Standing on the edge, looking down at the star-sparkled waves, arms spread wide, as though to embrace the icy beauty of the late autumn night. The first time he saw her, she stood like that, statue-still for more than five minutes. Leaning aganst one of the pylons that made up the wharf, he studied the feminine figure, wondering lazily what she was thinking about, as she looked out over the waters of the lake. Her dark hair shone coldly in the moonlight, and wrapping her demim jacket more securely about herself, the woman lifted one foot, almost experimentally, pausing to observe the juxta position between sandal and glassy lake.
Before he knew it, he had shouted, "Stop! Don't do it!"
The cry obviously startled her, as she teetered for an instant before her foot returned to the ground, and her dark eyes snapped around to focus on him.
Her gaze was confused, as though he had disturbed some deep contemplation. He supposed that if he were about to commit suicide, he would be philosophizing too?
Taking a nervous step forward, he continued in a softer tone of voice, as though afraid to spook her, "Please don't jump- things will get better, just don't give up now!"
The woman looked at him seriously for a heartbeat.
Then burst out into hysterical laughter.
The man gaped at her, wondering if he should fetch some help. He was not sure how he would deal with a crazy person- the man had never met one before, unless he counted his senile Great-Aunt Katie. Before he could decide what to do, the woman spoke up, her husky voice still full of mirth.
"Are you for real? I might catch hypothermia if I stayed in for long enough, but that drop wouldn't kill anyone, even if I was that depressed. You seriously thought I was about to jump? Oh that's a good one..." Wiping tears of laughter from her eyes, she loosened the multicoloured scarf that graced her neck and stepped back a little, so that there was slightly more wharf between herself and the water.
The man smiled uncomfortably, obviously embarrassed, and mumbling something about being glad that she was fine, began to turn away.
"Hang a second!" the woman called after him, gathering her multi-tiered skirt in one hand as she jogged up to him, her leather sandals slapping the heavy beams of the wharf.
He faced her, and she smiled at him, sticking out her hand.
"The name's Marian. I'm new around here, and haven't had much of a chance to meet people, but you seem like a nice guy. Can I buy you a cup of coffee for being my would-be saviour?"
The man hesitated, and then took the offered hand, half-heartedly returning the smile.
"I'm Jesse... Look, I am so sorry, I can't believe I thought..."
Raising her hand to cut him off, the woman rolled her eyes, replying, "Oh Jesus, don't worry about that- if people found out you tried to stop me from jumping, they'd have to find out what triggered it, and I'd rather not explain the twisted workings of my over-imagination to all and sundry..." she trailed off as she realised that Jesse had yet to release her hand, and cleared her throat.
"Oh, sorry." He let her go, thrusting the offending appendage deep into the pockets of his parka, before he jerked his head in the general direction of the well-lit shop windows.
"There's a nice place for coffee over there, 'Henry and Flo's'..."
"Yeah, I went there this morning..." she trailed off and blushed a little. "Sorry, I have a really bad habit of interrupting people. Shall we?" Marian beckoned and together they strolled towards the small cafe.
As they reached the well-lit shop front, Jesse reached for the door, but Marian beat him to it, and held it open for him with a mocking bow.
"After you good sir. Heroes before distressed damsels."
"I'm never going to live this down am I?" Jesse pretended to groan, but Marian spotted the corner of his mouth twitching, and so didn't hold back.
"Well you might, and you might not... I must say, I am glad to learn that Chivalry is alive and kicking after all."
Jesse shook his head a little, replying, "Yes, but so is Miss Understanding."
Marian narrowed her eyes at him.
"Did you just butcher the English language in my hearing?"
Unsure of where the bizarre woman was going to go with this, Jesse decided to sidestep the incoming conversation by striding up to the counter and greeting the yawning teenager at the coffeemaker.
"Heya Kylie. How's the studies going?"
Kylie raised her eyebrows in the quintessential teen expression of "You're kidding right?" but answered the question wih a saccharine, "Oh, not so bad. What would you like to order?"
Seeing right through her guise but deciding that letting her know would require too much effort, Jesse ordered a tall black, one sugar, then turned to see Marian reading the fine print on one of the many posters that described where the coffee beans originated from.
Sensing his gaze, she looked up abruptly, then straightened. "Right, ordering now. Sorry. I'll have a cappuccino, no sugar. Hey, did you know that your poster over there is an ad for coffee flavoured condoms?"
"WHAT?!" Kylie practically tripped over her black apron in surprise.
"Yeah, you might want to let the owners know- it's in Spanish, but trust me, this time the 'smooth flavour' is not talking about the drink."
Jesse, whose eyes had already been on the verge of bugging out of his head, did a doubletake.
"You speak Spanish?"
Marian shrugged. "You think I got this tan in the sun? My parents are Peruvians, who decided that this country would be preferable to the US of A, because the social system is a lot less privatized. That and if they walk into a hotel over here they were less likely to be mistaken for cleaning staff. Gotta love Australia and its lack of Hispanic stereotypes... although I have had a few people thinking I was Mexican for some bizarre reason... but anyway, yeah, I've been bilingual since I could talk, but I don't usually get to use my Spanish 'less I'm talking on the phone to my family."
"Wow. You really... talk a lot," Jesse commented weakly.
"Yeah, I get that all the time." Grinning at the gobsmacked Jesse, Marian noticed that Kylie was in a similar state of mental blankness and wondered in a light tone, "Hey, are you auditioning for a part as a fly catcher, or are you gonna make us some coffee?"
Clearing her throat, the teen quickly pressed a few buttons on the coffee machine and it began to make gurgling noises.
It was then that the unmistakeable sound of the "Inspector Gadget" theme tune began to blend jarringly with the coffee shop's Latin mood music.
Marian jumped, startling Jesse, before swearing and digging through her jacket pockets until she came across her bright orang mobile phone.
She checked the display and bit her lip, an unreadable expression coming across her face.
"Sorry, can you excuse me for a sec?" without waiting for an answer, Marian swept to a place just outside the coffeeshop door.
Pressing a button on her phone, she raised it to her ear, answering it with a, "Hi Liam, I thought you said you were going to call on Tuesday."
"What do you mean you're not coming... Bullshit something's come up Liam, what's the real problem? ...Oh Liam, Liam, Liam."
She sighed, her shoulders drooping a little, as the voice on the other end continued to speak, but suddenly her expression set, and her stance shifted.
"You know what? Fuck you Liam. Fuck you and Denise. I know you've been screwing her behind my... why Michelle told me of course. Michelle your step-sister who I used to babysit you piece of shit...? Yeah. No, don't you fucking dare. If I hear you've harmed her in any way, physical or not, photos of you at that party hit the internet. You know the one I'm talking about. Yes. With the chickens. And the... you get the picture, do you now. Well I've just dumped your useless butt, does that fit into your little picture?! Rot in hell scumbag!" After screaming the last into her phone, Marian punched the red button on her phone, then replaced it into her pocket with shaking fingers.
Inside the coffeeshop, Kylie and Jesse were both staring at her, their expressions mixtures of shock, awe and sympathy.
Jesse opened his mouth to say something, but Marian shook her head, silencing him with an imperious glance that was at odds with her previously carefree mannerisms.
"Don't say it. Whatever you are about to say, whether it's a question about whether or not I'm okay, or a comment about the quality of my now ex-boyfriend, zip it. Here's the cash for the coffee, I'll see you both later, I suppose."
With that ambiguous statement, Marian left the shop, and was out of sight before Jesse even thought to follow her.
"Wow, that chick is really weird Jesse," Kylie volunteered as she took a sip from the cappuccino that she had just completed. "Who the hell pays for coffee and then just disappears?"
Feeling as though he had just witnessed a cyclone, Jesse shook his head, still slightly shell-shocked.
"I'm not sure... but I fully intend on finding out."
He sipped absent-mindedly from his coffee mug, and then grinned suddenly.
"Kylie, I think you had better pass the message on to Mrs. Harris that her favourite poster might not mean what she think it means."
Snorting at the immediately wicked expression on Kylie's face, Jesse finished his coffee, then left the shop.
This story is going to be unpredictable. Read on if you dare. Reviews always enthusiastically welcomed.