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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Brownies at Bella Italia

I don't quite know how B managed it, but we are seated at my favourite table at one of my favourite restaurants in Northampton, Bella Italia. Dinner is over, and we are waiting to order our afters.

"How's your Christmas shopping going?" B asks me with a grin. Her small smile lets me know that she knows I don't like to participate in the over-commercialisation of the day.

"This year I think it will be all charity shop buying for me," I say. "Giving gifts and giving back at the same time. We have a few shops on our main Gold Street down here, the British Red Cross, St. Barnardos amongst others."

"Killing two birds with one stone?"

"Something like that. Are you still going to do a Secret Santa at your Cyprus offices this year?"

"Depends on whether I'll be there... So, what are you going to do for Christmas?" Sensing my sudden hesitation at responding to her question, she continues, "Is it a big secret?"

"Not a big secret, no," I respond, hoping the dessert menu would come soon.

"Oh well, that's all right then. You can tell me. Small secrets don't count."

"Count for what?"

"Count for much! Now stop evading the question!"

"Which was..?"

"Ali! Are you going to tell me without me having to roast your nuts on a Christmas fire?"

I smile at the waitress that has brought our menus to our table, and use it as a shield. "I am going to be spending it as a SAM."

"A what?"

I look up at the waitress and give a small shrug. She is apparently enjoying our conversation. "A Samaritans volunteer. I will be working on the phones all day that day."

"Ali! You really are too much. What about your family?"

"How about we order first?" As B reluctantly agrees to my request, I look up at the waitress. "And what would you suggest Michelle?"

She gives me a wink. "You always have your usual."

"The usual it is then. B?"

"Make it two of the usual, he'll only end up eating it anyway," B says.

Michelle jots down our orders on her pad, thanks us and leaves our table.

B leans over, as though about to part a festive secret of her own. "So, what about your family?"

"They'll understand. I was doing some research on the Net and I came across the Samaritans page by accident. They get very busy on Christmas Day. They do a wonderful job, and help people's lives."

"No one will give you a gold star for it mister."

"Honey B, I truly believe that the good that you do comes back to you."

B doesn't reply for a moment. "Do you want to know why I came over?"

"If you want to tell me."

"We miss you dreadfully in Cyprus. Your parents miss you dreadfully, too, but they won't admit it to you. Why don't you come home?"

"But this is my home, Missy."

B shakes her head indignantly. "No it isn't! England can never be a Cypriot's true home. We have a home."

"Anywhere you choose to lay your hat is home, B. For me racial connections don't come into it, but I see both places equally as home."

"What do you see in England?"

"What is it you don't see in England? Granted we didn't know each other then, but we both grew up in this country, experienced so many of our firsts here... I often wonder how you haven't connected with it as much."

B sniffs at me. "My connection is with Cyprus. It always has been. It's where I belong."

"And I don't dispute that honey."

"And it's where you belong, too."

"Possibly, and I will return again. Just not now. Not with you. Can we change the subject?"

"What do you want to talk about?"

"About climate change? Or what is taking our orders so long? I want my brownies and hot chocolate."

"Is the chocolate made from sustainable resources?"

I give a wide grin. "Are you making fun of me Missy?"

B mocks a shocked expression, and places a hand to her chest. "Moi? Make fun? Of you? The sweet, sensitive guy that fights for the souls of trees? And who sacrifices his Christmas for the lowly? I wouldn't dare. God might throw down a bolt of lightning or something!"

This time I laugh, loudly, as B blows me a kiss from across the table. "You'd be better off blowing me a raspberry Missy. Now that's God's lightning bolt."

We both laugh this time; B pats her hands on the table. Michelle, the waitress, approaches us and hovers by as though she wants to ask us something. B stares at her. "This usual dessert is getting an unusually long time to arrive. Is there a problem?"

"No, I - well actually we -" Michelle points over to the other waitresses standing by in their cove, "wanted to ask you something?"

B throws me a look, but I put my hands and shake my head. I don't know what it's about.

Michelle continues, "Are - are you B, I mean really B, the one we read about?"

B's facial expression is, well, indescribable. She turns to me. "What do you do? Hand out cards with your blog's name on it?"

I grin and shake my head. "Pure coincidence I assure you. Some of these girls were readers before I started coming here again."

Michelle shakes her vigorously in agreement. "We love Ali's poetry. And his Letters to B!"

B doesn't look appeased. "Well, look at this way," I say, "at least they haven't tried to tickle you under your chin like you're Gizmo."

My Honey B is decidedly unamused. "Well, talking of all things big, beautiful and B," she says, "how about these Bella Italia brownies, then?"

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