“Do you like a coffee” said Aria and I was so dazzled by her and the kiss she'd just planted on my cheek that I didn't answer for a second and just stood there staring at her.

“You OK Yack?”

“Ah.. yeah... yeah. Sorry Aria, yeah I'd love a coffee.”

“We can go there” she said pointing up Dean Street to a place called Bar Napoli.

As you walked in the smell of coffee just hit you.

It was like we were engulfed in an invisible cloud smelling of freshly made coffee and for a moment it almost distracted me from Aria. Only coffee I'd really drank was instant with hot water and a dash of milk so this was something else.

“Ciao Aria” said the waiter followed by something I presumed to be Italian but didn't understand.

Aria chatted and laughed with the waiter like they knew each other whilst I gazed around at the decoration. It was as if you'd walked through a portal in Dean Street that transported you from London to 1960s Rome. Neon and tiles and a commanding picture of Rock Marciano looking down on you from the wall behind the bar.

Aria turned to me and asked me what I wanted. You could tell she was sort of proud of the place and looked effervescent speaking Italian to the waiters.

“Not really sure Aria. I've only ever drank instant and not much of that. You order for me.”

When I said instant she grimaced “OK. Espresso” she said smiling.

The smile should have alerted me but I ain't exactly quick on the uptake.

We sat down on stools and then looking serious Aria said

“Hey, you say me you ring but you didn't and I hungry.”


“Yes, very hungry. You make me very mad.”

“Oh, you mean angry.”

“That's what I say you innit.”

Funny how Aria would screw up her English and then come out with a peach like a perfect “innit.”

“I didn´t ring you! Only twice and each time a bloke answered who said you weren't in.”

“You phone this morning?” she said looking indignant.

“Yeah and like I said a bloke answered. I thought it might be your boyfriend” I said fishing.

“My boyfriend!

No, that was Faramundo and I in the house when you call. I thought he talk about Maria who live with me. I talk to him when I see him.”

“He's not your boyfriend then?”


“Uhhh... have you got a boyfriend?” I said crossing my fingers under the seat of the stool.

“Not yet” she said smiling whilst looking straight into my eyes.

When she did that it made me feel like I was melting from the inside out. It really was as if those piercing black eyes of hers could reach right down into my soul and I felt so much for her it actually hurt.

I glanced away avoiding her eye contact and must have made Bashful from the seven dwarfs seem like Johnny Depp in comparison.

I looked back at her and said “when we were in the pub the other night Frank invited us all down to the wine bar where´s he's working in Covent Garden.”

“Who's Frank?”

“The big guy.”

“Ah, the one who drink much.”

“Yeah, that´s him. Anyway, do you fancy coming down on Saturday night?”'

“I working until eleven but I come when I finish. You collect me?”

“You'll come then?” I said wanting to make double sure I´d heard her right.

“Of course Yack.”

As I heard those words I could feel my chest puffing up and hear the sound of my shirt stretching. This beautiful Italian girl was coming out with me!

I was just about to arrange the meet when Aria pointed out of the window and said

“Speak of the devil, that him?”


“Your friend Frank.”

I turned around to look but couldn't see him.

“There” she said pointing “sitting at the table of Caffé Nero's.

“ Is she the girlfriend? She is very beautiful. What's her name?”

Sure enough there he was sitting in the terrace, drinking coffee with the mysterious blonde I'd first seen in Sheffield. He was drawing deep on a cigarette and they were locked in conversation although it looked like she was doing more of the talking and him most of the listening.

She really was unique looking and every time I saw her she was immaculate. Her clothes were tailored and looked more like they'd grown on her rather than been plucked off a coat hanger.

“You no say hello?”

“Well, I wouldn't like to interrupt them and anyway I don't know her. She's like some sort of Babushka.”

“Babushka! I thought you not know her name?”

“I don't but she´s all mysterious so until I find out her name she's Babushka.”

Aria turned to look out of the window and started waving her arms trying to attract Frank´s attention.

“What you doing? Put your arms down before they see us.”

She stopped waving but said “he your friend no? He think you rude, no?”

“Don't worry, he won´t mind. Trust me.”

I thought she was right in some ways but was relieved that he didn't see us.

The waiter or “barista” as they were called in Bar Napoli brought our coffee over and Aria had a big cup with froth on the top whereas my cup was small.

Aria sipped hers and licking the froth off her top lip said “try it, you like it!”

I had trouble picking up the cup as the handle was tiny but brought the cup to my lips, paused for a moment, glanced at Aria who had a look on her face like she was waiting for me to open a present she'd given me, looked back at the cup and sipped gently.

The flavour was intense and as the coffee hit the back of my throat I sort of spluttered.

Aria laughed out loud and said something in Italian to the barista who laughed as well. Nothing like someone joking in a foreign language when you know you're the butt of the joke to get you all paranoid is there?

“What you think?”

“It's lovleeeeeee!” I said grimacing.

“You no like?”

“Don't worry, it's growing on me” I said wondering if there was enough of it to give it a chance of growing on me. Mind you, had a bit of a punch to it as my heart was like it was auditioning for a dose of Tachycardia!

We chatted for about half an hour and I could feel a right connection. No pregnant pauses, no looking at the floor, no “uhh.. anyway..!”

Aria finished off what I'd learnt was called a cappuccino and said

“what time you come on Saturday?”

“Oh, have you got to go now?” I said.

“I have my English class and have to arrive at the pub for five o'clock for to work.”

“OK. I'll see you in The Tree of Life on Saturday night just before last orders so I can have a swifty whilst you clean up.”

“A swifty?”

“Sorry, a drink. Means a swift half.”

“You no drink half!”

“Yeah, I know it's just a saying!”

Aria paid for the coffee and we walked out into Dean Street. I glanced over to Caffé Nero to see if Frank was still there but he'd gone leaving the mystery blonde or rather the newly christened “Babushka” on her own.

As we passed by “Babushka” she was jotting down something  on the back of a cigarette packet and Aria just couldn't resist glancing back at her.

“People don't stare here Aria, it's considered rude” I said and then did the same thing myself only to find “Babushka” staring at us with eyes that looked like they could cut diamonds. Well, when I say us, it was in fact more like at me.

Aria said “you sure you not know her?”

“Seen her a few times from a distance but never been introduced.”

“She knows you I tell you!”

The look “Babushka” gave me was puzzling and made me feel strange.

It was like, well not exactly angry more antipathetic which seeing as I didn't even know her sort of freaked me out.

When we got to Leicester Square tube Aria said goodbye and kissed me again and I went so red you could toast a crumpet on my cheeks.

She giggled and waved as she went through the gate inside the tube and I stayed watching her until she disappeared down the escalator.

I turned practically skipping my way back into Soho. You know, I really couldn't have felt any happier and to think that I'd left the house a few hours earlier feeling positively depressed whereas now I felt so good you could have called me Phil Phyllosan. I mean she even paid for the coffee!

Yeah, Saturday just couldn't come quick enough for me!