It was raining again as they waited for the bus. The wind whipped up the surface water and spat it against their ankles. The lights from the shops shone a melancholy yellow in the winter evening. For several days Jack had noticed a young woman bundled in a big winter coat and woollen hat with ear flaps. Wisps of fair hair escaped from the bundle. He could hardly see her face but she seemed shrouded in a cloak of sadness which drew the kind hearted Jack to her.
One evening he plucked up courage to speak.
“Hello” he said
“Hey, hey” she replied. He stared at her and was about to enquire more but she continued “I am from Poland. My name is Agnieszka. What is your name?”
“Jack. Are you …” but she interrupted him
“I am suffering from the, how you say, homesickness …Can you help me?” Then her bus came.
“I’ll try!” he called as she disappeared on to the bus.
The next evening he arrived with a small parcel which he presented to her.
“Thank you Jack, what is this?”
“It is saffron cake. Cornish finest. Taste it.”
She unwrapped the parcel and the glow of saffron shone on her face. She took a bite of the sweet dough. The sadness descended almost immediately and she handed back the cake, shaking her head.
Jack was determined to help her. The next day he brought her a pasty made from best beef and turnip. Again she eagerly took a taste. And again her face fell.
The following days he tried chocolate, thunder and lightening, a cream tea. And each time she looked at him with such anticipation, took a bite and her face fell again in disappointment.
Then one evening he took a slightly different route to the bus stop along Old Bridge Street. Walking fast, a poster caught his eye saying ‘Polish beer 99p’. He stopped and stepped into the shop. Inside a group of people was standing around the chill counter chattering in a language he couldn’t understand.
“Excuse me…” he said. They all turned and stared as he explained his predicament. As their ears engaged with his English, smiles emerged and suggestions poured forth.
“Bigos … pork cooked for a long time with cabbage. Very delicious.
“Sausage. Cabanos. From Śląsk. I think you call it Silesia.”
“And bread. Special polish bread with an acid taste…”
So Jack bought a Śląska Sausage and a loaf of Polish bread called chleb wiejski.
He ran to the bus stop, anxious that he would miss her. She was there, her shoulders hunched against the persistent wintry mizzle.
“Agnieszka, I’ve brought you this” he said and handed her the parcel from the Polish shop.
She looked unsure. “Go on, open it”
She fumbled with the wrapping but as soon as her hands recognised the shape of the bread and sausage, her eyes saw their familiar colours and her nose breathed in the slightly acidic smell, a smile crept across her face. She pulled a piece of bread from the loaf, gnawed off a nub of sausage, wrapped the one in the other, and began to eat. And as she did, the cloak of sadness lifted from her shoulders, her deep blue eyes gazed at Jack as if she was seeing him for the first time.
“Dziekuje. Thank you.” She said “would you like some?”
“Well I’ll give it a go …”
Together they chewed on the bread and sausage. Their buses came and went. The mizzle ceased, the clouds parted and Venus shone bright in the night sky.
(Story inspired by Janosik. Image by Steve Tanner. Part of Trading Tales at Truro Festival, April 2014)