I was already on my way to the restaurant when Anya called to say that her daughter had developed a fever and she had to reschedule. I had been working in my pajamas all morning, and had only just gotten out of the house to take my friend out for her birthday lunch, so I didn’t feel like going right home again. I decided to go grocery shopping.
Inside the store, stationed in front of a handsome grapefruit pyramid, there was an elegant woman offering little cups of a fancy new coffee: Mokk-a. Having been brought up by an elderly entrepreneur who believed that the only appropriate activity for any self respecting adult was to start a business (or better yet, many of them) and neglect all else to nurture them, I warm to anyone with the slightest hint of “start-up” in their demeanor, so I stepped up to her table.
The coffee lady was articulate and engaging as she told me about how she had conceived of her business as she sat in a café somewhere in Sweden. As she handed me my tiny cup of Café Holland, I commented on how unusually cold it was in the store and asked her how long she would be there. “Until four,” she answered laughing, “unless I develop frostbite before then!”
The coffee was delicious, smooth and almost velvety on the tongue with an interesting aroma that managed to evoke both chocolate and fruit at the same time. I took a bag and proceeded with my mission to acquire the ingredients for a few dinners.
My husband was just leaving for an appointment when I lugged the groceries into the kitchen. I put away the things that needed to stay cold as I explained that my lunch had been cancelled. I left the rest of the food strewn around the kitchen while I went into my closet and pulled out some black sweaters and a couple of silk scarves.
“I’ll be back in a minute,” I called down the hallway towards his office, putting the clothes in a little shopping bag, “but if I miss you, have a good meeting.”
Stephen came of his office; “Where are you going with all those sweaters?”
“I’m just loaning one to a woman at Kings; it’s freezing in there today.”
“Someone you know?”
First of all,” I explained, “she’s around my age, younger but not really really young. She just started her own business – delicious coffee. I feel I showed great restraint in buying only one bag. And did I mention that she lives abroad? I know how lonely that can feel – especially when you’re in your home country. How can I not help her in any way possible? It could be me freezing my tail off in there all day. I would have loaned her my jacket, but it clashes with her dress.”
My darling husband nodded, and said good bye.
I felt a bit sheepish in the car. Would the coffee lady think I was some sort of criminal, trying to lure her into my perverted clutches with the loan of an elderly cashmere sweater? But Karen Hawa was standing in the sun near her rental car looking at her messages, and smiled broadly when she recognized me getting out of the car with my bundle. The warmest of the sweaters fit perfectly, and after she arranged the scarf in her rear view mirror, she looked as nice as ever, only a bit warmer. She thanked me and we exchanged cards,
“You saved me! Let’s stay in touch!”
“Just leave those things with customer service. I’ll collect it the next time I need lemons – or more Mokk-a coffee!” then I surprised both of us by adding, “also, I’m distinctly underemployed at the moment, so if you ever need someone here on the ground in North America to do…something useful… don’t hesitate to ring me.”
If she was horrified, she didn’t let it show. “Great. I actually need some help with the Mokk-a blog. What do you do?”
“Free lance writing.”
We waved cheerily to each other as I drove off and she headed back into the store.