Sesame Seed: Arrival.

by | Feb 9, 2024 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

The alarm sounded on the lonely bedside clock, in vain, as Tony was already awake and preparing breakfast. In fact, he was ahead of it by over an hour, during which time he had checked the flight arrivals at Newcastle International Airport a dozen times. As the rumbling kettle clicked off and its sound dissipated like the steam from its spout, he took the butter from the fridge and the honey and oatcakes from the cupboard. His morning ritual, on this occasion, was accompanied by a baby starling attempting its first song on the guttering above the window. His stomach felt like its siblings were trapped inside it, so intense was his excitement.

He remembered the kettle and scalded the Earl Grey tea bag with the freshly boiled water. His mind, on automatic pilot for this daily observance to the start of the day, was a pinboard of her images.

Pictures she’d sent since leaving her residence adjacent to Doha’s newest hotel. With every picture, she drew nearer. Her beautiful features were pale and drawn,  almost monochrome, framed by her fiery mane. Through the sheer exhaustion, however, she still managed a smile, something she rarely did when they first met.

Tony took four thin, round oatcakes from their wrapper, one slipping from his hand and exploding into a hundred pieces on the newly polished floor. Glancing down at the scattered fragments, he shrugged and replaced the errant biscuit with another. Weeks earlier the event would have brought a fit of anger. Not today. Nothing would spoil his day, not even the pain of arthritis that gripped his hands every morning, like the firmest of handshakes. He always managed to spill or drop something as the progressive condition took its hold on  joints. The condition had worsened due to long Covid, the lasting effect of having the virus, twelve months earlier.

He buttered the four oatcakes and proceeded to apply a generous dollop of honey to each one. Tony loved honey, especially Manuka, the mysterious confection made by bees on the other side of the world. Its unique, almost burnt flavour took the taste buds to another level. One tiny drop on the end of one’s finger could set the salivary glands buried deep in the cheeks, bursting into action.

Dropping another helping of the magical substance into his tea, he gently plucked two plump mint leaves from the plant on the windowsill, just like she’d shown him in Doha. The baby starling had given up its song and was busy mimicking one of the many local seagulls.

Meanwhile its brothers and sisters continued to play havoc in Tony’s gut. He dropped the leaves into the steaming brew along with the honey coated spoon. At this point, he noticed that the cup now contained two spoons. Immediately, he recalled someone once telling him superstition continues that, if two spoons are placed in the same cup, it means one of two things.

Lifting one out of the pot, while squeezing the tea bag, Tony vaguely called to mind its meaning; something to do with marrying twice or having twins. Smiling inwardly, he thought about his two very different marriages and the identical twin who was in an aeroplane, currently twenty thousand feet above the Midlands.

When his breakfast ceremony was complete, he took the oatcakes, tea and phone into the lounge and turned on the radio. Tony preferred Radio Four’s Today programme to its trivial TV equivalent, especially during the pandemic when things were changing on a daily basis. As he listened to Nick Robinson lightly grilling some awkward politician about the economy,, he picked up an oatcake and studied the thin circle of honey that had spread over it. The surface tension of the magical substance kept it on the biscuit, clinging to the butter. Opening his mouth, he placed the whole disc inside and bit down. The explosion of oats, creamy butter and sweet, sweet honey was sheer pleasure. He always finished the four biscuits before touching the tea. The contrast of the hot, sweet, minty brew to the rich oat mixture was the second injection of gustatory delight.

As he drained the last of the beverage, careful not to swallow the mint leaves, Tony’s phone burst into life. The shrill tune of  Messenger video caller filled the room and his heart stopped. Tapping the green logo, the screen was filled with her pixelated guise.

“Hi hi hi! How are you?” came her familiar greeting from the juddering image. The gold of her hair mixed with the dark mocha of her eyes like a moving Picasso painting as the app tried to stabilise.

“Hey! I’m fine, how about you?” Tony replied, mimicking her mid-western American accent. Her image cleared just in time to show her indignation at his impression, followed by another rare smile.

“Heeeeeeey! Don’t!” she pleaded and he immediately regretted his actions. “Sorry Princess, I couldn’t resist,” he responded apologetically.

“I can’t believe I’ll be there in an hour, the pilot’s just announced it” she enthused, her face lighting up the screen. Tony was always amazed how the video calls made her look almost ordinary, as if even the most up to date software couldn’t do her real beauty justice. 

“Will you be there waiting?” she continued, her intonation rising in pitch with the last few hopeful words.

“Nah, I’m too busy. Take a cab or, cheaper still, take the Metro. The station is Monkseaton, you’ll have to change at South Gosforth. I’m sure someone will help you with your luggages.” The last word, one of her inventions to describe her bags, was the last straw along with his insistence with the accent.

“Really? You’re not coming? I can’t believe it!” Her expression had changed, the smile was gone, replaced by fear as her eyebrows narrowed over her exquisite small nose. Immediately, his act of devilment turned on him as he began to regret his joke.

“Of course I’ll be there, try and stop me!” Tony reassured the fragile young woman on his phone. Her face was a mixture of bewilderment and doubt, something he’d have to get used to. “OK”, she managed to squeeze out, the two letters dragging lazily from her lips. The damage was done. “Speak soon Azizam” and with that, she was gone. 

Tony could have kicked himself, instead, banging his knee on the coffee table as he got up –  an act of divine retribution. As he washed the dishes then swept the kitchen floor, his knee throbbed in rightful punishment. He was going to have to be careful with this delicate flower. There was no room for complacency, knowing her condition. His last comment had been a mistake and he was sure there’d be others.


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