The Man in the Park by Louise Wilford

Gina sees him standing in the queue at the coffee kiosk near the gates.

She’s just picked Ellie up from school. The putty-coloured sky makes it feel late. She knows her mum will be anxious as hell, checking the time on the electronic TV guide every two minutes till she hears Gina’s key in the front door.

Not quite knowing what else she wants to do, and feeling pretty sure he’s seen them, she keeps on walking, head down, towing Ellie along with her. Their feet punch through drifts of dead leaves, their breaths tiny puffs of cloud in the cool autumn air. Ellie’s gone quiet, feeling the tension, concentrating on keeping up with her sister.

There’s an ornate fence ahead of them: the rose garden. She rarely comes here these days. Her mum used to like it, years back, when she was little, but her mum hasn’t left the house since 2014, when her dad decided he’d had enough and ‘went home’, back up north to his own parents. He hasn’t been back to the house since.

Sometimes Gina thinks of her mother’s helplessness as a tightly-knotted rope round her wrists.

He’s still following us.’ says Ellie, anxiously.

Gina sighs, defeated. She stops, turns to face him.

‘Hello, hen,’ he says. ‘You shot up that hill like a bullet from a gun. I thought I’d lost you.’

His voice is almost exactly as she remembers, though his accent has thickened since he moved back north. She doesn’t respond, just pulls Ellie closer to her side. He looks older than he used to, the strands of hair escaping from his woollen beanie greyer than she remembers.

‘Hello, dad,’ she says.

Selected - Weekly Write - Week 11

Published in Issue #27

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