Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Dear Princess Susan, would you like to come to tea?

Sophie finished wiping down the tables and putting the chairs neatly in place. She had already swept the floor and given it an extra scrub where the group of mothers and babies had been sitting.
 There was just enough time after the morning rush of coffees and cappuccinos to get the café ready for the brunch and late breakfast crowd.
Sophie loved working in the café with its pretty colour scheme of pale blues, pinks and mint green.
 She turned as the kitchen door flew open and Karolina, the new Polish waitress came in bearing two mugs of hot chocolate and marshmallows.
'Here you are Sophie, coffee break for us, while there's no one here.'
They sat down together on the new sofa that had been bought for the WIFI users.
Karolina blew on her hot chocolate.
I think this is such a great idea. I am so happy being able to skype my family it makes them seem so much nearer.'
She took a sip of her drink and didn't see the look of pain on Sophie's face.

The WIFI idea was certainly proving to be very popular. At first just a few teenagers had sat there after school, giggling and holding up their phones and pulling faces  taking selfies.
Now though there was a steady stream of business men and women as well as older people who were becoming more confident at using their new devices.
Yesterday one of their regular customers, Mrs.Richards, had come in with a new IPad and Skyped her grandchildren in Australia. She'd walked round the shop showing them the chocolate bunnies and lollipops that she liked to send them and the display of delicious cream cakes.
Mrs. Richards had kept raising her coffee cup and saying 'here's to you all!' Cheers!'
Sophie could hear the little voices calling out 'cheers Nana ! We love you!'
She had had to turn away as her eyes had filled with tears.
Karolina was telling Sophie all about her new boyfriend who was coming to Krakow with her for Christmas. She was so excited Sophie smiled at her and took the cups back to the kitchen.
Mrs.Richards,Karolina both missing their family and friends. Sophie didn't have a family that lived in another country but she did know what it was like to miss the people you love. She jumped as a hand touched her shoulder.
'I'm so sorry Sophie. I didn't mean to startle you. '
It was Karl the café owner.
'I just wanted to remind you to prepare the table for the family that have booked for brunch. You know we don't take bookings at weekends but they sounded so desperate . They said it's for a very special occasion. It's just a one off.'
As Sophie folded the napkins and checked the glasses she thought how different her life could have been if she had met more people like Karl and Karolina. She mustn't think like that though. The Social worker that looked after her in the Correction centre had always told her that she is in charge of her own life.


When Sophie was a little girl her favourite game was playing tea parties . She would dress up and put her dolls in a circle and lay out her pink tea set. She would pretend to pour out the milk and the sugar and raise the little cups to her dolls' lips. Sometimes she would help her mother make tiny biscuits to serve on the plates. When Sophie had learned to write she would put little invitations in her mother's apron pocket.
Dear Princess Susan, please will you come to tea? There is a big chocolate cake. Love from your friend Princess Sophie.
Years later when it had all gone wrong, Sophie found one of the notes in her mother 's bedside drawer . It looked shabby and forlorn and tear stained. It made Sophie think of what might have been.
The Social worker in the Correction centre had helped Sophie to understand but so much damage had been done and  there was so much pain inside her.


Sophie had had what could only be described as an idyllic childhood. A lovely sweet mother and a caring kind dad and a greatly loved little brother Tom. Things had started to go wrong when practically overnight she blossomed from a charming little girl into a voluptuous and difficult teenager. No-one knew how to cope with her moods and sulks and she didn't know how to cope with the enormous amount of attention that her body received. The phone was constantly ringing and a stream of male callers meant her school work quickly suffered. Her father was busy with his failing business and her mother threw her energy into her voluntary work at the local hospital.
 Sophie got in with a group of young men that shared a house in the nearby town. At first it was a relief to be in an environment where there was no tension or rows and then one of the young men, Jake asked Sophie if she would like to move in with him. This seemed a good idea to Sophie, she would be looked after by just one young man instead of the various callers to her house.
 By this time Sophie was eighteen and her parents had bought her a new blue car. Sophie told her parents that she would live with Jake and get a job.
 The social worker in the Correction centre made Sophie realize that they had been completely at a loss as to how to deal with her.
Tom was quietly keeping his head down and passing all his exams, he didn't know how to treat Sophie either. Her parents told her that if she left home they would not consider her as their daughter any more.
This made her even more determined to leave and she and Jake rented a small room above a Fish and chip shop where Sophie worked.

For a few weeks it all seemed very romantic. She would bring the left over fish and chips up to their flat and they would sit eating and feeding each other the chips. One day though Jake told her to meet him after work outside the bank in the High Street  It was dark when Sophie arrived and there was no sign of Jake.  Sophie was thrown into the air by a blast. Her head hit the pavement and she couldn't remember what happened next. When she came round a policewoman was holding her head and she was covered with a blanket. Blue lights were flashing around her and she felt sick.

Later in the Police station she was told that her car had been driven into the Cash point and it had exploded. Her finger prints were everywhere and she was accused of being the accomplice. There was no sign of Jake and when the policemen went to their flat all trace of him had gone, no-one seemed to know anything about him.
Sophie was too tired to protest as she was lead away. Part of her felt responsible. She was frightened now. What if someone had got hurt? How could she have been so blind not to see what Jake was like? She felt she deserved her punishment.


In the Correction centre Sophie was looked after by psychologists and a social worker called Nancy. It was Nancy that suggested that Sophie worked in the little cafeteria and took a course in Book keeping. The psychologists helped her understand  how her relationship with her family had deteriorated so badly. Sophie didn't want them to come and visit her , she felt too ashamed. She hated herself and she put all their letters in a box, unopened.
 She really liked working in the cafeteria. Even though everyone was dressed in the same clothes and the coffee was quite bad she pretended that she was Princess Sophie again. She asked if she could make biscuits and convinced the officers to improve the quality of the milk and coffee. Soon the cafeteria was humming with happy conversation and laughter. An inmate called Josie who was in because she stole from her employees set up a book group in the cafeteria and an old woman called Lili started crochet classes.

When Sophie's time was up Nancy told her that a friend of hers was looking for a waitress in his cafè and would be happy to employ her.


Sophie cleaned the coffee machine filters ready for the brunch crowd. She was about to go and get the orders when Karl came in.

'Sophie the family that have booked the table have asked me to give you this note. They specifically want you as their waitress.'

She took the note and as she read it tears of joy and pain and happiness flooded down her cheeks.

Dear Princess Sophie, please come and have tea with me, with love from your friend Princess Susan..


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