• Skyler Neal

The Man, the Mercedes and the Crown Chpt. One

Updated: Jun 3, 2018




Written every Sunday and published the first Sunday of the month.


Chapter 1 - Part 1

Fog.


The flight back to London was positively awful. My brother and I were sat in the front of the coach section while my parents and grandmother sipped champagne in first class. My little brother's stomach did not settle with the stale saltine crackers he found in the bottom of his backpack. As a big sister would, I warned him not to eat them, but as little brothers go, he did not listen. Instead, he stuck out his tongue and said in the most high-pitched pre-pubescent voice possible, "You're not the boss of me!" "Suit yourself," I said in a snarky tone. From there, one by one, with the carelessness of a little boy, he shoved cracker after cracker in his little mouth, unable to keep the crumbs from falling into his lap. Ten minutes later he ran with a fearful purpose to the tiny bathroom stall in the middle of the plane.


Rolling my eyes I put my headphones on and drifted off into the world of The Who. Taking a pretentious pride in the fact that I wasn't obsessed with Harry Styles like the other girls. No, I was an "old soul" rejecting anything loved by popular culture. It didn't matter to me that The Who was in fact very popular in their time because I thought it gave me an edge on the other girls.


After my family and I gathered our bags we waved for a taxi. Sloshing around in the muddy puddles, a slick black taxi streamed towards us like a blackbird, beating out the other taxis and their annoyed drivers. This particular taxi driver, no less irritated by our presence than the others.


As I shut the door beside me a wave of relief swept over my body. Calm is certainly not a word that is used when describing travel. As much as I liked New York City, the plane ride was long, the taxi rides were even longer and I missed my beloved home in Cheshire. It was there that crumbled chateaux threw shadows on the hills and loomed in the distance like the past.


A far cry from London, it was an old town, with small funky bookstores and rolling hills visible from my bedroom's window seat. However, it was tea time, a tradition never to be skipped even if fatigued and worn, especially in the presence of grandmother, a particularly traditional woman.


She insisted from the time we got onto the plane to the time we got off that we take a little side-stop to her favorite tea house in London. I sighed, knowing my exhausted parents could never win an argument with her if "tea time" was at stake. And so, the taxi that carried our sleepy faces and stuffed cases careened towards the city and tea.


Chapter 1 - Part 2

Umbrella.


The face of Big Ben glowed like the moon as we jetted towards town. The streets, a network of black waterfalls, rain dripping down them towards an unseen maze of caves below the city. Black umbrellas cluttered the streets as people and cars grazed each other.


The taxi pulled up to our favorite tea spot in the city, a place called Bradford's Emporium. What magic lay here was that of time travel. Looking up at this red brick building one could only imagine the other faces who have come upon it, in awe of such a timeless structure. We stepped into Bradford's as though it were a time machine. Looking around at the dark antique furniture splashed by vintage floral patterns and brightened by elegant plants resembling tall ballerinas. A few people were sat in front of a modest fireplace where a cat snoozed the day away, presumingly dreaming of chasing mice. My family sat in throne-like chairs lined up like chess pieces around a dark coffee table in front of a large window facing the street.


A feeble old lady waddled towards us as we sat, presenting us with little, vintage envelopes containing the tea menu. I opened mine like an old love letter, curious about what I might find. Loose jasmine lavender tea was highlighted as the special for the day. At the end of every description of tea sat, instead of a period, a little drawing of the same mysterious flower, with little thorns sticking out of its stem, almost coming off of the paper. Grandmother opted for her usual trusty vanilla chamomile while the rest of us chose the special lavender tea.


I gazed out upon the street, a mix of urban energy and foggy rain. A sea of black umbrellas cluttered the streets while one red umbrella stood statuesque in the middle of it all. Interestingly, it wasn’t swept away with the black umbrellas, it stood there, a quiet yet noticeable presence. The man beneath it, even more mysterious. He wore a black suit, odd because it was raining, no tie, just a pocket square matching the red of the umbrella. I couldn’t see his eyes; they were shaded by the brim of the umbrella. He stood next to a street light, dimly lit in the afternoon fog of London.


The tea arrived on a wooden tray, aligned carefully next to an array of biscuits. I soon forgot about the man across the street. The biscuits tasted of home, a comforting feeling after a long trip in a foreign land. An orange blob came into my field of vision on the right side of me, which turned out to be a cat with fur the color of burnt clementine. It rubbed my shoulder with its neck, eyes squinted, purring a little tune. The old lady who worked in the shop purposefully strode towards me, raising a finger at the cat. “It’s okay, I love cats,” I said shyly, “well, Houdini is of a different sort of cat,” the woman said with caution, “How so?”, “Houdini is a warning to all dog lovers that cats will eventually win over their hearts,” I grinned, it was certainly true that I was a dog person, with my two Dobermans back home, I couldn’t wait to see them again. I was at no risk of being a cat person because I saw this cat’s game from the moment it came over. I knew it wanted the biscuit I cradled in my hand like a precious stone. You see, I admired the cat’s confidence to chase down a biscuit in the hand of a stranger, a creature so fragile yet bold as it twisted itself into my lap.


I didn’t mind having a snuggly little creature cradled by my arms but just as I got comfortable, Houdini, living up to his name darted through my legs, across the room to another customer sitting in an armchair, legs crossed, reading the newspaper. I couldn’t help but notice the burgundy tones in his leather dress shoes and his black trousers. He emitted a certain undeniable elegance to him, the newspaper held directly in front of him, not a crinkle in the paper to be seen. Next to his shoes, leaning against the armchair was a red umbrella. I looked out at the street looking for the man I saw earlier leaning against a street light but he was nowhere in sight. I looked back at the man sitting in the armchair and as he flipped to the next page I glimpsed a flash of red on his chest. It appeared as though he was the man across the street I had seen just five minutes ago. I was so caught up in this man's sudden appearance I hadn't noticed that he was staring directly at me just over the top of his newspaper.