‘The Woman Who Lived in a Restaurant’ by Leone Ross

Nicholas Royle’s Nightjar Press publishes uncanny, unsettling stories as individual chapbooks. They’re well worth checking out: I’ve been introduced to some wonderful writers through the Nightjar series, not least Leone Ross. In this particular tale, a woman sits at a table in a local restaurant and simply stays there. She is served meals, and washes in the restroom. Any member of staff who takes against her is promptly sacked. The maître d’ tells the story to one new recruit: the woman had fallen in love with the chef-proprietor; but he was already tied to his restaurant. And the restaurant would brook no rival for its owner’s affections.

Ross tells her story in the most delightfully measured prose, as carefully placed as the elements of a fine restaurant dish. That prose style creates its own world for the piece, so that everything within it seems quite logical and natural. By the end, I was reluctant to leave.

(First published as a Nightjar Press chapbook in 2015, which is how I read it. Available in the collection Come Let Us Sing Anyway (Peepal Tree Press, 2017), the anthology Best British Short Stories 2016 (Salt Publishing) and to read online here)