If I could have, I would have despised her until the ends of the universe. In the midst of a Bigger Bang or
explosive stars, through discoveries of new galaxies and my utmost desire to ship her off to them. In my
skin-sizzling, grumbling moment of teenage angst, an undying hatred bubbled for a certain Aine.
A greyish glow dimmed the streets of Dublin, allowing a cautious light to evade cover. The stench of oil
clenched around my lungs, an old lad’s guffaw echoing across the pebble-speckled path. Owing to my
doting granny, I’d been well wrapped-up with a knitted scarf, gloves and a sprinkle of sticky kisses. My
boots squelched on the edge a rippling puddle, glimmering with an Irish dew. Yet beauty, thick as the
wandering cloud of smoke, left me entranced by my home city.
Entertained by my own mumbling, I reached a narrow door with flecks of torn wood. Beyond the
window was a forbidden realm, for the shut blinds allowed a mere beam of artificial light. My gangly
frame lowered to peek through a gap, catching glimpses of Marty’s Coffee Shop: grey tables, a bottle of
cleaning liquid, a distinct retro vibe carried by the hum of old tunes.
A ghost hovered. “Jaysus!”
Ample laughter, both mirthless and uncalled for, followed my pitchy shriek. As I smoothly blessed
myself, the blinds were yanked open to reveal a pale figure. A girl of barely sixteen with auburn wisps
that floated around her face, and freckles that dotted each speck of her smirk-ridden chin. Every spot
seemed to hold each ounce of hatred, of utter rage filling my heated chest. Like a radiator, she scorched
me with absolute dislike.
The door opened with a click, revealing her entire attire. Her turquoise skirt hung to her knees, a
splattered apron tied snuggly around her hips. Her shadowed gaze flickered to the street before
scanning my figure, absorbing each detail from the mismatched socks to my pointy ears. Two bodies
existed within one space, her slight fingers skimming the hinges of the door.
“Can’t ye see the sign, Emmet?” Aine demanded, as though I hadn’t been aware of my own name.
“I did.” My flat voice seemed to alert those narrow eyes. “I’m not looking for a coffee.”
“A talk, preferably.”
As I walked past her shoulder, she slammed the door only to fidget with the dodgy lock. Blocking out her
grunting, as bitter as the caffeinated air, I settled myself onto a stool. My fingers rested on the
shimmering counter, drumming a long lost tune over the radio. If there was a way to fistfight a front
door, Aine surely would have discovered it.
She strutted around the counter, eyeing me with increasing suspicion. Perhaps a little confusion rested
on her brow, as her hovering body asserted all authority. Aine flicked on a whistling kettle, and the
sweaty warmth began to tickle my neck. Until our stares met, an equal ground of hazel with intellect
swimming within. Could this have been a terrible plan? Possibly.
She let out an almighty sigh, one to echo beyond our galaxy. “So?”
“Can I say sorry?” I spat out. My focus lowered, not daring enough to battle her own. “In general.”
Aine dragged out her silence as she spun around to bicker with the kettle. She unhooked a pair of
clinking cups, and poured out a sizzling hot water. Tea bags were flung before she emptied half of the
contents of the jug of milk. As she stirred, each charming ring tempted me to grab her by the shoulders.
Yet I settled for a clenched fist, knuckles pointed high.
“Do ye take sugar?” she muttered.
I gulped. “Yeah, two.”
“You’re not getting any.” Aine slammed the cup onto the counter, letting roasted droplets soar out of
the top. “What’s this an apology for, pray tell?”
I scowled. “I’m not going through all our trouble.”
“You’ve got nowhere better to be,” she stated.
“Want to bet?”
“It’s a fact.”
My breathing felt heavier, blowing a hole through my bland tea. We might have sat there for centuries,
eternally stuck in one another’s presence. Yet a desire to outwit her zoomed through my veins, as though
my destiny was to fuel her anger. To be a heathen sworn to torture her through noisy school halls, on to
university and until we were pensioners squabbling at bingo. As our noses barely touched, a sharp smirk
cut my cheek.
I pointed. “What about the corridor incident?”
“I’d remember that.” She smiled to herself despite those snake-like orbs. “After I spilled my water, you
slipped across the school tiles like a delirious figure skater.”
I raised a brow. “Didn’t that water spill on purpose?”
“No.” She gave a short wink, her amusement lingering for seconds longer. “How about you ruining my
“I’d never let ye get a higher grade.” As I laughed, the slightest snigger escaped her throat. “The only
solution was to scribble out yours, so you’d not be top of the class. At least I wasn’t caught!”
“It’s a wonder,” she mused. “You’ve forgotten the infamous astronaut costume, too.”
“My best Halloween outfit,” I mumbled. Years before, my granny had designed a spaceman costume out
of cardboard and magazine stickers. “At that house party, you made a laugh out of my homemade
She giggled. “Who couldn’t?”
“Right enough,” I muttered, tracing the rim of the tea with my finger. “You know, I’m properly sorry. For
She scoffed. “For calling my dad a snob?”
“Partially,” I admitted, earning an eloquently lifted brow. “You’ve got to be fair, my posh accent was
“To you.” Her little smirk raised. “Ever since, I’ve been ridiculed for being a so-called brat.”
“One that’s scrubbing coffee cups.” As we shared a smile, the reality struck me. As hard as my head
whacking off the floor, following her spilled water disaster. “Why did I hate ye? Originally, like.”
She tapped her cup, hissing with heavy thoughts. “I’d not thought of that. Must’ve been a reason,
“Ages ago, aye.”
Our heads tilted with deep pondering, allowing the radio presenter to ramble: weather, latest hits,
celebrity news. As she examined her mind, I stole a quick glance. Her loose strands seemed to ease
gently onto her ears, each freckle an addition to her dark honey gaze. That signature smirk lifted my
heart a little, and allowed a nostalgic fire to travel my veins. One that I had once diagnosed as the
Aine nudged my hand, cutting my drifting wonders short. “Your tea’s going to get cold.”
Her fingers never pulled away, settling against my own. In our tiny coffee shop in one of Dublin’s
crevices, as we allowed frosted air to crackle beyond our space. Our soft universe conformed to our
current opinions of one another, letting the past fade away like twinkling stars losing night. As we held
two pairs of passionate stares, a final thought occurred to me.
If I could, I would despise her to the ends of the universe.
Kaila Patterson is an author based in Ireland. Her work has been published by The Poetry Society, Paper Lanterns and her first book was published in April 2021. Her current novel is a work-in-progress.