It’s nearly three years now since Suzie returned Cleo to her mother…
At half past eleven we arrive at Sacred. We’ve had fun shopping, and we’re wearing the same Illamasqua make-up – Drench pink berry red lipstick and Entangle slate grey eye shadow. We even had time to grab jeans and T-shirts from Desigual, where Cleo also found a gorgeous silver coat with flowery designs traced in black, while I popped into Jaeger for a Fulham jacket. I feel like I’ve been reborn.
Sitting across the way in Zebrano, drinking tea and solving Sudoku, the main reason I like to buy the Times on Fridays, I have a good view of Sacred and the table by the window where Alia now sits with the newly resurrected Cleo. The streets and shops are busy with the lunchtime crowd, and I don’t see anyone who might be police undercover. Cleo’s mum makes impressive time, arriving at Sacred before one o’clock. She’s dressed for work, white shirt, dark grey skirt and jacket. I forgot to ask Cleo what her mother actually does, but she looks professional and capable. She also looks very rough around the edges, like someone who hasn’t slept for days and who has just raced across the city in record time.
Her relief at finding Cleo is palpable, and she crushes her daughter to her in a powerful hug. Cleo looks uncomfortable, and eventually manages to disentangle herself, then moves to make Alia a barrier between herself and her mother. The tension is clear in all three of them, and there’s a short argument that ends with Alia holding her hands up in surrender and walking out of the cafe. She leans against the wall looking exhausted, and for the briefest instant meets my eyes with a what-did-you-expect expression.
Sacred is a real café and Zebrano is a real bar, both located on Ganton Street, which crosses London’s famous Carnaby Street. Nearby is the Illamasqua ‘flagship store’ and also Regent Street with Desigual, Jaegar, and many other famous shops. This is the true heart of tourist London, with the designer havens of New Bond Street and Saville Row, just the other side of Regent Street, with the Ritz Hotel just beyond that; in the other direction you have Soho, Leicester Square and Covent Garden, and a wide range of evening entertainments from the profane to the sacred.
I chose Sacred as a familiar meeting point for Suzie and Alia based partly on its location, and partly on its reputation. Myself, I had never been there, had never heard of it, but a Google search for recommended cafés in the centre of London offered up Sacred – and it seemed perfect. The same research had led me to the excellent Dan & DeCarlo in East Finchley.
Suzie loves tea and seeks out quality. Once again, though, I was guilty of using the internet to do my research. Much as I wished to go to London and explore all the places Suzie went, it is taking me years to do so. This Saturday I finally got to Sacred – and was delighted and relieved to see that Zebrano really is immediately opposite Sacred, and the perfect place for Suzie to watch as Cleo is reunited with her mother. Relieved also that the internal layout of Sacred works with the story.
Delighted also that Sacred is truly deserving of its reputation. It is a very busy café offering a wide range of food and drink, including several varieties of tea, brewed from leaf, and served in delightful tea pots. However, having visited Sacred, my description of it now would be so much richer than it could be three years ago. And I would certainly not have made the strange decision to have Suzie and Cleo ordering coffee rather than tea.