Silence Among The Noise

At the back of the tavern, that's where they sat. Each night, the same: a tankard of spiced mead and a cheese scone.

They never said a word... Never raised a hand or quirked their lip in thanks.

They simply sat..

And ate...

And Paid...

And left, their tall frame gliding out the door in a flap of a verdant cloak.

Tonight was no different.

Elbows on the bar, chin nestled on my palms, I watched... Observed? Perceived? Whichever made me sound less like a stalker.

My view: a moving renaissance painting, a Shakespearean tavern.

The foreground: Me. My colleagues. Sweaty-faced and stressed. Wooden trays loaded with empty cups and tongue packed with witty remarks.

The middle ground: Drunk patrons. Sticky floors. Pink cheeks and making merry, hoop dresses hoicked and waistcoats undone. Rowdy. Wild.

And the background: Them. A stooped body. Alone. Framed in the sun’s light, seeping through the bay window. Small movements. Delicate. Deliberate.


They never made a noise—no slurp nor burp as they slipped their silver tankard under their furrowed cowl or pinched the cheesy dough between their fingers.

They never left a mess—chair tucked in, table, plate, clean of crumbs, and not a driblet of drink soiled the floor.

They were pleasant, peaceful. And it baffled me.

“Stop gawking.”

I jumped, struck from my daze. Lester’s squashed nose appeared in my peripheral—far too close for comfort—and I elbowed him away. He tossed a grey-mottled tea towel over his shoulder and leant against the bar. Stains varying in colour and questionability graced his apron delicately. A puckered welt left only his left eye open.

I faced him, unamused. “I’m not gawking! I’m—”

“Drooling then.” He whipped the towel and struck the bar with a hard crack. “So stop, or you’ll get saliva all over the lacquer.”

“That’s beer,” I countered, peeling my arms from the sticky bar. The sleeves of my top ripped like an old plaster, the cotton now covered in a new layer of ick. I should've known better. “And I don—”

A playful howl. A typhoon of red silk. The stench of stale rose perfume and sweat. Flouncing, she spilt over the counter, her empty cup clasped in her laced gloves.

“I want... You want... Me?” she slurred. Flush blotched her pale skin; she smiled, her eyes closing halfway. “Desire... You—”

Seizing the tankard, I drowned it in the barrel of brown booze beside me. I brought it back out, hand dripping and slammed it, full, on the bar. Mead sloshed. “Drink,” I said. “Go.”

The woman frowned. Shrugged. And accepting the drink, she stumbled back into the squirming throng, disappearing as quickly as she came.

I sighed.

THEY never disappeared—them in the corner. They were something special, something I couldn't help BUT see. A diamond in the rough. A jewel among a sea of monotonous sand.

I shook my head.

Perhaps the constant exposure to alcohol and the pheromones excreted from rutting customers had poisoned my mind.

Fingers clicked.

“You’re obsessed,” Lester smirked. “Leave them be.”

“I’m not, I’m not obsessed. Just... intrigued, alright. It's like when someone tells you not to look—you can't help BUT look. They’re moreish. Like a crumbly pastry...” My jewel analogy was better. I wiped a hand over my mouth—it smelt of drink. “Am I weird?”

“Yes,” Lester said bluntly. “But that's a whole other kettle of fish. Go talk to them—now don't give me that look—there’s no rule to say not to.”

“There’s not?”


No rule? No rule. Rule, no.

Of course there was no rule. This was a public establishment. Public. Where public spoke to public. I worked here—it was technically a rule TO speak to them.

“Fine,” I said, thumping my fist twice on the bar, “you’ve persuaded me. I’ll do it—if it’ll make you happy.”

“It won’t, but I’m sure it'll make you. Or it’ll embarrass you, which WOULD make me happy.”

I left him there—rude fool.

Skimming around the bar, I dodged the swing of a flyaway fist to my jaw, hopped over a hopefully snoozing man, and prised apart a patron squeezing another fellow in a headlock. By the time I reached the back, I was exhausted.

But it wasn't my poor physique that caused my heart to leap. Or the air to leave the room.

Up close, the detail of their cloak was striking. Green cloth shimmered, twinkling with stars of gold. Ethereal. Ivy leaves stitched the brim of their hood, descending over their back to the hem, sprouting blooming flowers of purples and blues.

They didn't look up. Not when I arrived, nor when I cleared my throat.



Calm at the edge of a storm.

Knocking twice gently on the table, I recited what I was going to say in my head. Taking a breath, I raised a hand and whispered, “Hi.”

(Couldn't think where else to take it... 😭😅🫥)

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