It was always our favourite place to meet. We would both sneak out in the afternoon when the place was quiet so we could take our usual seats. We never sat together but at different tables, back to back. That way we could carry on a conversation without making it look as if we were together. We paid our bills separately and left at different times.
He'd told me from the beginning that he was married, and with my job as carer for an elderly lady I had little free time. It was only when the nurses called in for their daily visit that I was able to get away for a precious hour or so.
It had started innocently enough; the place had been packed, he had asked if he could share my table. The hour flew by as we started talking. He told me as he left that he had enjoyed my company, and smiled as he said perhaps we would bump into each other again.
I intended to go back the following day, but my old lady had a relapse and I was unable to get away. The next day was Saturday, I waited for an hour but he did not appear. I wondered whether he worked close by only during the week, or if I had just read more into a chance meeting than I should have done.
There was a local festival on the following week, and when I reached the coffee shop it was heaving, unusual for that time on a Monday. We saw each other at precisely the same moment and he waved me over. His table was already occupied with three other people but the seat on the next table behind him was free so I took it. He turned his chair and we carried on chatting like old friends.
After that we would meet most days, usually sharing a table until our friendship began to develop into something more. Months went by and he told me he was sorting things out with his wife, so with the need to be discreet we adopted the habit of sitting close enough to speak but at separate tables.
One day I saw him sitting with two other ladies and a man who he obviously knew. As I approached he smiled and said 'Hello', but made no effort to introduce me. I took the seat behind him and unashamedly eavesdropped.
I could only catch snippets of the conversation but it seemed to be very intense. He had mentioned that his wife was called Linda, and I heard the name come up several times, so presumably he was not married to either of the two ladies at the table.
After about half an hour one of the women and the man stood up to leave. The man shook his hand but the lady gave him a kiss that only someone very close would give; this was no friendly peck on the cheek from a casual friend. The other lady remained but they were talking quietly and intently so I had no chance to hear more. I hoped she would leave too so I could talk to him but time went on and she remained. Eventually, I had to give up and get back to work. Even then I had no chance to say goodbye as he had excused himself to go to the toilet and I could wait no longer.
The following day he was not there, and the day after I was late, arriving just in time to see his departing back. Such are the vagaries of fate you never know when a chance meeting will change your life forever, or if it will take its place in long forgotten dreams.
All this happened many, many years ago and tonight, I would be celebrating my silver wedding anniversary. For old time's sake I was standing at the entrance to the coffee shop, still in the same place but very different from when we used to meet here all those years ago. The rickety wooden chairs and Formica covered tables had long since been replaced with modern tub chairs and dimmed lighting to resemble an airport waiting area.
My eyes roamed over the café and there he was, seated where our old table used to be. Walking slowly across the foyer I took a seat so we were sitting back to back as in days gone by. 'May I offer you a coffee? he asked, without turning. 'Thank you, that would be nice,' I replied.
An hour later he pushed back his chair and stood up.
'It's been fun remembering old times my love', he smiled, 'but now we should leave. After twenty-five years together I know how long it takes you to get ready, and we don't want to keep our party guests waiting.'
I took one last look back to our table where it had all begun. Then he took my hand and we left the café together. We needed to get home to enjoy the celebration of our long and happy marriage, organised by our children.