The haunting of unborn winter’s cries was like a ribbon of ice flying loose around the street. Kevin O’ Sullivan shivered when he felt the first tickle of cold encircle him as he strode outside his house to his car.
He draped himself with the haven of it and was soon zooming down the lane in no apparent zeal. After all, a cold Monday often whipped a frothy case of slow poisoning during work. Kevin could see it creep up already in the way the frame of his mind kept fitting his low spirits and fatigue inside.
As he steered his ride, he spotted a figure strolling down the pavement. It was unmistakably Mrs. Doyle, hallmarked by her crooked back, snow hair and soft woollen jacket. Mrs. Doyle, mother of Neil from Neil’s cafe that stood a few blocks away, at times helped her son with his duties.
Kevin reckoned she was headed to her cafe now although he couldn’t imagine why she’d prefer walking under the curtains of the icy winds. Keven thought for a minute. He could certainly use a good cup of coffee and time could certainly run a few miles too.
He pulled over. “Hello, Mrs. Doyle. Setting off to the cafe?”
The age-ragged woman glanced at the window, rolled down, and then at the face underneath it. “Mr. O’ Sullivan. Ah yes. Neil already went in particularly early today and wanted me to come in later.”
“Well, I can drive you to the cafe. I’m heading out there anyway.,” offered Kevin.
“Oh, How convenient! Thank you, Mr. O’ Sullivan. The weather does turn a blind eye to those going on foot today.” The woman got into the backseat and rubbed her palms together, heaving a sigh of relief. “In fact, my son had wanted to sort out some matters with you, so I suppose you killed two birds with the same stone. Is that what you say?
Kevin let out a dry laugh as he fired the engine. ‘Yes, Mrs. Doyle. Which matters do you speak of?”
“Oh, I’m not sure. Something regarding money.”
Keven wrinkled his brow.
Soon enough they reached the cafe, a quaint little building with a pleasant and mellow aura around it. Inside, although being a small expanse, it was warmly lit with a counter of glassed delicacies gleaming in the light. Kevin paid for his coffee and Mrs. Doyle fetched her son.
Neil, a thick orange-haired man, donned in a frayed apron and a smile, emerged from the back room with his mother following suit.
“Mr. O’ Sullivan. How are you?”
Kevin shook his outstretched hand. ‘I’m fine, thank you.”
Neil cocked his eyebrow awkwardly. “Well, I don’t know how else to put this but a few weeks back, when you got those soda breads and cakes, you’d promised you’d pay later. Well, um..”, Neil ran a hand through his beard. “Well, since then you’ve visited us twice but you seem to have completely forgotten about it.”, he finished tentatively, eyes zeroed in on Kevin.
Kevin did remember everything. But he also recalled an image of him, fishing those two euros out of his cupboard and keeping them aside to give them away. And he was absolutely sure that he did on one occasion or the other.
“Mr. Doyle, I think you should ascertain this issue because I did pay the money to one of your people. Could the coin have gotten somewhere, as a casualty of your busy shop?”, asked Kevin genuinely curious.
But Neil’s smile had dimmed like a dying light and beside him, his mother’s grey eyes held a pitiful glint.
When Kevin had stepped into the cafe, he’d felt the warmth poured in by the wafting aroma of the baked goods and the blithe flavour of the homespun decor, like a blanket amidst all the coldness. But now he felt it seep in again as if the blanket had been yanked away from him.
Kevin cleared his throat. ‘Look, Mr. Doyle, I am an honest man. My conscience and my cowardice have always led me down the right path for me to not mislead anyone else. I certainly couldn’t have strayed from my dignity by not paying you back for those things.”, he said, his mind brimmed with infuriation at the other man’s unspoken claim but not spilling out for him to see.
Neil relented, his flame dusted hair fluttering as he shook his head. “I am not doubting your honesty, Mr. O’ Sullivan. If you’re so certain that you’ve paid the money I’ll check for any mistakes today. But be sure to come in again tomorrow so that I can let you know.”
“Alright, Mr. Doyle. I’ll see you then.”, said Kevin, with a nod directed at his mother. Setting his cup on the counter, still half full, he walked out of the doors, feeling like he’d traveled from one frosty city to another.
At rose-specked twilight, after a slow painful day of stabbing work, Kevin buried himself in his armchair. He then began dwelling on the frozen thorns’ ice prick of a morning.
I’m sure I paid the money, said the strong unshakable voice in his head. But a whisper, as faint as a fading colour broke the voice for a fleeting moment.
Kevin rose and turned to his cupboard, opening it none too softly. He shuffled through its contents and soon enough discovered a two euro coin stamped to a corner. The one he’d saved for Neil Doyle.
A sinking feeling crept into his stomach as if he were a balloon devoid of air. How could I have forgotten it?, screamed the voices in his head. Kevin closed his eyes and felt like his heart was being crushed, like it was being trampled on by a vehicle. How am I ever going to see Neil’s face tomorrow?
One of Kevin’s fingers gave in and the coin fell and kept tumbling dramatically on the counter until it finally settled to rest. Neil looked up, his pale face smeared with a surprised blush.
Fastening his eyes on Neil with much trouble, Kevin began to recite the elegy of his flawless facade- “Mr. Doyle, I’m so sorry. I had indeed failed to pay you, as you’d said. I—“ he ceased.
Neil had held up a hand with his blush deepened like a red stain. After heaving a hasty breath, he began speaking- “It is I who should be apologising, Mr. O’ Sullivan. Yesterday I found your coin wedged between the cave of our drawers and the wall. I have no idea how we’d managed to overlook it earlier. However the matter is that I’d unjustly offended you and tainted your trustworthy nature in my mind and for that Mr. O’ Sullivan, I am sorry. I am sorry for misreading you when I hadn’t even read the whole situation.”, he said and then held up a coin in his hand, pushing away the one on the counter. “This belongs to you”.
“Oh.” Kevin was intensely bewildered. So now, he had actually given the the money after all?
It was yet another day laced with wintry air with its phantom of flakes haunting the lands. Mrs. Doyle stood looking out of the window of the cafe’s kitchen, well aware that she would’ve been caught up in its glittering rage yesterday if not for Mr. O’ Sullivan.
And as it happens, she certainly couldn’t have strayed from her dignity by not paying for a car ride.