The Blue Nile Cafe
Millie Akosua stepped from the mounting heat of the high summer morning, into the refreshing cool of the Blue Nile Café. The beautiful old building had originally been a warehouse for a colonial shipping company. Its high roof and dense bluestone structure retained the cool of the evening perfectly, providing a pleasant oasis in the height of summer.
The patinated plaque above the door read ‘Blue Nile Trading 1823’ but the gorgeous signwriting on the glazed doors read ‘The Blue Nile Café, proprietor Amelia Akosua’.
The Cafe was teeming with customers, mostly students from the university across the road as usual. Millie’s long term employees, Shannon and Jocelyn had the place running perfectly. Although employees was the wrong word entirely.
Shannon had been with her for over five years now and Jocelyn for over seven, and in truth, Millie had come to love them both as though they were her own flesh and blood. And they in turn could not conceive of a life without Amelia Akosua.
Joss had finished her master’s degree some time ago and Millie hoped that she would finally quit and go get a real job, but she but didn’t seem to want to leave. And deep down the truth was that Emilia wished with all her heart that she would stay. As much as she wanted her to get on with her life, Millie also wanted to keep her close. To keep both of the girls safe.
Millie Akosua could sense the disastrous futures the girls had narrowly avoided. They were both strays from troubled backgrounds, both seeking refuge and recovery from the most appalling maltreatment and abuse. Millie could see the calamities that would have befallen them had they chosen one path rather than the other. It was not that Millie was clairvoyant exactly, it was more that her knowledge of events was not as bound by the direction of time as most. She could ‘remember’ people’s futures as most people remember the past.
But what she saw was merely what could have been, nothing more. They were safe now, out of danger and Millie wanted to keep it that way.
Shannon was still toiling away at her masters in law, but Jocelyn….
….if she didn’t move on soon, Millie intended to offer her management of the café. To set her up properly and start paying her a serious wage.
Maybe she could encourage her to get to work writing in her off hours, put her masters in archaeology to good use. Joss had a terrific ability to see the world through ancient eyes, to gauge the emotional state and spiritual outlook of people long since consigned to the pages of history.
Millie had helped Jocelyn with her thesis, and discovered that she had a unique talent for understanding how ancient civilizations worked at the fundamental human level. She hadn’t been graded very highly, certainly not adequately to the quality and insight of her work. But that was no fault of hers, the university simply lacked the intellectual capacity to grasp the true value of her conclusions. The faculty was dead wrong in their assessment of Jocelyn’s work.
And Emilia ought to know, for although she didn’t understand it, she had seen that world through her own eyes. Amelia Akosua had lived her life more than once.
The Game of Hearts
It puzzled and sometimes concerned Millie that she could not see the story of her life as clearly as she could see others. Millie was not a fool, she knew that she saw reality very differently to everyone else, and she had come to embrace those differences. But it just bothered her that she could not remember her own past with any clarity. She had for instance the knowledge that she had been a child, but not the memory of it whatsoever. Likewise with her adolescence, she knew she had grown up, she just didn’t have any clear knowledge of exactly where.
These things seemed somehow in the deep past, hidden from her view as though perceived across a vast gulf of emptiness. But in the here and now, the café was hopping and she, after all was the proprietor. Millie set her gym bag and laptop down behind the counter, grabbed an apron and got ready to set to work bussing table with the part timers.
“Hi Millie.” Shannon beamed brightly, treating Millie to a vigorous kiss on the cheek.
“Hello Shannon.” She replied with a broad smile.
“Hey Millie….” Jocelyn called from behind the coffee machine.
“….you don’t have to, we’re fine.”
Millie made her way behind the counter and hugged Jocelyn while she worked, kissing her cheek affectionately.
“I know. I just want to be near you guys, you know I love you so.”
Joss chuckled. “Don’t make me cry Millie, I’m busy.”
When Amelia first opened the Blue Nile she ran it practically single handed, giving as much part time work to the students from the university as she could afford, which wasn’t much. The routine was all second nature to her now.
Eventually she had the place established and actually turning a profit and that’s when the kids turned up. Both virtually destitute, both looking for any work they could get. Jocelyn had come to her first, and she brought such energy and personality to the place. She had almost instantaneously made the Blue Nile her own.
Joss loved working at the café, she loved having a place where she felt she belonged. She valued the stability and predictability, but above all she prized the abundant affection that Millie had given her. The kind of unconditional love that had always been so painfully absent in her life.
And when Shannon turned up a couple of years later, well that’s when the place really came to life. The three of them collided to create a perfect supernova of personalities, filling the place with light and energy and love.
The girls had thrived under Millie’s care and protection. Just as Millie had imagined, just as she had seen it.
It was a just under a year before Jocelyn and Shannon became a couple. They were so cute at the time trying to hide it, but Millie could see it all unfolding before her. The girls had no idea that Millie knew of their burgeoning relationship. And neither of them were aware of Millie’s preternatural gift for insight and understanding.
Millie helped the girls along as best she could, encouraging and nurturing without disturbing their adorable subterfuge. They were falling in love, it was good for them to have their secrets, and it was healthy for them to feel the excitement of a shared duplicity.
Secrets bind people together. And they were both young, both coming to terms with their true identities. It didn’t hurt for them not to know that Millie knew, and to her mind this nullified their prevarication and made the whole affair a delightful amusement.
Amelia was patient, she was happy to wait while they played the game of hearts. To wait until they came to her and disclosed their delicious secret.
Amelia had come to love them both in a way they were only just beginning to realize. She had been everything they needed her to be over the years. Friend, mother, aunt, sister, whatever they wanted she was happy to be.
God knows they needed it. They had both been battered and abused cruelly by life, both figuratively and literally. Both abandoned to the world to sink or swim. Millie was happy to give them all the love they needed and deserved.
It was the most wonderful sight to see them come together, to watch them grow and thrive. To become who they were destined to be.
Eventually the lunchtime crowd began to disperse and the café calmed down a little. Millie hung up her apron and got to her real work.
This routine had become her life now and she adored it. Sitting in the café day after day working on her book. Amelia Akosua was compiling a thorough and comprehensive survey of ancient Hittite archaeology. A complete and exhaustive examination of their mysterious society and culture. This final work had become her driving passion and the culmination of a lifetimes work on the subject.
Millie took a vacant table, opened her laptop and got to work. She reviewed her latest notes, preparing to pick up where she left off. She paused occasionally to sip rich dark coffee. Looking up from her laptop to get her thoughts ordered in her mind and find the right words, she saw her.
The girl was there again today, Millie caught her eye and smiled warmly. The girl was shy, she looked back to her book too self-conscious to return the affection. Millie watched her, and she saw the blush rise in the girl’s cheeks.
She’d been coming to the café for weeks now, always sitting in the same spot at the same time. She was gorgeous. Pale and pretty, wonderfully ample and full figured. She wore her naturally wavy copper hair in an asymmetrical bob with a slightly severe high fringe. She came in most days and sat alone studying her books with her laptop open and her heavy glasses perched on her nose.
It hadn’t taken Millie much investigation to find out who she was. Her name was Bronwyn Lewis, a student of art history and a rather prolific and insightful critic. Though not exactly popular, Bronwyn Lewis was highly regarded by her fellow students for her intelligence and industriousness.
She carried herself with confidence and poise, but Millie could see what was going on in her eyes, she could see the fascination. And the puzzlement. She recognized it as the same fascination she felt herself.
There was something vaguely but irresistibly familiar about the girl. Millie felt a strange sense of affinity for her as if they had met before, although Millie could not recall any such meeting.
Bronwyn Lewis was something of a mystery, Millie could not ‘see’ her as she saw others. She was different, her story was not written, the pages of her life were scattered and obscure, and Millie could see neither a beginning nor an end.
The phenomenon felt fragile to Amelia, like the still surface of a quiet pond that might so easily be disturbed. She was wary that if she were to touch the subtle spell, it would disperse before her very eyes.
Although she had the feeling that maybe Bronwyn was meant to come to her, she was not sure. And that was what was so puzzling. Millie simply didn’t know what was meant to happen next. And Millie Akosua always knew what would happen next, and how to intervene to influence the course of destiny.
Millie smiled to herself, maybe one day soon Bronwyn would summon up the courage to come over and finally introduce herself. Millie certainly hoped so, but for now she was content to wait. To play the game of hearts.
It delighted Millie that she could not see how things would unfold, it delighted her that the story of Bronwyn Lewis was a closed book. Millie resolved to savour both the mystery and the anticipation for as long as she could.
Millie set aside her musing and returned to her laptop, the bulk of the work was practically complete, but there was one problem Millie couldn’t quite seem to resolve. Amongst the ocean of dry bureaucratic texts unearthed at Hattusa, there was one particular fragment which perplexed and fascinated her. One final riddle to solve before her work was complete.
Most of the writings which survived the collapse of the Hittite empire were concerned with official correspondence, the administration of government and religious observance. There was plenty of literature and prophetic works, but there was also this one beguiling fragment.
This one anomalous story which had become known as the oracle tablets. Largely overlooked by other scholars, Millie found the fragment impossible to ignore. So alien to the vast bulk of dry legal documents Hattusa had bequeathed the world, that it had been dismissed as too anomalous to be genuine. Not a modern forgery by any means, but not legitimately belonging to the royal library.
It appeared to be a romance concerning two characters who had come under the influence of some otherworldly agency but were destined to endure some kind of tragedy. To be bound together inseparably but somehow simultaneously cast adrift.
It appeared to be a parable or allegory of some sort, but it was framed as though it were recorded history. The form of the language was florid and the usage archaic, rendering a clear translation problematic. The concepts included in the text were very unconventional and Millie could find no parallels in any other mythology. The narrative was open ended in such a way as to suggest that the story could continue into eternity.
Millie simply couldn’t leave it alone, she was drawn inexorably back to the story again and again. She felt a powerful personal affinity with the myth, such that it had become something of a personal obsession.
So enthralled was Millie in her work that she didn’t notice Bronwyn Lewis pack up her things and rise from her table. Nor did she notice as she paused at the door to gaze at Emilia with an odd expression, somewhere between longing and confusion before reluctantly leaving.
Longing at the sense that she somehow intimately knew this woman whom she had never met before. And confusion at the strange sense that there was some kind of magic at work around Amelia Akosua.
For time itself took on the most peculiar qualities around this woman. It was subtle, almost imperceptible. But time seemed in some sense to linger, to dwell at a different pace around Millie Akosua.
The people around her seemed oblivious, but Bronwyn could see. She was sure she could see…something.
She daren’t approach for fear that the phenomenon collapse, but she had to meet this woman. Soon.
Thank you for reading
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