Excerpt for A Christmas Romance at the Two Cats Café by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

A Christmas Romance

at the

Two Cats Café

Short Story


Glynis Smy

Copyright © 2017 by Glynis Smy

(Anastasias Publishing Europe)

A Christmas Romance at the Two Cats Café

All rights reserved. This digital only short story, or any portion thereof,
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher,
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Dear Reader

Thank you for your continued support throughout the year, it is most appreciated. Writing for you is such a pleasurable task, but not always an easy one as characters can be a tad bossy at times and take over my overloaded brain. Some from other books I've written often ask for a revival and are swiftly placed back into the memory box where they belong.

However, you make it all worthwhile. Your generous reviews and kind words mean more than you will ever know.

With that in mind, I've written a story for you.

Whilst waiting for a writing meet up in a local café a waitress struck a chord with me and I wrote a few words of a short story. Prior to entering the café I'd noticed a black cat, then when exiting, another cat had taken its place, a tortoiseshell. Bam! The title came to me, and here it is, my Christmas 2017, thank you gift. I hope you enjoy Daniel's story.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


A Christmas Romance at the Two Cats Café

When Daniel Chandler entered the small town eatery he hadn't noticed the lack of the male species. He'd not noticed he was outnumbered when he stood patiently waiting to order a filter coffee, a toasted cheese sandwich, and slice of salted caramel cake. The latter he'd never tried but those around his office often ranted on about the new taste sensation, and as part of his personal challenge for December 2017, rolling into 2018, was to try new things, he avoided his go-to favourite of chocolate fudge.

Now he had noticed, he felt slightly out of place, at a disadvantage. A sweat formed across his top lip, and he licked it away.

A sigh to the left startled him, Daniel glanced at the table where the sound had come from and blushed when a woman – old enough to be his mother – winked at him. With speed he removed himself to a table far away from her teasing eyes. A floozy, yes, his mother would have called her by that name.

Daniel sat next to a Christmas tree decorated with colourful rag-ribbons and waited for his order to arrive. The Two Cats café – no doubt its name gained from two large china tortoiseshell cats sitting in either window – was awash with ladies who lunch. Had he not already placed his order, he might have left. On the other hand, the young woman who'd taken his order was reason enough to remain seated and take in his surroundings. Another challenge on the list, to sit and relax in a room full of strangers.

The café was tastefully decorated in the soft pastel and floral shades many women seemed to enjoy. His mother always preferred plain off-white clinical shades, and he often suggested she added a touch of colour to their home, but she never relented. Daniel tried adding a couple of striped cushions after she passed away, but they never blended with the starkness and dark wood of the furniture. Cold. Even with the heating on high, the house always appeared cold. Stark.

He shivered at the thought of going back, of living there alone with the starkness. His therapist told him he should try, it was time. Time to move forward and enjoy his own life.

Daniel hankered for a life outside of his one as a carer, but the right time never came around, and by the time he reached thirty, everyone he knew had either married and settled down, or were still partying until dawn, something that still didn't appeal to Daniel, he enjoyed his eight hours sleep now they were no longer interrupted by the tinkle of a bell alerting him to his mother's nightly needs.

A movement beside him told him his lunch had arrived. The waitress was the same girl who'd taken his order. She carried a tray almost as large as she was, and Daniel part-rose to his feet, then he remembered his vow to stop fussing over others and promptly sat back down. His actions startled the waitress, and she gave a nervous giggle as the tray rattled its contents. She settled it down on the table.

Daniel watched as she unloaded the plates onto the table, avoiding eye contact at all times. His heart decided to do a rumba inside his chest, there was something special about her. He'd noticed her through the window in the past, but courage had never allowed him to walk through the door, nor had Mother, or time.

With the back of her hand the waitress pushed back the hair daring to peep from under a pink baseball cap sporting the name of the café across its rim. It struggled to contain the escaping chestnut curls. Her petite features, flushed with rushing around serving customers, gave the appearance of a china doll. Daniel sat on his hands. He resisted the urge to reach out and stroke her cheek just to see if she was real, or the fairy from the tree come alive. She needed no make-up to highlight her qualities.

"I'm so sorry for the delay."

Her voice shook him from his daydream. She gave him the briefest of glances and a small smile played across her lips.

Daniel noted the slight tremor of her hand as she placed the plates and a steaming cup of coffee in front of him.

"I forgot to ask, would you like milk or cream for your coffee?"

"Cream. Yes, cream would be nice, but no rush. I can see you are busy. Thank you."

She nodded and turned away. Daniel watched her reflection in the large decoupage-framed mirror on the wall beside him. Her slight hips gave a natural sway.

The girl was perfection enclosed in a shroud of a black t-shirt and jeans uniform. Unflattering, yet gave her a sense of vulnerability at the same time.

How he longed to rush up to her, place his arms around her tiny waist and kiss her peach-pink lips. A new emotion. One tempting him to bolt for the door. He bit into the cheese toastie as a diversion and savoured the sharpness of the cheese. She also used Worcester sauce as an added flavour, at least he hoped it was her who'd added the sauce, as it meant they had something in common. He could see no one else behind the counter, but knowing his luck, the person who had added the seasoning was a six-foot bearded chef.

Sara–he'd noticed her name badge when she returned with his cream–moved with the efficient grace of a ballerina. Her tiny hands touched everything with gentle precision.

Oh, how he longed for those fingers to touch him in the same way, to heighten the thrill he got from just watching her. To satisfy his need for affection.

"Everything all right for you?" She asked.

Daniel nodded and swallowed.

"Perfect. Worcester sauce?"

"Shh, my secret recipe."

She put her fingers to her lips and turned her attention to the table beside them.

Once again he watched her through the mirror as she returned to her counter. Daniel diverted his thoughts onto the food and drink before him and shook away all fanciful thoughts.

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all the way…

The Christmas song rang out from two speakers attached to the wall just above his head.

Christmas. Peace on Earth.

The words of various Christmas carols rang out, not loud enough to annoy, simply as a pleasant background noise to enhance the ambiance.

Joy to Mankind.

"Pah, not to this man." Daniel muttered under his breath.

A woman in a loud Christmas jumper which strained across her ample bust, and suggested Rudolph's red nose was more of a banana shape than most would recognise from traditional pictures of the reindeer, stared at him. Daniel, suitably embarrassed for being caught out talking to himself louder than intended, turned his attention to the salted caramel cake, and in one swift mouthful agreed with his colleagues. It was divine. He hoped Sara cooked it, how he'd love to fall in love with someone with such talent.

The reindeer-jumper woman, Daniel noticed, was one who enjoyed glaring and staring at customers around the room, now turned her attention to Sara, and not in a pleasant way.

"This is disgusting. Laziness and slovenliness are not what I expected from this establishment." She swept her arms in a royal fashion around the room holding a piece of silver cutlery. Sara took the offending fork from the woman and apologised.

"I'm so sorry. I was obviously distracted when I wrapped two forks instead of a fork and knife. I do apologise."

Daniel heard the slight hint of sarcasm in her voice. Not enough to hit out, but enough to fight back.

He watched as Sara fetched a knife and returned to the table. Unsatisfied she'd not had a dramatic enough reaction, the woman continued to rant, now enjoying the attention of other diners. Daniel admired Sara's ability to lay down the knife with calm control. He himself might have been tempted otherwise.

"That is no excuse. Laziness and tardiness are not good qualities for a waitress."

Sara looked to the floor, her hands clasped in front of her. He knew that stance – that defeated look. The, 'give me your tongue lashing and then I can get on', style of body language. Oh, how he knew. How he despised it when he saw it happen to others now his counsellor had opened his eyes. How wrong it all had been. Now he wondered how he could help Sara. More importantly could he help Sara?

Daniel swore under his breath. He needed to find courage, Sara did not deserve such abuse. He scrunched his hands into tight balls and flexed them in and out. His counsellor taught him the technique to assist him with keeping his temper – and tears – at bay with his tyrant of a mother.

The woman carried on, definitely enjoying the attention she'd now garnered, especially from those entering the café who stared at the floorshow debating whether to stay or go elsewhere. Her voice grated, and Daniel noted Sara's hands tremble and could see anxiety etched into her brow.

"I'm sorry, madam. It's been an exceptionally busy morning and I'm the only one here. My assistant lost a parent this morning, and obviously, I had to let her go home."

"Lost a parent? Where pray, does one lose a parent?"

The mocking tone flashed out and Daniel fancied it was on a forked tongue.

Sara stood dumbfounded. He could see she struggled to find the words to shut the woman up. Then he saw it, the flexing of her left hand – the calming technique. She was anxious and needed the support of a friend. There was no one rushing to her rescue, she had no staff to back her up, and the other women in the room simply sat back and watched, or were engrossed in discussing whatever it was ladies discussed in a café.

"Her mother died. Suddenly. A heart attack."

Sara spoke with a clear message–she had no choice, she was alone and that was the reason. Still the woman held her grip with her spiteful tongue.

"That is simply no excuse for you to slacken from your duties. I will be reporting this to the health department. It's scandalous."

Had the situation not been that of a tongue lashing old witch pitching herself against a sweet young woman, Daniel might have been tempted to laugh. The health department? Who did the woman think she was? His mother? She'd been a forked tongue female with an emotional grip the strength of a silverback gorilla.

It was not his fault his father left, nor was it his duty to take the bullying she offered, but Daniel did. Out of duty. For thirty-five years he took it, and she'd drained him. He knew he wasn't an ugly child. The admiring glances from the opposite sex told him that, but he had no energy to share his emotions with a girlfriend. Instead, he opted for a life of shell-walking. For a life devoid of love.

His life consisted of caring, working in a local accounts office 9-5 Monday to Friday, and keeping house. His day was full with ensuring the happiness of others. Sadly, happiness had never found him. His mother frightened away all friends, and Daniel was too tired to care by the time he was twenty. Teenage years had slipped into nothing. No excitement, no music blasting from his bedroom, no life, simply existing. Now he saw a young woman who he'd only just met, experiencing public humiliation.

He knew the pain of that particular abuse. Deep inside he'd known within a few minutes Sara was the girl he'd wished for all his life, and if in reality she was his to love and hold, he would not allow her to be bullied by this woman.

It was time for him to put another of his 'to do' quests into action. It was time to man up.

He flexed his hands and took two deep calming breaths, rose to his feet and approached the two women.

"Excuse me ladies."

Both women looked his way as did many of the others from surrounding tables. The top lip sweat threatened to form, but he fought his inner nerves and turned to Sara. The woman seated at the table also rose to her feet, but before she had the opportunity to open her mouth, Daniel spoke with a calm, friendly voice.

"Thank you so much for the brunch, Miss err, Sara. Not eating before our meeting was foolishness on my part. Now, if you'd lead the way I can start my inspection. Under the circumstances, you really should have called my office and cancelled. But now I'm here, I'll go about my health and safety checks. Lead the way." And before either woman could say a word, he strode with what he hoped was a confident stride, behind what he hoped was the beaded curtain leading to the kitchen, and not the ladies toilets.

"Who are you?" Sara's soft voice followed him through. He turned and there she stood. Her curls now released from their prison, her eyes bright with wonderment and her hand flexing with anxious anticipation. A vision of flustered beauty.

Daniel simply stared, unable to say a word.

"I said, who are you? I am not due, nor expecting an inspection. Why would you do that for me? Lie?"

Her voice, soft with a hint of nervous tension, touched his ears with its velvet tone.

Breathe. Inhale. Flex. Speak for goodness’ sake, talk to the girl!

Still the words wouldn't come. He shook his head to give himself a few seconds to think. Sara stepped closer. He glanced at her left hand, it still followed the flex rhythm. She shook the rest of her hair free. Time stood still. The occasional tinkle of the doorbell told them more people had arrived or left. Sara's perfume teased his senses. The warmth of the small kitchen would be his disgrace, the claustrophobic sensation threatened. He straightened his back and drew his six-foot-two frame to its full height.

"My err. I am err." Daniel clamped his mouth shut.

The words he wanted to say would not form, and he did not want to appear a jabbering idiot in front of Sara. Sadly, it appeared to be too late. A flicker of a smile played across her lips, her eyes sparkled and she held out her right hand.

"Well, Err. Thank you for being my knight in shining armour against that woman."

Sara's curls bounced as she nodded her head towards the entrance of the café.

Daniel took a step towards her and also held out his right hand and his heart skipped a beat when she slipped hers into his, it felt so tiny. He gave it a gentle shake.

"Daniel Chandler."

At last he could tell her his name and Daniel allowed his shoulders to relax a little. Unable to release her hand he let her withdraw hers and eventually put his into his jeans pockets. He needed to keep control, to not walk away. This was a life challenge. One he'd always dreamed of, talking to a beautiful young woman, outside of work and not under his mother's critical eye.

"Anyone there?" A female voice called through from the café.

It disturbed the silence which had fallen between them and Sara sighed. She hastily pushed her hair back under her cap and looked to the doorway, then turned back to Daniel. She stepped towards the doorway but hesitated before she reached the beaded curtain.

It occurred to him she was torn between customers either side of her counter. One wanting to order or pay, the other a male stranger, loitering with unknown intent. It was now or never, and Daniel took his chance.

"Let me help you."

"Hello, any one serving out here?" A voice rang out with impatience.

Sara swung a look out to the café and beckoned Daniel to follow her.

"Come with me, and don't touch a thing–health and safety rules, not mine."

The giggle floated on the air as she swept out through the curtain. Daniel shook his shoulders, took his hands from his pockets and raced out behind her. The moaning customer was released from her stage-struck stance with a commanding performance on his behalf, reassuring her all was well and the café was in capable hands, and his good books. Lunch was on the house.

All I want for Christmas is you–hoo-you, baby

He watched on as Sara moved swiftly, reducing the queue of customers with a radiant smile. Daniel found himself tapping his foot to the tune. The lyrics were words he wished he could say out loud.

"Well don't just stand there, wash your hands and do something useful. Unless you have a job to go back to?"

Sara raised an eyebrow in question whilst holding out a navy blue pinafore. Her smile widened when he took it from her.

"Day off. Happy to help." David rushed the words before she had time to change her mind. The thought of working alongside her was a Christmas present unwrapped.

For three hours they moved into a comfortable working relationship. Daniel enjoyed the banter with customers, and even a continuous mountain of washing up didn't faze him. At four o'clock, Sara walked to the door and turned the closed sign around.

"So Mr. Err, Daniel the Health and Safety man. Time for us to clear the decks before we can enjoy a well-earned rest."

Holding out his hand he took the spray bottle and cloth she offered with no argument. Daniel watched and copied as Sara cleaned the café back into a pretty chocolate-box picture of neatness. Now and then he would sneak a look at her and admired the passion she had for what he now knew, was her own business. A rundown greasy spoon turned into a haven for those who enjoyed homemade baked treats.

"That woman was right you know. I did let things slide today, but it is a lesson learned. I've only run this place for six weeks and am bound to get things wrong."

She stood and arched her back, and the urge to put his arms around her and kiss her lips returned. Daniel snatched up a pack of napkins and proceeded to wrap cutlery to distract the thought.

"She reminded me of my mother."

It surprised him when the words came out, and Daniel looked to Sara for a response.

"Really? Is that why you use the flex technique, to keep calm. Sorry, it's something I tend to look for and notice. Was she really that horrid to you? My counsellor taught me how to use it to prevent a panic attack. I get them you see."

Sara's face flushed.

"Gosh, why on earth am I confessing that to you? A stranger? Why did I let you work with me this afternoon? Why did you?"

Daniel burst out laughing.

"So many questions. I'm sorry, I laugh at inappropriate moments, but seriously, why have we done and said those things? Comfortable in each other's company? The need for a friend? Who knows? Yes, she wasn't the most pleasant of women. Drove my dad away, and suffocated me, knocked my confidence as a man. Right, now I have a question for you."

With a shrug of her shoulders and a smile, Sara held her hands out with palms facing the ceiling, a gesture of surrender and understanding.

"Fire away, ask your question. You know the most embarrassing thing about me, so what else do you want to know?"

"Would you like to go for a drink when we finish up?"

No sooner than the words rushed from his mouth, Daniel regretted saying them. He tried to read the expression etched across Sara's face but failed. Puzzled? Confused? Annoyed?

Without answering, Sara turned out the main lights and pulled plugs on all electrical appliances. The street lights flicked in through the window and added an orange glow. Daniel pulled on his coat in preparation to leave. He'd gone too far, asked the wrong question, or the right one too soon, he couldn't judge, but Sara's silence spoke volumes.

He pulled the zip on his coat, headed to the door and pushed down on the antique handle. As he did so, Sara followed him and placed her hand on his. Its warmth washed over him, and he fought back his emotions. One really could fall in love at first sight.

"I'd rather we sat here, you know, get to know each other a little more. I'm not good in crowds. I've a flask of mulled wine waiting upstairs, and besides, I have to feed Harry and Wills."

Of course, she has a family. Stupid, stupid man.

Daniel berated himself for missing the fact that someone as beautiful as Sara would have already been snapped up.

"No, no, that's fine, thank you. You've worked hard all day. Go, enjoy your family time. I'll see myself out. I'll drop by for coffee again sometime. Merry Christmas by the way."

Sara gave his hand a gentle squeeze.

"They're my two cats. Please stay. Look, it's snowing. If you get stranded, it's okay. I have all you need right here."

Their eyes met and Daniel saw the reflection of snowflakes in hers, he reached out for her face and traced his finger along her lips, she tilted her head, looked up at a bunch of mistletoe above the door, stood on tip-toe and placed a kiss on his. The moment he felt their warmth, Daniel knew he'd never feel lonely or unloved again.

The End

Glynis Smy lives by the sea in Dovercourt~Harwich, Essex. In 2014, she was short-listed for the Festival of Romantic Fiction New Talent Award, and her book, Maggie's Child, reached #1 in the Victorian Historical Romance category on Amazon UK. The book has also sat in the charts alongside, Barbara Erskine, Danielle Steel, Dilys Court, Josephine Cox, and many other well-known authors.

More by the Author

Maggie's Child (Historical Romance)

Ripper, My Love (Historical Suspense / Romance Book I)

Ripped Genes (Historical Suspense / Romance Book II)

The Penny Portrait (Historical Romance)

Heels and Hearts (Medical Style Romance set in Cyprus and UK)

Christmas Scrubs (Short Medical Christmas Romance)

All available on Amazon

Find her on:

Twitter @GlynisSmy


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