'We met this morning. You came to the house?'

You look up and see the girl from the house where Jess used to live.

'Oh. Hi.'

'I was just about to start work. Want a coffee?'

'I just had one.'

'Well, have another. Live on the edge.' She smiles at you. 'I'm Polly.' Holds out her hand.

You shake it, 'Hi.'

'Over here.' She leads the way to a table, says hi to everyone and takes off her jacket, 'Two lattes, Pete.' she yells. 'I'll be back in a tick.' She disappears through the kitchen.

You settle into your chair as the waiter comes over and puts the coffees down on the table, his attitude different now; you've made it to inner circle - you know one of the staff.

Polly comes back and sits down, pulls out a cigarette and lights it, blows out the smoke, smiles again. 'So.'

'So,' you repeat.

'Jess' cousin, huh?'

'Yeh.'

'Do you live around here?'

You shake your head.

'So you came to visit your cousin in the inner city and now you're cast out into the jungle alone, huh?'

You laugh, 'Something like that.'

'Jess just went, all that's left are the outstanding bills...'

Your look becomes wary and she laughs, 'It's okay, I'm not gonna hit you for the money... it's not your problem. Anyway we've still got the bond, although who knows if that'll cover it. Jess had heaps of friends in Queensland and a huge phone bill. Probably went up there. Maybe we should ring all those numbers and ask for Jess... Then again it'd get like the vicious circle of checking the dial-in services to see who should pay and then they appear on the next bill as well cos you rang it again. Stupid...' She pauses and smokes, looks around the cafe, 'Shit, another busy shift.'

You sip your coffee, more out of politeness than out of wanting the caffeine, knowing that if you drink it all you'll be edgy all afternoon .

'Jess,' she repeats, 'You live with someone for a year and figure you know them but you never do. The wonders of shared living, huh? So what are you going to do all day?'

You shrug your shoulders, 'I've had a bit of a look around. Maybe I should just go home.'

'Fuck that. Stay. Tell you what... seeing as you're almost one of the family - although you're from the disgraced side -' Polly laughs, 'why don't you stay for the weekend? There's a party on tonight. There's a couch in the lounge room you can crash on. And fuck it, you would have done it if Jess was still here, no? What'd you say?'

'Well...'

'Yes. Come on. Nothing to lose.'

'You don't even know me.'

'You look enough like Jess for me to know you are who you say you are, so what the hell.'

You stare at her for a moment, thinking it over.

'Polly!' The waiter reappears.

She looks over his shoulder at the clock, 'Oh, shit. I've gotta start.' She stands and leans over to butt out her cigarette. 'Say yes.'

You look up into her face, 'Yes.'

'Great! Be here in three hours... I'm doing the short lunch shift today. Then we'll go back to the house.'


Philippa J Burne 1996

e-mail pburne@peg.apc.org