Like many in this park, she’s probably dallying before some evening rendezvous. A play perhaps. Or film. A young man or woman may arrive and whisk her away. Possibly a flock of friends. Perching on a bench near mine, she fiddles with rosebud buttons adorning her cardigan and checks her mobile. A whiff of jasmine, or perchance her perfume, reminds me I’m in no hurry. Loss makes one poor company.
Invisible behind my newspaper, I survey park life. Mothers ignoring bawling babies. Whooping schoolboys. Homeward bound office workers with sewer vocabularies. A man shambles across parched grass wearing once fine clothes. Head shaved, his facial planes are scalpel sharp. Gripped in his hand is a crimson dahlia likely snapped from a blousy municipal flower bed. His long shadow shades her. Bowing, he gives her the drooping inflorescence. A smile of careful radiance is his reward and a wary, ‘Thank you?’
Like a deckchair collapsing, he folds his bony frame beside her and begins discussing flowers.
‘Such colours dancing like jewels dazzle my eyes.’ I overhear. ‘You are a magnolia among their cacophonous shades.’ If this man, so voluminous in his praise, is a friend, why does she shiver like a snowdrop in an icy breeze? He shuffles closer. Mouth nearly grazing her cheek. I hear his mumblings and fear gathers pace in her clipped unsure responses.
His voice grows loud. ‘Can I ask your name?’ She shakes chrysanthemum curls. ‘Can I come home with you?’
‘Why?’ His face is in hers.
‘I have a boyfriend.’
‘Don’t come any closer.’
Folding my newspaper, I rise and walk five paces.
‘So sorry my dear,’ I say proffering gardenias gathered for my love’s grave. ‘Busses. You know how they are.’
Relief pervades her complexion like a bloom unfurling.