The dead girl met the dead man in my café. Of course, at that point they weren’t the dead girl or the dead man and, in fact, she was actually a 25-year-old woman. However, ‘dead girl’ was how the papers referred to her so I’ve ended up saying that myself. I notice things like that now – like how gleeful ‘TRAGEDY’ looks on a front page or how much bigger they always printed her picture. I can’t help but think it was because he was an unfortunate looking man. I suppose people think it’s mean and unnecessary to say that but, quite frankly, he looked much older than 45 with this big, bulbous nose and skin like the shredded meat I feed the alley cats. But it’s important because it was the ugliness of his face that led me to even notice the dead girl and the dead man together in the first place.
They just… didn’t match. Sitting there in the corner by the window, viewing the outside drizzle through a grey filter of window stains and streaks. It really was such a shame it rained that day. She had this pale, unmade face that looked small and sad atop her over-sized raincoat – she didn’t take off once. It was a terrible colour for her skin tone. Grey on grey. And, she was so still. When she brought her mug up to her mouth, her arms moved without much bend to them, like those rigid dollies. She looked like one of them as well, albeit a dolly with the expression scratched right off. I’m half-convinced I never saw her blink.
He, on the other hand, was skittish; eyes darting, fingers grasping at anything. Salt packets. Cutlery. He tore apart my nice floral-patterned napkins.
There was a real disconnect between them in a way that, being frank, was, well, sort of funny. I wondered if it was a dating site match gone wrong. Perhaps she’d thought she was turning up to meet George Clooney. Although, I guess she would have fixed herself up better. Not worn that ratty raincoat.
My next best guess was that perhaps it was an absent father trying to make good with his put-upon daughter. Maude in the kitchen guessed that maybe the trainspotters were in town.
I’m ashamed to admit I spent much, much longer than necessary cleaning the nearest table so I could listen in.
‘I’m remembering when I was at my happiest,’ the dead girl was telling the dead man. She hid a soft, sweet voice inside in that brittle body. ‘That’s what you should do.’
He fidgeted and mumbled in response. I wanted to give him a whack. Tell him to speak up. He fixated on the rain outside as it started to really come down.
‘Rains good,’ was the only thing I heard him say with any clarity. She nodded, also entranced by the downpour, adding: ‘Means people won’t be out for walks for a while.’
They didn’t leave a tip even though I’d given them a free biscuit with their tea. I suppose, though, why would you?
When reporters turned up the next day, a shameful smugness set through me. I had been right to sense something was off. But I didn’t think for a second they’d both be dead, found slumped in her car. I’m not going to lie, I did briefly panic and worry they thought someone had slipped rat poison into their tea. I had visions of my business ruined forever. But, it was a double suicide. Two strangers. They’d acquainted themselves over the dark-web, whatever that means. Planned through a forum where people who wanted to kill themselves discussed the manner in which it would occur. Grisly, sad stuff. Turns out the dead girl and the dead man, for whatever reason, arranged to meet for the first time at my café’s Table 12 and, well, they’d arranged something less pleasant for after.
The journalists’ questions never ended. Had I seen them? How had they acted? Did they discuss details of their suicide pact over my signature apple crumble?
They offered to quote me as an anonymous source.
Well… It was an overwhelming time. Anyway, I didn’t share anything too personal, I don’t think. There’s only so much you can judge about a person when pouring them their Earl Grey.
Come to think of it, they were very interested in the fact the dead girl stopped to pat one of the cats I’d let come in to escape the rain. Wanted to know what colour it was, whether they could get a picture of the exact cat. I think in one paper the animal’s picture was bigger than the dead man’s. Wasn’t even that pretty of a cat.
It’s strange to think I probably provided them with the last comfort they enjoyed. I worry I left a splodge of tea on his saucer. As if he needed more misery heaped upon him, poor man.
I often think about what the dead girl said. ‘I’m remembering when I was at my happiest.’ It was an odd thing to say. Even now I know the circumstances. I’d like to have known what she had been remembering. And why it wasn’t enough.
Emma Grace is a journalist turned teacher from Scotland. She recently graduated with a Masters in Creative Writing from Goldsmiths. Her work has been published in places such as XRAY Literary Magazine, Maudlin House, Product Magazine, The Inspire Anthology and Grazia. She can be found tweeting at @emmanya