It’s Different Now by Elizabeth Breen

Anna looks at Jim and puts down her knife and fork. She chews her food slowly, giving herself time to take in what Jim has just said. 

“That’s where I know him from.” 

The man in question walks past their table and quietly says hello to Jim. Anna almost doesn’t notice. Jim and the stranger acknowledge each other in a way that seems to lock others out. 

It all makes sense now. Anna wants Jim to know that this new information changes nothing. It’s part of getting to know one another. Jim pours more water into their glasses and smiles at Anna, even though he looks sad. 

“I would have told you sooner, only the time never seemed right and we’ve only known each other for a short while. It was a long time ago and I promise it’s different now.” 

Anna accepts a dessert menu and says nothing as the plates are cleared away. 

“I had an uncle who wasn’t able to talk about it. He didn’t show signs. He was funny and kind and even-tempered. I used to go to the shop with him when I was a little girl and he’d buy me sweets and take me to the park. He was my mum’s brother and I loved him so much. Then, one day, he went up to his bedroom and took the belt off his trousers… My mum never really got over his death.” 

“We never know what a kind word at the right time can do. That man saved my life. I was close to the blackness that day.” 

Anna and Jim choose a dessert to share, an apple crumble with custard. It’s Anna’s favourite. Jim reaches over the table and holds Anna’s hand. She smiles at him and says I love you.

Published in Issue #14

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