An echo of shrilly trains and cosmopolitan murmuring was dying out behind Stella as she was discharged from the bowels of the Flinders Street Station. Under the clocks of the building, all sorts of people stood waiting for their friends, relatives, lovers and other people – including the ones they had never met. It was an imposing French Renaissance construction that reflected goldenly when the sun happened to caress its colours. Unfortunately, that was not one of these days. The sun was hidden playing behind stormy clouds, and Stella did not crash against people waiting under the clocks because she chose an alternative exit – the Degraves Lane exit.
Edith Piaf, even dead, added some colour to that bleak day as her singing muffled the whining trains. Piaf sang from a crêperie which was on the right side of the stairs which took people in and out of Flinders Station. When Stella stepped out the last step, Piaf was singing; a young girl in old fashioned clothes smoked sat on her old fashioned bike; the French man was making crepes, and the smoke of coffee, crepes, and cigarrettes, dissolved in the heavy cold air, but Stella only thought of how dull her life was and ignored the beauty of what surrounded her.
Stella was wearing an old black coat, black pants, black top, and black shoes. She had very dark hair as well as dark circles under her eyes. She herself was dark, contrasting with her extremely fair skin and, yet more, the motley walls and people who cohabited Degraves Lane – a little piece of France, Spain, and Italy; the whole of Europe in a small Australian lane.
People crowded together under marquises and motley umbrellas, walking or standing, but always flicking cigarrettes. Stella lit hers and ordered coffee from an Italian cafe. In the mean time, the clocks, doing their jobs, reminded people of their tasks or pushed them into trains which whined when departed. However, time did not seem to rush in Degraves Lane. People only sat, sipped, puffed, laughed and shared multiculturality and idiosyncrasy.
Stella had something important to accomplish, but what was that? The clouds, tired of the sun teasing their backs, sweated and poured above roofs, marquises, marquees, umbrellas and people without umbrellas. Crossly, they fell apart and left the sun alone, shining its light that both dried and warmed. The light came canalized by the borders of the tall and skinny buildings, creating shades and spots which tourists stopped to photograph, professional photographers photographed, and the people who appreciated beauty appreciated it. A table, under a marquee, was then available. It was Stella’s spot. She sat – blackly-smoking- drinking-her-coffee – the light spotting on her and shading the colours on the walls, umbrellas and clothes of Degraves Lane. That was Stella. That was her lane.