- The Storried Platform
‘THE STRANGER OVER MY HUSBAND’S SHOULDER’ – By Dean O. Arutoghor
Stacey didn’t take offence when Barry buried his face in a newspaper as they took a much-needed break at Costa Coffee from their Saturday shopping trip. She was, in fact, relieved. She preferred her husband’s sulky silence to his spiteful tongue. For most of their marriage, she had always resented the way he had seemed to derive great pleasure in pointing out her every mistake, belittling her achievements and mocking her yo-yoing weight at every possible opportunity.
She could feel herself bubbling with anger again but what was the point? She had never been able to summon enough pluck to stand up to him. Her meekness sometimes vexed her more than his bullying.
Then, just over Barry’s right shoulder, at the table behind them, she sighted the handsome stranger in shades looking straight at her. First, she did a double take before looking over her shoulder sharply. There was no one behind her. She turned her head to face him again and he was still looking in her direction. Yes, he was actually looking at her. Or maybe not? She looked down at her feet, counted to ten before looking up at the handsome man again. Yes, he was indeed looking at her.
She was suddenly self-conscious. Instinctively, she tried to suck in her slight pot belly, adjusted her top to hide the bulges to her side and cursed under her breath that she had not bothered to run a comb through her hair that morning.
More to herself than to him, she smiled nervously.
When she looked up again, the handsome stranger was now smiling at her. She blushed and looked down at her shoes. Then remembering, she quickly checked to see whether Barry had spotted her but he was still blissfully ignoring her.
‘Don’t be a fool, girl. You think somebody like that can actually fancy somebody like you? He is just messing with you,’ she said, telling herself off.
When she raised her head again, the handsome stranger smiled and nodded a few times at her.
Despite herself, she started to tingle. She smiled, nodded back and flicked her hair.
Just then she remembered the article in the women’s magazine she had read about three days ago. ‘Sexiness doesn’t come from what you look like but how you feel about how you look,’ a part of it had said. And in the comments section just below the article, a reader identifying himself as a man had written: ‘One man’s meat is another man’s poison.’
Taking a deep breath, Stacey slowly lifted her chin up, sat up straight, thrust her breasts forward and crossed her legs. For the first time since her wedding day fifteen years ago, she suddenly felt taller, comfortable with her curves and damned sexy.
Some time passed before she coughed. Then she coughed twice more.
An irritated Barry lowered his paper to glare at her.
‘I am going to go and try on another pair of trousers, Barry. And this time, I choose. They will be a slightly smaller size and figure-hugging. I am going to get something that emphasises my thunder thighs and fat arse. If you don’t like it, tough.’
‘But you will look like some pig who…’ Barry started to snarl in a whisper but Stacey put a finger to her lip.
She raised her voice so everyone in the café could hear: ‘If I hear one more nasty comment from you about my weight, I will also tell every single person we know. Try me.’
Barry glared at her. She glared back.
Her composure freaked Barry out. He had never seen this side of her before. Ever. Reluctantly, very reluctantly, he nodded and looked away.
Stacey smiled triumphantly.
Slowly, she got to her feet, picking up only her handbag as she did.
‘Come on, let’s go,’ she said and started to walk away.
Barry’s hand suddenly shot out and he managed to grab her wrist in a vice-like grip just before it was out of reach.
Stacey stopped and looked down at him defiantly.
‘Get your filthy hands off me,’ she sneered.
Barry looked around to see the others at the coffee shop staring at him disapprovingly and his shoulders slumped. As if in slow motion, he unwrapped his fingers from her wrist.
As Stacey walked past the handsome stranger on her way out, she winked at him and whispered: ‘Thank you.’
A shame-faced Barry, with head down, scooped up the shopping bags and scurried after his wife straight out of the café.
Fifteen minutes later and still smiling, the handsome stranger switched off the ‘Whose Line is it anyway?’ CD he had been listening to on his portable player. He took off his headphones and stashed them and the portable CD player away in his backpack.
With that, he rose to his feet, adjusted his shades, unfolded his white guide stick and carefully felt his way out of the café.
By Dean O. Arutoghor
Stacey didn’t take offence when Barry buried his face in a newspaper as they took a much-needed break at Costa Coffee from their Saturday shopping trip. She was, in fact,