The shadow of Clive’s former self reflects in the patisserie window. Chants of ‘cakey Clive’ burn in his memory. His reflection, much larger than the real Clive, is licking his lips. Move along, Clive tells himself, you don’t need this. You’ve come so far—you’ve done so well.
One can’t hurt, Clive. He looks up and his reflection is rubbing the boulder of stomach Clive remembers too well.
“No—one will lead to two, two to three and more.” Clive tries to move but it’s as if his feet and the pavement have become one. His skin prickles. Perhaps just one, he ponders. His ribcage closes in on itself like a vice, lungs squeezing, breathing tightening. His heart swells. Excitement and dread blast around his body; his feet become unstuck as he decides to go inside.
That’s it Clive. Treat yourself, you deserve it.
“Hey, watch— Clive?” He nearly knocks down the woman leaving the patisserie holding a small cardboard box. “Clive Nicholson? Is that you?”
She wraps her spare arm around him and Clive falls out of his trance. “Jen? I haven’t seen you since uni.” Her hair still smells of peaches.
“Seems like such a long time ago. How are things? You’re looking amazing.” Jen’s compliment tickles his insides.
“I’ve lost a bit of weight.” He wonders why he’s telling her this. She already knows; she never called him ‘cakey Clive’, but she was there.
She smiles up at him. The beginnings of crow’s feet betray the two decades that have passed between them. “Sorry, I’m in your way aren’t I?”
“No, not at all. I was going to grab a fruit tart.” Clive could hear the cream cakes chuckle at his lie.
Jen winces and looks at the box in her hand. “I took the last two, sorry.”
“Perhaps we could get coffee somewhere and we could have one each?”
“I’m sure whoever you brought it for would want theirs.”
“Actually,” Jen sucked her lips in trying to suppress a giggle like Clive remembers. “I was being greedy—I’d rather share it with you so we can catch up. It’ll be like old times.”
Clive remembered all the times he and Jen would be studying in coffee shops, the confidence he lacked to ask her out, how much he’d wanted to kiss her. He looks back at the patisserie window and the reflection of his flabbier self was replaced with the man he was now. The thought of sitting opposite Jen again over coffee filled him with a fuzzy fearlessness—he knew it both would and wouldn’t be like old times.