That Hippy Chickbyxelliebabex©
"Hey Tilly," he drawled and she immediately stiffened. No one except her father and April called her Tilly and she hated hearing it from virtual strangers, "You couldn't bring me coffee, could you? I have a mother of a hangover."
"You always have a hangover," the first man answered saving her from having to answer him directly. "Water is the best thing for hangovers," He continued, "Go help yourself and do some work or you won't get the day signed off again."
"Yeah, like it matters to me," the man scowled, "You're the one who has to worry. I'm just here for the ride."
Leaving the two men to banter Matilda walked away, she needed to get to work. This park had been all consuming lately, and April needed more help at the cafe. Walking past the supervisors, she stopped to chat quickly, and promised to return later that day to check on progress. She wasn't officially working on the park, but she had been involved in all the planning with the landscape architects. She knew the park layout better than anyone so they deferred to her and it seemed they were grateful to have her on site most of the time.
Matilda walked back to work realising that the men in the park thought she was some goofy tree hugger, green peace type. She shrugged, 'Maybe she was,' she thought to herself, but there was more to her than that. She walked into the cafe April may be the culinary artist and main worker in this little venture, but Matilda worked pretty hard on the business side of things making sure they stayed afloat and made a profit.
Never ones to be mainstream, the friends took Tuesdays and Wednesdays as their days off and shut the shop until they hired another woman, Heather. With the extra help, they were able to open seven days, serving the basics that could be prepared prior or easy freshly made recipes. It was slow to take off, but Heather turned out to be a fantastic addition. Nothing seemed to be too much trouble, and she had begun a small amount of baking as well, though April wasn't so keen on sharing her kitchen.
At ten on the dot, Matilda arrived at the cafe. Heather was already waiting. There was no sign of Penny as usual. Now there was a goofy tree hugger. Totally the stereotypical, dancing naked through the woods nature lover, but she was lovable and came on board when they were offering only minimum hours and minimum pay.
Heather smiled as Matilda opened up the cafe and bustled past her, eager to get into the small kitchen. "Heather," Matilda called, "I know April will probably kill us but do you think you could do a batch of brownies this morning for me to take to the park later?"
Heather laughed, "Sure, honey, if they're, not for the café, I don't think April would mind me testing my brownies out on your little friends." Matilda laughed loudly wondering what those men would make of being referred to her as little friends. Laughing to herself she went about setting the tables up and putting out the signage.
The morning seemed to fly by quickly, and it was towards the end of the lunch rush when Matilda recognised the two men who walked through the door. They seemed so out of place in their dirt smeared king gees amongst the glamorous regular clientele of bored housewives who lived in the bay side suburb. Smiling widely as she looked up they grinned, "So this is where you run off to every day. Very nice, Tilly." The guy with the perpetual hangover moved toward the counter.
"Yeah it's a good place to work. They let me be fairly flexible with my hours here," she hedged. "What can I get you?"
"Never been to a vegetarian place before but I am guessing a bacon cheese burger is off the menu," he laughed and nudged his friend who looked up at her with apologetic eyes.
"Vege burger is as close as you can get here, I am afraid," she said with a perfectly straight face.
The quiet guy spoke up as if trying to redeem himself for being with the hangover guy, "Sure give us two of those. Don't suppose you have any of those brownies laying around do you?"
Matilda grinned, "Actually, we are trying out a new recipe today. You can be my guinea pigs."
"Sold," hang over guy announced. He handed her a fifty dollar note telling her to put the change in the tip jar, "Is it okay if we wait at the tables outside?" He questioned.
"No worries. I'll bring it out when it's ready. You want it to go right?" She was directing her question to the quiet one, but hangover guy took control of the conversation again.
"Yeah to go," he grumbled and turned to walk away, believing she had not thought him good enough to eat at the cafe. As much as he hated the attention that being part of his family brought him, the thought that she believed him not good enough irked him equally. He turned his back on her and walked out to the front of the cafe.
Matilda turned to give the order to Heather who was smirking, "I didn't think you liked your name being shortened to Mattie or Tilly."
"I don't but I am hardly going to scare away customers over it," Matilda laughed, "Don't get any ideas okay?"
"Fine," Heather sighed, "I was often envious of girls like you who could shorten their names to something cute, nothing you can do with Heather. I tried Hetty on for size once. It was just wrong on so many levels," she laughed despite herself.
Ten minutes later Matilda took them men's lunches out to them. "The park is coming along better than expected," she said brightly, "I often had lunch down there on my days off before the work began. I barely recognise it now that it's being cleaned up."
The quiet guy smiled, "I imagine it is a bit different."
Matilda was about to ask where hangover guy was when she laughed softly, "I just realised that I don't even know your name, or your friend's name."
"They call me Wing, but my name is Mitchell," he tilted his head across the street, "That's Nate."
Matilda looked up and saw the hangover guy putting out a cigarette and heading back toward them. "Well enjoy your lunch. Maybe next time I'll come picnic in the park with you," she smiled and went back inside before the moody hangover guy, Nate, returned. Litterbug was now added to hangover guy and motor head. She had seen him arrive for work in his petrol guzzling car, and she despaired once again that most men seemed to care about the environment less than their cars.
As the weeks progressed, Matilda got to know Wing better, but she found his friend Nate overbearing and arrogant with his constant interruptions to their conversations. She saw them at the cafe occasionally as well as at the park. She had found out that Wing got his nickname by being the perpetual wingman for his friends. He was not threatening, neither too good looking or rich or successful, just an average guy that could speak to girls and get to know them allowing his friends an introduction to someone.
He was right Matilda thought. He was easy to talk to and get along with and she never once felt that he had an ulterior motive the way she did with other men who seemed to be constantly sizing her up or talking to her breasts. The park was almost done now, and she realised she would miss Wing's company when they no longer came to the park.
On the last day of the work at the park, the supervisors had organised a barbeque and drinks that Matilda had been invited to. Staying well away from the barbeque and the smell of burning flesh Matilda went to sit on the swing as she watched the small group of men enjoy the completion of the project. Wing came over to offer to get her something, and she smiled and shook her head, "No thanks. Barbeque isn't my thing."
"I didn't think so," he laughed, "Don't hate me for loving a good bit of rump now and then." Wing winked at Matilda and she burst out laughing at the innuendo.
"I could never hate anyone," she grinned, "Especially a nice guy like you." She smiled, "You should have been here on Clean up Australia Day. All those men with no shirts on wading through the mangroves," she grinned, "All the sailors from the marina come down to help along the esplanade."
His head twisted around making sure Nate was still out of earshot, "Well that sounds very tempting. When was it?"
"First weekend in March, a couple of weeks ago now, it saved a lot of work for the slashers when they came in," she was still smiling as she spoke.
Nate made his way over to them, the juices from his steak burger dripping down his hands as he held it out from his body and took a bite. He sat on the patch of grass in front of the swing, "These are surprisingly good. You should go get one," he mumbled around a mouthful of food.
"That's my cue," Wing said good-naturedly and stood up from where he had been leaning against the pole of the swing frame.
"Get Tilly one too," Nate called over his shoulder as his friend walked away. Matilda shook her head knowing she didn't have to, stopping as Nate turned back to her. "So the project is finally finished. You must be happy with the results," he spoke lightly as he waved the steak burger around indicating the parkland.
"Oh, I will still be around the park, making sure it survives anymore rezoning attempts," she laughed lightly but without real humour. "I bet you are happy the job's finally done."
"Yeah but probably not for the reasons you think," he laughed with her. He had an easy confidence that came with being one of the lucky few who had it all, looks, money, brains.
"So enlighten me," she smiled, "Your community service must be pretty much done. You can go back to what ever it is you did with your days before this."
"I work like every other bloke," he said looking injured by her words, "I am not like the work for the dole mob that rarely show up. I took leave from my job to do this project, and help Wing get his community service out of the way."
"Sorry, I didn't mean..." she started.
"It's fine I get it, do crime - do the time, but of all the people to judge me I didn't think you would," he had cut her off and sounded genuinely upset at her. "You seemed so... just well... nice." He seemed to consider her for a moment longer and got up and walked away without another word.
Matilda was stunned, always so aware of stereotypes she supposed she had pigeonholed the man with a lot of the hard drinking, partying types she had known at university, but that was the impression he gave off. She couldn't believe how guilty she felt for one off hand comment that most people would have easily laughed off and agreed it was good that the hard work was over.
Matilda looked over at the small group milling around the barbecue and smiled. When they all finally left she would still be here. She was part of the park they had helped rebuild, and she decided this party was their farewell not hers. She went over to say goodbye to the supervisors, before heading home.
Kissing their cheeks fondly she wished them well and thanked them profusely for letting her be so involved with the project. Wing had walked off with Nate to the other side of the park, so she waved and receiving a small wave in return before turning to head home. Feeling oddly sad at the completion of the park project, she walked past the cafe, she needed some alone time and slowly walked along the esplanade heading to the marina and her little piece of solitude.
Matilda loved the sunset, so she grabbed a glass of wine and sat out on the aft deck surrounded by her potted garden and watched the gentle roll of the water change colours with the sky. She was contemplating having a second glass of wine with the dying rays of light when the bell at the mooring went, and a deep voice called, "Permission to come aboard?"
Matilda smiled but didn't move from where she sat. She called out, "If you're coming on board you better have wine or a good excuse why not." She laughed as Cooper came into her line of sight a wine bottle in hand. She grinned and held her glass out for him, "Let me guess, April thought I would be moping, so she sent you to keep me company until she got here."
Cooper went inside to the kitchen laughing, "At the end of a big project you always get a bit maudlin," he replied pulling the already open bottle from the fridge and grabbing an extra couple of glasses, "She's coming after work," he pulled up a deck chair and joined her looking out over the water under the darkening sky.
April and Cooper were the closest thing to family Matilda had after her mother. She leaned over and took Cooper's hand, "Thanks for coming."
"It's been two years of your life, Matilda. You should be celebrating not feeling blue," he squeezed her hand and fell silent as they sipped their wine. Cooper finally broke the silence, "So tell me about these guys that have been hanging about the cafe checking you out."
Matilda was stunned by the question. "The what, who?"
"Two guys, April told me they come by for lunch a lot. They were disappointed when they realised you took days off. Don't play innocent with me," he smirked at her. "As your adopted big brother I probably should approve any prospective suitors."
"Wing is probably more interested in dating you than me, though he is so far inside the closet, he would never admit it," she laughed merrily. "You've got it all wrong big brother, dear. They are just guys who worked on the park and are gone now." There was a tinge of sadness in her voice she would miss Wing's easy humour.
"Not the impression I got," he smirked. "April is pretty good at reading people. I think I will go with her version of events."
Matilda drained her second glass of wine. "You think if I rang April she would bring some food with her when she comes to pick you up?"
"You think she hasn't thought of that, already," he countered.
"Oh goodie," Matilda smiled, "I'll have a top up then."
She was halfway through her third glass when April showed up with Penny and Heather bearing a Vietnamese banquet and more wine. "Wow," Penny exclaimed, "This is awesome!" Penny explored the boat as Cooper pulled more deck chairs out, and crowded into the aft section of the boat. Matilda was starving and ate and drank happily with her friends and began to celebrate all the work she had put in to saving the parkland.
"Your friends came in as we were closing," Penny said excitedly. "That tall one is so cute if you don't want him I will take him."
"He isn't mine to want or give away silly," Matilda nudged Penny playfully with her foot.
"They seemed pretty disappointed you didn't say goodbye properly to them," Penny teased her.
"I thought they were a gay couple at first," April cut in, "Rare that my Gaydar is off, but I don't think they both are, anymore. I reckon the sweet one is, but his friend doesn't know yet, am I right?"
"Wing is sweet isn't he," she grinned at April then turned her grin on Penny, "Shame he's gay and just a friend."
Penny was not fazed at all by the news, "They asked me to invite you to the pub they went to tonight, to celebrate properly." She watched the surprised look on Matilda's face before looking at the small group, "Come on people. Let's celebrate properly."
Surprisingly it was Heather who spoke up, "It's been so long since I went to a pub. Do you think we could?" She looked eagerly at her two bosses. Heather was a middle aged sole parent suffering badly from empty nest syndrome which had driven her back out into the workforce.
Matilda looked at the woman and made relaxed and happy by the food, wine and good company she replied, "Sure, why not? It's been ages since I went out."
"I am way too curious now to be left behind," Cooper said looking at April, "How 'bout it, hun?"
April held up her hands in mock surrender, "I am not gonna be the party pooper."
They all raided Matilda's wardrobe not that she had a lot of clothes for going out, but it was only a pub after all. In high spirits, they all piled into Cooper's old bomb of a car and headed off to the pub that Penny said they would be at.
"See if you can find us a table. I'll get you ladies a bottle of wine to share," Cooper yelled over the noise and music as the walked in. Before they had even looked for a table, Penny was waving at Wing across the room, who had was waving them over to their table.
"You made it!" Wing seemed genuinely surprised by their appearance. He kissed Penny's cheek before hugging Matilda and kissing her. "I am so glad to see you. You left without saying goodbye. I thought Nate was going to cry," he winked at her.
Matilda introduced her friends as they sat down even though Cooper was probably the only one who needed introducing and he was still at the bar. "Tilly! You're here!" Nate picked her up from the chair she had just sat in and kissed her on the lips. Shocked it took her a moment to come to her senses and push him away from her.
"What do you think you're doing?" She almost yelled at him. She watched as his face turned form one of joy to the hurt she had seen earlier that afternoon.
"Hey there, buddy," Cooper swooped in between them holding out his hand, "You must be one of the guys who helped out in Matilda's park."
Nate shook his hand and nodded, "Yeah. It looks good now. Have you seen it?" He spoke to Cooper, but his eyes stayed on Matilda over the man's shoulder.
"Yeah, it's great. I owe you one for all that work. What are ya drinking?" Cooper wrapped his arm about his shoulder and steered him away from Matilda toward the bar.
Matilda sat back down and looked at Wing who shrugged at her trying to look innocent a moment before Penny said, "Told you they were disappointed you left before saying goodbye properly."
"That didn't look like a goodbye kiss to me," Heather laughed continuing the teasing.
Matilda groaned and took her glass of wine mumbling, "I knew this was a mistake."
"Don't be silly," April smiled, "You didn't know that would happen, and it's been ages since we went out together. You would only be moping around it you were back on the boat."
Wing's ears perked up, "Boat? What boat?" Penny and Heather went into raptures over the fact that Matilda lived on a yacht in the marina and how beautiful it was out there on the bay with the lights twinkling on the water. Wing smirked at Matilda, "A yacht, huh?"
"Of course," she replied offhandedly, "Doesn't everyone have one?" Wing raised his eyebrow at her, and she rolled her eyes, "No, it's just a little dinghy that my Dad left me."
"That's very cool. I had guessed you wouldn't be living somewhere conventional, but I was expecting some big hippy commune style share house," he laughed as he teased her. Matilda wasn't sure whether to be insulted or not, so she took a gulp of her wine and laughed it off.
"Why would you say that?" April asked seeing the uncomfortable tensing of Matilda's shoulders.
Wing looked up and then over at the approach of Cooper and Nate. "I reckon she is one of those innately 'good' people you know?" He looked back at April, "She cares so much about a little park, then we find she is a vegetarian. I wouldn't be surprised if she volunteered in an animal shelter or something, but I sort of pictured a big share house with chickens and goats and stuff out the back." April was smiling and tilted her head as she listened to him. "She never judged anyone who came to help out at the park either voluntarily like Nate, or by court order, like me," he laughed as Nate sat down, "You know what I mean? She is like one of those environmental hippy chicks, except she is not so hairy and much prettier."
April was laughing almost hysterically as Wing tried to explain what he meant by calling her good. Matilda, on the other hand, was gaping at him, "Not all environmentalist are hippies! Not all vegetarians are animal activists!" Matilda spluttered.
"But you are all those things," April was still laughing, "Wing so pegged you. Face it aside of the whole pig-gate incident, you are that good!" She turned to Wing, "You know she even had solar panels installed on her boat so she could put back into the grid rather than take out."