn, they sensed the spirit in Maria. After all, they were both artists and artists see the invisible before anyone else.