You’ll meet your Uncle Dubois for dinner. He’ll order for you in excess, he always does, peering through perched spectacles at le menu while stroking the salted tail of his lamp black beard.
He’ll want to discuss finances. Your future.
The muscles in your legs will tense until you remember he’s no Auntie Jeanne; when she said a girl with your education has only two options, he didn’t listen. He won’t mention those options, the boiled-prune hues of hungry men. Instead, he’ll ask about your work, the muses, if you’re eating enough. His concern will carry the lemon yellow cadence of morning light through an open window.
Tomorrow, suspended between tinkling glasses and the chocolat marquise, he’ll ask about your latest project, if you’re happy, fulfilled. In the lantern-orange glow, summer-tinted walls washing warm tones across the white tablecloth, a jasmine breeze will lift the edges of your hair. And, turning, how your mind does, you’ll plan to recreate this palette later: sulfur and cadmium yellows, orange and citron green, a rich phthalo blue for the daisied-star sky.
Watching you, Uncle will raise his brow and laugh, no more than a cricket’s chirrup. Wistful, he’ll say, “There’s so much of your mother in you.”
“And also in you,” you’ll tell him — rose tones replacing the Payne’s grey shadow on his cheek.
Tomorrow night at the cafe, buoyed by the distant high hum of an accordion echoing Hymne a L’amour down the cobble-strewn street, you’ll take your uncle’s hand and tell him everything: the viridian tones of your lover’s voice, the future-song scent of her skin. The truth of who you are, all that you are, will stampede from your chest in cerulean, violet, ultramarine.
When you say her name, he’ll see fireworks.
“Tomorrow at Café La Nuit” first appeared as a winner in Flash Fiction Festival, February 2022
And in Flash Fiction Festival Anthology 5, Ad Hoc Fiction, 2022
IMAGE: Vincent Willem van Gogh – Cafe Terrace at Night 1888. Oil on canvas 81 cm (31.8 in); width/ 65.5 cm (25.7 in). Collection Kröller-Müller Museum, Netherlands
Sara Hills is the author of the flash fiction collection The Evolution of Birds (Ad Hoc Fiction). Her stories have featured in the Wigleaf Top 50, SmokeLong Quarterly, Fractured Lit, Cease Cows, Cheap Pop, X-R-A-Y Literary, Flash Frog, and elsewhere. Originally from the Sonoran Desert, Sara lives in Warwickshire, UK and tweets from @sarahillswrites.