She gets on the number 45 and sits upstairs. He sits down so he can see when she gets off. In town they cross the road to the station. The ticket machine is out of order and he is pleased, he prefers talking to a person. He stands in line behind her. She buys a return ticket to London, so does he. On the train, he sits two rows away. It’s a bit close but she may make a telephone call on her mobile and he needs to hear. She could be arranging to meet someone. He sits with his good ear facing her, she sits looking at her phone, typing. But there is no call. At Waterloo he waits outside M&S, studying a poster about Kew Gardens. She re-appears, carrying a small green bag. Her lunch. He has no food, didn’t expect to be gone for long. He can’t go into a shop now, and risk losing her.
Really he just wants to touch her, but he knows this is not possible. He is frightened she will disappear on contact, like the time he looked at his reflection in the pond at Wisley. He dropped to his knees to touch his cheek, but his face dissolved. His memories are dissolving now on a daily basis. He is running out of time.
She heads for the river. In truth he could risk buying a sandwich, because she always goes to the same place. She will spend a couple of hours, going from one book stall to another without buying, sipping coffee among tourists with rucksacks and maps, taking photos of things that catch her fancy. He doesn’t understand what she judges to be photogenic. He wants to be near her, needs to be near her, without talking, without acknowledgement. Sometimes she leans against the wall, watching the river flow. He likes it best when she does this. He likes the strawberry tones in her blonde hair.
His hip aches. His stomach growls. A tourist stares. A piece of toast with blackcurrant jam, a pot of tea and a painkiller will fix him.
He watches as she eats her sandwich, crumples the wrapper and leaves it on the wall beside her. From the bag she takes an apple, bites and chews. Something catches her eye, something on the water. A bird, a boat, a ripple? She puts the apple on the wall, cradles her camera in both hands as if it is made of glass, and focuses on the waves. He can see nothing worth photographing. She edges to the left, the shutter whirrs and clicks, covering the sound of his footsteps.
He takes the apple and walks away. He means to eat it but when he sees the imprint of her teeth, a faint sheen of glossy pink lipstick, he can’t. He has a piece of her to keep now. The missing piece. The child of the daughter he gave up for adoption 60 years earlier. His DNA.
© Sandra Danby
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Why is he following her? AN APPLE, FIVE WAYS: HERS #flashfiction via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-sz